There is a small city located on the banks of Lake Michigan that, until 1919, most people had probably never heard of. With a population today of barely over 100,000, most people could still go their entire lives without ever knowing of its existence.
That is, however, were it not for a man by the name of Earl “Curly” Lambeau. In 1919 he formed the Green Bay Packers. The Packers would go on to become the most storied franchise in NFL history, and perhaps the history of sports.
During the '60s, no team dominated like the Green Bay Packers. Under legendary coach Vince Lombardi, the Packers won five league championships in seven years, including victories in Super Bowls I and II, making the Packers the original NFL dynasty.
The '70s and '80s came and went, but the Packers were never quite able to recapture the dominance they once had.
Then on Sept. 20, 1992, Don “The Majik Man” Majikowski tore a ligament in his ankle against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Enter No. 4.
The Green Bay Packers and the NFL would never be the same. Considered a hero in Green Bay, Brett Favre turned the team around and won Super Bowl XXI in 1996.
My whole life growing up I heard about the “Great Brett Favre,” the quarterback who could turn seemingly insurmountable odds into an advantage and lead his team back from the jaws of defeat. This sounded great; a quarterback so good he couldn’t lose.
As I lived on the east coast, however, Packers games weren’t exactly something I could watch every Sunday. So instead I had to come to grips with the cold fact that the only time I could see this living legend was on Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, or in the playoffs. But when I saw him play he didn’t resemble the greatest quarterback of all time. Instead he looked...well...overrated.
So how good was Favre? If you listen to John Madden you may think he’s the chosen one sent from the heavens above to save humanity and football. Madden probably has a shrine to Favre in every room of his house and two on his cruiser. But how does No. 4 stack up when compared to the other great quarterbacks?
One word synonymous with Favre is toughness, but how do you compare toughness? There are no stats to tell who is tough; there is no template with which to compare players. Instead you have to take individual instances when a player shows toughness.
Favre’s consecutive start record proves his toughness. Peyton Manning proved his toughness when he broke his jaw in a game and used a wad of gauze to hold his mouth open so he could still call plays. And no one will ever forget Byron Leftwich’s performance against Akron in November 2002, when he injured his leg and his offensive linemen carried him to the line of scrimmage after every completion en route to a 17-point comeback victory.
Considering regular season stats only, Favre matches up with all the other great quarterbacks in NFL history in completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns, but what separates Favre from the John Elways, Joe Montanas, and Dan Marinos are his mistakes.
Favre eclipses all three quarterbacks in both interceptions and fumbles. During the course of his career, Elway threw 226 interceptions in 234 regular season games; Marino had 252 in 226 games, and Montana had 139 in 131 regular season games.
Favre? In 239 regular season games he has thrown 301 interceptions. That’s four more regular season games than Elway played and 75 more interceptions. Favre dominates the interception leader board with 301 (No. 2 is George Blanda with 277), but everyone already knew Favre throws a lot of interceptions. What a lot of people don’t know is that during the course of his 239 regular season games, Favre has also fumbled the ball 156 times.
For those of you who struggle with math, that is 457 fumbles or interceptions in 239 regular season games: approximately two big mistakes per game.
Adding to this, Favre has been sacked 460 times in those 239 games. Granted, the majority of those probably aren’t his fault, but I’ll certainly never forget the game when Favre gave Michael Strahan the single-season record breaking sack (he just sort of laid down in front of Strahan), but all quarterbacks with long careers inevitably get sacked hundreds of times.
When you look at Favre’s yearly breakdown, he really only had three solid years: '94, '95, and '96. During each of these three years Favre threw more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 15 interceptions. In 2005 he threw only 20 touchdowns coupled with 29 interceptions, and in 2001 he threw 15 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and fumbled 16 times. Are those the stats of the greatest quarterback of all time?
"All he does is win."
I’ve heard that thousands of times, but the only wins that count in history are Super Bowl wins. Favre has one. Joe Montana won four, Terry Bradshaw won four, Troy Aikman and Tom Brady each have three, and Elway has two. And you can’t forget about the great Otto Graham, who played 10 years, went to 10 championship games, won seven, and won 80 percent of his games.
Graham also played basketball one year for the Rochester Royals, and they won the championship. However, for some reason Favre is often said to be the greatest quarterback of all time. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl. So did Brad Johnson and Doug Williams. Are any of them considered in the greatest quarterback of all time debates? Their names rarely even come up in conversations about good quarterbacks.
Favre has more wins than any other quarterback in history after passing Elway. This is true, but it is also true that Favre had receivers like Sterling Sharpe and Antonio Freeman throughout his career. The Packers have also long had a punishing defense and a solid running game. For years, Elway was the only player on his team that consistently performed, and he carried the team on his back to five Super Bowls (the only quarterback ever to do so), with victories in the last two.
"What about Favre's three MVP awards?"
Favre is the only player to ever win the MVP award three times in his career. In 1995 Favre threw for more than 4,400 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He absolutely deserved the MVP award. In 1996 Favre again won the MVP award despite ranking fourth in passing yards. Although Favre still deserved it based on his touchdown-interception ratio, it could be easily debated that the other three should have won.
In 1997, however, Barry Sanders should have ran away with the MVP award (no pun intended) as he put together 2,053 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also added 33 catches for 305 yards and three touchdowns. He fumbled the ball a measly three times that year. What's more impressive about this stat line is that he played for the Detroit Lions, who—even with a 2,000 yard rusher—only compiled a 9-7 record.
Jeff George threw for more yards than Favre, and Favre threw nearly twice as many interceptions (George had nine, Favre had 16). But when the votes were counted, the MVP award would be split between Sanders and an undeserving Favre.
I know a lot of people are going to hate me for this article, and make claims like, “You didn’t include playoffs, where he thrived.” Yes, Favre has played well in the playoffs in his career. However, let us not forget 2002, when Favre threw six interceptions against the St. Louis Rams in a 45-17 drubbing of the Packers, or in 2005 when Minnesota beat the Packers in the playoffs 31-17 with help from four Favre interceptions.
Brett Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time; there is no question about that. His toughness and determination are things all NFL players should look up to and try to emulate. However the fact remains that Favre has 38 games in which he has thrown three or more interceptions, 16 seasons with eight or more fumbles, and one season with 16 fumbles.
Certainly Brett Favre could be the hero of any game, but he was also often the villain, and with people constantly claiming he’s the greatest quarterback ever, the only true title he deserves is "Overrated."