Will Brett Favre retire? Should Brett Favre retire? Are the team and management letting Brett Favre down? Is Brett Favre letting them down? Who hasn’t asked these questions about the most beloved player, by media and fans, in football today? For weeks now, questions about Favre’s future have been as persistent as any other subject, including the Colts run towards perfection.
Most football analysts claim that Favre, at age 36, still has plenty of gas left in the tank. According to the analysts, the Packers are 3-11 because Favre has a weak supporting cast. They say he has no running game, a porous offensive line, and no playmaking receiver. To them, Favre’s play is never the culprit when the team fails to perform adequately. However, any astute analysis will show that it’s Favre who hasn’t performed adequately – for years.
In his last 5 playoff games, Brett Favre has thrown 13 interceptions. His team’s record in those games is 1-4. The lone win came in a game where Favre didn’t throw an interception. Imagine that! Of those 13 interceptions, 6 came in a 2001 debacle against the St. Louis Rams, 4 were last year against the Vikings, and who will ever forget the overtime interception against the Eagles? In between all of those, was the first home playoff loss in Green Bay Packer history, where Favre threw 2 interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons.
It hasn’t just been in the playoffs where Favre’s mistakes have added up. In the 9 years since the Packers won the Super Bowl, Brett Favre has averaged 19 interceptions per season. He has thrown more than 20 in almost half (4) of those seasons, and finished at the top, err, bottom of the list twice.
The analysts would say that Favre’s foibles were because he had to do too much, he had to carry too much of the offensive burden on his shoulders. Well, that’s not exactly true. Beginning in 1997, the Packers have failed to have a 1,000 yard rusher only twice. As a matter of fact, in three of those seasons the Packers had a running back finish in the top 5 in rushing yards. Oddly, in 2003 when Ahman Green had almost 1,900 yards rushing, Brett Favre was second in the league in interceptions with 21.
Another flaw in the `weak supporting cast’ argument revolves around Brett Favre’s performance early in his career. The season the Packers won the Super Bowl, 1996, they didn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher or receiver, yet they were still ranked number one offensively. That’s a credit to Brett Favre’s play. He effectively dealt with injuries and inconsistency at the receiver spot, and a running back by committee. If he could win, then, when he was the sole generator of the team’s offense, why can’t he do it now?
Well, he’s old! He’s way past his prime. And, he doesn’t know it. Instead of growing old gracefully, Favre has grown old recklessly. His playoff interception versus the Eagles, his 20+ interceptions in 2 of the last 3 years, his constant throwing into double and triple coverage, his adherence to a playing streak, all exhibit a quarterback whose ego has superceded his common sense. When Favre played through a broken thumb in 2003, he threw 12 interceptions in the 9 games after the injury. Obviously, he was playing to keep his starting streak alive.
Favre’s ego will not allow him to recognize that he’s hurting the team. When you have a running back that’s second in the league in rushing, you shouldn’t throw 21 interceptions. When your running back shreds a defense for 156 yards on 25 carries, you shouldn’t throw the ball up for grabs in overtime. When your running back is averaging 4 yards a carry, you shouldn’t have 6 and 4 interception games.
Apparently, the problem is not a weak supporting cast for Favre, it’s a weak ego that refuses to let others make plays. It’s an ego that says `if I can’t be the hero, if I can’t make the play, I’d rather lose’. It’s an ego that will pass everything except the torch. That’s a shame. When great quarterbacks get great running games, they’re supposed to perform better. Steve Young had possibly his best year, late in his career, when Garrison Hearst rushed for over 1,500 yards. John Elway had some of his best years when he had perennial 1,500 yard running back, the last three years of his career.
I don’t agree with those who say Favre should be allowed to leave the game on his terms. Others have not been given those considerations. Both Joe Montana and Jerry Rice were shown the door in San Francisco when their effectiveness hurt the future of the team. Both Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith finished their on-field careers out of a Cowboy uniform. If Brett Favre doesn’t retire after this season, the Packers should bench him, trade him, or cut him. It’s time to rebuild, and you don’t rebuild with 36 year old quarterbacks who can’t live with the fact that time has passed them by.