Posted: Friday March 11, 2005 4:06PM; Updated: Monday March 14, 2005 9:53AM
Brett Favre will have to stay upright behind a revamped offensive line in 2005.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Surely there is much rejoicing in Green Bay, following the annual announcement that Packers quarterback Brett Favre will return for another/' season. Favre is, after all, the city's living legend, and the the league's reigning icon. (Have a seat, Mssrs. Brady and Manning.) A cursory glance at Favre's 2004 statistics suggest the Packers are far, far better off with Themanthemyth under center: he passed for 4,088 yards and 30 touchdowns last year, his record-tying 13th 3,000-yard season and eighth with 30-plus touchdown passes, twice the number of any other NFL QB in history. In so doing, he led the Pack to team records in total offense and net passing yards.
If he plays out the '05 season -- and given that he last missed a start in 1992, 205 regular-season games ago, I'd say there's a chance he will -- he'll surely pass the 50,000-yard mark in career passing yards and likely the 400-TD-pass career mark. Along the way, he took the Pack to two Super Bowls (winning one), and remains the league's only three-time MVP. When it comes to Favre, the numbers speak -- no, they deafeningly shout -- for themselves.
But there's one career record -- John Elway's record 148 regular-season wins -- that Favre won't come close to by year's end, even though Favre sits at 135 himself. Which is to say, Green Bay will not be a very good team next season, lame conference or no. Which is to say, the Packers have far too many personnel problems for a no-longer-invincible Favre to overcome; in fact, Thursday's other Packers-related news item -- the release of Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper -- is but the most recent piece of evidence of the team's collective slide. Which is to say, the Packers will have a very, very sticky situation on their hands this time next year, if (Blasphemy Alert) they don't accept the fact that Brett Favre is no longer the long-term, or even the medium-term, answer to their problems.
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Make no mistake: Favre's time away this offseason before determining that he'd return was deserved and completely understandable, given his exceedingly rough last 12 months. His wife and rock, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer last October, just one week after her brother was killed in an ATV accident at Favre's Mississippi home. Favre also was leveled by the stunning news of former teammate Reggie White's Dec. 26th death, almost a year following the passing of his father, Irv, from a heart attack. Any combination of such tragedies would have anyone re-thinking their commitment to a job that has already set them up for life, many times over.
But look past the grandeur and the statistics and every Cheesehead's need for Favre to play forever (as he seemingly already has), and the cracks are starting to show. Since 2000, when tailback Ahman Green's ascendance freed Favre from his Superman duties, the Pack have succeeded largely by achieving an offensive balance missing in Favre's early years: Green churning out yards behind a stout offensive line; Favre running an efficient, high-percentage passing game that converts when needed; their combined skill overcoming a defense that hovered between adequate and woeful. But no longer can Green Bay count on the first two, even as the defense looks worse by the day.
Indeed, Green took a major step backward last year (1,163 rushing yards, 4.5 yards per carry, 10 total TDs) from his '03 star turn (1,883 yds./5.3 ypc/20 TDs), despite running behind one of football's three best offensive lines. Having lost starting guards Mike Wahle (Carolina) and Marco Rivera (Dallas) and center Grey Ruegamer (who started 11 games a year ago) to free agency, it's folly to think Green's numbers will improve.
Meanwhile, Sharper's departure only sinks an already-bad Green Bay D further into the muck; last year, the Pack had the NFL's 25th-ranked defense in total yards allowed and against the pass, and gave up 23.8 points a game (up from 19.2 ppg allowed in '03). Their pass rush is terrible, their linebacking corps is middling, and their secondary is in tatters. All of which bodes ill for a defense that had fewer takeaways last season (15) than any team in the NFL -- an especially worrisome problem if Green's nagging fumbling problems make a full-blown return.