Brett Favre has received an unfair rap from the media and from his ex-fans. He's taken unjust blame for the Packer's loss to the Giants in the NFC championship game, the Jet's collapse at the end of last year, and for the number of interceptions that he has thrown throughout his career. He's been called such things as prima donna, diva, and drama queen for his propensity to not make up his mind about retirement. Even his former fan-base in Green Bay has turned on him. They have called him names like "traitor" and "Benedict Arnold" because he considered joining the Vikings. Let's take a look at the truth behind these allegations.
The 2008 NFC Championship Game
Let's start with the NFC championship game from 2008. Many blame Favre for the loss because of his last pass. I ask - what about brutal weather conditions, and why (with -23 degree game-time wind-chill) is he passing in the first place? Ryan Grant had 29 yards rushing on 13 carries. Brett had the only other carry for the Pack (for -1 yard). With a game-time temperature of -1 degree and -23 wind-chill, the Packers chose to run 14 times (including Brett's one carry) and pass 35 times. Are you kidding me?!? Plus, the defense couldn't stop Plaxico Burris! Plax had 11 receptions for 154 yards. The Giants threw 40 times, but they also ran it 39 times - total of 79 offensive plays! Where was the defense? Where was the play calling? That loss was NOTBrett's fault! Once again, he was put in an unreasonable position to save the day. Under normal circumstances - OK; but not under those conditions; that was completely unfair.
The New York Jets
Green Bay waited until the Jet's preseason games to finally trade Brett. Brett actually showed up at a pre-season game to give support to his new teammates. This was a completely new offensive scheme that Brett had to learn on the fly! Brett and the Jets won eight of their first eleven regular season games, including three in a row over the first place Bills, the first place Patriots, and the first place (and undefeated) Titans. Wow! And then Brett's injured arm, the Jets porous and painfully lethargic defense, and their very predictable play-calling finally caught up with them. With all of the hype, Brett didn't want to let down his new team or the city of New York, so he tried to play through the injury (as he had always been able to do). In hindsight, at age 39, he probably should have rested. However, the rest of the team and the coaches certainly could have stepped up their games, too. The Jets had a great running game, but consistently passed more than they ran. At season's end, Brett averaged almost 31 passes a game! With their running attack and offensive line, that was way too many passing attempts. No wonder he had 22 interceptions for the year!
One example of the Jet's demise came in a game at Seattle in wintry conditions. Their defense couldn't stop Seattle's totally revamped offensive line along with a running back named Maurice Morris. This "unknown" gained 116 yards on 29 carries. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington of the Jets, rushed the ball for a combined total of 20 times in snowy conditions. Brett Favre, with an injured arm, was asked to throw 31 times. What kind of play calling is that? Everyone prepared for the pass, even though the Jets had a first-rate running game with second-rate receivers who quit on patterns. I watched their games - the receivers were terrible! I listened to Phil Simms broadcast some of their games; he said that the receivers just weren't getting open for Brett - this is a fact; he said it! That collapse was not solely Brett's fault! He was the scapegoat, but their was a lot more to it; it was a team collapse!
Too Much Responsibility / Not Enough Help
Brett has been taking on the brunt of the work for his teams for the better part of a decade. The coaches have always asked him to pull off some magic with lesser and/or young talent, and when he didn't "pull the rabbit out of the hat," he became an easy target for the blame. That's why TT and MM weren't too disappointed to see him go; they blamed him for the Packer's loss in the NFC Championship. I'm sure that they didn't think it was their fault that they had poor, unbalanced play calling, not to mention the youngest team in the NFL; no - it was Brett's fault. "Let's get rid of him; he's washed up." was their thinking.
You have to look at the whole picture when it comes to championships. Look at the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers. They had an incredible defense. Let's compare 39-year-old Brett Favre's 2008 stats with 26-year-old Super Bowl champion (and hero) Ben Roethlisberger's stats. Brett had 22 TD's and 22 INT's. Ben had 17 and 15, respectively. Brett was sacked 16 fewer times than Ben (a sack in most cases leads to a team turning over the ball). Brett threw for more yards, had a higher passer rating, and threw 53 more times than Ben did. I like Ben, but clearly he did not have as much of a burden placed on him as Brett did. He was part of an all-around solid TEAM. Now the Steelers are the champions, and Ben's a hero. The Jets missed the playoffs, and Brett's a goat. Go figure.
Too Many Interceptions
What about Brett's NFL record of career interceptions? Keep in mind that he also leads the NFL in career attempts and touchdowns. He was placed in systems with high risk/high reward situations, where he was asked to squeeze the ball into tight coverage with slanting receivers. He's played in cold and windy Green Bay, and has traveled annually to incredibly loud domes where communication among his linemen, receivers, running backs, and him were almost impossible. If people look beyond just the interceptions and look at his TD/INT ratio, then they might be surprised at his efficiency. In comparison, Favre has a better TD/INT ratio than notable "game managers" such as: Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Fran Tarkenton, Phil Simms, Curt Warner, Boomber Esiason, Steve McNair, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Dan Fouts, Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. Montana and Young have better ratios than Favre, but Brett has almost as many career touchdowns as the two of them combined. I wonder how the aforementioned quarterbacks would have done with Brett's workload and responsibilities. Consequently, I wonder how Brett would have done with the 49ers if he were quarterbacking them during the 80's and 90's. Wow - Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Roger Craig, Bill Walsh, great defenses, a great organization, and Brett Favre! Something tells me Brett would have a few more rings on his fingers - don't you think?
