By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Feb 05, 2006 at 5:12 AM

It's time for the circus to turn out the lights and send everybody home.

Trying to remember the last time one interview sent a region into a frenzy like last week's ESPN sit-down with Brett Favre is a tough order.

The guy, for the third straight winter, is keeping the spotlight on himself by playing this ridiculous "will I-won't I-retire" game.

Enough is enough.

For the legions of Packers' fans still holding on to the ludicrous notion that, as a Hall of Fame quarterback, he should be entitled to retire whenever and however he whishes.

Packers' haters, meanwhile complain that local and national media outlets bend over backwards in their glorification of Favre.

OK, then, perhaps it would be best to cut to the chase.

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy need to stand up, take ownership of the franchise they are paid handsomely to lead and set a deadline.

No more games. No more interviews like the one last Sunday. Any further public discussion of the matter should result in a fine or better yet, his outright release.

People will say the man deserves more because of his three Most Valuable Player awards. Others cite his two NFC Championships and Super Bowl XXXI ring as reason for patience.

Of course, nobody is willing to mention the fact that the MVP awards came in the mid-1990s, and that the Packers haven't even made it past the second round of the playoffs since the 1997 season.

Why then, is it so difficult in these parts to look at the facts? Favre threw 29 interceptions last year. That number is the highest in the National Football League.

David Carr, who as quarterback of the woeful Houston Texans, has an even worse offensive line than Favre and didn't come close to 29 picks. He had 11. In second place, Aaron Brooks of the New Orleans Saints, Drew Bledsoe of the Cowboys, and the New York Giants' Eli Manning had 17.

What's that you say? Favre had nobody to throw the ball to? Hmm, if he was throwing into double and triple coverage, there had to be somebody open on that football field.

This so-called "Leader of the Pack" doesn't even dress in the locker room with his teammates. He's gone on the record saying that it's not his job to be a mentor or to teach first round draft pick Aaron Rodgers.

Just what kind of leader is Favre, anyway?

No doubt, Favre should be mentioned with the all-time great quarterbacks in NFL history. His streak of 241 consecutive starts (regular season and playoffs) is one of the most impressive stats ever, and there is no argument that he was - at one time - high on the list of dominant players.

But he's made enough suggestions that his time has come to an end.

In the interview, Favre said that he is not sure if he wants the ball with two minutes left to play with the game on the line.

Now, let's attempt to be objective and prudent about this; looking back at the last season, how many plays did we see Favre trying to win the game with one throw? And how many times did we see him do so with any sort of success?

Face the facts. For all the good Brett Favre did for the Packers' organization, he has done just as much harm these past few seasons.

He didn't blow the coverage on Fourth and 26, but he committed some turnovers that day that made Fourth and 26 a proper noun around here. Same thing in the playoff loss at St. Louis a few years back -- how many times did Favre lose the ball in that contest?

Under his and former coach Mike Sherman's watch, not only did the Lambeau Field mystique die, it was destroyed by the only two home playoff losses in team history, neither of which, was a close game.

For a lot of people, Favre will be the first real local sports star whose entire career came during the "prime" of their lives. Watching him walk away is a tough pill to swallow, especially considering the sorry state of the franchise.

But it's just time.

Favre can step down now and be remembered for all of his glories. Or he can keep playing this child's game and go down in history as the Iron Man who didn't know when his time was up.

It's up to him.