Archive for the ‘McCarthy’ Category

Aaron Rodgers – 2008 Preview

August 11, 2008

The Favre era is over. Aaron Rodgers is the starting QB for the Packers. Tonight, he will play in his first real action as the starter of this team. Given that there will likely be at least a few series where both teams play their starters, this may be our first decent glimpse into the Rodgers-era and what may lie ahead. I won’t read too much into this game, but it does matter.

Following is a preview of Aaron Rodgers for 2008, and what I believe we can expect from him. (We will be offering other player previews throughout the pre-season).

ON THE PLUS SIDE

  • As everyone knows, Rodgers looked very good against Dallas last year. He led an inspired effort to bring the team back into the game and showed heart doing it. He looked smart out there and made sure, nice passes. Smarts and heart may be 2 defining characteristics of Rodgers going forward.
  • Rodgers has been well coached, he knows the offense very well and he is a bright guy. Mike McCarthy is very good with QBs and will help bring Rodgers along, I think, pretty quickly.
  • Rodgers has a better arm that most think.
  • I think we’ll see that his overall confidence level will help him to be a decisive passer, which is very important at this level.
  • He has a very good team surrounding him.
  • He has gone out of his way to make his teammates feel welcome in his home and at the same time, to make his teammates fully aware that he takes leadership seriously. Smart.
  • One specific thing I think Rodgers may be quite good at is knowing when to throw the ball away. It is frustrating as a fan to watch, but it can often be the best decision a QB has. Rodgers already seems quite heady re decisions like this. If he’s truly good at this, we might see fewer interceptions from Rodgers than his predecessor.
  • He wants to win. It was very evident during the Dallas game that he wanted to win. In a huge game, to be an unheralded back-up and have come in and play as the visiting team would unnerve most guys, but Rodgers not only was up for it, he appeared to be very singularly focused on winning the game.
  • Rodgers has handled himself quite well (for the most part) through this whole sticky Favre situation. He said the right things, he didn’t come off as arrogant or clueless and he worked hard to keep focused on playing football.
  • He has the support of management/coaching staff – clearly.
  • He has spent valuable time learning from one of the best QBs to ever play the game.
  • He’s gotten rid of the goofy facial hair experiments and Amish haircut, so he’s ready to just be himself out there and lead this team.

CONCERNS

  • I have some concerns about Rodgers injury history. Rodgers has had 2 significant injuries in his short career (significant enough to keep him off the field). He needs to play most of the games this season in order to shed that injury-prone label. Hopefully strength training in the off-season will help him to be stronger and better prepared for real NFL contact this year.
  • While I really like Rodgers apparent ability to scramble and run to gain some yardage (something Favre simply seemed unwilling to do later in his career), I worry that these could be the kinds of situations that lead to injury. In the Dallas game, Rodgers got licked on a tackle (in a Philip Epps-like way) at one point – almost seemed like he was sort of out of control and not sure where the guy came from.
  • One thing I think we’ll find is that as good as Rodgers may be at scrambling, he may not be quite as good as Brett and other veterans at avoiding pressure. Scrambling and avoiding pressure aren’t necessarily the same thing (i.e. Favre was bad at scrambling but great at avoiding pressure). So we may see a few more sacks of Rodgers than we’re used to seeing.
  • Mike and Mike (ESPN Radio) were saying this morning they think Rodgers has more pressure on him than any other athlete in recent sports history. Lots and lots of pressure.
  • As well as he handled himself until now, Rodgers did have a major gaffe that was fortunately for him, concealed by Favre’s story exploding the very next day. In a Sports Illustrated article a few months ago, Rodgers said, “I don’t feel I need to sell myself to fans. They need to get on board now or keep their mouths shut.” This was a mistake by Rodgers, even if he was genuinely feeling this way or just frustrated. You never offer up that Packer fans should “keep their mouths shut”. I’m willing, however, to chalk this up as a “rookie” mistake…unless or until something similar happens again.
  • I’ll write this again at the risk of your collective wrath, but I still worry Rodgers may have a whiny quality. I know when I made this comment last year, it was unpopular, but I’ve seen some early indications of this. I very well could be wrong and hope I am because I think this is behavior that can be divisive (especially if done by a young QB). Sometimes, this just comes with players who really really really want to win (Marino, Manning). And that’s not a bad thing. But my hope is that McCarthy will help Rodgers install a mental mechanism of some kind to shut down any instinct to call out his teammates in a public way.

