As all forms of media are more than amply covering, Brett Favre has “decided” to report to the Vikings and play in 2010. As a non-Packer fan living in Wisconsin for my whole life, I have had an up close and personal view of Brett Favre without the Packer fan bias. I will share with you one bit of advice when it comes to Brett Favre, don’t believe a word.
Brett Favre has captivated the hardcore and casual football fan with his “Aww Shucks” personality and passion for the game. His playfulness on the field, his quotability off the field and “gunslinger” mentality have made him irresistible to the media and the fans, neither of which could get enough of him. Both are to blame for the narcissistic monster they created.
The image of Favre holding his helmet high above his head running around the field celebrating a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl is the most common memory fans have of Favre in the postseason. But the six interception meltdown against the Rams, his ill-fated interception in overtime against the Eagles and his game-blowing pick against the Giants in the NFC Championship game are always overlooked. Brett Favre has this sterling reputation as a winner, but the numbers tell a different story.
When Mike Holmgren was the Packers’ head coach he worked his hardest to keep Favre under control. He made Favre study film, learn the offense inside and out and didn’t pull any criticism that Favre deserved. Favre won two and a half MVPs and a Super Bowl under Holmgren and posted a 9-5 record in the postseason. After Holmgren, Favre never made First Team All Pro, had five 20+ interception seasons and went 4-6 in the playoffs.
Holmgren kept Favre and his massive ego under wraps, but after Holmgren left, Favre began his transformation into the self-serving attention starved diva he is today.
Favre began vocalizing his displeasure with OTAs and minicamps under Mike Sherman in the early 2000’s and then the greatest “Get Out of Jail Free” card fell into Favre’s lap when he was asked about retirement. The media firestorm that followed was epic. The fans collectively held their breath and the Packers organization flinched.
Pretty soon Favre was excused from offseason conditioning programs and minicamps. He’d hang out in Mississippi on his tractor while his teammates worked and then he’d show up for training camp. Favre always lamented the fact that he didn’t have close friends on the Packers after all his buddies retired, but where was the time and effort to build new relationships?
Favre’s play began to decline as he was cut more and more slack by the coaches and the media. His interception totals began to sky rocket as Favre realized he was immune from criticism from the press, fans and coaches. He could heave a pass downfield into double coverage and if he completed it, he was hailed as a hero. If it was intercepted, it was shrugged off as part of “being a gunslinger.” He had the ultimate leverage if he was criticized, he’d just pop out the old retirement card and everybody would cringe and back off.
The Mike Sherman Era ended in disappointing playoff exits (usually caused by another pick-laden Favre performance) including the first ever playoff loss at home. Sherman had his general manager privileges revoked in 2005 after a string of terrible drafts and awful free agent signings. Ted Thompson was hired in January of 2005 to right the ship.
Thompson fired Sherman after the 2005 season and brought in Mike McCarthy, hoping to use his offensive background and familiarity with Favre to get the Packers turned around.
McCarthy began to crack down on Favre and put pressure on him to recapture his form from the mid-90’s. Favre had his worst statistical season in 2006 under McCarthy, and that’s when Favre’s relationship with the Packers began to fall apart.
Favredidn’t appreciate the fact that he was no longer getting the royal treatment and was being treated like one of the guys. He also was livid that Thompson put heat right back on Favre by drafting his eventual replacement in the 2005 Draft. So he busted out his retirement card and made the Packers sweat through the 2007 offseason. Favre then ”decided” to come back after he thought his point was made. He put in the time and effort that he needed to and enjoyed a career year in 2007 as the Packers returned to the NFC Championship game after a 13-3 season.
Favre performed like he did in so many other postseason games after Holmgren, throwing an horrible interception in overtime that ended the Packers’ season.
Determined to avoid the uncertainty of the previous offseason, the Packers gave Favre a deadline to decide if he was going to play in 2008. Favre would eventually announce his retirement in a tear-filled press conference with the Packers. Many believe that the retirement was heartfelt and sincere, I am skeptical that he ever intended to retire at that point.
I have been accused by some of a being a “Favre Hater” and a cynic when I have shared my opinion on what really happened after that retirement, but Favre said himself he wanted to “stick it to Ted” and the facts and his actions speak for themselves.
Favre had the most leverage he had ever had in his relationship with Thompson, why wouldn’t he take advantage of it? He “retired” when the Packers were a game away from the Super Bowl, conceivably a piece or two away from bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay. He “retired” as a hero, the fans begging him to return for one last run at the championship. Without him, the team would have to break in an unproven Aaron Rodgers which would make a title run all the more unlikely.
