Remember when the Minnesota Vikings were courting the retired former Packer great Brett Favre? The team pursued the veteran because they had every piece in place but an quarterback they felt comfortable with.
Favre was brought on board to be "good enough" behind the team that was supposed to sport an elite penetrating defense that would maul any quarterback they came across.
He was signed by Minnesota to be a stabilizing factor behind the unstoppable running of Adrian Peterson and the MVP season he could provide with some of the defensive attention diverted to respecting a passing game.
Along the way, something derailed. The team that went to great lengths to convince Favre to don purple and gold as a final piece to an otherwise complete jigsaw puzzle started to lean more and more on the future Hall of Famer.
For the most part, Favre delivered. He posted a career year for the Vikings, earning MVP consideration behind a 107.2 quarterback rating with 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and over 4,200 yards. He ignited the careers of talented but unproven wideouts Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, while leading the team to a 12-4 record and first-round bye.
But offensively, the team invested a heavy load in the 40-year-old quarterback. He averaged over 33 attempts per game in the regular season, despite the number tempered by early games where the team eased him in with low reps. He was much more effective when kept to a reasonable number of throws.
Favre posted 10 games with a rating of over 100 in the regular season. One more game was a 95.3 rated season opener. Of the five games with "low" quarterback ratings (all in the 70s), Favre threw more than 40 times in three of them.
In fact, of the four games in which the Vikings' quarterback was asked to put up more than 40 passes in a game, only one yielded a "successful" (better-than-average quarterback rating) game, a 36-10 thrashing of the Chicago Bears.
Against the Cowboys, Favre stayed true to form, posting phenomenal numbers behind an ordinary number of attempts. The Vikings' defense stood tall and forced Dallas into giving way, putting the quarterback in a position to succeed despite a stalled running game.
The Vikings were far more successful on the ground against New Orleans, with Adrian Peterson posting 122 yards against a ball-hawking, but ultimately exploitable New Orleans defense. Yet they still asked much of Favre.
The quarterback attempted 46 passes against New Orleans, nearly double the reps of Peterson in a supposedly balanced offense.
True to form, Favre turned in a game that was not horrible, but ultimately average on the stat sheet with another game where more than 40 attempts translated to less than an 80 rating.
Favre’s poor decision late may end this year with all eyes turned to the transplanted cheesehead, but before judgment is fully passed, it has to be remembered that he was added to be the final component, not the focal point.
One play may point to Favre, but the information a tremendous season laid out tells that he should never have had a 46th pass to throw (an aside for another time is the call of a run-pass option rollout for a 40-year-old quarterback who was never a huge threat to run in his prime and already nursing an ankle banged up earlier).
It may be of little concern just why the end result came about, but when looking back, it must be viewed past a lone misfire. That is the final lesson the Vikings' staff must learn from this defeat.