Friday, April 2, 2010

The Brett Favre Hostage Crisis Continues

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Minnesota Vikings organization has been on pins and needles the last month waiting on their 2009 starting quarterback, Brett Favre, to tell them if he intends to play the 2010 season.

Farve followers are used to this approach. The excitement of anticipation on the return of their personal Jesus makes a Tiger Woods fan awaiting news of the next skank to crawl out of the woodwork look feeble and boring by comparison.

Trace back Favre's first hostage situation in 2006, when the fans of Soldier Field in Chicago gave him a standing ovation in the Packers last regular season game of the year. In fact, Favre jumped in front of a live national televised broadcast to burst into tears and say his future was unclear.

The Packers season would end a few weeks later after he threw an ill-advised pass that cost his team a chance to play in the Super Bowl. Most of the game was spent talking about the greatness of Favre, even after he tossed away the game. A tidal wave of speculation followed about his future.

String out the Packers several months, he finally announced he would retire in early March of 2007. He cried virtually the entire press conference announcing his departure, and went on record to say, "I know I can play, but I don't think I want to. And that's really what it comes down to." He also said he would only play with a Super Bowl contender, which pretty much said he did not feel the Packers were such a club even after finishing a season one game away from making it.

Throwing his teammates under the bus like this was nothing new. He once chastised Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker for holding out for more money, even though Favre himself was signed to a $100 million contract. Seeing yet another display of self centered ego disparaging their players abilities, Green Bay waved farewell forever.

But the cold absence of the spotlight bothered him. He reappeared three months later telling his media buddies that he wanted to un-retire. The Packers, a few months removed from the draft that saw them get two quarterbacks to back up newly anointed starter Aaron Rodgers, were forced to publicly state the obvious. They had moved on and were not interested in playing that game of cat and mouse anymore.

Though the Packers were still held hostage to a contract that granted Favre the leverage to void any potential trade by not reporting to the team he was traded to, they decided to wait on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's ruling on their assertion the Vikings had tampered with Favre.

He had went all over television disparaging the Packers by calling them dishonest. He also said he never fully committed to retiring, even though his press conference a few months earlier belied that. After trying to worm his way one last time onto the Packers roster, he was flatly refused.

The Packers then traded him to the New York Jets for a 2009 fourth round draft pick that was later traded off for more picks. The move worked well at first, as Favre was named Player of the Week after tossing a career best six touchdown passes. As the season wore on, the NFL's turnover king reverted back to form by leading the league with 22 interceptions thrown. He also fumbled ten times. His 32 turnovers that year was the fourth time in his career he coughed the ball up more than 30 times in a season.

What was found out later was that Favre had been playing the final five weeks injured, suffering from a torn bicep. Though most positional player take the field injured as a season ends in NFL history, the new NFL used his injury as an excuse for his poor performance because of the pedestal the modern day quarterback has been placed on surrounded by rules that cater to their performing easier and hopefully better.

In early February of 2009, he told the Jets he was retiring again. The Jets avoided the media hoopla by cutting him two months later. It seemed this was the end finally, but it was not the case.

He stayed busy with his media buddies the next few months, and soon found himself meeting with the Vikings. The same team that tried to acquire his services a year earlier. After telling them initially he would stay retired, Minnesota sweetened the pot to lure him out of retirement a third time.

Minnesota felt they finally completed the puzzle. Getting a veteran quarterback to hand the ball off to their powerful running game was, they figured, all they needed to get through post season play. They got much more.

Favre had perhaps the best season of his career, which is saying something for a player who had already won three MVP awards and five NFC Player of the Year awards. For the first time in his career, not counting his rookie year where he appeared in two games and had two balls picked in four attempts, he threw for under 13 interceptions with just seven.

The last time he threw 13 interceptions was the Packers Super Bowl XXXI winning team in 1996. He also completed 68.4 percent of his passes, which was far and away the best mark of his career. He also threw for 4,202 yards, the third most in his career and the sixth time he exceeded the 4,000 yard plateau. It seemed he fit that missing puzzle piece nicely.

Yet, when the chips were down to put up or shut up time, he reverted back to the form fans had come to know him by in 18 previous seasons. With time winding down in the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings were in field goal range to send their team to the fifth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Farve decided to stop playing the safe route and to be the gambler he has been labeled his whole career. With ten yards of field in front of him, he could have run a few yards then took a knee to have a closer field goal attempt. He also could have thrown the ball into the ground to stop the clock. Instead, he decided to throw another interception to cost another of his teams a shot at a championship. Minnesota went home and the Saints went on to win Super Bowl XLIV a few weeks later.

Now the next wait continues. Has he retired or will he return? Vikings Nation awaits a word, though it seems likely he will return. This uncertainty is making the team nervous. Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb, the least intercepted quarterback per pass attempt in NFL history who has the second-best touchdown-to-interception ratio of all time and has the third-highest winning percentage among active quarterbacks, is available according to rumor.

Though the Philadelphia Eagles are still trying to downplay these rumors, they will have to decide if they want to give him the $6.2 million as a roster bonus in May of 2010. The Oakland Raiders are a team many call his most persistent pursuer. Hue Jackson, the Raiders offensive coordinator, is a distant cousin of McNabb’s and Raiders owner Al Davis is a fellow Syracuse University alumni along with McNabb.

The Vikings have also been called interested in his services, but they cannot actively pursue these interests because of the uncertainty of Favre. If they publicly go after McNabb, it may force confusion. If Favre keeps stringing them along, they may be forced to go after McNabb in their preparations of winning the first championship in team history.

As the NFL Draft approaches in just a few weeks, Minnesota needs a commitment instead of wishy washy uncertainty. Though Favre is destined to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player, it is time he finally steps up and becomes a Hall of Fame person and teammate. Now is the time for Brett Favre to tell the Minnesota Vikings his plans for 2010 so they can make theirs too.

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