Posted: Wednesday January 4, 2006 5:18PM; Updated: Thursday January 5, 2006 11:46AM
While Packer diehards are inclined to dismiss Favre's 2005 nightmare as an aberration, those of us outside Titletown know better. Most of us are wondering how much longer Brett Favre will remain Brett Favre before he turns into VinnyTestaverde. With Mike Sherman fired and MikeHolmgren's line of succession exhausted in Green Bay, Favre, wisely, is leaning toward the door.
But knowing his knack for the comeback, his flair for the dramatic, who could expect Favre to give into retirement just yet? What better place than New Orleans to stage a second act?
A return to the Bayou would bring the football odyssey full-circle for Favre, who grew up an hour northeast of New Orleans in Kiln, Miss. He wad in awe of Saints quarterback Archie Manning before going on to lay the groundwork on his own legend at Southern Miss. Favre in black and gold would make for a natural attraction for the displaced Saints fans, the promise of "a farewell tour" returning revelers to the beleaguered area in droves and infusing the city with a buzz it hasn't felt since the team last made the playoffs in 2000. Favre's star power would likely not only prove effective in drawing large crowds back into the city but it would lure prospective free agents as well.
Of course traditionalist will cite Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath as the cautionary tales for what happens when an aging athlete switches uniforms, conveniently forgetting what a financial boon Michael Jordan was to the Washington Wizards in his final two years on the court. Or how instrumental the defection of another Packers great, Baton Rouge native Jim Taylor, was in forging the Saints early identity when they first expanded into the league in 1967. But unlike Unitas (who bolted from Baltimore to San Diego a husk of a man), or Namath (who arrived to Los Angeles Rams from the New York Jets, but lost most of his knee cartilage in baggage claim), Favre is still young enough (36) and healthy enough to play quarterback. He can still sling it, evidenced by his 3,881 passing yards, 20 touchdowns -- and career-high 29 interceptions.
It wasn't so much that his skills were eroding in his latest year in Green Bay insomuch as the talent around him. Injuries would bedevil most of his supporting cast in '05: Javon Walker, a Pro Bowl wideout, tore his ACL in the season opener, backup runner Najeh Davenport broke his ankle in October. Feature back Ahman Green was gone not long thereafter with a ruptured thigh tendon, while wideout Robert Ferguson missed significant time with a torn LCL.
But even at full strength, the Packers' offensive ensemble yields the edge to the Packers. Joe Horn is the sure-handed receiver Walker someday hopes to be. Donte' Stallworth, like the Packers' Donald Driver, is the speedster who gives Favre occasion to show of his rifle arm. Deuce McAllister is the better ball carrier, the Saints' rusher fumbling once every 70 carries to Green's 52 (or about a game's difference). All of it adds up to a rededicated Favre giving the Saints the veteran leadership long lacking from their offensive huddle.
Of course, there are details still to be ironed out. New Orleans isn't any closer to settling on a coach, but with so many West Coast coaches looking for work (Steve Mariucci, Favre's old quarterbacks coach, comes to mind), the right match is a mere phone call away.
Still, no one would be foolish enough to suggest Favre could lead the Saints to the Super Bowl. But ending a five-year playoff drought would be a welcome consolation for a city starving for a winner and helpful to coaxing taxpayers into paying for a new or refurbished home -- something the Saints badly need.
Oh sure it might seem crazy, taking arguably most recognizable player in pro football over the last decade and slipping him inside a different jersey. But so would leaving this cherished franchise for dead or letting it escape to L.A. And while Packer fans might declare Favre selfish for jilting them without so much as a hug or a proper good-bye, a move to would be saving a lot more than Favre's career. It'd be saving a city.