Streak record means most to Favre, but Manning in position to break it
The real record is 321 games, which includes Brett Favre's playoff appearances
Favre earned his teammates' respect by always answering the bell
Mailbag questions on Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer and backup quarterbacks
Three Brett Favre thoughts, and one strong opinion about why the consecutive-games record will be the one he values most when he's back home in Mississippi sitting on the tractor:
1. The consecutive-game record should be 321 straight, not 297. Defenses don't hit softer in the playoffs.
2. I agree with Ed Werder: It makes more sense for Favre to not play in the last three games than it makes for him to play now that Minnesota is out of it. There's no sense in pushing a three-week injury when the games mean nothing.
3. The Vikings need to play Tarvaris Jackson the final 12 quarters of the season. If he doesn't play, Minnesota will wonder in the offseason whether to re-sign Jackson for 2011, and really have no solid feeling one way or the other.
Now for the streak and how Favre views it. He seemed mostly subdued -- maybe relieved -- last night in discussing it. But I can tell from being around him over the years that when the subject of records comes up, this is the gold standard. This is the one he cares about. Even when he was about to break Dan Marino's record for career touchdown passes three years ago, I never sensed it was a record he particularly revered. And he certainly didn't think he would keep that record, and most others, away from Peyton Manning for long. "Peyton's probably going to break them all,'' he said to me that September day in Minnesota when he threw a touchdown pass against the Vikings to pass Marino. "Who are we kidding?''
As it stands, Manning has started 205 straight regular-season games, 93 shy of breaking Favre's mark. Including playoff games, Manning's streak is at 223, 99 short of a new record. Doing the math, Manning will need to play six more seasons to break Favre's regular-season mark and average one postseason game in each year to break the playoff record. (If the NFL goes to 18-game seasons, the math obviously changes. Stay tuned.)
The game streak was more important to Favre, because it said a lot more about him as a player and a teammate. It said to Antonio Freeman and Chad Clifton and LeRoy Butler and Mark Chmura and Frank Winters: We're all hurting. We've all got something wrong with us. I know it, you know it. But I'm playing. I don't care what I'm gonna feel like 20 years down the road. All I care about is winning this game Sunday. And if there's any way possible for me to be out there, I will be.
From being around the Packers a lot in the '90s, I can tell you his attitude won that locker room. Favre wasn't the kind to have a lot of guys from the team over to his house at all hours. He wasn't the kind of guy (at least not after his first few seasons as a wild and crazy Packer) to bar-hop. He had to be the leader on the field more than off. And those teammates respected what he was as a player between the lines, even if they didn't know him as well as many teammates know their quarterbacks.
What Favre learned from his hard-bitten football-coaching dad Irvin was excuses didn't matter. Nothing mattered except being out there and playing as hard as you could and winning the game. Nothing. So it was important to Favre that his teammates knew he wasn't going to shirk any of his duties for those 60 minutes.When he stayed in the pocket until the last possible moment before getting clobbered, that was the football mentality that had been drilled into him, much of it by his dad.
One of the reasons I think Manning will break the record -- and why Favre, six years from now, will be disappointed about it -- is because he doesn't take the hits Favre took. Manning knows when to throw it away or throw quick when the blitz is coming. Manning knows when to live for another day. Favre never played a snap like that. Not saying Manning's wrong; he's not. But the amount of punishment Manning has taken is a fraction of what Favre took. Manning has come close to missing a game, really, only once, when he was coming back from his second knee staph infection at the opening of the 2008 season. Other than that, he's never really been hurt. That's a credit to him, obviously, and his good health. But Favre took some hellacious hits, and I can't really remember too many hellacious hits on Manning.
Finally, this point: Favre's legacy is clouded by many events of the past two or three years. His waffling, his carpetbagging, his terrible interceptions -- one to Corey Webster of the Giants in overtime in the NFC title game three years ago, one last year at the end of regulation against the Saints in the NFC title game. And this still-to-be-adjudicated dalliance or non-dalliance with Jenn Sterger. How will history remember him?
I'd love to know how the average football fan will remember Favre in, say, 2020. Will fans remember the tarnished last three years more than the previous 15? I think back to Jerry Rice, who basically went knocking on any NFL door to try to keep playing seven years ago, and how revered he is today. The Favre story is very different, for many reasons. But I think the day he walks into Canton -- in 2016, unless he stuns us all again next summer -- most people will remember the gunslinger, one, and the amazing durability, two.
Now onto your e-mail:
I WONDER IF THIS IS THE ROBERT SMITH. DOUBT IT, BUT I WONDER. "You write: '3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. Saw his value pretty well when he was concussed and the Pack had to try to limp through a bad day with Matt Flynn. And couldn't.'
