Just wanted to post a closing thought or two on Judas before, as Chris said, we turn from that subject to the preseason exploits of your 2009 NFC North champions. Consider this my minute as Morley Safer on “60 Minutes.” Or, perhaps more appropriately for this situation, Jerry Springer at the end of the show.
The thing we always loved about Brett Favre in Green Bay was the way he played — reckless, full of emotion and quite often able to achieve brilliance by doing things offensive coordinators had micro-managed out of the NFL a long time ago. TV commentators fawned over it, calling Favre a “gunslinger,” “riverboat gambler” or whatever your favorite Favre moniker was. Sometimes it caused our blood pressure to spike. Sometimes it made us throw things at the TV (remember the “Brett Brick”?). But deep down, I think we’d all say we loved it.
We believed, as he did, that Favre could always pull us out of a game by slinging it through three defenders or finding a receiver 50 yards downfield and hitting him while throwing off his back foot on the run. It was fun, it was exciting and it made Favre who he is.
If you’re going to play that way, it has to be rooted in hubris — a belief that you’re so good at what you do, you can essentially set your own terms for how you do it and nobody will be able to stop you. Favre wouldn’t have thrown passes a close shave from two defenders if he didn’t believe he could get away with it because he was Brett Favre and he could bend the limits of the game.
But the dangerous thing about hubris is, it can grow and multiply and take you over before you realize it. And lately, Brett Favre has been managing his career the same way he manages games–he does whatever he feels like doing at that moment without regard to the consequences.
Think about how many more Super Bowls we could’ve gone to if Favre had dialed it down at the right moment. 2007? 2003? Even 1995, when he spent the first half of the NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys firing passes four feet above Robert Brooks’ head? But he didn’t — couldn’t — do it, because he’s just wired that way, for whatever reason.
Likewise, Favre could have played out the end of his career with the same control he failed to exhibit at the end of many seasons. Instead, he’s burned through a lifetime of goodwill in Green Bay, bored countless fans with his act and even threatened to lose some admiration from the guild of TV commentators who swoon over his every move.
And for what? A mediocre season with the Jets that left running back Thomas Jones openly hinting Favre cost them a playoff spot? The idea of a Super Bowl run with the Vikings predicated on the idea that Favre offers a major upgrade at quarterback over Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels? Check their combined stas against his from 2008. They’re eerily similar.
Maybe it works out. Maybe Favre wins a Super Bowl in purple and can ride off into the sunset — again — telling everybody, “I told you so.” But the Vikings, even at 10-6 last year, were a deeply flawed team, one with an uneven defense capable of breaking running games but unable to adequately defend the pass, an unsteady collection of receivers and a coach who doesn’t seem to understand that his best asset (Adrian Peterson) will only have three or four more years at this level.
Favre, don’t forget, is going to be 40. He’s coming off biceps surgery, and the Vikings handed him a two year deal in spite of the fact that he has a partial tear in his rotator cuff. There he goes again, thinking he can bend the rules.
Not to mention the fact that he’s played an astounding 17 seasons without a major injury. Every year he tries to come back, with diminished skills, he’s chancing a torn ACL or something that will finally end his career on someone else’s terms.
It all goes back to hubris. It’s why we loved Favre in Green Bay, but as he’s reached the twilight of his career and become ever more insecure with how he’s going to walk away from the game and spend the rest of his life, it’s soured on him. Now, the Riverboat Gambler is the guy sitting at a slot machine at 5 a.m., with a fresh roll of quarters because he’s sure the next pull will be the one that makes him rich.
So while I’m as much in favor of showering Favre with boos and howling over his interceptions on Nov. 1 as anyone, that’s not the emotion I feel the most in watching Brett become Judas. It’s pity. This is an elite athlete who, like so many others before him, can’t come to grips with the fact that he can’t bend the rules anymore. He can’t do it on the field, and he’s eventually going to find that he can’t do it off the field. And, I believe, he’s still hell-bent on sticking it to the first team that told him his retired-unretired act wouldn’t play there.
I’m sad that we lost our innocent, fun-loving Brett Favre, the guy who fireman-carried his teammates off the field after touchdowns and was happy to let us in on his life — good and bad – because he felt it was the least he could do to repay us for the years of unyielding support. This isn’t the same guy. He’s bitter, insecure and vindictive. He dresses in his own compartment of the locker room. He skips training camp because he believes he’s above it. This isn’t Brett.
Maybe that Brett — the one we knew — wasn’t the real Brett, either, and now we’re just finding it out the hard way.
Either way, something’s changed, and we’re not the only ones who’ve lost. He has, too.