A MONTH AGO the
only thing New York Jets meant to Brett Favre was a way to get from LaGuardia
to his home in Mississippi. The Vikings, that was the team to get serious
about, as his relations with the Packers turned sour. Running team, run
stoppers on defense, one quarterback away from the big banana. No, said the
Pack. Pick a team farther off, outside the NFC North. ¶ Tampa Bay was
mentioned, and yes, the Jets. Don't be ridiculous, Favre's people said. We
don't want to be anywhere near New York. ¶ "At this time, no. No interest
in Brett Favre," New York general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in
conversation in July. And then he added, "Do you really think he might want
to come here?"
The point is,
Favre had to go somewhere. And thus the trade—Favre to the Jets for a 2009
draft pick, round to be determined—was consummated late in the night on Aug. 6,
one day before New York's first preseason game, against the Browns. The
following evening, when Favre held a makeshift press conference in Browns
Stadium and said, "I'm here for one reason—to help the Jets win," you
could translate that to, I'm here for one reason—because this is the team that
made the deal.
lit up the franchise the way Joe Willie Namath's did more than four decades
ago. An announced 10,500 showed up last Saturday at Favre's first workout at
Hofstra University, the team's training camp on Long Island, up from the usual
2,500. In 48 hours, 20,000 Brett Favre number 4 jerseys were sold, at up to
$220 a pop.
The cynical among
us see an underlying reason why the Jets created this monumental hoo-ha.
Personal seat licenses. Fans buy season tickets, then suddenly have to shell
out four or five figures for the right to continue buying them. The license
fees cover the cost of all the extra luxury boxes and other amenities that will
grace the joint Jets-Giants stadium scheduled to open in 2010. Fans of both
franchises have been screaming about this heist—the Jets, trying to put a
pleasant face on the issue, even sent out questionnaires to gauge fans'
sentiment about the licenses, like polling death-row prisoners on their
preferred method of execution. Brett Favre is a near-hysterical distraction.
The prospect of seeing him play in green-and-white might make it easier for
Jets fans, at least, to pay the tariff.
The big question
remains—how much can he contribute at the age of 38, turning 39 in October? How
much is left? What about the Jets' system, the supporting cast, the chances of
making the playoffs, never mind the Super Bowl, which represents the utmost in
Chad Pennington, a savvy, talented quarterback who had trouble coming back from
shoulder and ankle injuries. Cutting Pennington (who signed with the
division-rival Dolphins) was inevitable once Favre showed up, but it didn't sit
well with all members of the Jets, including Laveranues Coles, the normally
talkative veteran receiver who was so upset after Favre's first practice
session that he went into a shell and bagged all requests for comment.
come into Jets camp on the wings of triumph. He had one of his best statistical
years in 2007 and led the Packers to a surprise 13--3 season, but it all came
apart in the NFC Championship Game against the Giants at Lambeau, when he
couldn't buy a first down on his last four series and ended the show with a bad
interception in overtime.
In recent years
the magnificence of the Favre legend, all those games he pulled out in the
fourth quarter, began to be tempered by another image: the daffy interception
when the stakes were highest. He threw four of them in the wild-card loss to
the Vikings to end the 2004 season, and the year before he closed out the
divisional playoff against the Eagles with a strange, looping misfired
interception in overtime. The postseasons of '02 and '01 ended, respectively,
with two picks and a 54.4 rating in a 20-point loss at home to the Falcons in a
wild-card match and a six-interception horror show against the Rams in the
That's been Brett
Favre at the end of the Packers' last five playoff appearances. He's a great,
first-ballot Hall of Famer—no question. But to quote Vince Lombardi, "What
the hell is going on here?"
"I did a
breakdown on all the modern quarterbacks at the end of their careers," says
a pro scout, who requested anonymity. "Most of them get hurt. Young,
Aikman, Bradshaw, Kelly. But the most common reason for failure was inability
to cut down on errors, trying to do too much—in other words, a kind of
arrogance. When John Elway won his first Super Bowl [at 37], his game
statistics were the kind that could get a guy cut: 12 of 22 for 123 yards and
no touchdowns. Everyone called it John Elway's Super Bowl. But it was Terrell
Davis's Super Bowl. Elway was smart enough to let him take over the game. His
ego didn't force him to be the star. Not many of these older superstar
quarterbacks can do that.