I don’t know about you, but I feel a little bit cheated.
As much as Brett Favre gets on my nerves, with his constant need for attention, and the media’s Pavlovian response to all of his infantile rhetoric, I actually found myself looking forward to the Minnesota Vikings season opener against the New Orleans Saints.
Of course, I was looking forward to it for sadistic reasons.
While I’m no Saints fan, I was hoping to see the defending champions yet again defeat Favre in gut-wrenching fashion.
There was something cathartic about January 24, 2010, when New Orleans gained passage to their first ever Super Bowl by injuring Brett Favre’s ankle, pounding him with devastating hit after devastating hit, and then watching with glee as Favre made the greedy decision to try and force a pass and be the hero, only to watch Tracy Porter intercept the ball, thereby placing a dunce cap on the head of the ‘gunslinger’.
So, honestly, I was hoping for a repeat performance. Since I had to endure six more months of endless Favre flattery and speculation, I was hoping Gregg Williams’ defense would finish the job on Kickoff Thursday, which would put an apropos coda on the sad turnabout that was Favre’s career.
Allow me a chance to exhale the remainder of mean-spirited sadism out of my lungs.
Ahh, that’s better.
My sadism, however, went largely unquenched.
Instead of feeling good about watching Favre stumble in the pocket, force crappy throws, check down more often as opposed to try for the deep ball, and hurl his classic “I’m throwing this bad pass because taking a sack would shatter my spine” throw into the waiting hands of Jonathan Vilma…
….I actually felt sad.
Make no mistake, I don’t care for Brett Favre, and any admiration I’ve had accumulated for him over his career has been washed away by the last two years of his career.
The last time I felt badly for Favre was on March 4, 2008, when he retired from football for the first time as a Green Bay Packer. He cried buckets at the news conference, almost unable to shake the idea that he was giving up his body of work for a new life, and that was understandable.
September 10, 2010 was the first time since that day that I actually felt sorry for Favre.
After his first retirement, Favre attempted to come back in the summer of 2008, but he found a rather interesting roadblock: Green Bay had, for some reason, chosen to take Favre at his word, and they were moving forward with young prodigy Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback.
Favre seemed miffed that his only options were A) play in pre-season to beat Rodgers for the job or B) accept new life as Rodgers’ backup, which would bring an end to his consecutive-games-started streak, which is currently an NFL record by light years.
So Favre got his release and, in short, came back to play for the New York Jets, wore himself out by midseason after a good start, watched his throwing shoulder deteriorate, and limped to the finish as the Jets missed the playoffs.
After head coach Eric Mangini got the boot, and running back Thomas Jones raked Favre’s selfishness, isolated attitude, and poor play over the coals, Favre walked away again in 2009.
But, as we know, this wasn’t the end, was it?
Had it ended there, we may have been able to say “Well, Favre just had to know if he could still do it” and retained some semblance of respect for the Mississippi native.
It just so happened that, up in Minnesota, a strange opportunity was opening up.
The Vikings were coming off of a season in which they went 10-6, won the NFC North, but lost at home in round one to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, had begun the year 0-2 and was benched in favor of journeyman Gus Frerotte. Frerotte led the Vikings to an 8-5 record before bowing out for the rest of the season with a back injury. Jackson was reinserted as the starter, and he went 2-1 over the last three games, which was enough to secure the division.
Despite the tough loss to a surging Eagles team that was largely unbeatable since Thanksgiving, Jackson played as admirably as any twenty-five year old, middle round draft pick with raw talent could hope to. He had nine touchdown passes versus two interceptions on the year, for 1,056 yards and a healthy 95.4 QB rating.
Still, with the tough playoff loss to the Eagles in mind, coach Brad Childress actually cut Gus Frerotte. It seemed that his mind was made up and was going to try and mold Jackson into his guy.
Sadly, after proving superior to would-be backup Sage Rosenfels in pre-season, the Vikings signed Brett Favre on August 19, 2009, which was a hearty “thank you” and “we love you” to Mr. Jackson.
So yeah, after another offseason of “will he or won’t he?” involving Favre, he finally chose to return to football (again) with just three weeks to go before the regular season.
The thing about 2009, however, is that Favre looked like a million bucks when he came back. Energized by the new environment in Minnesota, as well as an all-pro running back (Adrian Peterson), a great young receiving corps, and one of the best offensive lines in the game, Favre was able to find more time to make his throws (something he struggled to do in his later Green Bay years), and he found himself embraced as the best quarterback in the city since Fran Tarkenton.
Minnesota went 12-4. Favre had a staggering 33 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, which tied a career high +26 differential. The fact that he did it at age 39 going on 40 is an incredible achievement, whether you like him or not.
Things were going smooth into the playoffs, as Favre led the #2 seeded Vikings to a shellacking of Dallas, before the infamous Saints game for the NFC Title.
The brutal hits took their toll.
The ankle injury was a devastating one.
The ridiculous interception to Tracy Porter that never should have been thrown.
In the end, Brett Favre hobbled off the field a beaten man.
