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Favre gets better with age

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Neil Reynolds | 13:44 UK time, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

I'm about to tuck into a large slice of humble pie. Back in September, I had genuine concerns about Brett Favre's second comeback in as many seasons and wrote about them here.

I did not believe Favre would be the final piece in the Minnesota Vikings' jigsaw. I had no doubt the future Hall of Famer could still throw a pretty pass and lead a team with some devastating strikes downfield. I just could not see a 40-year-old quarterback - who had admitted he got tired throwing to college kids over the summer - being in peak physical condition at the business end of the season.

I did not particularly like the way the former Green Bay star engineered his release from the New York Jets before conveniently signing with the Vikings once most of the preseason training was out of the way, but that was not my primary concern. I just felt a guy who had physically broken down at the back end of the previous season was not going to be in the right kind of form to lead a Super Bowl run in January.

To say I was a little bit off the mark would be an understatement.

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Watch Favre throw four touchdowns against the Cowboys (available to UK users only)

Favre was outstanding for most of the regular season, throwing for 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Statistically, he enjoyed the best season of his 19-year career and he never came close to hitting a physical or mental wall.

And Favre added to his legend on Sunday as he ripped the Dallas Cowboys apart during a 34-3 win that moved the Vikings to within one game of Super Bowl 44 in Miami. Some of his throws were simply sublime and showed he has lost none of his passing skills.

Favre completed 15 of 24 passes for 234 yards and set a new playoff personal best with four touchdown strikes. He is now preparing for a shootout with Drew Brees as the Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints in Sunday's Super Bowl semi-final, the National Football Conference Championship Game.

Before I go on, I want to explain that I do not write the headlines for this blog so I am not totally to blame for "Brett Favre set to struggle in Minnesota" but, of course, I wrote the words that prompted the headline in the first place.

When Favre first announced his return to the NFL, I thought it was bad for the league. I was fed up with the comebacks, I did not like the idea of a veteran waiting until training camp was over before inking a deal with a team and I did not want one of the game's greats to tarnish his legacy with another average season.

Favre looked a shadow of his former self during the second half of the 2008 season with the Jets and I genuinely had fears about how he would hold up physically.

I was wrong. Big time.

Brett Favre playing at the height of his skills and with so much emotion and energy is still a joy to watch. He is like a kid in the playground - the game is still very much the fun part for him.

I interviewed Favre in 2005 and he admitted that he would play the games for nothing. He felt he was paid for the work he put in during the week leading up to each game. The action at the weekends? That was the fun part and he insisted he would do that for free.

And you can see that is his approach on Sundays. He genuinely loves the game and squeezes every ounce of enjoyment out of each 60 minutes he is on the field.

He is running around like a man half his age, slapping his team-mates on the backside and then racing away giggling during the pre-game warm-ups and tackling his receivers to the ground after he has thrown yet another touchdown strike to them. It may be childish but it makes for fascinating viewing.

You have to admire that kind of passion and it is clear the NFL is a brighter, more exciting place with Favre featuring heavily in the action each and every weekend. When he does finally retire and stay retired, Favre will be sorely missed.

Favre has been helped by playing indoors in Minnesota at the back end of the season and has also benefited from having some key targets at his disposal. This used to be an attack focused on the running skills of Adrian Peterson. But the 2009 Vikings are very much about Favre and receivers Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe.

That is the power of Favre. In just one season, he has changed the entire focus of the Vikings' attack and has them on the verge of the Super Bowl. And Peterson will have no problems with a reduced role if it results in championship glory.

There is still some work to be done before Favre's fairytale return to the NFL culminates in a title game appearance in Florida early next month because the Saints are the top seed in the conference and present a formidable challenge.

But regardless of how this weekend's Super Bowl semi-final plays out, Favre has proven his doubters wrong and reminded me that I should forget about all the negative headlines and storylines surrounding his return and simply enjoy genuine NFL greatness while I have the chance.

Who knows how long Favre will be around? His glittering career could end in New Orleans on Sunday, it could end with him lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Miami or he could come back for more in 2010.

I'm done with the speculation and concerns. I'm just going to enjoy watching every minute the old man is on the field. After all, we may never see his like in the NFL again.

