In the category of full disclosure, I must admit to being a long time Packer fan so despite my best efforts, I'm sure on some levels I may be baised in my views of Brett Favre.
With that being said, his career A.P. (After Packers) has led me to reexamine his career as a Packer. More specifically the last few years 2004-2007 and to a certain extent his somewhat forgettable season with the Jets. I began to wonder if Favre retired earlier than we Packer fans thought.
But lets start with 2009. Favre had no doubt his best statistical season ever. Let me say that again-ever. In nearly 2 decades of previous NFL employment, this freak of nature had his best season at the age of 40. By far his lowest interception total of his long, storied career. Huh? What changed? Did Favre suddenly learn how to read defenses better? Not likely. The Vikings roster is obviously talented. But considering the incredible success Favre has had, we know what he is capable of no matter the roster around him. I was there when he beat his former team at Lambeau as I was for nearly every game Favre played at Lambeau. His energy and passion for that particular game showed a fire in Favre that I hadn't witnessed in years. He was expected to be a solid, veteran game manager for the Vikings talented roster. Instead, he was the catalyst for one of the most memorable seasons in recent Vikings history with a deep playoff run.
Now lets look back a bit. As an NFL Network addict, I have the luxury of occasionally catching a replay of certain Packer games to include games such as 2007 NFC Championship vs. NY Giants, 2004 Divisional Playoff (I think) vs. Minnesota Vikings (the Randy Moss mooning game) and 2005 playoff vs. Seattle (Al Harris TD returned in OT). No matter what the roster was, there is a remarkable difference in the body language, mannerisms and performance of Brett Favre. Especially when compared to his 2009 season with the Vikings. At times he seemed disinterested while stoic on the sidelines. Also seemingly quick to throw into coverage forcing the ball into small windows leading to deflections and/or interceptions. The numbers do not lie either. As mentioned - 2009 was by far his best year and his playoff numbers have been quite average for years as a Packer. And also worth considering is one up and down year with the Jets where he had 22 TDs and 22 Ints. Sure there was the injury factor but he was still out there playing. A quiet retirement and request to be released. Jets head coach gets fired, they trade up in the draft for a QB. Favre moves on without any strings attached and signs with the Vikings clearly confirming it was his desire to play there all along.
I do not wish to condemn Favre for his antics. Looking back at some of those rosters and coaching staffs I could see why a veteran, future Hall of Famer could look longingly at teams that had more "sizzle" to their roster. Meanwhile Favre had to deal with rebuilding a roster since 2004. To his credit, perhaps without Favre the Packers rarely make the playoffs since 1997's Superbowl losing team. Once Holmgren departed it seemed curious how the roster began to come up short in terms of talent. Perhaps he was more responsible for coaching up the draft picks than the average Packer fan typically considers. But I will question Favre for taking his focus to another level in 2009. To me it showed that he is capable of being a low turnover QB, but apparently maybe didn't always care enough to take care of the football as much as he could've. The mid 90's team had a superb defense and tremendous special teams that would either bail out Favre after a turnover or many times provide a short field for which to work with. Years later, this wasn't the case, Favre forced it - Packers came up short.
It just hard not to wonder if we got "Favre's Best" those last few years in Green Bay. You could even post 2007 as evidence of what he was "capable of" amidst several very average years in Green Bay. It would've been nice if the Packers would have just been honest about rebuilding the roster circa 2004. And it would've been nice if Brett Favre would have just admitted he wanted to retire from the Packers, not football. Not to even mention the years of offseason waffling from Favre saying numerous times he has nothing left to prove, didn't know if he wanted the ball in his hands at the end anymore etc etc. Compare that to the younger, fresh outta rehab Favre that dared people to bet against him prior to the 1996 Superbowl run. I guess I want a quarterback that feels he always has something to prove and stays hungry.
I don't know. Favre provided tremendous years of quality football in Green Bay to which I am obviously grateful for the fond memories. However, its just hard not to wonder if he could've limited those pesky interceptions for years prior to his departure in Green Bay after seeing him throw only 7 interceptions at the age of 40 with a brand new team and coaches. I never would've guessed it would end up this way. Not that it matters to Favre, but I don't think things will ever be the same for him in Green Bay. What was absolute idolatry has dissolved into a lot of indifference if not dislike for Favre since his departure from Green Bay. Sure there is a fair amount of Favre fans that will always remain loyal. But every year that he continues to play for another team, not even considering the biggest rival in the last 20 years, will continue to erode whatever goodwill is left for him in Green Bay. And its not a bitter hate for Favre as much as its simply treatment like an opposing player. In a "what have you done for me lately?" world, it will be difficult to ignore his passion for "sticking it" to his former team and playing his best when he wasn't a Packer, but a Viking.
The Packers and their players make millions and have a bright future with Aaron Rodgers. Favre continues to collect millions with plenty of spotlight and success with the Vikings. Its the fans that got burned on this one. What was supposed to be a lifetime of glory days memories will always be marred by the bitter divorce that blindsided Packer nation. At least it makes for great T.V. I cannot wait for the 2010 season to unfold. It'll make for some great entertainment. Favre, I do admire your ability to play football. Your desire and willingness to play every week and through injuries. You are right, you have done "everything". But I do question your honesty when you toy with retirement annually in what nowadays everyone knows is a veiled attempt to skip all offseaon committments to a team. Your appeal was that you were a "regular guy". However, it seems now more than ever you are just another "NFL Superstar" that likes to have it "your way". Good Luck in 2010 and thanks for all the excitement you have brought to NFL games.