The Brett Favre Saga — The Darkness Before The Dawn
I won’t ever forget that first presser Brett Favre had with the New York Jets. Frankly, he looked like Theoden before the Battle for Helm’s Deep — “How did it come to this?”
How indeed. No doubt the Jets were far more sure of themselves than Brett was. They were ear-to-ear just thinking of the jerseys they were going to sell and the news they were going to get. Finally knocked the Giants off the back page!
For Brett, the timing was about perfect. The preseason had just started. All the OTAs and the difficult parts of training camp were over. He would need to learn the playbook, play a little in the preseason and then be ready to go week 1.
September 1, 2008 — Right before the start of the regular season, Brett sat down with the New York media and talked a little about his divorce from the Green Bay Packers. Brett said he felt that he was obviously the guy that gave the Packers their best chance of winning, and that for them to not welcome him back because they were afraid of “upsetting” Aaron Rodgers was “totally ridiculous.”
Something else Brett had never mentioned before was that Ted Thompson had stopped by right after the draft to visit with Brett. During the visit, Ted told Brett the Packers were going to send him his locker back, you know, rather than having it sit there like a shrine. Brett thought it was ridiculous, which is probably what Ted and Mike thought of Brett’s separate locker area in the first place.
Did he think it was a coded message? Well, Ted Thompson had just drafted two quarterbacks, so perhaps it was. But Ted doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to bother coding his messages.
September 28, 2008 — Brett throws for six touchdowns in a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, which is more than he ever threw while playing for Green Bay. The Jets are 2-2 after four weeks, which is the same record as the Packers at that point.
Deanna Favre would later admit that they followed the Packers to make sure that Brett got more wins than Aaron. It was important to them. Good thing, because that was the only measure in which Brett would outdo Aaron in 2008.
Brett and the Jets played well through the first 12 weeks of the season and were 8-3. With Tom Brady out for the season, the door in the AFC East was flung wide open for the Jets to waltz through. Unfortunately, the last five weeks happened. The Jets dropped four of those five and Brett played terrible, ending the season with an even 22 TDs and 22 INTs after a fast start.
Topping it all off was the fact that the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs in week 17 by a Dolphins team led by Chad Pennington, the quarterback the Jets dropped so they could start Favre. In the game, Brett threw a hilarious INT to a defensive end that went for a touchdown and like with the Packers, his final pass for the Jets was an INT.
If the Jets had made the playoffs, the Packers would have gotten a second-round pick from his trade. Instead they got a third. However, that third was one of three picks that the Packers traded to the New England Patriots to get their second first-round pick of the 2009 draft. With that pick, the Packers selected Clay Matthews.
Packers fans on either side of the fracture would have little to celebrate. The Packers went 6-10, including losing five of their last six. Aaron Rodgers did, however, make it through the entire season and he finished with over 4,000 yards, 28 TDs and 12 INTs. Those numbers were very similar to Brett’s 2007 campaign, not counting Aaron’s 200+ yards of rushing and his four rushing TDs.
It would later be learned that Brett had a torn biceps tendon in his right shoulder. It would also be learned that the Jets knew of Brett’s injury as of week 12 and never reported it. Brett’s playing streak would continue, but another coaching staff would bite the dust, as Jets coach Eric Mangini was fired. He and Ray Rhodes can have a drink and reminiscence some time.
February 11, 2009 — Without fanfare this time, Brett announces his retirement from football once again.
February 16, 2009 — In an interview with Peter King of SI, Brett says that he will probably get the urge to come back, but that he won’t this time due to respect for Jets GM Mike Tannebaum. He says he will not ask to be released.
April 28, 2009 — Right after drafting Mark Sanchez, the Jets release Favre. It took a year of playing in New York to get there, but Brett finally has what he wanted from the Packers all along.
July 28, 2009 — A report surfaces that the Minnesota Vikings have been trying to talk Brett out of retirement. He says he is committed to retirement, for now.
August 19, 2009 — Despite Brett and the Vikings disavowing it for the last couple weeks, Brett signs with the Vikings. It is again about the exact same timing as with the Jets. The Vikings are done with training camp and are through one game in the preseason.
People forget that the Vikings were 10-6 and division champs in 2008. They were a good team without stability at quarterback. Brett would echo his words in 2007 by calling the 2009 Vikings the most talented team he’s been on. Brett knows the offense, is friends with the offensive coordinator, and best of all, Brad Childress is another sychophant for a head coach that Brett can walk over before ultimately getting him fired.
November 1, 2009 — The Vikings and Brett Favre come visit Lambeau Field. It is the matchup the media has been yearning for. For the local media, this matchup is about more than Brett, though. It is about a Vikings team partially built through free agency — Antoine Winfield, Steve Hutchinson, Bernard Berrian, etc… versus a Packers team built almost entirely through the draft, which drives the media nuts.
Brett is soundly booed by the Lambeau Field crowd. For the second time against the Packers, Brett plays very well and the Vikings win an offensive game 38-26.
