Columnist: Favre is damaging legacy
“I’m here to announce that we’ve traded our first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft to the Atlanta Falcons for quarterback Brett Favre,” Packers general manager Ron Wolf said in 1991.
That trade, which netted the Falcons RB Tony Smith, quickly became one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history.
Brett Favre started off his Hall of Fame career by putting his name in the record books. His first completion still stands as the only pass in which the same player was the passer and the receiver. But his career has brought him more than just that honor.
Favre, whose career spans the past 16 seasons, is arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. The Brett Favre story is one that movies are made about, and it is a story that should come to an end sooner rather than later, before it becomes a Hollywood flop.
After receiving only one offer out of high school, Favre took the starting QB job at Southern Mississippi just three games into his freshman year. After leading his team to multiple upset victories, his life changed in 1990.
Just a minute from his house, Favre crashed his car into a tree and flipped over three times. Just one month after undergoing multiple surgeries and having 30 inches of his small intestine removed, Favre led USM to a comeback victory over Alabama.
“You can call it a miracle or a legend or whatever you want to. I just know that on that day, Brett Favre was larger than life,” Alabama coach Gene Stallings said. The legend was born.
On Sept. 20, 1992, Packers quarterback Don Majkowski was injured against the Bengals, and Favre was inserted into the game. He played so badly that the Cheeseheads chanted for Ty Detmer to be put in, but Favre led a game-winning touchdown drive, scoring with just 13 seconds left.
The next week he started the longest consecutive game streak by any NFL quarterback that is still active at 225 games. In 1995, he had his best season ever, with 4,413 yards passing, 38 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions to lead the Packers over the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs and on to the NFC Championship game.
The following two years, combined with 1995, are three of the best years ever for any quarterback. Favre would go on to be the only player in NFL history to win three MVP awards, and he did this in three straight years (1995-97).
In 1996, he led the Packers to a Super Bowl championship, throwing for 246 yards and two touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXI against the Patriots. The next year, he led Green Bay back to the Super Bowl, but they fell to the Broncos.
Throughout this time, all the fans saw was the invincible Favre. Behind the scenes, though, he was addicted to pain killers and destroying himself. He admitted himself into rehab, where he stayed for 46 days to clean up his life.
After the 1997 season, Favre continued to play at a high level, but he no longer had the Superman-like presence. Since then he has gone 2-5 in the playoffs, including the first playoff losses for the Packers at Lambeau Field. His playoff QB rating since then has been a miserable 58.0.
The Packers struggled, but Favre deflected the criticism, even though he consistently led the league in interceptions and was in the bottom five in QB rating.
Out went head coaches Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, and Mike Sherman. The brunt of the heat stayed on the coaching staff, and Favre stood as prominent as ever in the eyes of the NFL.
On Dec. 21, 2003, Irvin Favre, Brett’s father, died in a car accident due to a stroke. This occurred the day before Brett was to play the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football.
He amazed the world, not only by playing, but by playing possibly the greatest game of his career. He threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns. After his father’s funeral, he raced back to defeat the Denver Broncos, 31-3, to clinch the 2003 NFC North championship.
These performances, while amazing, seem to have bought Favre a lifetime of “free passes” with the media. In 2003 and 2004, he finished second in the NFL in interceptions thrown.
Last season, he led the NFL in interceptions, with 29, and the likes of Gus Frerotte, David Carr, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller all had better QB ratings than Favre. After the season, he waited over four months, leaving the Packers with no idea of what his status was or what to do for the upcoming season.
New coach Mike McCarthy finally found out after the NFL Draft that Favre would be coming back, once again keeping first round pick Aaron Rodgers on the bench.
Favre is on pace this season to become the all-time leader in passing touchdowns, pass completions, pass attempts and interceptions thrown. His career resume is loaded with thousands of reasons for him to go into the Hall of Fame.
However, every game that he continues to play chips away at his mystique and aura. On every play that he inexplicably throws a pass to the defense (a la Drew Bledsoe), images of Willie Mays in a New York Mets uniform come to mind.
Brett Favre is clearly not the same quarterback he used to be, and he is dragging the present and future Green Bay Packers down with him.
In 11 of his past 19 games, he has thrown two or more interceptions. He has thrown the most interceptions in playoff history. He was shut out on opening day this year for the first time in his career, and he still discusses how many more seasons he wants to play.
Earlier this year, he hinted about leaving the Packers and going to a contending team. Once again, Favre shifted the blame to the Packers and away from himself. No team has ever made the playoffs with a quarterback who has thrown more than 22 interceptions in a season, and he is on pace to throw that many and more again.
It’s almost certain that there isn’t a contending team that is looking for a quarterback who throws more interceptions than touchdowns and completes just over half of his passes.
He is not the quarterback he once was, and he is a major factor in the Packers’ struggles over the past few seasons. His abilities, while still visible when he plays league doormats in the Lions and the Texans, are all well and good, but there are at least 20 quarterbacks in the NFL right now that I would rate higher than Favre.
I send this plea out to the eight-time Pro Bowler, the thrower of nearly 55,000 yards and over 400 touchdowns: go out and break Dan Marino’s passing records if that’s why you keep coming back. Save what’s left of your legacy, and on Thursday, Dec. 21, play your final game. Do it in front of the Lambeau faithful and retire before people’s last memories are of you staring dumbfounded into the sky after another interception or Packers loss. Let Green Bay move on—do it for yourself and for NFL fans everywhere.
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