It’s what kids of all ages do: We copy the greats and those athletes that make us fall in love with the game. Brett Favre’s style not only made it fun to watch, but it led him to Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.
For all his faults – on and off the field – Favre reminded everyone that quarterbacks were actually football players. It wasn’t always smooth and it was rarely how you teach it, but Favre led the Green Bay Packers like any other player fighting in the trenches for the logo on his helmet.
His teammates and fans loved and adored him for it.
He stood in and took enormous shots all over his body, yet he’d keep getting up. He was starting every week and managing to be one of the best in the league – despite playing with broken thumbs, tendinitis, sprained ankles, and probably a few concussions (known and unknown).
Favre believed – and just about everyone else agreed – that he needed to be under center to give the Packers the best chance. Even at 50% with no practice during the week, it was normally the right call to give the ball to Brett.
Part of Favre’s allure and success came in the way he played the game. We always talk about him playing the way the average fan would if they ever got the chance – having fun, drawing up plays in the dirt, and doing everything we thought was necessary to win.
The first thoughts will always go back to his cannon arm and propensity to believe he could make every throw from one corner of the field to the other. Sometimes he was wrong, but most of the time he made it work the only way he knew how.
LeRoy Butler recently mentioned that he and the defense encouraged Favre to just be himself and not worry about check downs or “thinking too much.” They wanted Brett to let it rip, because that was the only way the Packers were winning consistently. If he messed up, the defense had his back.
Thus the journey began – a long and storied one that saw Favre wow the masses, both inside and outside of Lambeau Field. Though the love affair grew tiresome for many, and the break-up was difficult, there’s no denying what he meant to the franchise, the fans and quarterbacks around the NFL, present and future.
I’m sure we can all recount some of our favorite Favre throws:
His first game-winner against the Cincinnati Bengals after he took over for Don Majkowski. The only Favre-to-Kitrick Taylor TD ever. Unbelievable finish, since he looked awful for most of the game.
Rolling left, then unleashing an absolute bomb for what felt like 150 yards to the right side to hit Sterling Sharpe, giving the Packers their first playoff win in more than a decade.
The two beauties to Andre Rison and Antonio Freeman, both on audibles, to get things rolling for Green Bay as they’d finally win the franchise’s 3rd Super Bowl – nearly 30 years after Super Bowl II.
Pinpoint throws in the game after his dad’s death, the overtime walk-off to Greg Jennings in Denver or any of the tosses that completed one of Favre’s 45 game-winning drives among his record 186 regular season NFL victories (tied with Peyton Manning for first all time).
It’s a list that goes on forever, and there are more that we’ve forgotten than we could ever remember.
Countless stiff arms, double-coverage lasers, across-the-body head shakers, long, arching missiles, and every type of weird jump pass, shovel, backhand flip that made us cover our eyes, smile and simply say:
Favre changed the perception of what quarterbacks could (or should) do, much to the chagrin of Mike Holmgren in the early years. Favre wasn’t so concerned with mechanics or style points, but in doing what it took to get the job done.
Look around the league and his imprints are all over the place. Back foot throws, in-pocket scrambling, rocket passes in tight spaces, and playing with an intensity that was normally reserved for linebackers.
Derek Carr, quarterback of the Oakland Raiders for example, wears the number 4 as he always admired Favre. Many have even compared the young QB to the Packers’ Hall-of-Famer for many of the reasons so many loved him.
Now maybe I’m naive or just too young, but very few (if any) quarterbacks were doing things like Favre before he made it fun to actually play football and not “just be a QB.” There was most often a “Hollywood” feel to the signal callers.
Not so with Favre.
Lead blocking on broken run plays or end arounds? Favre was diving headlong at guys when other QBs were spectators 20 yards behind the play. Whether they were scared, too fragile or simply felt it wasn’t their place, quarterbacks weren’t keen on helping the cause on a run play.
Now you see numerous QBs acting on instinct and looking to – at least – get a piece of a defender to help spring a runner loose. That’s being a football player and playing to win.
Random shovel passes to turn nothing into something or a sack into a touchdown? Favre, more often than not, went to the backyard type toss knowing it’s ugly, it’s risky, but it often had a great reward.
Two of his best “improvised” throws weren’t even technically shovel passes, but quick thinking and amazing skill.
One came against the Minnesota Vikings in a primetime game. Chased right with a defender hanging on his hips, Favre tossed a perfect spiral – underhanded – for a TD.
Ahman Green made a terrific catch in his own right, though the throw was one that made you laugh out loud and shake your head. Packers’ fans and Packers haters alike had that reaction many times.
The second throw came in the NFC Divisional game following the 2007 season. On a 3rd and 8, Favre spun out of a sack and stumbled to the right with his head down. Moments before falling to the turf, the 38-year-old QB gave another underhand toss a try.
This time Donald Lee was there to grab it and pick up a first down inside the 5-yard line. It set up a touchdown that gave the Packers a 28-17 lead at halftime, en route to Favre’s last win as a Packer.
We all love to compare great quarterbacks from over the years, which is truly a fruitless quest with so many factors playing into one’s success. With that said, I’d argue that of all the quarterbacks in history, Favre was most equipped to win with any team, in any system, in any era.
As Packers fans, we have three incredible leaders to compare within the same franchise. Each of them – Bart Starr, Aaron Rodgers and Favre – were in the building last Thanksgiving night for the addition of Favre to the Lambeau Ring of Honor. It was a special night.
Each of them have similarities and obvious differences, yet Favre is the only one of the three I could honestly see thriving with any of the teams they’ve commandeered.
For a generation or two of fans, all they’ve known is winning in Green Bay. Though Favre was far from the only player to set that expectation in motion, he was the key cog that reigniting a stuggling franchise.
As Favre enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he should not only be recognized as one of the immortals of the NFL, but also as one of the true innovators at his position. Favre made quarterbacks real football players once again.