This seems to be the storyline of the day. Except the facts don't support the conclusion. Rodgers played the first 25 minutes of the game and put zero points on the board, with a QB rating in the 30's. Flynn played 35 minutes of the game and put three points on the board, with a QB rating in the 60's. Now, you may ASSUME that Rodgers would have turned his day around and finished strong. You may ASSUME that Flynn would be equally ineffective if given the chance to prepare all week with the first string. You may ASSUME anything you want. But the FACTS are clear. NEITHER quarterback had any success against the Lions on this particular day. BOTH had an opportunity. Rodgers failed to deliver when he had the opportunity.
The better question is 'Why were the Packers so ill-prepared for the game?' They came out flat. Played flat all day. Finished flat. A big game in their division. This is a yet another case where you give too much credit/blame to the quarterback when the evidence is that the entire offensive team was at fault. Why do so many analysts do so little analyzing and instead rely on simple, misguided storylines? You are better than that, usually, Peter.''
--Robert Smith, Columbus, Ohio
Well, I'm not sure I am. You aren't the only one to make this point, or one like it, and my point, very simply, is I believe Aaron Rodgers would have put more than three points on the board in the final 35 minutes of the game. This is a guy who'd completed 74 percent of his throws in the previous four games, with 11 touchdowns and no picks -- one of the best quarterbacks in football. You act like games are 25 minutes long. You think Rodgers wouldn't have made any plays to score in the second half? I'm not buying that.
THE PANTHERS TICKET SITUATION IS NOT AS SIMPLE AS YOU THINK. "You need to do some research on the PSL (Permanent Sucker License) concept used to bring the Panthers to the Carolinas. This is why Mr. [Jerry] Richardson does not have to worry about losing 60 percent of his season-ticket holders. Around 60,000 of us "suckers" bought into Jerry Richardson ability to bring an NFL team to Charlotte. Bottom line is that if you do not renew your season tickets you lose your PSL and the money you invested. In my case it cost me $10,800 in 1993. However, it is becoming a viable option to write off that money rather than to continue to invest $2,000 in a mediocre at best organization. Why pour good money after bad?''
--Terry Meacham, Fort Mill, S.C.
Good point, Terry. Thanks for writing, and for educating me.
THE BACKUP HAS DIFFERENT ROLES ON DIFFERENT TEAMS. "Mr. King, with the spate of concussions and other injuries to starting quarterbacks this season, I was wondering if you could enlighten us a bit on the role of the backup QB during a regular week when the starter is healthy. Does the backup take any practice snaps with the other starters, or does the main QB take them all? How much do those practice reps help the starting QB jell with the other starters? Might it behoove the team to give a few more of them during the week to the backup QB (not a ton, maybe just 5-10%) so that if the starter goes down during the game then the backup would have at least a bit of familiarity with the rest of the offense? I didn't know if the benefit of that would be greater than the benefit of giving those snaps to the regular starter. I realize there are plenty of starting QBs that play most every meaningful snap of the season, but is it worth planning better for the possibility that the starter might go down? I realize my eye is very untrained, but it seems to me like that might have been a benefit to Green Bay yesterday in a game they probably need to have.''
--Karl Law, Seattle
Good question. Teams have differing philosophies with the backup quarterback, some of it depending on whether your team is keeping two or three quarterbacks. Mostly, if the starter is healthy, the starter will take almost all of the snaps in practice. Different teams do the scout team in different ways. The Broncos, for instance, use both Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow in varying amounts during the week as the scout team quarterback. Some teams, if they're facing an athletic quarterback who runs a lot will use, say, a defensive back who might have played quarterback in high school as a scout team quarterback, to simulate the kind of mobility the defense might see in the game. Your point is a good one. I think teams like the Patriots (with Brian Hoyer) and Packers (with Matt Flynn) should play their backups whenever the situation presents itself -- say, in the fourth quarter when the game's out of reach, either way.
THIS IS A MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR THE BENGALS, TO ME, THAN WHO THEIR COACH IS IN 2011. "Do you think it is time for Carson Palmer to go to another team or the Bengals to trade him? I am not sure if he will make Cincinnati any better and he may need a new start. Even when the Bengals had a good last year, he was really an average QB. The offense was helped by the team's running game. Now they are not good this year and the Bengals are back to their struggling ways. Would it be wise to use a first or second round pick on a QB to maybe groom to be the starter in the upcoming draft? I think there would some teams interested if Palmer was available. What would be your best suggestion on what Cincinnati should do with the QB position for the team's future?''
--Kevin Furman, Edmonton, Alberta
My feeling is the Bengals should listen to offers for Palmer. Maybe from Miami, maybe from the 49ers, maybe from the Cardinals, maybe from Minnesota. But if the Bengals consider Hue Jackson for the head-coaching job, he might feel he can do something positive with Palmer. But I do think it's at least worth exploring.