If he “retired” and then “changed his mind” he could skip out on the offseason stuff, cruise into training camp and be celebrated by everybody for coming back. There’s no way that Thompson could say no, he’d have the fans, the media and the team ripping him for turning down the most celebrated player in franchise history. I whole-heartedly believe that Favre “retired” with every intention of “unretiring” and forcing Thompson into the biggest game of chicken ever played.
Thompson was tired of tiptoeing around Brett, and to some extent, Deanna. He knew the team would never be one unit as long as Favre was on it, so he wanted to move on. Thompson had an inkling of what could happen, so he quickly planned a ceremony to retire Brett’s number before kickoff of the first game of the 2008 season. He had Favre’s locker taken out and shipped to him in Mississippi as a gesture of appreciation/message that the team was moving on.
Favre decided that it was time to turn the screws to Thompson, so he began making unretirement overtures. Thompson and McCarthy flew down to Mississippi and met with Favre. Shortly after that meeting, word leaked out that the Packers offered Favre a $20 million marketing/stay retired deal. Some fans were outraged that the team wouldn’t welcome him back with open arms, Favre believed the revolt was inevitable.
Favre had all the leverage he could ever ask for, the Packers had spent all offseason preparing Rodgers for the starting job and the fans had yet to embrace him. The Packers took a PR hit with the hush money episode and training camp was just starting. Favre announced his “unretirement” and got on a plane up to Green Bay to force Thompson’s hand.
Thompson and McCarthy knew the relationship was broken and that there was no way Brett could play for the Packers. They dug in, braced for the backlash and issued a public statement that Favre was welcome to compete with Rodgers for the starting job.
The backlash came as expected, but nowhere near the level Favre was counting on. A “Bring Brett Back” rally was organized in Milwaukee and drew 200 Favre supporters, in a city of 620,000. The players weren’t clamoring for Favre and when faced with the choice, the majority of the fans supported the team over the player.
Favre thought he was bigger than the Packers, and it shocked him to learn that he wasn’t. He then requested his outright release so he could play for a divisional opponent to “stick it to Ted.” The Packers now had all the leverage again, so despite an offer from the Buccaneers, coached by former Favre tutor Jon Gruden, they shipped him to the Jets. Thompson put a stipulation in the deal that if the Jets traded him to the NFC North they would have to send three first round picks to the Packers, effectively exiling Favre in New York.
Favre struggled to learn a new offense, never made any effort to get to know his teammates and played out the 2008 season. For the first time in his career, he wasn’t being coddled by fans and the media and he faced tons of criticism as he collapsed down the stretch and the Jets missed the playoffs. In typical Favre fashion, he would later explain that his poor performance was due to an injury that was never reported on the injury reports. In order to save his reputation, he threw the Jets under the bus as they were fined for not disclosing his injury on multiple injury reports.
Favre never wanted to be in New York and had devised a plan to get out. The Jets were crippled with several huge salaries at the onset of the 2009 offseason, they needed to trim salaries in order to fit under the salary cap. If Favre “retired” again, he would come off the books and the Jets would have some breathing room. So he called in his retirement, this time without the tear-filled presser to preserve his image and the Jets moved on. This sham retirement would be revealed for what it was several weeks later when Favre asked for his release from the Jets. Why would a player who was retired and had no intention of playing need his release?
Once the Jets drafted Mark Sanchez, Favre had all he needed to force the Jets to do what the Packers wouldn’t do. He announced his “unretirement” which meant the Jets had to add his salary back to their cap figure or release him. The Jets didn’t have the cap space to activate him without cutting players, so they had no choice but release him.
Favre never had any desire to play for the Jets, he used them to satisfy his personal goal of playing for the Vikings which he had been planning since the spring of 2008. The Jets couldn’t trade him there, so he needed to force them to release him. He used them to get away from the Packers and then leveraged them into releasing him without getting anything in return.
Favre used the impression of indecisivenessto protect his image and get out of all the offseason commitments, even though he planned to play for the Vikings the entire time. Isn’t it odd how when he “decided” that he was going to play for the Vikings in August of 2009 his contract was already drafted and ready to be signed the day he “unretired?” The dog and pony show that took place over the summer months was to preserve Favre’s image and Brad Childress’ image, so it didn’t look like he was holding Favreto different standards than the rest of the team. Favre even referred to the Vikings as “we” in an interview about how he was “undecided” on his future.
