[Editor’s note: I am happy to introduce yet another new writer to you. Kurt Allen is the latest to join the MSF team, and like Griffin Gotta is based in Wisconsin. Any more cheeseheads and we may just have to spin off a new site with coverage of the Packers.
Kurt has a lot of experience creating content online and will be covering a wide range of stories for us in the coming weeks and months. He is also an avid Tweeter and you can follow him here.
Enjoy his first piece below.]
We now preempt regularly scheduled offseason programming to bring you the latest developments in the saga of Brett the Purple Dinosaur.
Well it sure took long enough.
In another major development a few weeks back, there were unconfirmed reports that Deanna Favre has renewed her membership at a Twin Cities area health club for another year. You could cue the Dragnet music on that, although I’m sure Mrs. Favre could afford to swallow her membership fee for a year if forced to do so.
But if you have spent the last week in a coma, which is probably the only way possible to avoid the Brett Favre newsfeed, really not much has changed.
Realizing early in the week that he had still not yet ‘retired’ this off-season, word leaked that Favre was busy sending text messages to Vikings teammates that he had decided he was through, this time for real. Of course no one was buying it.
The next day Favre was back working out with his high school team when ESPN’s Ed Werder, I guess the lone man on the planet able to get any access to #4, actually got a couple words with Favre that were aired on TV before Brett made his getaway in the old pick-up truck.
Bottom line is a big letdown for Tavaris Jackson fans, pending an examination on Favre’s ankle by Dr. James Andrews early next week. The most likely outcome still has Brett returning for a 20th season, although I wouldn’t put all of what’s left in the 401K on it.
I have been covering the Favre ‘retirement’ fiasco for 2 ½ years now. Actually, it has gone on much longer than that. As an April Fool’s joke in 2002 I reported on Favre ‘retiring’, and actually crashed my server. At the time BF was 32 and still very much in the prime of his career, although several disastrous playoff performances were still to come.
Just nine months later, the first Favre ‘retirement watch’ began.
The Packers were hosting the Atlanta Falcons in a Wild Card round game on a Saturday night in January, 2003. The Falcons had what was considered a then-emerging QB named Michael Vick (he’s for another column) but were given little chance that night, a snowy one at Lambeau. At the time Favre was something like 35-0 when playing at home with the temperature below 34 degrees. It was assumed that Brett would shine while Vick froze like a popsicle.
Vick ran wild that night, proving that it was going to take more than a dusting of snow to slow him, while Favre was the one left bruised, flustered, and wearing the Lambeau turf on his back. Brett was at the airport and on his jet heading back to Mississippi seemingly within minutes of the final gun, leading to speculation that possibly Favre could pull a Barry Sanders and announce a shocking retirement.
Of course Favre returned for the 2003 season, which culminated in a dramatic overtime win in the Wild Card round (thankfully scored by the defense) before the infamous 4th and 26 game in Philadelphia and Favre’s pop-fly for an INT on the first play of overtime. What many forget was that before 4th and 26, Green Bay had a chance to ice the game on what was 4th and about three inches. Seemed like an easy enough quarterback sneak, but by this stage in his career Favre wasn’t doing quarterback sneaks. Packers punt, and the rest was history.
2004 would end with another uncharacteristic home playoff loss, this time to the 8-8 Minnesota Vikings in the infamous Randy Moss ‘Moon Over Lambeau’ game. Lost in that uproar was the fact that Favre was the one really left exposed that night, throwing four INT’s to go along with the six picks he threw in the playoff loss at St. Louis following the 2001 season.
That spring, addressing the fact that even the Favre era would eventually have an expiration date, General Manager Ted Thompson jumped at the chance to draft Aaron Rodgers after he unexpectedly slipped to the 25th overall pick of the 2005 Draft. That fall the wheels came off completely in Titletown (a.k.a, the Samkon Gado era), and by mid-season the Packers were well on their way to a dismal 4-12 campaign, leading to speculation that Favre at age 35, would either (a) retire or (b) try to force a trade to a contender, with the suggestion of Favre in anything but a Green Bay considered unthinkable among the Packers fan base.
Favre did return, and seemed rejuvenated in what was considered a rebuilding year in 2006, with the team winning its final four games to finish 8-8. The season ended with Favre posing for photos with teammates after the season finale in Chicago and breaking down during a subsequent interview with NBC, which set the stage for his annual retirement watch to become the national spectacle it is today.
That laid the groundwork for what I still consider to be a memorable season in 2007, with the team emerging far ahead of schedule in Year 2 of the Mike McCarthy era despite management not making the acquisition of Randy Moss that Brett apparently so dearly wanted. Still the year culminated in that magical snow-filled night with Favre throwing three TD’s as the team rebounded from an early 14-0 deficit for a 42-20 win. This led to what I now call the ‘Four-below Game’, played in icebox conditions against the New York Giants, a game no one in Packerland expected the home team to lose.
But thanks to yet another overtime pick by Favre, after Green Bay won the coin toss, thus making Corey Webster the Packers answer to Bucky (bleepin’) Dent, the Pack did lose. This led to the 30-month soap opera still going strong today, complete with his own header on ESPN’s bottom line and his four-part series with Greta Van Susteren on FOX News, and his equally awaited appearance with Joe Buck last year.
At this point I will say what I have said for the past several years: Brett Favre owes the Green Bay Packers absolutely nothing. I would consider his 16-year resume with the Packers in fact to be pretty darn good, and arguably he is THE most iconic figure in the 90+ year history of the franchise. OK, maybe Coach Vin and Curly Lambeau are at the top, and also put the likes of Hutson, Starr, Nitschke, Taylor and Hornung in the conversation as well.