Listen to Both NFL championships games this Sunday on BBC 5 live sports extra from 2000 GMT. (Available on the web to UK users only). Watch extended highlights of the NFL play-offs on BBC 2 on Monday 25 January at 2320 GMT; short clips on Monday on the BBC Sport website (UK only).


  • Comment number 1.

    How refreshing for a BBC Journalist to admit he was wrong, Mr Mcnulty could learn alot off you Neil, well done and i hope Favre gets his hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy just goes to prove age is no barrier to class

  • Comment number 2.

    Picture the irony if you will, of a Jets v Vikings Super Bowl, with the Jets winning!! What a picture!

    Fair play to Favre; I have not liked his flip flopping, but have always been a fan; he plays hard and with a great spirit. The day he FINALLY retires will be a sad one; there really are no gun slingers like him anymore!

    Finally, Neil, well done to you Sir on eating your slice of pie, how did it taste? But lets be honest, even the greatest of Favre fans could not have imagined he would have remained this strong this deep into the season.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a LONG time FOMER Packers fan since the early 60's; I've marvelled at the way he handles himself on and off the field for years. I wish some journalists would do a real indepth story about his work with the Make A Wish Foundation. Aside from being one of the most requested athletes, Brett has spent time with close to 70 kids over the last 5 years or so. His work for various charities goes quietly unheralded and maybe that's the way he wants it, but it makes a great story for one of the greatest football players ever. Why I am a former fan is simply the way the Packers handled his "retirement." They had a right to go with Aaron Rodgers, after all, it is a business; BUT..they wanted Brett to hold a clipboard to a rookie after all he did for Green Bay. He put that storied franchise back on the map when no-one else cared and made decent players good and good players great. No QB has ever done more with less. Aside from Reggie White, there is NO-ONE that will go into the Hall Of Fame with him from his Packers era. As for the Jets, Tannenbaum and Johnson did the right thing. They gave him his UNCONDITIONAL release (as the Packers should have) because they could not afford to pay both him and Sanchez. It wasn't an "arm-twisting" event by Favre; it was simple business. But the Jets did the right thing. Also as for missing training camp and all that, you want your older player to stay in shape and get his timing down. You don't want to blow out and fatigue an older player. So missing training camp is beneficial for an older player; especially one like Favre who already knew that offense (unlike when he was traded to the Jets) backwards and forwards. Sorry so long winded, but the guy gets a bad rap sometimes. People complain about his waffling back and forth but what many don't know is that he lost his dad, father in law, brother in law and had his wife diagnosed and treated for breast a real short amount of time. Can you blame the guy for not knowing if he wanted to play a game or not? More athletes should be as classy.

    Sonny Crockett

  • Comment number 4.

    "I do not write the headlines for this blog..."

    It's your blog, surely you should control the heading (or suggest one) rather than some office geek have a quick proof read through it then make up a headline based on the gist of the article without probably any prior knowledge about the sport!

    Just hope Jets don't win on Sunday - admittedly good win on Sunday but they only got through to the play-offs by default by winning last few games against already qualified teams then play-off at Bengals who won a poor division and ended season poorly. Against full strength teams for the whole 17 weeks, their season would have ended 3 weeks ago!

  • Comment number 5.

    Congratulations Neil - it's only taken you 4 months to come to the same conclusion that most of us in the Twin Cities had at the very outset - the team would be better with Favre than without. It matters little how he got here - the fact that he is here and in the process completely transformed a very 1 dimensional, below average team, is all that matters.

    Following the Vikings is the same as being a City fan, in that both teams have the uncanny knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and only very rarely are able to live up to their potential; each season that goes by, constantly being referred to in terms of "If only..." Well one "If only..."; namely having a QB capable of running an effective offense, was put to rights at the the start of the season. This team is multi dimensional and has a ruthless, single minded mentality that has been missing since the 90's. Underestimate this team at your peril...

  • Comment number 6.

    Firstly let me say that I have great respect for Favre, and post number 3 is a glowing testimony to him both as a person and as a player. This season I’ve really enjoyed watching Favre’s Vikings and Warner’s Cardinals play. Two veteran quarter backs who play in the old fashioned “gun slinger” style and try to throw touch down passes, whilst at the same time controlling and dictating an offence. They have the knack of finding space and picking receivers, even when thrown off their planned play and often when scrambling, which so few of the more modern quarter backs (even sometimes Brady for example) struggle to do.