Favre truly wanted to play for the Vikings, so there were no team chemistry issues, he had all the leverage he needed on a team he wanted to be on. After providing a laundry list of alleged injuries to insulate himself against criticism if he struggled, Favre would have the best statistical year of his career beating up on a weak schedule for the bulk of the season. However, Favre struggled the last several weeks with home field advantage on the line. The Vikings lost three of five games and Favre threw four of his seven interceptions in those games.
Once again in an NFC Championship game, Favre tried to play the hero rather than playing it safe and giving his team a better chance to win. His interception dashed the Vikings’ Super Bowl dreams and for the second time in two years he faced criticism from the fans and media. Conveniently, he had another injury to help insulate him from the criticism as pictures of his bruised and battered ankle were released to the media.
I remain very skeptical of the severity of his bicep and ankle injuries and the corresponding surgeries. Favre is the NFL’s Ironman, but why didn’t he ever feel the need to provide a full medical breakdown after every bad performance in Green Bay? These severe injuries started cropping up when he was faced with criticism and when he had something to gain by disclosing them. He severely injured his knee in a game against the Redskins in 2002, but there wasn’t a peep about that injury because the Packers went 12-4 and made the playoffs.
The bicep surgery gave Favre the excuse to miss the 2009 offseason work with the Vikings and the ankle surgery allowed him to dodge the 2010 offseason work as well. In addition to dodging the offseason work, the ankle surgery offered a new opportunity.
Favrehas used the specter of retirement to get out of offseason work, get traded, get released and get out of training camp. In 2010, he added get more money to the list.
Favre once again played the retirement card on August 3rd for seemingly no reason. Favre had his ankle surgery and also had a wink nod agreement with the Vikings that he would be back. The organization made no effort to protect themselves if Favre was seriously contemplating retirement and their reaction to the newest “retirement” verified that they fully expected him back in 2010.
I was in Minneapolis the day that the infamous, but oft denied, texts were sent to his teammates. The Wilfs and Childress had a panicked meeting on the practice fields at training camp. Within hours, rumors leaked that the Vikings were offering a significant pay increase to get Favre to suit up in 2010.
Despite proof that the texts were sent, Favre denied that he sent them and continued to indicate that he planned to play if he was “healthy.” He also denied that the “retirement” was a ploy to get more money, but if it wasn’t about money, then why did he accept an adjusted contract? If he was seriously considering not playing, why did Deanna renew their gym membership a few days before the latest “retirement?”
Rich Eisen reported on the Dan Patrick show this morning that Favre’s new contract for 2010 could reach $20 million with incentives. Funny how “healthy” that ankle got in 16 days.
Now Yahoo! Sports reports that unnamed Vikings teammates are revealing Favre’s open disdain for Childress’ playcalling and a lack of trust and respect for his head coach. Other have reported that those feelings may have been partially responsible (along with a desire for more money) for Favre’s August 3rd “retirement” to leave Childress twisting in the wind for a couple weeks.
The three man groveling committee that was sent to Mississippi to “convince” him to play was just another chapter in the ever-growing farce this has become. If the Vikings were under the impression that Favre may not come back (even after the pay increase was put on the table) why did they play their starting quarterback (Tavaris Jackson) only one series in the preseason opener? Funny how Favre “decided” to play the week before an nationally televised preseason game…for the second straight year.
Brett Favre built a reputation as a fun-loving, hard-playing, kid in a man’s body. He was quotable and likeable and everybody gave him the benefit of the doubt. Everybody talked about how tough he was to play through the pain, while looking past the fact that he was taking enough vicodin that you could cut off his leg without him feeling a thing. They supported him through his substance abuse, the interceptions, the down years and placed him on the highest pedestal.
His own friends from his Packer glory years have spoken out against him and how he has placed himself above his teammates, his team and the league he plays in. So many have wondered “what happened to Brett Favre?” I sit here and wonder “why didn’t anybody else see this coming?”
LeBron James’ “The Decision” debacle has been universallycriticized as a self aggrandizing affair fueled by immaturity and narcissism, but Brett Favre’s faux indecision has been met with a series of “that’s Brett being Brett” shrugs and a series of Sears commercials?
On the field, Favre’s enthusiasm and passion for the game are infectious and it’s almost enough to drown out the ugliness off the field, but each day his self-serving soap opera reaches new heights of absurdity. Favre has forever tainted his legacy with his actions over the last few years, and it’s hard to imagine it can go on much longer. For the next several months we’ll get a break from the “will he, won’t he” charade, but whenever Brett does address 2011, don’t believe a word.