Here we go again. For the third year in a row, the NFL and ESPN are being held hostage by Brett Favre. As Garrett Hartley’s field goal put the New Orleans Saints into the Super Bowl and gave us a matchup of two of the greatest quarterbacks of our era, the talk centered around the one quarterback who would not be playing in February. Is it time for Brett Favre to retire…for good?
Eighteen years in the NFL, four NFL teams, three MVP awards, eleven Pro Bowls, and over a dozen postseason wins will likely be defined by an interception seen around the world in Sunday’s NFC title game. For all of the achievements of Favre and there are a ton, casual fans will remember Favre for his interception and a blown opportunity to return to play in the Super Bowl. For Brett Favre, I have to imagine that this isn’t the reason he sacrificed himself to be the butt of many August jokes and come back for another season in the NFL.
Favre is 40 and in the NFL 40 is the new 65 when it comes to NFL quarterbacks. What Favre did this year is remarkable for someone his age or any age for that matter. 40-year old NFL quarterbacks don’t play in the NFC title game. Adding to the list of Favre’s achievements will be that he is the oldest starting quarterback to win an NFL playoff game. Yet after one of the greatest seasons of his career, he is already starting to make waves about retiring. Can Favre do it again or should he ride out into the sunset?
I have written a lot about Favre for three years and most of it, not being so favorable. His return to the NFL two years ago with the New York Jets didn’t work out well for anyone. The Jets finished with a disappointing season, not even making the playoffs. Favre threw a crucial interception in the final minutes of the fourth quarter which more or less sealed their loss. The Jets coach was fired. Favre’s status as a future NFL Hall of Fame player was questioned. More importantly, for the first-time in his career Brett Favre’s character was criticized and more than the player, Brett Favre the man took a terrible beating by his teammates, his ex-teammates, and the media who put him on a pedestal for years.
It didn’t surprise anyone when Favre announced his retirement a few months after the season ended. Unlike the Green Bay Packers organization, the Jets couldn’t get rid of Favre fast enough. Instead of riding out into the sunset after a 13-5 season and an NFC title game, Favre would be walking away like most NFL players who play well after their prime, thus tarnishing their legacies. If it wasn’t bad enough leaving a lasting memory of a Super Bowl-costing interception at home in a title game the year prior, this time he was walking away a broken down, arrogant, self-centered NFL quarterback.
Favre made his desires to go play with the Minnesota Vikings well known two years ago. The Packers made that virtually impossible. The door was now open, and Favre flirted with the Vikings for several weeks before declining them and then accepting their offer. Favre waltzed back into the NFL not as a returning conquering hero, but as a tired old story of a man more consumed with revenge than his legacy or the good of the NFL. It was so bad that fans and NFL media were angry that Tarvaris Jackson was getting the shaft. Think about that one for a second and that will tell you how badly Favre’s reputation had turned from poster boy to whipping boy in one season.
Something strange happened in Minnesota that not even the most studious NFL experts had predicted. The Vikings were winning. Not only were the Vikings winning, but the Vikings had an offense that rivaled the 1998 Minnesota Vikings offense. On top of that, Favre looked like a man reborn. Gone were the ill-fated interceptions that plagued Favre’s career. Favre replaced those memories with game-winning clutch plays like the NFL Week 3 32-yard touchdown pass with two seconds to go against the San Francisco 49ers. All of the sudden Brett Favre was playing better than even Brett Favre had played in many years.
Not only that, but Brett Favre did this on a brand new team with just a few weeks of preparation. Yes I know he was familiar with their system, but he had very little time to learn the playbook and develop any chemistry with his receivers, his line, his coaches, etc. Compounding this with his numbers is simply remarkable for the year Favre had. Plus, keep in mind that Brett Favre has played in the NFC title game in two of the last three years with two different teams! People are soon to forget that when criticizing Favre. No quarterback in either division on the same team can make those boasts. Not Peyton Manning, not Tom Brady, not Donovan McNabb, not Drew Brees, not anyone in the NFL.
Favre did take a lot of hits in the NFC title game. As a matter of a fact, Favre took more hits from the Saints than he likely took all season. Even as an objective fan, I started feeling uncomfortable watching the excruciating pain on Favre’s face after he would slowly get up from each hit. Lucky for Favre, he has a pretty good offensive line that can hold their own against most teams. Unlucky for Favre, they couldn’t stop the New Orleans Saints from getting to him. Watching the look on his face, the interception, and the disappointment following the game, Brett Favre looked anything like a guy raring to hit OTAs and give it a go for another season.
Do not put the Vikings loss on Sunday on Favre and his interception. Brett Favre scored 28 points for the Vikings. 28 points should be more than enough to win a game in the NFL. Favre drove his team with 2:37 to go from the Minnesota 21 to the New Orleans 33 in 91 seconds. Remember, if it wasn’t for the 12-man on the field penalty before the throw, the Vikings would have held pat and kicked a field goal. Now maybe the FG doesn’t make it, but Favre also isn’t throwing an interception. The Saints also took eleven plays to score in overtime. That is eleven chances that the Vikings defense had to stop them. Brett Favre also had to overcome five other turnovers from his teammates in the game. If I would put the blame on anyone, I would put it on the coach for one of the dumbest penalties in NFL championship history on Sunday.
Regardless of whether Favre can come back or not, he won something much bigger than the Super Bowl this season. Brett Favre won his reputation back. Favre won his reputation back for a tough, gritty, future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback. Favre won his reputation back as a great team player and more importantly, team leader. Favre won his reputation as a winner that can put a team on his shoulders and make the big throws when it counts. I see no reason that he can’t come back and do it again. The big question is whether the scars of the 2008-09 season with Jets still haunt Favre. If so, maybe Favre doesn’t want to risk a season like that knowing what he had in 2007-08 when he walked away. Or will Brett Favre be more obsessed with erasing the stat that the last three NFL seasons of Brett Favre were marred with crucial interceptions?
I think Brett Favre comes back and unlike the last two years, I think most of us will be happy to hear the news.
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