older guy like Brett Favre. Let's say he has a 19-game season, counting
playoffs. In eight of those games he'll still have the magic in his arm. Five
or six others, he'll be good enough to win, if he plays it smart. But there
will be three or four games when he just isn't going to have it. The key thing
is for the coach to realize that and try to win it with defense and running,
and for the quarterback to go along with it. That's the tough part."
THE QUESTION that
might define the Jets' season is, How strong are the running game and the
defense? Right now, on paper, they look strong enough to sometimes carry a
team. But does their new quarterback know that? "Favre had some great games
last year but a few real bad ones, and unfortunately one of them came at the
end," the scout says. "I think it's an addiction. A guy gets addicted
to what he's accomplished, to what he thinks he's capable of."
Eric Mangini, the
Jets' coach, is a defensive-minded guy. He's also 15 months younger than Favre.
Brett has four years on Brian Schottenheimer, the offensive coordinator. Before
last Saturday's workout, Mangini drew an analogy between Favre and Rodney
Harrison, the 35-year-old Pro Bowl safety whom he coached in New England.
"Rodney did certain things on instincts," Mangini said. "You don't
want to coach him out of those great instincts. Same thing with Brett. I don't
want to coach him out of his great instincts."
In practice, each
Favre completion registered tremendous cheering from the crowd, each misfire or
drop drew groans. It was a typical first workout for somebody who hadn't thrown
a serious pass since January. Afterward, Favre admitted that with all those
fans in attendance, he "didn't want to look too bad, so I put a little more
into it. I'll be sore tomorrow."
The Jets and
Favre were scheduled for another 17 full practices, plus three games, before
the regular-season opener. The Green Bay system in which Favre played for 16
years has been called West Coast. No one knows what that actually means, given
that systems undergo so many modifications. The Jets' system, Mangini says, has
"some West Coast principles" but contains elements from other systems
too. Talk has been that the difference for Favre will be in the terminology,
which seems to be something a 38-year-old quarterback can straighten out with a
crash course. "Hello in English," Mangini says, "bonsoir in French,
buongiorno in Italian."
THERE HAVE been
times when it seemed as if an old star quarterback were dropped from heaven.
But the year or two he spends with the team doesn't project it into the future
very well. In the '93 season 37-year-old Joe Montana quarterbacked Kansas City
to two playoff victories before losing in the AFC Championship Game. The
Chiefs' pickup of Montana was an all-or-nothing shot—and the last time they won
a postseason game.
Then there's the
team that seems to have everything in place for a Super Bowl run except for a
keynote quarterback, never mind his age. That would describe one club that was
interested in Favre but didn't get him. The Vikings.