FINAL PREVIEW VERDICT:

I think Rodgers can be very good if he plays within himself and remembers that this growth process can be somewhat gradual, that it doesn’t have to happen over night. He can definitely try to make plays, but sometimes when there is pressure like there is on him now, the tendency can be to try too hard. I expect a bit of this very early on as he attempts to assert himself as the starter – with mixed results. But after just a few games, with McCarthy’s help, I expect that he’ll settle in and develop his own distinct playing style, and learn to more effectively play within himself. While I don’t want Rodgers to play scared, I do want him to be extra smart when he scrambles. Rodgers ability and willingness to do this opens up a whole new offensive option, especially for plays that break down. I expect Rodgers to throw fewer picks than Favre and other first-year starters, but possibly get sacked more often. I believe he may have some fumbling issues earlier on until he gets used to handling the speed and pressure of the live game. Then after the first 1/3 of the season or so, it won’t be a problem. I expect James Jones to be more active in the offense, Driver to be a bit less active, Jennings to continue his progress and the tight ends to be a bigger part of McCarthy’s offensive plans this year. But one of the most important factors this year will be how Rodgers bounces back from a poor performance, especially one in which he may have contributed heavily to a loss. My guess is that he may have several rough games this year, but he will bounce back nicely. I also expect Rodgers to be a tough player on the road. Overall, I expect a better than average performance from Rodgers, but I am not expecting a totally polished product just yet.

Scattered thoughts from a scattered geek

August 8, 2008

I apologize for not weighing in on all this stuff more yesterday – work picked a horrible time to be out of control. But I have to admit, over lunch and at other points, even when I tried to put down my thoughts on all of this, I would start and stop and start and stop – something I usually don’t do. I found myself battling many different and at times competing thoughts. So, I have decided now to just give you many of these fragmented thoughts:

