Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brett Favre : An Overhyped Legacy Ends As Expected

It was a fitting end to a career carried by the glow of media hype that inappropriately placed it amongst the very best predecessors.

It ended much like the career had begun on November 10, 1991. That was the first time Brett Favre threw passes in the NFL. He threw four passes for the Atlanta Falcons and the only two caught were by the opposing team. The last pass was caught by Andre Collins of the eventual Super Bowl XXVI champion Washington Redskins. Collins proceeded to rumble 15 yards for a touchdown, ending the game in a 56-17 Redskins victory.

Favre was traded after the 1991 season to the Green Bay Packers for a first round draft pick, which turned out to be running back Tony Smith. Smith was a teammate of Favre in college, but lasted just three seasons in the NFL. One of the reasons the Falcons traded Favre was because their team doctor had diagnosed him with having a hip condition called avascular necrosis, which is the same condition that ended many athletic careers. Bo Jackson may be the most famous example.

Favre proved the Falcons doctor wrong by taking over the Packers starting job before the fourth week of the 1992 season and not letting go of it until the end of the 2007 season. He never missed a start in his 16 years in Green Bay, and was on the team that won Super Bowl XXXI behind an excellent defense and a record setting return specialist named Desmond Howard.

His first significant action as a Packer was a prelude of the madness that would capsulize much of his career. He fumbled four times, yet the Packers were able to win the game. This was the theme of his career, one where Favre would turn over the ball more than any other player that has even played in the NFL before.

Despite his penchant for mental errors, he became a fan favorite. Many followed the career of the man with a good arm, average mobility, and questionable intelligence. He became so well liked, he was forgiven by some after throwing teammates under the bus for wanting more money. Even despite the fact he had just signed a lifetime contract for $100 million.

The journey was given a personal touch by his media buddies, which is not entirely common. His family suffered deaths, a cancer scare, and the loss of his family home to Hurricane Katrina. His allowances of media intrusion for society to see vignettes of personal pains was an intelligent marketing move by his agent so the legend could grow further with deeper roots.

When his time in Green Bay was coming to an end in 2007, he waffled on what he wanted. Once again putting the team second, he knew Aaron Rodgers was ready to take the mantle but Favre was not willing to pass the torch. Tiring of his act and pettiness, the Packers gave him extra money to go away so it could allow Rodgers to develop into the Pro Bowl quarterback they had envisioned him being when they drafted him in the first round before the 2005 season.

After parting shots at the Packers through his media adherents, the New York Jets became a fallback choice so he could play again in 2008. After a hot start of 8-3, the team won just once in the next five games. Though it appeared his 39 year old body betrayed him through a lack of proper conditioning, after rarely showing up at the Jets training camp, he leaked out a story that he had hurt his arm and that was the reason his team fell short of the playoffs instead of the league leading 22 interceptions he tossed.

Seeing where this was going, and holding no allegiances to him, the Jets cut him. The Vikings came calling, which set the stage for perhaps his finest season ever. A year that may have surpassed the four times he led the league in touchdown passes, or the two times he led the NFL in passing yards.

He appeared to finally had learned to play his position with real leadership. Though it took him 19 years to do so, Favre stopped forcing passes as much and generally kept his mouth shut through much of the year. This helped the Vikings become a well balanced team that won 13 games before falling one victory short of reaching the Super Bowl.

It was the sixth time he threw for over 4,000 yards, and his 4,202 yards was the third highest total in his career. This was accomplished by throwing less passes than in any other of his previous 4,000 yard seasons. It also was the only time in his career that he led the league in lowest interception percentage per pass attempts, and he fumbled the ball a career low two times if his two games in Atlanta are disregarded.

Brett was still Brett, unfortunately, in the 2009 season. He butted heads with his head coach, questioned the offensive system, and refused to come out of a game when Vikings coach Brad Childress called for a change of signal callers. Once again, he put his ego ahead of the team.

This ego was the reason he threw a record 317 interceptions in his career, and allowed him to lead the NFL in interceptions thrown three times. He also fumbled the ball 159 times in his career, which is the second most in league history. His propensity for the stupid play was lovingly referred to as a gunslinger mentality by his devoted media partisans.

This mentality ended the Vikings season almost exactly like it ended the Packers 2007 season, and several others before that. With the game on the line, his ego overtook the team concept, and an entire franchise suffered because of it.

The game ended in a fit of spite from many of his fans. Without noticing the referees had called a clean hit a roughing the passer penalty that enabled the Vikings to stay in the game, fans are trying to compare his last game to the time Drew Pearson, of the Dallas Cowboys, shoved Nate Wright of the Vikings to the ground in the Cowboys 1975 NFC Championship win.

Though Favre's zealous army of toadies would like to say he is the greatest football player ever, they tend to never mention the era he played in. An era that had rules that protected the quarterback to disturbingly effeminate proportions, allowing blockers to hold on every play, and allowing receivers to frolic untouched after the first five yards from the line of scrimmage.

The type of fans who fail to realize Archie Manning was a better athlete and quarterback than his sons or how the changes in the way the game today is played has been a enormous boon to offenses and the quarterback particularly. Rules that make Ron Jaworski's consecutive starts streak more impressive than the surpassed total Farve has currently accumulated.

Those who forget about history and prefer his story of the here and now. Every few years a new player gets anointed the greatest ever at his position even though their games are inferior to their predecessors. Favre has statistics that are favorable and disagreeable. The unfriendly statistics helped prevent him from hoisting more than one Super Bowl trophy. Despite trying to gloss over these facts, his fans throw statistics in retort.

Yet none of his fans can feign surprise when their deity threw away another game with victory just moments away. Those who pretend they were can be accused of having not paid attention to the NFL the past 19 years.


David Funk said...

Good points all around.

Yes, his career is over-hyped though I won't deny his toughness even in this era of the game. Your point about turnovers is spot on.

Still, I won't label him the best at his position in any era, even this one, despite what a lot of the media thinks.

Take care my friend!

FGH said...

"Cancer Scare". This is the worst of all your exaggerations, as if to suggest Deanna didn't really have cancer (or thought she did but the test results were wrong). You go too far to minimize things.

What's quickly becoming overplayed (as the Favre-Madden love fest was) is the new anti-Favre bandwagon: "He's selfish", "He's fake", "He's greedy". Blah, blah, blah. Its all a bunch of noise. His legacy falls somewhere in between, a very good player who was very popular. Lot of mistakes, lot of highlights.

3rdStoneFromTheSun said...

FGH - A scare is what it was. She had it and thankfully got rid of it. That is a scary moment in her life, agreed?

this "new bandwagon" you speak of? Well, you must be new to this site...because he has been an object of laughter here for a long time.

but you are right about the full of clips from his media buddies following every move

Dave - he is tough for this era, but would he have been so in the era where quarterbacks were football players? I can see it, but am unsure he passes Jaws if he had to like Jaws did.

I think he is top 5 in his era at best.....maybe top 25 all time...maybe