One of the most difficult decisions a professional athlete faces is knowing when to walk away. They all love the thrill of competition and that is why some of them stay too long.
Sadly, it seems Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre has fallen into that trap. For the past decade or so, Favre has been my favorite player in the NFL, partly because of his boyish enthusiasm for the game. But his skills have greatly diminished. He should have retired. Instead, after much deliberation, he chose to come back to the Packers for another year. And that is quite unfortunate because he could be in for another long season – especially after the Packers were shut out by the Chicago Bears in their opening game.
Given Favre’s competitive nature, it’s perfectly understandable why he would want to come back. The Packers had a dreadful season last year, going just 4-12, and that’s not how he wanted to end his career. It was Favre’s first losing season since Green Bay acquired from from the Atlanta Falcons in 1992.
However, the Packers could be just as bad this year. There just isn’t much in Green Bay and Favre likely isn’t going to be able to turn back the clock. In fact, you wonder how long it will take for the Packers to start looking toward the future and give Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s heir
apparent, a shot. In a word, Green Bay’s offensive line looks awful. It won’t be Favre’s fault if he doesn’t get enough pass protection.
Still, for the past couple of seasons, Favre has been an interception machine, including that inexplicable pass that was picked off by Philadelphia’s Brian Dawkins in overtime of a 20-17 playoff loss to the Eagles in 2004. Favre threw a league-high 29 interceptions last season and posted a career-worst quarterback rating of 70.9, which ranked 31st in the NFL. That is not how he should be remembered.
The legendary arm strength is still there but the precision isn’t, and he doesn’t have the same weapons as when the Packers made back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Too many times last season, Favre made bad decisions and tried to force things. Because of his gun-slinger
mentality, it is the only way he has ever known how to play the game – all out, all the time. It is an admirable quality, but Favre can’t make things happen the way he used to. He can’t impose his will as he once did. Maybe if he played on a good team, he could still excel, but the
Packers are a bad team.
Certainly, Favre still has a winning mentality – the great ones never lose that – but he can’t win games by himself anymore. Once upon a time, he could but no more. Favre has gone from being Superman to a mere mortal.
No one ever played the game with more heart than Favre and never has there been a more durable quarterback in NFL history. He has overcome an addiction to pain killers and tragedy in his personal life to start 221 consecutive games, an NFL record for quarterbacks. He is beloved in Green Bay for bringing a title back to “Titletown” (a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI) and surely will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility.
Favre enters the season ranked second in NFL history in passing yards (53,615), attempts (7.610), completions (4,678) and touchdown passes (396). Some of the marks are within his reach as he needs 25 TD passes to break Dan Marino’s record of 420 and 289 completions to surpass Marino’s standard of 4,966. In addition, Favre is nine wins shy of John Elway’s record for victories by a quarterback (148), although it may take a miracle for the Packers to win nine games this year.
Another remarkable aspect of Favre’s career is how well this southern boy from Mississippi has played in cold weather. Including playoff games, Favre has a 40-4 career record at Lambeau Field when the game-time temperature is 34 degrees or below.
My favorite memory of Favre is when he played on Monday Night Football the day after his father, Irvin, died of a heart attack. Somehow, he
was able to focus and put on a performance for the ages, passing for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 rout of the Oakland Raiders on December 22, 2003. In the first half alone, Favre passed for 311 yards and all four TDs. It had to be one of the most inspirational performances in NFL history.
“I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play,” Favre said after the game. “I love him so much, and I love this game. It’s meant a great deal to me, to my dad, to my family, and I didn’t expect this kind of performance. But I know he was watching tonight.”
There probably isn’t anything Favre can do to damage his reputation. I just wish it wasn’t like this. If Favre still wants to play, and that is certainly his right, he at least deserves to play on a contending team.