  1. When Bob McGinn wrote this in his article yesterday “just about everyone who counted in the football department reached the conclusion that Favre could never win another championship” and dated this back to the Dallas Cowboys game, I had 2 main thoughts: 1) so did TT and “others” think that Aaron Rodgers actually would give us a better chance to win starting this year? If so, I disagree with this position and frankly it concerns me that our management would view the QB situation this way. 2) Doesn’t this somewhat justify Favre’s seeming neediness? Yes, I still think Favre overdid it, but if he had working knowledge that the GM of the organization, arguably the organization’s most important person, clearly didn’t want him to play, wouldn’t that at least have some effect on a decision to continue or not?
  2. Because of the above, I think it was Ted Thompson who started this whole thing. Favre then made it more complicated by deciding to retire in the first place, the unretiring, then saying stupid stuff through the media, then saying really dumb stuff about playing for Minnesota (which was a point at which many Packer fans I believe first grew frustrated with Favre). But TT’s attitude toward Favre started this.
  3. I don’t question that TT liked Favre as a person. But I firmly believe TT did not think Favre was that good of a player anymore.
  4. It could be that this GM was brought in just because the Packers brass knew that difficult decisions may need to be made toward the end of Favre’s career. So that may be in part, why they chose such a stoic, no-affect kind of guy (thinking he’d be good for an emotionally charged situation…you decide if this worked).
  5. If the Packers were 7-9 last year and Favre waffled and then wanted to come back and said some nasty things, I would probably be more sympathetic to management. It would also assist those people out there arguing that Favre’s talent has diminished enough to send him packing. But of course, that’s not what happened. They were 14-4 (and keep in mind, they didn’t have to play a first round playoff game because their regular season record was so good – something Favre was responsible for in good part).
  6. Brett Favre was the most exciting athlete in Wisconsin sports history.
  7. Brett Favre lied to the world when he said at his retirement press conference that TT and others did not affect his decision to retire. Sure, maybe at the time he was leaning toward retirement anyway. But when he said that, I suddenly had flashbacks to a certain “I did not have relations with that woman” comment by Slick Willy. I felt the same way when Marshawn Lynch made his first public comments after he ran that woman over and denied it. You could just hear/feel the lie.
  8. I hope the Jets are really good this year and Favre can go out on a high note. As crappy as he’s been through all of this, in the future, my guess is we’ll be able to look back fondly at his career as a Packer (I think I may be too young to seriously use the word “fondly” though. I think I’ll go now and sit on my davenport).
  9. I will always love the Packers above any one player, but if this Rodgers experiment goes awry, I will be quite ticked off. I’ll still love the Packers, but not TT. Not only have TT and co mortgaged our short-term future (which was bright) on this one player, in the process, they have taken a guy who already had tons of pressure on him and dumped 5x as much pressure on him with this whole fiasco. Maybe this will make Rodgers super strong mentally, I don’t know, but right now I think the honest truth (as opposed to the false truth?) is that Rodgers and many others are just deflated. Fortunately, there is some time before the season to get re-energized.
  10. I feel like this whole thing happened at the wrong time – too early. If Favre were truly welcomed back and also accepted coming back, and had an OK year this year, I could see really thinking about moving on. But the fact is, he came off of a tremendous season and many of us were very much looking forward to rolling into this year. It’s too bad he chose to retire (because he did choose this) but it’s also too bad that that decision was apparently based in part on feeling unwanted.
  11. I didn’t like it when people kept saying that the offense now goes through Rodgers and they’ve made a bunch of changes to accommodate that so the prospect of switching back for Brett would have been a really difficult one. I don’t buy that. Favre knew a bunch of plays last year and the offense, except in the Giants game, ran like a well-oiled machine. Also, if the offense right now is so geared toward Rodgers, isn’t that a bit dangerous – putting all the eggs in one basket – for a guy who has been injured twice in limited action?
  12. I really feel like I need to know, for my own mental health, what exactly happened to make both parties so pissed off. It still doesn’t add up that Favre would act like this. We all knew he needed some convincing and coddling to return, but none of us have seen such a nasty side of Favre before. As I’ve written a few times – nasty behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. In mental health, you study behavior patterns and considering that he had never shown a public behavior pattern like this before, I think the inescapable conclusion is that there was some precipitating event that made him so angry with the team that he wasn’t sure what to do or say. And he didn’t manage himself well at all feeling like this. He seemed kind of all over the place when he talked about all this.
  13. I don’t like TT and his personality. I’ve never been much into that personality. And I can say safely if Rodgers doesn’t pan out, TT’s time in Green Bay may be limited.
  14. One question I have is just how good does TT think Rodgers will be? He took a huge risk by at least setting the Favre-out movement in motion. Bob McGinn writes “the Packers concluded that it would be the MOTHER OF ALL MISTAKES if Aaron Rodgers got away without being properly evaluated as a starter”. Really? The Mother of ALL Mistakes? That’s overstating unless someone thinks Rodgers is the next Montana.
  15. Something happened in this whole process to seemingly cool Favre’s relationship with McCarthy as well. I wonder what that is.
  16. Favre did choose to retire. There was pressure, yes, but he did make that choice and if he’d waited or perhaps chosen to come back and then retired later, that might have worked out better.
  17. If TT is right about all of this and the packers get back into the playoffs and go deep in the next couples years, many many people will have to give credit where credit is due and TT would probably have to go down with Ron Wolf as one of the better GMs in the game. I won’t rule out that possibility and I’ll certainly cheer hard for it.
  18. Lastly, I’m glad that TT managed to get something for Favre. While it’s still not enough, considering all that happened, it was a decent salvage effort for which he deserves some credit.

Initial reactions to McCarthy’s press conference

August 5, 2008

I caught most of the press conference just now and to me, the main theme was that Favre was unwilling to commit 100% to playing for the Packers. McCarthy wouldn’t touch questions re whether Favre talked with the Vikings. I got the strong sense that McCarthy felt Favre was unable to get over something that happened in the past – something the team did to him around retirement time that Favre finds unforgivable. McCarthy did give some odd answers though that may be somewhat revealing, but I’ll need to wait for the transcript before I can know for sure what he said.

The press conference, as I mentioned above, did confirm my suspicion that Favre feels incredibly wronged by the team somehow. I still think that perhaps the biggest question here is what really happened a few months ago to make Favre and the Packers both so mad. The more we find out the more I think we’re missing a critical piece of info. This press conference also made me even more suspicious that Favre has been trying to land himself on the Vikings and I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the mystery of the stubborn/mad behavior may indeed have something to do with the contact with the Vikings.

