Brett Favre to the Vikings Has All the Makings of 1998 with a Better Ending
I know I'm going to be accused of drinking the Purple Kool-Aid when really what I want is a sip, but I support Brett Favre coming to the Vikings from the standpoint that he's an instant upgrade over anything the current roster has had.
Further, he gives the team instant credibility despite what Mark Schlereth and other ESPN NFL Live personnel claim. Yes, Brad Childress will be hard to trust again, but then again, so is Favre. It's always been that way.
Personally for me, I never believed Favre was ever fully retired, he simply needed more time to recover as he has a partially-torn rotator cuff.
A lot of fans didn't like the Vikings conservative, foreign concept, West Coast offense coach Brad Childress installed when he arrived there almost four years ago. Adding Favre, while familar with the scheme, will be the closest resemblance of the usual open, high-flying aerial attack Vikings fans are historically used to.
If they can withstand a few interceptions, like quarterbacks past have had, they will certainly appreciate the gunslinging more now that it's working for their benefit.
Furthermore, I think a lot of fans will forgive coach Childress and his boring, mentality/preference to kick game-winning field goals over end zone attempts if Favre can simply stay upright and get the team into scoring postion to win.
If a contract extension results rather than the desired firing, as long as its after a Super Bowl victory parade, so be it.
While he's expected to play this weekend vs. the Chiefs in the first home game of the preseason, I disagree with this move. The Vikings are doing it as a feel good PR move, but also to give Favre the "time with his teammates" we always hear about to "get his timing down", etc.
The reason I think this is a bad move is: 1. Not only do the games not mean anything so it's more likely more bad than good can come from this but, 2. in this same regard they don't need him yet.
Why not give Favre the extra two games to get into game shape and most importantly rest that shoulder? He can use the final preseason game as a warm up if he needs to get in "game speed". Until then, he should be building back up that arm strength slowly not being thrown into the fire, if only for a half this Friday.
1998 season comparison
With that said, Cris Carter, on NFL Live! this afternoon noted, that after the 1997 season, the Vikings convinced another quarterback, Randall Cunningham, to come out of retirement and join the Vikings.
We all know how that ended up—a 15-1 season en route to a 30-27 home overtime loss to the eventual conference champion, the Atlanta Falcons, in the NFC Championship game. In addition, they also drafted a WR with their top overall pick that year.
Randy Moss vs. Percy Harvin
This team also included a hotshot rookie wide receiver with a troubled past in the form of Randy Moss. I'll never forget the buzz that surrounded the team once the media caught wind that the Vikings were good and they and the fans knew it.
Moss had a coming out game against the Packers on Monday Night Football where he caught only five passes but they went for 191 yards and three TDs on national television. Moss added a newfound swagger and attitude to a franchise where it had been lacking.
Moss' numbers—69 receptions, 1,313 yards and 17 TDs—were simply astounding as the last two still stand as rookie records. Moss was added to a team that already included Jake Reed and Carter due to his off-field problems which saw him fall to No. 21 in the draft.
The day he was drafted I questioned it from a depth standpoint only, not a character move, seeing how I knew next to nothing about him coming out of little Marshall University in his home state of West Virginia.
The day the Vikings drafted Florida's Percy Harvin, I sensed that lightning might strike twice since I had seen Harvin live and in person when he was in college but also due to the large number of televised Gator games.
Despite not being a Gator fan, I can appreciate talent when I see it and he had "it",the same "it" Moss had—speed to kill when in the open field. That's why I picked him to be a candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year, possibly runner-up to Denver's Knowshon Moreno, whose a similar perfect fit on his new team.
Like Moss at 21 a decade earlier, Harvin had dipped to No. 22 despite his talents at WR due to off-field concerns. However, like Moss, I ignored these flags and instead prepared myself for the same highlight reel, big-yardage plays we all saw from Moss back in 1998.
Unlike Moss, Harvin also has the ability to run in the backfield, however, with Chester Taylor and All-Pro Adrian Peterson, this shouldn't be a necessity, in fact it should be rare. The fact he can do this, along with kick and punt returning only further increased his value and thus my want, on draft day.
This time around, Harvin fills many needs that I just described. While the Vikings have 989-yard receiver Bernard Berrian serving and paid as a No. 1 receiver while really being a No. 2, Harvin's expected to fill that role, hopefully.
Marvin Harrison factor
Some weeks back, google it if you wish, there were multiple reports that free agent WR Marvin Harrison might be interested in joining the team contingent on Favre signing first. Now that that's happened, could Harrison be far behind?
My guess is no and he'll soon explore if the feeling is still mutual and a contract could result shortly, once more of these pesky preseason games are further along of course. He learned that Favre-ian veteran move from the man himself, I guess.
If signed, Harrison would be a nice fit opposite Berrian as the team's new No. 2 wide receiver which would simply knock Harvin down a spot to the slot at No. 3 still giving him ample time to see the field and use his creative, breakaway speed and playmaking ability.
If the Vikings are smart, they'll keep capable WR Bobby Wade (53 receptions, 645 yards) as the No. 4 spot instead of doing something dumb like release him. To lose his services, not to mention his youth and mentorship ability to Harvin would be more harm than good. He's the perfect veteran team player.
Can you imagine Peterson and Harvin in the open field on the same team? Neither can the Vikings' opposing thirteen defensive coordinators that will have to confront this possibility this season.