Many are also on Brett's case for his indecisiveness and the drama that surrounds him. They say that he likes the attention. I never see Brett seeking out reporters to waffle in front of them. He's wanted to make a decision on which he knows that he can follow through - both mentally and physically. The press has always camped out in front of his ranch, following his every move. He ideally would liked to have made a private decisions on his playing status, but that was basically impossible. During the week of July 19-25, Brett didn't even practice with his local high school team because of all the cameras and reporters. If ESPN didn't have a "bottom line" with a "Favre Update" every half hour, perhaps people wouldn't have been so sick of him! What an irony - the media are publicly criticizing him for all of the notoriety, yet THEY are the ones who created the spectacle by constantly keeping him under a microscope, reporting his every move and non-move.
I honestly feel that Favre wanted to stay retired for good when he made the announcement in February of 2009. But after his requested release from the Jets (just in case), and after the Vikings never landed a viable quarterback in the draft or by way of off-season acquisition, THEY came after HIM. The Vikings players were even texting him, trying to convince him to play! Here is a guy who has given everything he has, yet he has never really felt appreciated or wanted. Then the very talented Vikings come along and beg him to play. Why wouldn't he think long and hard about it? I would have, too, under those circumstances.
What's So Bad about Coming Out of Retirement, Anyway?
Brett's not the first person to come out of retirement. How about coaches quitting on one team and then coming back to take on another program. It happens all the time. Look at other sports. Boxers come out of retirement on a daily basis. What about Lance Armstrong? Has he tarnished his legacy by participating in this year's Tour de France at the age 37 - and losing? What about Tom Watson? Shouldn't he have quit playing golf on the regular tour long ago? Should he not have participated in this year's British Open? Was it selfish of him to want to come back and beat some young guys who have never won a "major" before? After all, his turn was up long ago - wasn't it? Did Tom tarnished his reputation because he failed at the end? I don't think so, and Brett should be able to leave the door open, too - especially if other teams still want him.
In addition, look at basketball. A few years ago, Kobe was whining about the Lakers not giving him any support; he was ready to leave. LeBron has waffled about staying in his home town of Cleveland, because he knows that can't win an NBA title by himself (Shaq might change that). Ever hear of the great Washington Wizard, Michael Jordan? Football icons such as Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, Mike Holmgren, Bill Parcells, Don Shula, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, O.J. Simpson, Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris, Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Ronnie Lott, and Rod Woodson (just to name a few) have all coached/played on multiple teams, too.
Why the Waffling?
So why would Brett waffle on retirement year after year? Remember, Ted and Mike wanted him to make the decision quickly - but he wasn't ready. I think when they didn't get Randy Moss (for the second time), Brett was finally convinced that the Packers weren't committed to him. He even took the high road and said at the press conference that it wasn't Ted's or Mike's fault, but after the storm had cleared, it was obvious that it was. They did draft some good players when Thompson came - I'll give him that (Brett has even said that it was the most talented YOUNG team on which he's ever been), but they didn't sign any veterans to help bring along that young talent.
The genesis of Brett's confusion and bitterness probably started when Mike Holmgren ditched us for the Seahawks. What a dynasty we could have had if he had just waited it out! We could have had what the 49ers had in the '80's and '90's or what the Patriots have now - perhaps even better! This move by Holmgren opened the door to too much inconsistency on and off the field.
How about Ray Rhodes? Anyone remember that fiasco? Then one year later, Mike Sherman was hired, and we went through more changes. Sherman eventually got the complete package as coach and GM, which is what Holmgren wanted in the first place. Mike Sherman was a good guy, but he blew it with acquisitions and draft picks. Then we cleaned house again and got Ted Thomson and Mike McCarthy. Ted's first pick was quarterback Aaron Rodgers. I'll never forget Steve Young on TV that afternoon shaking his head saying that it was a message to Brett Favre. In essence, he knew then that the Packers were heading in a different direction, and that they wanted Brett out. Everyone thought that Steve Young was insane for saying that, but he prophesied correctly.
The Packers then let go of two pro bowl offensive linemen in Wahle and Rivera. Our defenses were absolutely horrific! We had a tremendous amount of money and were way under the salary cap, yet even with Brett's pleading, we never brought in any big-time talent (outside of Woodson). The glaring "non-move" was Randy Moss. We never made a serious pitch at him as promised, and we overlooked him the next year, too. It's no coincidence that the day after Randy re-signed with New England, Favre announced his retirement. Who could blame him? He was being used by the organization that he brought back to glory, and they were slowly but surely pushing him out the door. When he left it cracked, they opened it wide and quickly closed it behind him.
