Brett Favre: Dispelling The Myth of the Interception King

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Brett Favre: Dispelling The Myth of the Interception King

In 2007, Brett Favre broke some of the NFL’s most prestigious quarterback records, including: most passing touchdowns in a career, most passing yards in a career, and most wins by a starting quarterback. There was, however, one less than prestigious record Brett broke that year.

Most career interceptions.

It is the consensus that interceptions are the ultimate sin from a quarterback.  Doesn’t matter how they happen, or whose fault it was. An interception is an interception, and as of 2009, Brett Favre has thrown 317 of them.

Looking at that number, it seems clear that Brett Favre cannot even be considered one of the best to ever play the game; after all, he is the interception king, right?

A closer look at Brett Favre’s statistics indicate that the title is far from the actual truth. There are three things you have to examine to fully judge the costliness of Brett Favre’s interceptions.

First up, the interception ratio.

Brett Favre’s career interception ratio is currently 1.56. Based on my “Top 17 Quarterbacks of All Time” list that I compiled in a previous article, I will compare that ratio to Favre’s peers. The numbers will surprise you.

Name

Passing TD’s

Interceptions

Ratio

Joe Montana

273

139

1.96

Tom Brady

225

99

2.27

Bart Starr

152

138

1.10

Brett Favre

497

317

1.56

Steve Young

232

107

2.16

Johnny Unitas

290

253

1.14

Peyton Manning

366

181

2.02

Otto Graham

174

135

1.28

Sid Luckman

137

132

1.03

Dan Marino

420

252

1.66

Sammy Baugh

187

203

0.92

Roger Staubach

153

109

1.40

John Elway

300

226

1.32

Terry Bradshaw

212

210

1.01

Troy Aikman

165

141

1.17

Jim Kelly

237

175

1.35

Fran Tarkenton

342

266

1.28

 

Based on those numbers, Brett Favre was about on par with most of the biggest names to ever play the quarterback position. It should be noted that before the Mel Blount rule was instituted in 1978, the passing game was much harder, therefore some of those ratios that look bad now, were actually good then.

While Favre is still far behind names like Brady, Montana, Manning, and Young, his ratio suggests his interceptions are about on average with his peers.

For some more perspective, let’s compare Favre’s ratio to some of the young quarterbacks today, whose careers are still in their infancy. Because some of these quarterbacks have only been in the league for six or so years, I will only use the first six years of Brett Favre’s career.

Name

Touchdowns

Interceptions

Ratio

Brett Favre (1992-1997)

182

93

1.95

Ben Roethlisberger

127

85

1.56

Philip Rivers

106

45

2.30

Eli Manning

125

88

1.42

Drew Brees (2004-2009)

173

79

2.18

Donovan McNabb (2004-2009)

129

51

2.52

 

Once again, not quite the best, but nowhere near the bottom of the barrel. If we take into account that quarterback statistics tend to drop as they get older, we can safely assume that a lot of those ratios will not stay the same.

It should also be pointed out, that following the implementation of the Ty Law Rule in 2003, the passing game once again got much easier for quarterbacks.

While the ratios are important when it comes to measuring a quarterback’s effectiveness in terms of scoring versus turnovers, in the days of high scoring offenses and diminishing emphasis on defense, the touchdown to interception differential could mean more.

Which brings me to my second demonstration.

Here are the same 17 quarterbacks I gave in the earlier table, except this time I have replaced their ratios with their differentials.

Name

Passing TD’s

Interceptions

TD/INT Differential

Joe Montana

273

139

+134

Tom Brady

225

99

+126

Bart Starr

152

138

+14

Brett Favre

497

317

+180

Steve Young

232

107

+125

Johnny Unitas

290

253

+37

Peyton Manning

366

181

+185

Otto Graham

174

135

+39

Sid Luckman

137

132

+5

Dan Marino

420

252

+168

Sammy Baugh

187

203

-16

Roger Staubach

153

109

+44

John Elway

300

226

+74

Terry Bradshaw

212

210

+2

Troy Aikman

165

141

+24

Jim Kelly

237

175

+62

Fran Tarkenton

342

266

+76

 

All of a sudden the story is quite different. Not only does Favre have the second highest differential, but the difference between him and quarterbacks like Joe Montana and Steve Young is amazing. Only Peyton Manning, who has yet to finish his career, has a higher differential than Brett Favre. Based on Manning’s consistency, we can safely assume he will retire with a higher differential than Favre.

The next statistic that is crucial to understanding Favre’s interception is the interception percentage. Brett Favre’s career interception percentage is 3.2% which is about average in the NFL. Here are some other notable names and their percentages.

Peyton Manning

2.8 percent

Tom Brady

2.3 percent

Joe Montana

2.6 percent

Dan Marino

3.0 percent

Johnny Unitas

4.9 percent

Kurt Warner

3.1 percent

 

I’m sure you noticed that Brett’s percentage is worse than most of those names on there, but besides Montana and Brady (whom according to my top 17 List are the two greatest quarterbacks in NFL history), Favre is right in the middle of the pack.

My third and final point that I must make is that Brett Favre has never missed a game in his life. While some may say that helps him in the touchdown department, it hurts him equally in the interception department. It’s not rocket science, the more games you play, the more times you throw the ball. The more times you throw the ball, the more chances you have of being intercepted.

He has started more games than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL. Some people point to this and say this is why he holds all the good records, this is false. It was in 2007 when Brett Favre broke the wins, yards, completions, and touchdown records. 2007 was Brett Favre’s 16th season as a starting quarterback.

Dan Marino, the previous record holder for yards, completions, and touchdowns, retired after 17 years of starting.

 

The Verdict

Brett Favre threw a lot of interceptions, and after looking at the numbers, and comparing them to other prominent quarterbacks, we can conclude two things.

1)    Brett Favre, unfortunately, is not the single greatest quarterback of all time. His ratios and percentages are just too far behind some of the other names.

2)    Brett Favre, unfortunately for some of you, is not the interception king. He posted average ratios and percentages that are clearly overshadowed by his differential and overall production as a starting quarterback.

Without even getting into all the different types of interceptions Favre has thrown (i.e. bouncing off receivers hands, last-ditch toss ups, etc.), the hard numbers have cleared Favre’s name as the interception king.

So, when judging his career as a whole, the interception argument is easily refutable. What isn’t refutable is the costliness of his postseason interceptions in the second half of his career. From 2000-2009 Brett Favre has thrown 18 postseason interceptions against 19 touchdowns, hardly numbers befitting a future Hall of Famer.

Luckily for Favre, he found enough success in the 90s to avoid complete playoff obscurity. From 1992-1999 Brett Favre threw 26 postseason touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

The numbers speak for themselves.

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