For sixteen years as the Packer quarterback, Minnesota Viking fans relished their opportunity to cheer against Brett Favre, hoping to cause an interception. For sixteen years, they had to put up with more defeats than wins at the hand of a quarterback who, at first, had great difficulty dealing with the earsplitting noise in their dome. He might have been 2-6 against the Vikings in their first eight contests but he was 4-0 in his last four games as a Packer. Clearly, current Vikings fans did not have a good taste in their mouth for a quarterback named Brett Favre. In those last four contests, he outscored them 89-30.
Rumors of contacts between Favre and Minnesota coaches prior to his leaving the Packers led to an NFL investigation. The Packers still think there was something going on although it was determined that no one had violated any rules. Most likely, his former quarterback coach, Darrell Bevell, offensive coordinator for the Vikings, contacted Favre in a routine manner and encouraged him not to retire at the top of his game. After all, Favre had had his best quarterback rating in 2007 (95.7) since 1996 (95.8). The fact that his head coach McCarthy was ready to move on did not impact the advice of the offensive coordinator of the Vikings. Bevell had been a great quarterback at the University of Wisconsin and then a quarterback coach who was more successful in that capacity with Favre than McCarthy when he had had the job earlier - using average passing rating or td/int ratio for that assessment.
Coach McCarthy's gave brief sound bites about the six hour meeting that he conducted at his home with Brett Favre in the summer of 2008 after he locked Favre out of training camp. He has said that they agreed to disagree. He has said that Favre would not cooperate. He has said that it would be disruptive for the team to have Favre in the locker room. He has said that Favre was not in the “proper mind-set to rejoin the team.”
According to a JSONLINE report, “All along, McCarthy doubted Favre’s commitment to coming back, and that’s why he wanted to meet with him before allowing him back with the Packers.” Favre said the final straw was when they tried to “buy me off with a $20 million marketing deal Mark Murphy offered.” Favre made it clear that he wanted to play football, that he wasn’t ready to retire, and that if they did not want him, they should trade him. What is wrong with that thinking? Many Packer fans think he should have done the right thing and should have retired. Favre, who apparently had depleted his Favre Foundation by helping Katrina victims in the Mississippi area where he lives, could use the $12,000,000 he was to be paid in 2008 to replenish his foundation.
Recently, McCarthy admitted that Favre asked to be traded to the Vikings during the six-hour session – but he did not say what preceded that request. Jon Gruden and the Favres went to bed thinking that the next day, the Favres would be moving to Tampa Bay. When they awoke, Favre was a Jet. Gruden recently said he was “surprised” and that he would have loved to have Favre play for the Buccaneers. Chances are both would still be in Tampa but for Ted Thompson's maneuvering that must have angered the Favre family. Clearly, Favre and family would be and were fish out of water in the Big Apple. Perhaps it was the hope of General Manager Ted Thompson that Favre would play one more year and then be out of football. While they had moved on with Aaron Rodgers (whom I greatly admire), they feared what might happen when they had to face Brett Favre. It is called a lose-lose situation.
Favre started out with the Jets on fire as one of the best NFL quarterbacks through the first eleven games, as he was largely responsible for the Jets 2008 8-3 record. He continued to play with an injury, and the Jets finished out of the playoffs. Coach Mangini was fired, and Favre was cut. The Jets were fined for not disclosing the fact that Favre was playing with an injury.
The Packer management’s worst nightmare came true when it was announced that the Vikings had signed Favre after off-season surgery, albeit coming off a mediocre season, and that he would be playing the Packers twice a year. Deanna Favre, who was a great contributor in the Green Bay area, appears happy to be in Minnesota, where she posed with a fan who had "Thanks Ted" embroidered on the back of his jersey with a purple number 4.
What about the feelings of the Vikings fans? Did they really want this controversial old man in their stadium? They had grown to despise the Packers and their quarterback who had amassed a 15-8 record in their past 23 meetings. He didn’t convince them of anything during his first two games as a Viking. Favre threw for 265 yards in games against lackluster opponents, Cleveland and Detroit. Perhaps they did not notice what the Packer fans who were looking over their shoulders noticed – 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Ratings of 95.3 and 115.3.
