For the past few years, the very mention of Brett Favre and retirement has forced us through a gamut of emotions normally reserved for 12 year old girls. He’s the reason we love sports and the reason we hate it wrapped into one. In one breath we praise his childlike approach to football. In the next, we excoriate him for being indecisive. He’s creative. No, he’s manipulative. Carefree. No, careless. The man has single-handedly caused a generation of sports fans to become bipolar.
Even right now, I can’t decide whether Favre is the athlete I’d most like to have a beer with or the one I’d most like to crack over the head with a beer bottle. Sure I could do without the dog-and-pony show for the next six months, but do any of us really have a right to criticize a guy for WANTING to work? It’s easy to sit at the water cooler and blast him for being an attention-craving baby, but that’s because our nine-to-fives don’t require us to take hits from 350-pound linemen. Screw job security. We’ve got life security.
So I don’t blame Favre for playing these games. You know who I blame?
If you haven’t realized this yet, there are only two great quarterbacks in the NFL. Drew Brees is right on the cusp. But right now, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the only two guys who could change the fortunes of any team in the league. If Brady was traded to Kansas City instead of Matt Cassel, the Chiefs probably would have made the playoffs. If Manning was running the show in Minnesota, the Vikings would be undefeated and entering the Super Bowl averaging 40 points per game.
Manning and Brady are game changers. The rest find themselves varying from very good to decent to downright awful. To give you an idea, Brees is very good. Jamarcus Russell is downright awful.
Favre is decent. He’ll make a bad team better and he’ll keep a good team from sinking. Basically, he’s not a game changer, but he’s not making anyone worse. He helped the Jets improve last season, but a rookie managed to win one more game and got them to the playoffs this year. This season, he put up the best numbers of his career, but he still only led the Vikings to one more win in the playoffs than the combination of Gus Frerotte and Tavaris Jackson did last year.
The problem is most of the quarterbacks in the league are a lot closer to Jamarcus Russell than they are to Brees. Or Favre for that matter. The position has evolved slower than every other position in professional sports over the past 30 years. Coaches can churn out linemen or running backs like they’re on an assembly line, but Vinny Testaverde still waits by his phone every time a guy goes down because the ever-present demand for quarterbacks is rarely met.
That’s why Favre is allowed to take as much time and play all the mind games he wants. He has all the leverage in the world. Think about that. A 40 year old who will undoubtedly sit out the majority of training camp is a better option than half the teams in the league currently have.
It’s a sad state of affairs but it’s also reality. You don’t know what you’re getting from the majority of quarterbacks in the NFL from week to week.
In some strange way, Favre might be the most predictable one of all.