However, for as historic an institution as the Packers are rightfully considered, it must also be noted that the franchise was next to irrelevant for an entire generation with mostly dismal seasons from 1968 through 1991, the rare Lynn Dickey or Don Majkowski contribution notwithstanding. And as much as Lambeau Field is now considered a landmark and a shrine, it was basically a bare-bones faciltiy throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. It may even come as a shock to many younger fans that the team played a portion of its home schedule at Milwaukee County Stadium (an awful venue for football) as recently as 1994.
And, by the way, Coach Lombardi retired from the Packers only to eventually resurface coaching another team. Ditto for the late, great Reggie White, who returned for what turned out to be a quiet, forgettable season with the Carolina Panthers in 2000.
It was the bold trade of then-GM Ron Wolf that send a first round draft pick in 1992 to Atlanta to acquire Favre, a second-round pick the previous year who did not make a good first impression on Falcons coach Jerry Glanville. Along with the hiring of Mike Holmgren as coach the same year, and the stunning free agent acquisition of Reggie White the following year, the very culture of the franchise changed dramatically. No more was Green Bay talked about as a ‘threat’ as a possible destination to underachieving players among other organizations around the NFL, as it had been previously.
Not to defend Favre’s constant drama tendencies, but #4 should never be looked at in a negative light by Packers Nation, and I believe the crowd at Lambeau made a mistake last year in their attempts to literally boo Brett right out of the stadium during the Vikings regular-season visit. It only served to play into Favre’s hands and propelled him into a huge game that night. A thunderous standing ovation would had been more appropriate, and may have gotten to Brett’s emotions to the point of having a four interception game, rather than a four touchdown game.
Bottom line, pro football is a business, and for a while Ted Thompson was the most hated man in Packer Nation. He also made his own defining move that will likely put the stamp on this franchise for the majority of the coming decade. Not too many franchises get the opportunity to replace one legend for potentially another legend, and Aaron Rodgers looks to be heading down that path. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Denver Broncos fan base, who since 1999 have been looking for their worthy successor to John Elway. The QB who was thought to be real deal asked out before even entering the prime of his career, as Jay Cutler can now be found in the NFC North Division.
Then there’s the Favre angle. Even though under contract, Favre was nudged out the door. Basically he was fired. At that point it can very well be argued that BF should be able to choose his next employer, and the franchise that he saw as being most comfortable with and knew the coaching staff happened to be the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t fault Favre for that, just for not being more direct in his exit strategy and beating around the bush. I also said two years ago that if Ted Thompson’s best trade offer on the table happened to be from the Vikings, that he should had made made the trade and gotten it over with.
A very similar situation transpired this past off-season in the NFC East. Somehow the Philadelphia Eagles were able to deal Donovan McNabb to a division rival without a PR debacle being played out. McNabb identified the Washington Redskins as a landing spot, and the two teams made a deal.
As it was, Favre was forced to take an awkward one-year sabbatical playing for the New York Jets before deeking another retirement, eventually paving the way for his long-awaited free agency freedom and the chance to join the Vikings, a move that worked pretty well, actually very well (as in thr best stats in his entire career), until that ill-fated play late in regulation in New Orleans.
So how does the final chapter end?
Favre is the type who will continue to play until the uniform is ripped off him. Maybe he finally gets back to and wins that long awaited second Super Bowl and can finally head off into the sunset without regrets. The Vikings certainly have the supporting cast.
But it’s also more possible that the story does not have a happy ending. Favre has defied the odds of the injury reaper for 19 years, avoiding major injury and perhaps even playing through major injuries (although you can argue that he had to resort to his Vicodin addiction to get through the 1995 campaign). But keep rolling the dice and snake-eyes sooner or later comes up, and a devastating injury would finally take out the final guesswork and end Favre’s spectacular career.
Injury at some point claims nearly all in the NFL, including quarterbacks. Back in the day Dan Marino was considered the iron-man, starting every game for a decade until on a simple dropback his Achilles gave way, and suddenly the Miami Dolphins were forced into emergency plans.
I really wish against a Joe Theismann/Michael Irvin like ending for Favre. And certainly if such an event occurred in Green Bay, and the golf cart was coming out, there would not be a repeat of Philadelphia fans on Michael Irvin as he laid on the Veteran’s Stadium turf in 1999.
Or things could end simply because Favre succumbs to a drastic decline in performance. Even with the great ones the drop-off is often not gradual; in fact, think hockey-stick graph. Jerry Rice was inducted into Canton this weekend, and he incredibly kept producing past age 40, but when his time came it came quickly. The odometer is so high for Favre, who will soon be age 41, that the gasket, or the transmission, or the motor, can blow at anytime.
So if he comes back, enjoy Favre for what could be one FINAL go around, and wish him the best. This time next year the statuses of not just Favre, but the entire rank-and-file, will be under question given the current labor situation.
But that’s a column for another day…
(By the way, I find it interesting to not that the photoshopped image from a couple years ago of Favre in a baby-thingy with the message ‘Let Me Play…’ has now been revised to ‘My Ankle Hurts…’ and T-Shirts with that image are currently being sold at the Wisconsin State Fair for $11.99; It makes for a great cleaning rag. Another good seller is the 4-way Favre jersey, with the colors of each team he’s played for. Someone is raking in at least a few bucks off that un-licensed material.)