One curious question my colleague just asked: what if Favre is traded to Tampa and then the Vikings just trade with Tampa for Favre? Is that possible?

Writing on the wall

August 5, 2008

Perhaps I am overreacting here to some information in Jay Glazer’s most recent piece (actually, that is exactly what I’m doing – I’m a blogger). Read the whole piece here. Following is one tiny event I think might actually be very telling:

Favre emerged from the stadium’s loading dock exit at 2:34 p.m. EDT Tuesday, hugging Packers senior security advisor Jerry Parins before getting in his SUV and driving away. Shortly after, an SUV driven by Packers general manager Ted Thompson left the gate heading in the same direction.

I think it’s significant that he hugged Jerry Parins. Why would he hug the security advisor? I know Favre is rather affectionate, but this seems like something one does when saying goodbye. Sure, perhaps it means that he just isn’t sure when he’ll see his friend Jerry again. But more likely, I think it means that he knows he’s not likely to be around Lambeau anymore.

Also significant in this article is this line:

The continued disagreement on Favre’s role could accelerate trade talks, perhaps with the Minnesota Vikings – something Packers officials have suspected Favre wanted all along but have been firmly opposed to giving him.

Why would Packer officials suspect this “all along” and Glazer write this if there weren’t something behind it. More evidence for Steve’s Favre-to-Vikings post.

Divorce talks back on – Favre/McCarthy not on same page

August 5, 2008

Jay Glazer from Fox Sports reports here that Brett Favre met with Mike McCarthy last night for so long that McCarthy had to cancel his 8:15pm press conference. (I was tuned in to the press conference starting at about 8pm last night and was able to hear the reporters in the room. What initially sounded like regular conversation, I soon realized, was reporters practicing the asking of their particular questions – out loud. Brother Steve, you never told me you people do this. You journalists are odd, talking to yourselves like that). Anyway, Favre met with McCarthy and it apparently was amicable, but they still can’t see eye to eye.

Favre apparently noted on several occasions that he’s worried about messing up team chemistry (something that on its face may seem altruistic, but it could also be further evidence that he may be trying to wiggle out of this to play for the Vikes. “You know, I’ve been feeling bad about all this and just don’t want to disrupt the team any further. I guess I should just play for the Vikings then”). Among other things, Favre apparently now is in line with Rodgers being the starting QB.

I just can’t help but think something else is going on. It seemed McCarthy’s tactic last night may have still been to steer Favre away and Favre’s tactic may have still been to figure out a way to play for the Vikings. He apparently reiterated his desire to play within the division. When Favre first said this to Greta a few weeks ago, he even added “for obvious reasons”. What are those “obvious reasons”? To stick it to TT, the team, and all of Packer Nation? I just don’t get why he’d insist on playing within the division when it seems like such a jackass stance for someone who has been the face of the Packers for nearly 15 years (he wasn’t the face his first two years, Holmgren was). I guess what I struggle with most is that in Favre’s mind, there appear to be just 2 options: 1) starting for the Packers or 2) playing for the Vikings. It just doesn’t make sense – if he really loves this team and organization etc, you’d think he would rule out playing for Minnesota (unless again, he’s so ticked off about something we don’t know about, which I continue to believe is what happened).

Mike McCarthy announces Matt Flynn to start

August 4, 2008

“Our sources” just confirmed that Mike McCarthy has promised the 2008 starting QB role to rookie Matt Flynn “until he gets hurt”. McCarthy noted that he bases most decisions on starting roles for each position on the performance at Family Night. Morency will be joining Flynn in the backfield based on his per carry average of 29 and Patrick Lee will start at all 4 secondary positions, occasionally helped by Charlie Peprah. Alfred Malone will start on the line and nobody will punt. When pressed for more on the reasoning for starting Flynn, McCarthy pointed out that Flynn doesn’t wear a totally prohibitive, giant knee brace (Brohm) make poor hair-experimentation decisions (Rodgers) and has not recently behaved like a “flippin’ 5 year old”.

