LAKE BUENA VISTA — Brett Favre's plane touched down safely at the airport in his hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss., Wednesday afternoon. But in many ways, the Packers quarterback was still waiting to see where he would land, with the Bucs a possibility.
The answer came late Wednesday when the Packers confirmed that Favre was traded to the Jets.
Terms of the compensation were not immediately known, but it is believed to be a conditional draft pick that increases in value depending on how many years he plays and how the team performs in 2008.
The Bucs had been hoping to complete a trade for Favre, but the Jets were willing to part with more for the three-time MVP.
All along, the Packers had tried to steer Favre to the Jets. Not only did they figure to recoup a better draft pick, but the deal would send their iconic quarterback out of conference.
The Bucs host the Packers on Sept. 28. The Jets don't play the Packers this season.
Bucs general manager Bruce Allen had held steadfast in his refusal to give up a conditional draft pick that could become a No. 1 choice.
The trade of Favre to the Jets means the Bucs remain committed to Jeff Garcia as their starting quarterback.
"I think this is a great move,'' said former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an ESPN analyst. "(The Jets) have maybe the biggest superstar in the NFL right now. … He'll get comfortable after a few weeks.''
Garcia, 38, was no doubt hurt by the Bucs' pursuit of Favre. In fact, at one point Tuesday afternoon, he referred to himself as "dead man walking.''
But after leading the Bucs to an NFC South title and going to the Pro Bowl in his first season in Tampa Bay, Garcia has the overwhelming support of his teammates.
Favre would have been a good fit in Tampa Bay. Coach Jon Gruden was with the Packers as a receivers coach from 1992-94, Favre's first three years in Green Bay. And the Bucs run a version of the West Coast offense.
It took a late-night conversation between Favre and Jets coach Eric Mangini to convince the former Packers quarterback he was a good fit in New York.
Before that call, Favre had been leaning toward signing with the Bucs. But the Packers completed the deal with the Jets, ignoring his preference.
That's not to say that Favre will reject the trade. He wanted to play this season. Helping matters was the fact that the Jets' new training facility is being relocated to New Jersey, where Favre can pursue his passion for hunting and fishing.
Gruden, who reportedly spoke to Favre on Tuesday night, refused to address speculation Wednesday that his team was attempting to strike a deal with the Packers.
He stuck to his routine of not directly answering question about the Bucs' interest in Favre but described the situation as "unprecedented,'' comparing it to the Raiders' acquisition of former 49ers receiver Jerry Rice in 2001.
"We are a good football team," Gruden said. "We're trying to become a great one. We'll do anything we can to get better. And if that involves looking at other players, by George, that's our job. That's our responsibility."
But despite being asked repeatedly about his conversations with Favre and the Packers, Gruden wasn't biting.
"I've got a lot of respect for the situation, therefore I'm going to be very reluctant to say much …," Gruden said.
Allen returned from an owners meeting in New York on Wednesday afternoon and was unavailable.
Meanwhile, Favre seemed just as anxious to forward with a new team as the Packers are to anoint Aaron Rodgers their starter.
"I just want to get on the field and get going,' Favre told ESPN.com before boarding the plane with his wife, Deanna, to Mississippi. "I'm 38 years old."
Favre had spoken with both the Bucs and the Jets, clearing most of the hurdles with a trade to either team.
Early Wednesday, it appeared the Packers might be asking for more compensation from the Bucs, who are in the NFC, than from the AFC Jets. Eventually, that stance may have softened to include a conditional pick and possibly a player.
"It is with some sadness that we make this announcement. …There were certain things we were not willing to do because they were not in the best interest of the team,'' the Packers said in a statement. "We were not going to release him nor trade him to a team within the division.''
The Bucs never publicly admitted or denied interest in Favre.
"He represents a significant addition to this franchise, and reflects our commitment to putting the best possible product on the field,'' Jets chairman/CEO Woody Johnson in a statement.
After all is said and done, Favre is headed to the Jets and the Bucs have some making up to do with Garcia.