In what is a surprise to virtually everyone, even his fans and something to be marked, Brett has a spectacular 2009 campaign, quite probably the best of his career. He throws 33 TDs against a career low 7 INTs. That is the only time in his career that Brett threw less than 13 interceptions.
The Vikings go 12-4 and advance all the way to the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints.
January 24, 2010 — The Vikings are their usual selves in championship games, meaning self-destructive, and the Saints have a bounty out on Favre. A banged up Favre throws an INT on the Vikings’ final drive when a simple run out of bounds would have given Ryan Longwell a chance to send the Vikings to the Super Bowl. The Vikings never get the ball again. The Saints win the toss in OT and take their first drive for a winning field goal.
This is the third season in a row that Brett ended with an INT and the second straight NFC Championship game that he finished with one. If he would have stayed retired, his final pass for the Packers, Jets and Vikings would all have been INTs.
As agonizing as the 2009 experience was for loyal Packers Nation, it could have been much worse. Regardless of Brett’s resurgence and performance against them, the Packers were a good team again and their return to a contending team was led by their young quarterback. In 2009, Aaron Rodgers had what is arguably the greatest season for a Packers quarterback up to that time. He threw for over 4,400 yards, 30 TDs and 7 INTs, while at the same time rushing for over 350 yards and 5 TDs.
The Packers finished 11-5, only one game worse than the Vikings. It was predicted that the Packers and Vikings would dance again in the playoffs. However, the Packers lost in the first round in a game where Aaron Rodgers was spectacular, but the ineptitude of the defense was even more so.
Regardless, Packers Nation now knew that they had another special quarterback on their hands.
August 18, 2010 — This time Brett didn’t retire. He simply didn’t say anything and the Vikings never asked him to. The Viking coaches, players and fans do about everything they can to encourage Brett to come back, including billboards in Mississippi, fan letters, and visits from Childress and Brett’s closest friends on the team.
Brett does what anyone who has been paying attention should figure he is going to do; he waits until the preseason starts and then reports to camp. The Viking fans and players are thrilled. Of course, Tavaris Jackson is their back up.
Similar to why he retired in the first place in 2007, Brett has said that the chances of another great season and a trip to the NFC Championship game are remote. He is right. Neither he nor the Vikings around him can get their act together in 2010. After being amazingly injury free in 2009, several cogs of the offense, including at the receiver position, go down to injury. In response to this, the Vikings briefly acquire Randy Moss from the Patriots. The media wets their pants at having their favorite QB and WR together.
The honeymoon is quickly over. Moss can do nothing to help the stumbling Vikings or Favre and he has an attitude problem — big surprise. He is released with Childress famously calling him a “programatic non-fit.”
Having blown their window in 2009, the mighty Vikings with their roster of free agent pickups don’t have the depth to overcome their injuries or deal with players simply getting older. The younger and better Green Bay Packers roll by them in both games. First, in a tight game at Lambeau Field, where Brett played well until a late INT for a TD to Desmond Bishop put the Vikings behind. The rematch in Minneapolis would be no contest and better illustrate the direction that each team was headed. The Packers would blow out the Vikings and Brett Favre, 31-3.
December 13, 2010 — Brett Favre’s miraculous starting streak is over. He has a bum shoulder and is inactive for the game against the New York Giants. The remainder of his season would be much like the rest, unremarkable. He would finish with 2,500 yards, 11 TD and 19 INTs. In other words, his career would end as most players’ do — with a whimper. The Vikings return to their rightful place in the NFC North — the cellar. Brad Childress is fired before the season even ends.
January 17, 2011 — With the Packers rolling through the playoffs, Brett Favre finally files his retirement papers. This time there is no coming back.
February 6, 2011 — The Packers win Super Bowl XLV and Aaron Rodgers is named Super Bowl MVP.
To all reasonable members of Packers Nation, the organization has been vindicated. Aaron Rodgers is another potential Hall of Fame quarterback who could lead the Packers to multiple Super Bowls. All but the most Favre fanatical would agree that possibly 15 years of Aaron Rodgers is better than a couple more years of Brett Favre, great as he was. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy put their jobs on the line in choosing Rodgers — much like Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren once put theirs on the line for Brett — and they were right.
Once in a while I like to think of what could have happened if Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy had taken the easy way out and given Brett his job back. Rodgers was under contract until 2009. There is no reason to think Brett wouldn’t have played at least through 2009. Rodgers could have easily refused to re-sign with the Packers, who gave him the starting job only to take it away when Brett came calling.
In 2010, the Vikings needed a quarterback. They could have easily signed Rodgers. How different things would be.
So, much of the divide has been healed, but not all, nor will it likely ever be. The Favre fans who hate Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy are still out there. We just typically only hear from them after the Packers lose. Their Jets or Vikings No. 4 stay in the closet if they weren’t sold on eBay. But that is okay. Even without the jerseys, their colors are easy to spot.
Maybe the only thing that could completely heal the rift would be an apology. Do I think we are owed an apology? It doesn’t matter. An apology least expected is the one best received.
The ball’s in your court now, Brett.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.