With The Critics Silenced, It's Time To Debate Favre's Place in History

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 17:  Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the game against the Dallas Cowboys during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on January 17, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

My dad was a huge boxing fan. He attended some of Muhammad Ali’s fights. He couldn’t get enough boxing. It was inevitable that he’d fall in love with the Rocky movies.

So, taking him to see Rocky Balboa was sort of a rite of passage for both of us. The critics were foaming at the mouth about how Sylvester Stallone was too old, that he would do more damage to a legacy that was already tarnished from Rocky V, that making Rocky Balboa was more for selfish gain than for the fans.

As the movie neared the climactic final fight, I distinctly remembered thinking that no matter what happened in the ring or on the screen, that this was an experience I would never forget. The movie was better than anyone could have expected (at least to a couple of old Rocky fans like us), and Stallone would be able to go out on his own terms.

As I’ve written before,  I can’t get over just how eerily similar this all is to Brett Favre and his current season-long tenure with the Vikings.

I wrote what turned out to be a hugely popular and controversial post last May comparing Favre’s potential opportunity to play for the Vikings to Stallone’s opportunity in making Rocky Balboa. At a time when most everyone was suddenly a Brett Favre expert and were quick to ridicule No. 4 on a possible return to the NFL, I pleaded for him to return.

I needed some closure. Brett needed some closure. He needed to write his final chapter on his terms.

Now eight months later, the critics are mostly silent. Brett Favre is one win away from the Super Bowl after registering the best season of his long and illustrious career.

At this point, no matter what happens in the last stanza of this season, it is time to forget about the critics and the what-ifs and those who assume Favre will throw six interceptions and kill the Vikings’ chance at a ring. It is time to simply enjoy the ride and watch one of the greatest write what could be the final chapter of an incredible career.

A career that too many write off too easily as good, but not great.

Sports radio commentators were debating the greatest quarterbacks of all time. All the regular names were thrown into the ring…Montana, Marino, Unitas, Young, Elway.

No Favre.

Why isn’t No. 4 considered the best quarterback of all time? Why, at the very least, isn’t he in the discussion to most “experts?"

Favre has shattered the NFL passing record lists. He has the most completions of any QB in NFL history. He has the most passing yards of any QB in NFL history. He has the most 3,000-yard seasons of any QB in NFL history. He has, by a long shot now, the most passing TDs of any QB in NFL history and the most regular season victories.

This is the part where critics chime in, stating that no QB could be considered the best of all time while also having the most interceptions thrown of all time.

Why not? He broke some of the most elite QB records in the league in spite of his 316 picks.

Of all his stats, though, the most impressive is 285. That’s how many games, consecutively, that Favre has played—dating back to Sept. 27, 1992. He hasn’t missed a game in over 17 years, despite the concussions and various ailments he’s faced. Despite the death of his father the day before a Monday night game against Oakland. His performance that night was the stuff of legends. I’ll be telling my grandkids about that night.

Sure Joe Montana has four Super Bowl rings to Favre’s one. But if we were using the number of rings as our best-QB-of-all-time dipstick, how does Dan Marino slip into the conversation ahead of Favre?

Plus, Favre has 11 Pro Bowl appearances to Montana’s eight. No. 4 has three AP MVP awards, Montana just two. Favre outdoes other “top QB” candidates in these areas, too.

But beyond all the other stats, it is hard not to come back to Favre’s consecutive starts record. As other elite QBs were hammered into non-existence, Favre keeps coming back for more. He’s the NFL’s Energizer Bunny. It would be one thing if he came back and struggled to put together a respectable season, but he instead just keeps adding to the record book. Keeps adding to the legacy.

At some point, NFL historians and fans alike need to embrace the fact that Favre demands a spot as one of the most elite athletes in the history of the game. That he should at the very least be considered among the very elite at his position. That he’s the best QB to ever strap on a football helmet.

At least for a few years, until Peyton Manning re-writes the NFL record books in Indianapolis blue and white.

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