Why did TT tell Rodgers he was the guy “no matter what”

August 4, 2008

The D-List (Milwaukee’s ESPN radio program in the morning) were talking this morning re whether the team’s/Mark Murphy’s recent words indicated that the team was softening its stance or not. In talking about it, they discussed how difficult it would be to go back now, and then pointed out that Ted Thompson told Aaron Rodgers the day after Favre retired that Rodgers was the guy, and TT apparently added “no matter what”.

First of all, why would you ever say “no matter what” and be so definitive about something that isn’t a very definitive thing. I think TT set himself up for some of this misery by saying this so soon after Favre retired. Now, I know Rodgers at the time was not only the most sensible option, but the only option, so I don’t blame the team for looking in his direction. But what if a draft pick came in and lit up camp or a veteran became available somehow who fit the system perfectly? But I think TT telling Rodgers he was the guy “no matter what” served to paint the team into a corner – especially should Favre want to play again, which of course is exactly what happened. I think a lot of this comes down to TT being stubborn and not wanting to go back on his promise to Rodgers. And I think that is partly why Rodgers was so certain back in June (read Steve’s previous post) that he was still the guy despite Favre’s growing itch. He was promised the starting job. And this is just part of why I feel badly for Aaron Rodgers.

But the bigger issue I have with this is that it was Ted Thompson who told Rodgers this. Listen, I’m glad we have a GM who seems to have an understanding of talent etc and that he’s really into his job. And despite my recent criticism of him, there are still many reasons why I think he’s a good GM. But it’s none of his business to declare a player a starter “no matter what”. That is Mike McCarthy’s decision. If McCarthy would have declared this back in March, I would have thought it was premature, especially if he said “no matter what”, but I wouldn’t have written a post about it because that’s his call. I just am frustrated that it was TT who apparently made this call to Rodgers immediately after Favre’s retirement to make this premature promise.

The only excuse I could see for this would be if TT was just fuming at the time because he had just learned that it was the Vikings and Favre’s interest in playing for the Vikings that prompted Favre to want to unretire.

Suggestion for Favre situation

July 30, 2008

Should Favre be given chance to compete for the starting job? This is a question that I have been considering the last few days. I didn’t want to have to consider this, but it’s a legit question right now. I find it somewhat curious that the Packers have maintained the stance that Favre cannot compete for the starting job. I know it’s a hard-line stance that they developed mostly due to Favre’s wavering and the significant issues this continues to present. And, I understand that the team had made a decision to move forward which has led to subsequent, key organizational decisions (like implementing Rodgers-specific plays, figuring life with $12M more in cap space, drafting 2 QBs…despite TT always stating he doesn’t draft for need…).

But not allowing Favre to compete for the starting spot would seem to fly in the face of McCarthy’s philosophy of “open competition”. Every year we hear about the various open competitions going on. There was an open competition between Mason Crosby and Dave Rayner last year and despite Rayner being a solid incumbent who competed at a high level, Crosby was able to beat him out because it was “open”. The Poppinga/Chillar battle has apparently been an “open” competition as have the never-ending battles for the guard spots. There is an open punter competition and right now at least an open RB competition. There is an open competition at safety with Rouse factoring in and an open competition for the 3rd cornerback spot. There is an open competition at WR, at TE, etc.

So, it would seem to me that one reasonable compromise would be to have the Packers tell Favre he can compete for the starting job against Rodgers (and Brohm) and that in exchange for doing so, the team would like Favre to agree to restructuring his contract to a 1 year $8 million deal and an a clear agreement now that Favre would make any retirement decision at the end of this season by February of 2009 (after the Super Bowl) at the latest. If the money isn’t critical to Favre, he’d agreed to this as a way of apologizing for his part in this mess. And this would enable Favre to start waffling now. And, let’s face it, while Favre was great last year, he’s old for an NFL player and he may be getting to a playing age where a younger guy may finally catch up with him and be able to outperform him. Having an open competition would also enable Rodgers (and Brohm) a real chance to simply outperform Favre in camp and win the job. Frankly, it’s what Rodgers would have to do right now anywhere else in the entire NFL if he weren’t a Packer – so it makes some sense. If he is indeed so well-versed in the offense as they say and the offense flows really well through him, he would have the opportunity to start which would still be an improvement from last year where he didn’t have this opportunity.

(Interesting note: one guy you have to feel for in all of this is Matt Flynn. He was probably all fired up to come to Green Bay where he could fight for the #2 spot, but if Favre does return, he may end up being the odd man out. I’ll bet Flynn’s family and friends are pulling hard for a Favre retirement or a last-minute trade!)

