What could have been
Popularity, skills prevented Favre from true greatness
Posted: Tuesday March 4, 2008 2:25PM; Updated: Friday March 7, 2008 3:19PM
A few of us were standing around Brett Favre's locker on the Friday before the Giants' playoff game, and he was telling stories of what it was like playing for his father at Hancock North Central High in Kiln, Miss.
"Last play of the game against Long Beach," he said. "One of those hot days ... everyone cramping up. I ran a draw to the left side. Missed the handoff, so I kept it and scored. My dad yelled at me, 'What the hell are you doing? Get in the back of the truck.'
"No dates after the game ... nothing. I went home with my dad."
Seems like he's been around forever. Seems he was always the Green Bay angle heading into the season. Brett Favre says he'll play this season, wait a minute, he might not, yes he will. Whew, that was close. Now that that's out of the way, how about cutting down on the interceptions this year?
The Packers have compiled a list of quarterbacks who started at least one game since Favre settled in as their QB 16 years ago. Going into last season, there were 202 of them. Dave Brown and Stoney Case bloomed briefly in the Arizona desert, Bernie Kosar wowed 'em in Cleveland, Joe Montana looked weird, quarterbacking the Chiefs in the playoffs ... and so on. Favre saw them all come and go. The Bears, for instance, went through 21 QBs while the Packers hung in with just one.
The Green Bay press book doesn't leave anything to conjecture.
"A certain first ballot Hall of Famer," is the way the 28-page section on Favre begins, and woe to the Hall of Fame selector who someday would dare neglect the Packers' greatest quarterback in history. In history? Whoa, there. How about Bart Starr? And then you had Arnie Herber and Cecil Isbell, the great passers of the single-wing era, and Johnny Blood, wow, he must have been some back, and ...
Hold on. The old-timers were, well, great old-timers. And Favre never had a cast around him like Starr did. No one had the gun Favre did. Nope, not even the old-timers with that fat football could bring it the way he could. And there never has been a more durable QB in history.
We don't even know how bad some of his injuries were. He didn't exactly carry a sign around, announcing them. He lined up 275 straight times, counting playoffs, since he first was anointed starter in 1992, and we can only guess how close he came to missing some of those outings. And this was and is during the era in which quarterbacks are wrapped in cellophane.
You can make up almost any adjective you want to describe his greatness, and there will be some truth in it, but here's the thing that always killed me about Favre. He could have been greater. Ron Wolf knew it. The Packers' GM knew he was onto an all-time score when he worked the deals that brought Favre over from Atlanta. He was close.
Mike Holmgren knew it. The coach who once sat up nights with Montana, going over the game plan, had Favre for the first seven years of his career. And if you place any value on the passer ratings, you could note Favre's numbers climbed into the 90s, and stayed there for four straight years, stretching from 90.7 to a dazzling 99.5 during Holmgren's last four years with him.
It couldn't have been easy. The coach had a wild stallion on his hands, ever restless, always looking for the big strike, the big gamble. How do you coach caution while you're telling the guy to go out and win it for you in the last minute? It was the coach's dilemma.