The old Brett Favre would have taken advantage of two missed field goals and several stalled drives of New Orleans.
Now he’s just OLD Brett Favre, and he looked awful. I expected to find him sitting around playing bingo instead of returning for another season.
Favre never actually retired in the offseason, but he wasn’t attending any team activities either. Favre wasn’t there for spring OTAs, nor did he attend training camp. His ankle, apparently, had not healed from the injury in January.
What’s worse is that, as Tarvaris was getting ready for the season, Favre had a horde of visitors at his Mississippi home. From head coach Brad Childress to teammates Jared Allen and Steve Hutchinson, they lined up and practically begged Favre to come back.
Do they really hate Jackson THAT much?
So Favre, after yet ANOTHER offseason of speculation and hoopla and round-the-clock coverage of his decision, returned to the team a month ago.
This time, there was quite a change from 2009.
Brett Favre suddenly looked mortal.
After a shaky performance in the Vikings’ third pre-season game, alarms went off that signaled Favre’s turn toward mediocrity.
But still, Coach Childress trudged forward with 40-year old Favre as his offensive leader. Tarvaris Jackson would be holding the clipboard. Favre would get to continue his oh-so-important streak of consecutive starts. Favre would kick off the season in primetime, looking to avenge the January loss in the same stadium vs. the same team, with millions and millions of people watching.
And they watched. The game drew a 17.7 rating, the highest for a primetime regular season game since 1997.
Sadly, they watched a game that was clumsier than Rex Ryan trying to jump rope.
What they saw was Brett Favre completely far removed from his 2009 form. He couldn’t plant his feet. He threw when he was rushed, out of sheer panic. He was confused and disoriented the entire game, save for one great drive in the second quarter, thanks in large part to the efforts of Visanthe Shiancoe.
Favre may have had the ankle surgically repaired, but it didn’t hold up well at all on Thursday. That, or he lacked faith that it COULD hold up, playing erratically as a result.
Cris Collinsworth diplomatically called Favre out on being “out of sync” with his receivers, which is broadcast slang for “Favre missed training camp like a selfish jerk, didn’t work with his teammates until three weeks ago, and is now paying the price”.
The old Brett Favre would have taken advantage of two missed field goals and several stalled drives of New Orleans.
Now he’s just OLD Brett Favre, and he looked awful.
You may be saying that it was just one game, and one game does not a season make. But a year ago, just a year ago, the man could do no wrong at all.
Now he’s making hasty throws, completing only four passes to wide receivers, throwing into Jonathan Vilma’s hands just because he didn’t want to take a sack, and never once tried to run the ball when all receivers were covered.
That’s not the Brett Favre I know.
And now I feel sorry for him, because he clearly didn’t get what he was hoping for. There was no glorious comeback. There was no triumphant return. All he got was a record TV rating, as fans watched in record numbers as he looked pathetic.
The world watched Brett Favre at his athletic worst.
And I feel sorry for the guy, because it was actually hard to watch, as much as I dislike him.
But still, at least his consecutive games streak is ongoing, right?
And that gives me an idea.
Everyone with a brain has figured out two things by now concerning the Vikings. One is that Brett Favre, by and large, cares more about himself than about any teammate he’s ever had. The other is that Brad Childress seems far too willing to coddle an aging joke than to make him take responsibility for anything.
If I’m a Vikings fan, I’m pissed.
I’m pissed because there is no way, in this form, that this once-promising Vikings team can come anywhere close to winning the Super Bowl.
And they were so close a year ago.
Had Tarvaris Jackson played, maybe it would have been better for Minnesota. Maybe it would have been worse, who knows? We’ll never know, because Childress went with a 40 year old with a bad ankle and little to no preparation time, as opposed to a healthy 27 year old who worked hard since the Spring to take over the job.
And this is where Brad Childress and Brett Favre can surprise us.
In order for Minnesota to right this wrong, Childress has to show some guts, and Favre has to show that he’s a team player.
I propose that, at some point this season, Childress go to Favre before a game and say the following sentence:
“Brett, we’ve decided that this week, Tarvaris is going to be the starter.”
Just one week.
And Tarvaris only has to play one series.
After that, Favre can enter the game and try to lead the Vikes to victory.
If Childress does this, he proves to his team, the fans, and the world at large that he’s willing to sacrifice something that Favre holds dear if he feels it can help the team.
If Favre agrees to this without whining, it proves that he’ll take it like a man, sacrifice something that’s meaningless to a team effort, and show that the Vikings, not him, come first.
While this may not solve any problem outright, tell me: who could possibly be against this?
You know, other than Brett Favre, as well as Tarvaris Jackson haters.
Don’t worry, it won’t happen. Brett Favre will keep starting as his body crumbles, and then he’ll retire, and then unretire after he’s strung the superficial media along for another six month ride.
The Vikings will never win the Super Bowl with Favre. They may not win it with Jackson either.
However, one thing’s for certain.
Vikings fans deserve better than one man’s ego.
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