Brett Favre (Matthew Stockman/Getty)
Brett Favre is reportedly happily retired in Mississippi. Now that his career appears solidly in the bank, was he a risk worth taking for the Vikings? When he was motivated, he was worth every ounce of risk.
What would a Fourth of July story for Viking Update be without bringing up Brett Favre?
History is funny thing. Almost by its nature, it is “revisionist.” It changes to suit to here and now, not necessarily the totality of the events that took place at the time they took place.
On the Fourth of July in 2009, the thought of getting Favre as the Vikings’ quarterback seemed like a pipedream. He was available, but would the face of the Packers for almost the last two decades dare jump west after a year in New York to play for the Packers’ hated rival? Favre did.
When he came in 2009 to Minnesota, Favre’s legacy was called into question by those that never had the chance to call their own shots almost two decades into their NFL careers. The argument was based on one simple contention – the Vikings made a deal with the devil.
That argument can, has and will be debated long into the future whether the Vikings did, in fact, set the franchise back. You have to look at how Favre came to the Vikings the first time and the second time.
The first time was in August of 2008. Favre had already left Green Bay and his last pass with the Packers had been an interception at Lambeau Field that was returned for a touchdown and left a dumbfounded (even more so) Packer Nation wondering what went so wrong.
After Favre spent a season in New York, the Jets drafted Mark Sanchez and they had no more hold over Favre. He could come to the Vikings and be a thorn in Ted Thompson’s side. Favre wanted to. He did.
His revenge tour in 2009 was typified by his two games against the Packers. He was dominant in both. He was emotional in both. The Vikings won both. He wanted to get his revenge and he did.
Flash forward one year. When Vikings fans saw the photos of Favre’s brutally injured ankle – courtesy of the Saints defense – it was clear that this was a man who was going to need some time to heal. Favre consistently said he wasn’t 100 percent, which he felt he had to be to return. He had surgery on the ankle to make a return possible, but, when push came to shove, he didn’t want to come back.
It took a road trip from three Vikings veterans – guard Steve Hutchinson, emotional leader Jared Allen and longtime friend and teammate Ryan Longwell – to bring Favre back. It seemed more like a hostage situation that it did a reunion.
For those who remember 2009, Favre wasn’t sharp coming out of the gate, but thanks to a schedule covered in gravy early on, the Vikings won regardless. They didn’t have the same luxury in 2010 and they dug a hole quickly with a QB on one wheel. The Randy Moss debacle was a desperate attempt to save a sinking ship that didn’t pan out. The season was shot and all the love that Favre had banked in 2009 came back to bite him. He made more news with his cell phone than he did on the field and his final season was disastrous.
Did the Vikings make a deal with the devil? No. Thanks to the one season in which his return was expected, the Vikings were so successful that their first chance to draft a replacement came at the end of the round. By the time they selected Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in this year’s draft, it was because the team had gone from first to worst in the NFC North.
The Vikings didn’t make a deal with the devil. In 2009, they had a motivated player seeking revenge against an organization he felt disrespected him. In 2010, it took three veteran players to take him hostage after he consistently said he didn’t think he was ready to come back. He was right.
As the Vikings move forward, hundreds of thousands of Vikings fans have Favre jerseys. They may be the object of ridicule from Packers fans basking in a title, but all that needs to be said to them is one simple phrase – this is a 2009 Favre jersey. Those days are gone, but what Favre did in 2009 when he wanted to make a statement is what will be his Minnesota legacy, not the disappointment of 2010.
Had Favre not come back with Longwell, Allen and Hutchinson on that plane in August of last year, his legacy would have ended on such a high note that he would be in the discussion of the greatest of all time. His last year knocks him back a peg or two, but that seemed to be Brad Childress’ insistence more than Favre’s ultimate desire.
As we celebrate America’s history today, Favre is part of that. Some Packers fans will never forgive him. They have that right. The Vikings enter the 2011 season with a young, fresh Christian Ponder ready to make his mark on the NFL. They entered the 2010 season with a 20-year veteran with a bad wheel. Which season was entered with more positive anticipation? The Favre year.
History is on the his side. The Vikings wanted/needed him in hopes of continuing the magic in 2010. It didn’t happen.
Favre will have a place in Vikings history, largely based on his play in 2009. But it can’t be emphasized enough that, in 2009, Favre needed to play for the Vikings. In 2010, the Vikings needed Favre to play for them. The difference was reflected on the field – early and often.
FOURTH OF JULY NOTE
On behalf of all of us at Viking Update, we would like to send our thanks and appreciation to all of the men of women that are currently serving our country in the armed forces and those who have served in the past – with special reverence to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their country and their fellow citizens.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.