Should the planets align and Favre lead the team to even a Super Bowl appearance, something that's been done four times in their history but not since 1976, Minnesota legislative leaders ought to run with the momentum immediately from Favre-mania and finally get that elusive stadium built which has been ongoing since 1997.
Despite the Metrodome lease running out after the 2011 season, and annual rumors of a Los Angeles relocation, in this economy, I don't see that happening. Mix in the fact that the Vikings are clearly respected by the national media and the NFL, and its hard to see a move, still the Vikings would be wise to cash in on (no pun intended) this opportunity.
See, the NFL likes certain teams: the Cowboys, Steelers, Eagles, Patriots, and Packers, and will create excuses for them should they fail.
The Vikings are in this group due to their long history of success (only 12 losing seasons in 48 years, see my article on this here) and their loyal fan base and intense, important regional rivalries with the Bears and Packers that are good for the sport, which the league knows.
Finally, the NFL is basically indifferent about many teams: Bills, Chargers, Broncos, Chiefs, and Dolphins, but I get the feeling that in this category, the NFL would rather see them do good and if anything the Vikings would go no lower than here which is no insult in the very means.
From what I gather, people in Minnesota like the Twins and the Wild and could care less about the Wolves but they simply love the Vikings and to lose them would probably result in a near riot. I remain confident that worst case, at the 11th hour, politicians will step up, with jobs at stake, and save the day, similar to what they did with the Twins.
But it wouldn't hurt if superstar Brett Favre, fresh off the only Super Bowl win in state history, was in their corner.
Improved defense compared to 1998
Unlike the 1998 Vikings who scored a then-league record 556 points but had no defense to speak of, this current crop has all the makings of the 1970s Purple People Eaters reincarnated (don't ask me why they called it that, just go with it).
If you are thinking you've read this before, or someone should write on this, you did and they have.
That line included three future Hall of Famers in Jim Marshall, Alan Page, and Carl Eller. This line includes 2008 NFL sack leader, Jared Allen, doing his best Eller impression, Kevin Williams serving as the Alan Page role, and Pat (no relation) Williams, serving alongside him in what should be Gary Larsen's spot, but since he was the "weak" point on the line, he compares more favorably to Marshall by default.
The 1998 team had probable future Hall of Famer John Randle who finished the campaign with an NFL high 15 1/2 sacks but was paired with considerably less talent, no offense to Derrick Alexander, Jerry Ball, and Duane Clemons who did their best to fill in.
Its linebackers included what I referred to as the "defenisive Randy Moss" in second-year pro Dwayne Rudd out of Alabama.
I'll never forget him returning two fumbles 90-plus yards for TDs and adding a similar arrogant swagger when turning to his beleagured opponents at the one-yard line and wagging his finger before crossing the goal line in celebration. Also included were steady, respected veteran Eddie McDaniel and secondround pick Kailee Wong who split time with Dixon Edwards basically.
The secondary, perhaps the sieve of the group, was led by free-agent acquisition, Jimmy Hitchcock who would go on to return two interceptions for very long TDs (one of 70 yards) despite giving up blown coverage and big plays when not in the end zone on these occasions.
His battery mates included emerging safety Robert Griffith, starter-by-default, Orlando Thomas, and similar all-or-nothing Corey Fuller. When good, they were more than adequate, they (Hitchcock) were downright electric. But when bad, 296 points allowed, 25th) they were bad.
This year's linebackers include steady, comparable to Eddie, Chad Greenway, alongside E.J. Henderson in the middle, and Ben Leber who should be considered an upgrade over Edwards/Wong.
All-Pro (finally) Antonie Winfield, Madieu Williams, Cedric Griffin, and Tyrell Johnson, are upgrades over their predecessors.
Winfield is miles ahead of even Hitchcock, Williams has much more upside than a fading Thomas, Griffin is a similar, all-or-nothing corner Fuller was, and Johnson, last year's second-round pick, friends tell me, had a solid year when he played, which was spotty.
1998 2009 Edge
Alexander Allen Allen by a mile
Ball Williams (Pat) Williams by a mile
Randle Kevin Williams Randle, narrowly
Clemons Ray Edwards EVEN
Dixon Edwards Ben Leber Leber (he's far from stellar)
Ed McDaniel E.J. Henderson McDaniel
Dwayne Rudd Greenway Rudd (has the flash)
Jimmy Hitchcock Antonie Winfield Winfield by a nose
Robert Griffith Tyrell Johnson Griffith by a mile
Orlando Thomas Madieu Williams EVEN
Corey Fuller Cedric Griffin Fuller
This is why a player like Brett Favre can afford to step right in and not be expected to be "the man" like I hope no one is thinking or hoping. He's a similar gunslinger to Cunningham in '98 where the offense was, quite literally "Randy-go deep" and that's it, he did the rest.
To do a similar offensive comparsion which included future Hall of Famers Carter, Moss, and Randall McDaniel would be irresponsible on my part and disrespectful to them seeing how Harvin has yet to actually do anything. All I am saying is the signs are there and for that, its encouraging.
Just know that should the Vikings be able to do anything close to repeating the feat of sending ten members to the Pro Bowl, including seven on offense, the Vikings will be sitting pretty and justifying Favre's return and risk. It is for that reason that Favre and the Vikings took this chance, let's hope it pays off in the end.
Go Vikings, Go!
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