(Interesting note #2: interesting candor by some other players re their preferences (in McGinn’s jsonline article this morning, like Ryan Pickett very clearly wanting Favre to come back).

Wilde: Evidence Packers are divided

July 30, 2008

First of all, read the previous post re the use of the word literally. Very funny. Many people use this word incorrectly and it can make you look pretty silly when you do – so read up.

Now, onto the article here, by Jason Wilde. Some very interesting interviews. He talks about specific players who appear to lean one way or the other on the Favre/Rodgers thing. Not really too surprising I guess, but interesting. He says that generally the younger players prefer Rodgers and some of the veterans want Favre back. He quotes James Jones as saying outright that he has a better relationship with Rodgers, Jennings as remaining neutral and Driver being clearly happy Favre may return. But the most interesting quote was from Charles Woodson. While Wilde’s take is that Woodson is “torn”, my guess is that he is not, that he is squarely in the Favre camp but he was being diplomatic at the end of the quote just in case Rodgers is the guy. Here it is, you decide:

“My feeling is, he never should’ve retired. I don’t believe in being pressured to retire. This is Brett Favre. You don’t pressure Brett Favre into retiring. So you wish he never had retired,” Woodson said. “(Then again), my opinion is, OK, we’ve seen Brett play, we know what he can do. We’ve seen him have bad years, bad games, too. We haven’t seen anything of A-Rod for a whole season. So how do we know what we gain or what we lose unless we see him?

“I’ve seen enough of (Rodgers) in practice to know he can play. Now is just the thing of going out and being a consistent. You don’t know until you get further down the line, but I think he’s going to be all right.”

One important note that backs up my belief that Woodson is a Favre guy is that at McCarthy’s press conference on Monday night when it was announced Favre had filed, a reporter (possibly Wilde) asked about whether the team was divided. The reporter asked “with players like Charles Woodson chanting ‘Brett Favre, Brett Favre’ in the background, do you have concerns the locker room will be divided?” Now, I wouldn’t put it past Charles to have done this in a joking way, perhaps with Rodgers around, but I get the sense that he feels Favre was pressured into retirement and it wasn’t right. I also believe that’s how Driver and probably a good number of others feel. It makes me wonder a little bit about how these other possible supporters of Favre view Thompson overall.

While the present divide is concerning, I don’t think it will take down the team, unless the decision re who will start is dragged out until just before the season starts. I have confidence in Mike McCarthy’s leadership skills and believe he will be able to get the team to rally behind whoever is named the starter.

UPDATE: Thanks to Aaron at cheesheadtv.com for this correction:

The NYT made it pretty clear that Woodson’s chant was a joke…

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/sports/football/30favre.html?ref=sports
News of Favre’s reinstatement request spread quickly among Packers players. As a gag, the veteran cornerback Charles Woodson started a “We Want Brett” chant as he walked by the sizable group of reporters awaiting McCarthy’s postpractice briefing.

“Just having a little fun,” Woodson said at his locker. “I knew you guys would get a kick out of that.”

Favre to delay reinstatement?

July 16, 2008

According to this article by Chris Mortenson, it appears as though Favre and Bus Cook are in no hurry to apply for reinstatement. This, despite Favre saying to Greta that he does feel like his time is limited here re the opportunity to connect with another team. Also, read up on the discussion Favre apparently had with James Campen. I don’t like that he was thrown under the bus here, though if he and Favre are close, I’m not surprised Campen might offer the advice he did (namely that Favre should force the Packers hand because eventually the team will feel like it has no choice but to take him back).

One of the “solutions” I’m writing about for an upcoming post is the inaction = decision solution. This means that neither side does anything until it sort of becomes too late, then Favre just stays retired and the whole thing quiets down. Based on this article by Mort, I wonder if that may be how this plays out.

Of note though in this article is McCarthy getting worked up about the Favre camp putting Campen in a tight spot. I don’t blame MM. The comments by McCarthy and some of the many other comments by Favre, TT and others, point to a growing gap between the two parties. At some point, if both sides keep spreading the hate, I don’t think Favre playing for the team again will even be possible. I really hope this reverses, but it seems doubtful.


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