To further the point, let's make a comparison to "the real world." Picture a dedicated and beloved teacher trying to keep his students' test scores up to the "state standards," but the person has outdated textbooks, no computers in the classroom, and no smart boards. Would he or she consider leaving or retiring if possible? Would he/she feel betrayed or used - especially if the school board had a huge surplus but refused to bring in state-of-the art materials for immediate help? Of course he/she would! Let's compare to other athletes/sports. Picture Roger Federer with a wooden racket, Tiger Woods playing with hickory shafts, Usain Bolt in Keds, or Lance Armstrong on a Huffy. Could they perform at their highest level against the competition under these conditions? That's what Brett was asked to do when Ted Thompson refused to bring in the "missing pieces." Brett was short-handed, and he was asked to shoulder the load until everyone else eventually came around. When the youth began to blossom under Brett's leadership, that's when management "quickly" ushered him out. And people wonder why he might be bitter!
Now for the shame of the so-called "true" Packers fans. I'm hearing that anyone who follows Favre or roots for Favre is not a "true" Packers fan. I'm hearing about how selfish he is. I'm hearing about his "true" personality. The Milwaukee newspaper bashes him constantly, even encouraging ex-fans to send in doctored photos of him - most of which depict him as Benedict Arnold in a Vikings uniform. How quickly we forget? What have you done for us lately, Brett? Yes - he waffled, but ultimately, he wanted to be a Packer. They said, "We've gone in a different direction," which they did, adding two more unproven quarterbacks in the 2008 draft. Brett had always said that the Packers might make a "business decision," and he added that if that's ever the case, then so be it. What he didn't bargain for is that Green Bay would refuse to release or even trade him. They even tried to bribe him to stay retired. THAT'S WHEN THIS WHOLE THING GOT UGLY! - "You can't play for us, and you can't play for anyone else, either!" Remember how the organization wanted to retire his number right away? They even wanted to send him his locker - and here he barely even got a chance to clean it out! They forced his early decision, and they got just what they wanted - a tired, still confused and under-appreciated veteran who wasn't far enough removed from the previous season to make a concrete decision. After the "Thompson/McCarthy coupe de tant," new president, Mark Murphy ( a former Redskin who hadn't even been part of the Packers family), went down to Mississippi to bribe Favre to stay retired. Brett had been a Packer for over 16 years, and then this threesome had the nerve to say that they had moved in a new direction with an injury-riddled 24-year-old . . . all this after Brett had just led the youngest team in the NFL to the NFC Championship Game. I ask, "Who betrayed whom?!?" Look in the mirror "true" Packers fans!
Savior to the GREEN BAY Packers
Quite frankly, the Packers probably wouldn't even be in Green Bay right now if it weren't for Favre. Remember the Brown County vote of 53% to 47% to raise taxes for the renovation of Lambeau Field? That's a close vote, and it came right after Brett's three consecutive MVP seasons, two Super Bowls (one victory), and a Jerry Rice "non-fumble" from going to a third straight Super Bowl. If that vote did not go through, the Packers more than likely would have left town! One could legitimately argue that that vote never would have gone through if it weren't for Brett's leadership and fame in the late '90's. What an investment that renovation has been! Lambeau Field is now a year-round attraction, and Brown County is far better off for it!
More Than a Football Player
Now for the most important issue in this matter - Brett's philanthropy! I'm not saying that Brett should be canonized as a saint alongside Mother Theresa; after all, Brett will be the first one to admit that he was no angel during his youth. Ultimately, when talking about Brett Favre and what he's done for Green Bay, we need to look at what he did off the football field as much as we look at his accomplishments on the field.
As far as we know, he hasn't been involved with dog fighting, hasn't taken steroids to become stronger, hasn't shot anyone in a night club, hasn't gambled on football, nor has he raped anyone. Yet, people are acting as if he has joined the Taliban! With the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, Brett and his family have raised millions for underprivileged and special needs children in Mississippi and Wisconsin. Brett helped with Hurricane Katrina, has held celebrity golf tournaments and celebrity softball tournaments, and last year, he was even recognized with the "Make-A-Wish Foundation Award" for his 67 granted wishes (65 while as a Packer). Brett tried to do all of this under the RADAR, too; he didn't want to come across as an athlete putting on a show only for good "PR." In addition, he and his wife (Deanna) have helped thousands in the fight against breast cancer (my wife and I can relate to this firsthand). How quickly we forget!
We get on his case because he has been on a roller coaster ride for the past decade (which has lead to his indecisiveness about playing a game he absolutely loves), and we now criticize his every move because he hasn't taken the "ideal path" out of football. How idealistic (and selfish) can WE be. This is his life and his career. He has done so much for football, and he has elevated the position like few others ever have. He's never taken a game off. We've enjoyed his passion for the game. He's let us in on his personal tragedies, and he's shown us how to handle them with grace, dignity, and faith.
Thank you, Brett, for all that you have done for the Packers, for pro football, and for the underprivileged and disadvantaged! Keep following you dreams! You deserve the best, and you deserve the respect of all NFL fans! We'll see you in Canton in 2014, and hopefully we'll see you in the "Packers Hall of Fame" sooner than that!