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Brett Propelled
August 18, 2008
The frenzy surrounding his unretirement has subsided, and now the real work begins for Brett Favre and the Jets. While it doesn't hurt to hope, they might be wise to temper expectations
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August 18, 2008

Brett Propelled

The frenzy surrounding his unretirement has subsided, and now the real work begins for Brett Favre and the Jets. While it doesn't hurt to hope, they might be wise to temper expectations

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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.

Favre's arrival 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 delusional thinking?

Favre replaces 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.

FAVRE DOESN'T 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 divisional round.

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.

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