Why Falcons glad to see Favre go; Sapp's timing bad
Posted: Thursday March 6, 2008 10:30AM; Updated: Thursday March 6, 2008 11:52AM
Strangely enough, the screaming headline news of Brett Favre's retirement led my thoughts in an unexpected direction: to the lowly Falcons, and some reflection on how different the fate of two franchises might have been had the Packers never wrested Favre away from Atlanta in their memorable February 1992 trade.
Talk about your juxtaposition. It couldn't be any starker. While Favre has been the ever-present face of the storied Green Bay franchise these past 16 years, here today are the Falcons, still searching for their first back-to-back winning seasons, and still desperately trying to replace the franchise quarterback they let get away.
At No. 3 in this year's draft, Atlanta is likely in position to select Boston College's Matt Ryan and hopefully end its nightmare at the quarterback position. But, oh, what might have been had the Falcons -- and not the Packers -- benefited from Favre's glorious 16-year run as an NFL starter.
Consider the following:
In the 16 seasons since Favre arrived in Green Bay and took over the starting job in Week 4 of 1992, the Falcons have started exactly 16 different quarterbacks in at least one regular-season game. The humbling breakdown is as follows:
Michael Vick, 67 games; Chris Chandler, 67; Jeff George, 35; Bobby Hebert, 25; Doug Johnson, 11; Joey Harrington, 10; Chris Miller, 10; Billy Joe Tolliver, 8; Tony Graziani, 5; Kurt Kittner, 4; Chris Redman, 4; Wade Wilson, 3; Matt Schaub, 2; Danny Kanell, 2; Byron Leftwich, 2 and Steve DeBerg, 1. That's a total of 256 games, or 16 games a year for 16 seasons, with seven different quarterbacks starting at least 10 games.
The Falcons have started the same QB in all 16 games of a single season just three times in those 16 seasons: George ('94 and '95) and Vick (2006). In eight seasons, or half the time, Atlanta has started three different quarterbacks in the same year, including 2007, when Harrington (10), Redman (four) and Leftwich (two) played musical chairs at the game's most pivotal position (with predictable results, 4-12).
Atlanta has enjoyed just four winning seasons and four playoff trips in those 16 years, with 10 losing seasons and seven years in which it racked up a double-digit loss total. By comparison, Green Bay has posted a gaudy 13 winning records in that span, with 11 playoff trips and just one losing season. Almost polar-opposite fates, wouldn't you say?
What a disaster Falcons quarterbacks have been while Favre was building his Hall-of-Fame career in Green Bay. Who could forget the sideline confrontation with head coach June Jones that hastened the departure of George in 1996? Or the helter-skelter days of 1992-93, when Jerry Glanville went through the likes of Miller, Tolliver, Wilson and Hebert like so many interchangeable -- but ultimately mediocre -- parts?
Chris Chandler (1997-2001) certainly was the best of the bunch, leading the Falcons to a 16-3 record and their only Super Bowl appearance in 1998, but his comically fragile injury history put Atlanta constantly in the position of needing to rely on journeymen like Graziani, Kanell, Tolliver, Johnson, and even that geriatric wonder of wonders, the 44-year-old DeBerg in 1998.
It's all hypothetical, of course, but if Favre had stayed put, the Falcons likely would have been spared the ignominy of Vick's career self-destruction in 2007, which devastated the franchise in almost incalculable ways. They would not have had to endure George's embarrassing meltdowns, or the false hopes that briefly accompanied young quarterbacks such as Johnson, Graziani or Kittner. And they wouldn't have had to traffic so heavily in the veteran retread quarterback market that brought Hebert, George, Chandler, Harrington and Leftwich to town.
Favre under center, year after year, might have trumped it all. For the Falcons, this week's news at least presents one small consolation: It brings to a close the most galling chapter in franchise history, and in one sense puts them out of their misery. After 16 years, No. 4 can haunt them no more. The Falcons finally have one thing in common with the Packers: Now they both can miss Brett Favre.