How could he have done it again?
That was the main thought playing over and over in my mind as I drove alone to a Taco Bell in Appleton, Wisconsin, on the cold, cold evening of January 20, 2008.
Brett Favre, our aging, yet still-beloved quarterback, had once again sunk the Green Bay Packers’ postseason hopes with an interception.
Overtime. Lambeau. Corey Webster. We all remember.
I was no longer wearing my Favre jersey, a staple of my gameday attire for years. No, that was on the floor in the corner of my sister Nikki’s TV room, tossed there by yours truly in a fit of rage after the game had ended. Backed by a soundtrack of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (I’m not making this up. That was actually on the radio in an awful bit of timing by whatever station had decided to play it), I sat behind the wheel in a state of shock.
What was wrong with him?
In the two-plus years since that night, a lot of things have changed in my life, as a football fan or otherwise. A lot of things have changed for Favre, as well. He’s switched zip codes a couple of times, set some new NFL records, earned some new fans and lost most of his old ones.
Apparently, though, one thing will always remain the same: When the stakes are their highest, his fatal flaws will come out and destroy his team’s chances.
After watching Favre sink the Minnesota Vikings’ Super Bowl hopes with yet another foolish, late-game interception – this one coming near the end of regulation in Sunday night’s NFC Championship Game loss to the New Orleans Saints – how can we think otherwise?
Patterns are patterns for a reason, after all, and Favre has shown that he either can’t or won’t change his. And the most recent backbreaking pick is a perfect example of why Favre will never get the storybook ending he so desperately – and pathetically, if you ask me – wants.
First, you must remember the circumstances. A third-and-15 from the Saints’ 38. Under 30 seconds to play. Minnesota needs only five or so yards to get back into kicker Ryan Longwell’s range.
Now, if you go back and look at the replay of the third-and-15, Favre has two clear-cut opportunities to get those yards back. The first comes via his feet. He has a window in front of him – old, beat-up legs or not – to run for at least five yards (likely closer to six or seven if he makes it to the sideline). As the years went on, though, we all remember how much he hated scrambling (even when open real estate was right there in front of him) and how many picks that directly led to as he chose to force a pass instead.
Even if you give him a pass on that, you can not let him slide on this: He had Bernard Berrian open on a short out-route on the sideline roughly nine yards to his right (which just happened to be the direction he was moving in, anyways). He makes that throw and the speedy Berrian likely picks up at least 12 yards. Longwell crushes that kick and Minnesota wins, right?
Favre never even looks at Berrian for a second, though, instead focusing his eyes from snap-to-pick completely on Sidney Rice. This is perhaps the most overlooked of Favre’s numerous flaws: His tendency to focus on one, and only one, receiver in crucial moments. As Gene pointed out to me on the phone Sunday night, that goes back to the days when Sterling Sharpe was the only proven gamebreaker at Favre’s disposal. Then it was Robert Brooks. Then Antonio Freeman. Then Donald Driver. Remember, Greg Jennings was open in OT against the Giants and, last time I checked, he’s pretty good.
But there was Favre locking on Driver from the get-go. Webster – and everyone else on the planet – knew Favre would do that. That allowed Webster to get himself fully prepared to make the play.
Same goes for Tracy Porter on Sunday night.
But here’s the thing: It didn’t matter to Favre if Porter knew that. And it didn’t matter to Favre that trying to pick up 20 when all he needed was five was a foolish venture. And it sure didn’t matter to Favre if he was forcing a ball across his body into the middle of the field. Rice was his go-to-guy, dammit, and he was dancing with the girl that brought him. Arrogance: The most obvious of all his flaws.
Pick. Overtime. Garrett Hartley. Ballgame.
These flaws – he has others, of course, but I don’t have enough time to discuss them all - were prevalent Sunday night in New Orleans. And two years ago in Green Bay. And five years ago in Philadelphia. They aren’t changing.
They are the reason he hasn’t gotten to a third postseason game since the Super Bowl loss in 1998. They are the reason he will never get to a third postseason game again. He can play until he’s 50; it’s not going to happen for him.
And they are also the reason I had a smile on my face as I drove home alone after the game Sunday night in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This time, though, I stopped at Burger King.
Hey, at least one of us can change.