Putting Favre’s Career In Perspective
Now that Brett Favre has, for all intents and purposes, finally — or should we say hopefully? — come to the end of his 20-year NFL career, it is time to try to put it all in perspective.
To truly qualify to take on this task, you need to have been around a while. You had to have watched the best and the brightest quarterbacks in football across a long period in order to compare.
As someone who is both old enough and was, job-wise, fortunate enough to have done that, I think I have the necessary requirements. With that in mind, allow me to make my case:
1. Favre is unique because he is in that tiny, exclusive group of athletes who exuded pure joy in the mere act of playing the game. Willie Mays and Pete Rose in baseball, Magic Johnson and Bill Walton in basketball and in professional football . . .well, it is difficult to think of anyone else. There are lots of guys who played the game beautifully, others who played it savagely, but only Favre played it with so much unadulterated joy. Only he was like a kid on the sandlot, jumping into his teammates arms after completing a big touchdown pass. When all is said and done, I think we’ll remember him most for that.
2. Durability was his other distinguishing factor. He was the Cal Ripken Jr. of football, and his record 297 starts in a row in a sport noted for its violence and brutality might well have been more impressive than Ripken’s staggering achievement. How Favre did it boggles the mind. The pain he was able to endure, the discomfort he must have overcome to keep running out there week after week, year after year, is incredible. The guy was not only a great quarterback, he was a medical marvel.
3. He was the ultimate gunslinger. He loved to take chances. He loved to air it out and go for the big play, probably more than any other quarterback of his generation. The result was more big plays and more big thrills than anybody else generated. Unfortunately, it also resulted in more crushing interceptions along the way. He lived by the big play and often died by the big play. He was more fun to watch than anyone. He was not always more fun to coach.
4. OK, so where exactly does that put him? When you make your definitive list of the best quarterbacks of all time, where does Favre rate? Well, obviously those things are always objective, but in my mind he has to rank in the Top 10. The passion, the durability, the knack for generating more fourth quarter theatrics than maybe anyone we’ve ever seen, all that has to get him into the top echelon. But into the Top 5? I don’t think so. Not when you have the likes of Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Otto Graham, John Elway and now Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, just to name a few. The sheer dramatics get Favre into the Top 10, but the recklessness that too often accompanied them are what keeps him out of the Top 5.
5. Overall, I’d put him right there around 7, 8, or 9 all-time, and considering how many quarterbacks have played this game over the years, that is clearly nothing to scoff at.
6. The key is not to remember the controversies of the past couple of years. The will he retire, or won’t he retire business. The sad shell of a player he became, especially in the past month or two. The ugly stuff involving the female employee of the Jets. No, we don’t want to remember Brett Favre that way.
What we want to remember are all those glory days in Green Bay, the Super Bowl victory, the remarkable Monday night game he played the day after his dad died and, of course, just the image of him making big play after big play, followed by his running downfield, waving his index finger and celebrating like a kid winning his first game in high school.
Right to the end, Favre gave it all he had. He emptied his tank every time he was on the field. And in the process, he filled the rest of us up with a sense of fun and excitement we couldn’t get anywhere else in football.
Say whatever else you want about him, but as legacies go, you can’t get much better than that.
A few quick hits from a great holiday weekend of sports:
This just in: The Lakers stink right now . . .
Yes, I’ve seen the reports that the Rangers are in serious talks with Adrian Beltre. And yes, if he signs with them, you can bet I’ll be writing plenty about it and its effect on the Angels . . .
It was an entertaining Rose Bowl, but what no one seems to be writing is that TCU linebacker Tank Carder was the best player on the field even BEFORE he made the game-winning block of that PAT pass attempt . . .
Yeah, the Ohio State president was right. The Buckeyes don’t play the “sisters of the poor.” But, you know, judging by its bowl performances, maybe the Big 10 should . . .
The way they both finished, the Patriots and Falcons are the clear Super Bowl favorites heading into the playoffs. But while you’d be surprised if New England gets knocked off, nothing would surprise you in the NFC . . .
Pete Carroll makes the playoffs, huh? OK, but how proud can you be when your final record is 7-9? . . .
By the way, Charlie Whitehurst can’t really be Carroll’s quarterback of the future, can he? I still think Matt Leinart will be getting a call in the offseason . . .
Ryan Matthews waited until the final, and meaningless, last game of the season to look like the No. 1 draft pick the Chargers thought they had drafted . . .
You notice some of those mediocre quarterbacks starting games in Week 16? Well, you’ll be seeing a lot more if, as expected, the league expands to 18 games . . .
I give Florida’s Urban Meyer one year, maybe two years max, before he is back in coaching . . .
Show me something Jim Tressel, and bench those guilty Ohio State kids who shouldn’t be playing in a bowl game, anyway . . .
The Rams weren’t too bad Sunday night, considering they don’t have one legitimate NFL-caliber receiver . . .
The Lakers keep losing by double digits, and Phil Jackson keeps shrugging it off. You think maybe there is a connection there?
— STEVE BISHEFF