Favre’s worst rating performance of the year came at San Francisco, where he posted a 78.3 score. What won the hearts of the Vikings fans, however, had nothing to do with statistics or ratings or interceptions. They were won over with his heart and with one 32 yard throw to a stranger whom he saw cutting across the back of the end zone. Greg Lewis, who was recently acquired, leaped for the ball and managed to put two feet in the end zone for the game winning score that brought the doubting Tom's to his side in time for the big game with the Packers.
Everyone who has watched the Favre comebacks during his career – and there will never be enough for Packer fans – knows what it is like for him to march down the field and toss the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter or put the team in position for the winning field goal. Never in his Packer career had he thrown a TD pass with two seconds remaining – but he gave that thrill to the Vikings fans who have suddenly and willingly accepted him as their quarterback.
He did not disappoint that new confidence the following week when he faced Mike McCarthy for the first time. “I was really nervous,” he would admit. But Coach Childress and Coach Bevell gave the ball the first four times to AD ("All Day" for those of you who think his nickname is AP), and Favre, like a machine, started throwing accurate balls to different receivers. AD did not have his typical day, and Favre did not have his typical day as his qb rating soared to 135.3.
The one skill that Favre has that Rodgers does not have yet is Favre's ability to identify a weakness in the defense. A number of his record TD throws have resulted from spotting such a weakness, and when he noticed that Al Harris, the All Pro cornerback, was busy giving instructions to the newbies in the backfield, he called for the Vikings “to hurry up” and had a quick hike, a fake to the middle (which caught both Harris and Derrick Martin) and then lobbed a perfect throw to Bernard Berrien as he streaked down the sideline. Neither Harris nor Martin could catch up, and Favre created a lead that survived a Rodgers comeback attempt. Make no mistake – the play was in his bag of tricks created by Bevell and Brad Childress. But clearly, he called it and executed it perfectly at the right time.
Packer fans also know that he is capable of, at any given time, throwing an interception. Many Packer fans gave up on him, and when Packer management saw the opportunity to unload him, they did. Many fans want to burn their Brett Favre jerseys. Many fans have sent them to homeless shelters in Minneapolis. One restaurant was told they could only burn one Number 4 jersey since their plan to have a major jersey burning party during the Viking-Packer game would create a fire hazard.
Life goes on in the NFL as free agency moves players from team to team. I grew up watching Ernie Banks play shortstop, third base and first base for the Chicago Cubs. I watched Ron Santo and Billy Williams play with him his entire career. But Dee Fondy, the first baseman when I became a fan, was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and cried. I will never forget that – what a mean thing to do, to trade a player the fans have grown to like. And Gene Baker, the second baseman, was traded also. Bingo to Bango to Fondy was no more. I don’t even remember who replaced them – I guess I was afraid to become attached!
After five wins, the Vikings fans are wearing Brett Favre jerseys, the highest selling product in the NFL. Jets fans are looking at his performance, just as Packer fans are looking to see how he played. After all, they both enjoyed some great plays from a guy who should be riding his lawn tractor in Kiln, Mississippi or helping the Katrina victims fix up their properties.
When it came time for the Packers to kick my hero out of town, I didn’t mind so much the fact he was leaving before he was done throwing touchdowns, but I do mind the disparaging way that McCarthy and his bosses made it happen. They wanted the fans to be on their side and they did not care what they said in order to make it happen. Thus, Favre said what had to be said, “The problem is that there has been a lot of damage done and I can’t forget that stuff. Stuff has been said, stories planted, that just aren’t true. Can I get over that? I doubt it.”
Their fans’ loss, the Vikings fans’ gain. So be it.
Welcome to Minnesota, Brett. They love you as their own, and you are home again. Thanks, Ted and Mike and Mark, from Deanna and the Vikings fans! Personally, I wish he were still here, but I have gotten over it.