    However, the Favre dream will end on Sunday. I tipped the Saints pre-season and I’ve seen nothing yet to change my mind. The Saints are Superbowl bound. On the other side, the Jets defeating the Colts would be one of THE playoff upsets of recent years and I just can’t see it.

    And if Favre can help the Vikings through….. then Manning vs Favre with a Superbowl ring at stake? Now that would be interesting………

  • Comment number 7.

    Hey don´t forget the defense. Allthose sacks, all those 3-and-outs. Ray Edwards, Jared Allen and co. limited them to measly 3 points.

  • Comment number 8.

    Eating humble pie, on this occasion, tasted pretty good. I have always enjoyed watching Brett Favre play and his passion for the game is infectious.

    I just had doubts over how long he would last this season.

    And there is no doubt the Vikings are a better team with Favre at the helm. In fact, now he is healthy, they should do their very best to make sure he returns in 2010.

  • Comment number 9.

    Number 4, if you read the article you'll see that the headline is fair, as Neil absolutely slates Favre.

    As others have said, good to see a journo eating humble pie for once!

  • Comment number 10.

    This is one of the finest blog and comments I've seen in a long time.
    Thanks to all.

    Go, Brett, Go!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Further to your September blog - I had originally planned to question your rotator cuff statement statement back then - must have slipped my mind. Being the pedant I am though, according to the majority of Press reports; Favre's late 2009 collapse was more to do with his partially torn right biceps tendon that was surgically repaired in May, than it was to with the small tear in his rotator cuff. The consensus being that due to the calcification found, the injury was likely to be a few years old.

  • Comment number 12.

    Also, my good folks....please remember that last years Jets "collapse" was primarilly my humble opinion, to the Jet defense being manhandled. The Bills ran up and down the field all day on them and the Seahawks Seneca Wallace looked like Joe Montana against them. Their lack of protection got Favre banged up and hurt. I was at every Jet home game last season and at the end, Favre was runnin' for his life.
    Sonny Crockett

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you, Neil, for a great article on our hero. I kept ( just ask my wife ) everybody in Wisconsin (and as far back as August) that Brett could make the Vikings a complete team. Brett has amazing talent, wisdom, and passion for the game like no other playing today in the NFL. Sure, there is Manning and Brees, but they do not come close to the “Favre Effect”. Brett was phenomenal in Green Bay, great with the Jets, and now he is having a personal best, record breaking season with the Vikings. Give Brett a good team, and he will make them champions. He truly is the “prophet” of the American gridiron. He is a unique man, football player, and humanitarian.
    Patrick T. Randolph

  • Comment number 14.

    P.S. What Brett does for the fans and children off the field (as one noted earlier) is awe-inspiring. I like what an NFL pundit said, the NFL stands for the "National Favre League".
    Patrick T. Randolph

  • Comment number 15.

    I hope (as tipped earlier) the Favre fairytale continues and i believe this will as the vikings have history on their side, namely the fact that no team beaten by the Buccaneers in the regular season has made it to the superbowl that year!

    Long may the curse o' Davey Jones locker continue!!! arrrgghh me hearties.

    on a more serious note the NFCCG is going to be an awesome spectacle, just a shame it can't be the main event.
    also i can see the blitz heavy defence of the Jets ruffling Manning and possibly edging the Jets through to Miami.

    neck on the chopping block, i'm going for.....


  • Comment number 16.

    A Colts-Saints or Colts-Vikings match-up would have some tremendous storylines and both would present mouth-watering offensive shootout prospects.

    Which means it's written in the stars that the Jets will sneak through to Miami and send reporters scurrying off to find some good storylines in a hurry.

    How about Jonathan Vilma seeks revenge on the Jets? I admit though, it would be quite interesting to see Favre take on the team he played for just a year ago. Not sure it would be quite as spicy as his two meetings with the Packers, however.

  • Comment number 17.

    the last superbowl i saw which pitted a top offence against a top defence was superbowl XXXVII (sorry neil) in which the Buccaneers came out on top against the Raiders. apart from us winning the 'Bowl by such a high scoreline, the game itself wasn't a great spectacle and i don't think the Jets v the Vikes would be either.

    what is certain is the press would have a field day... Jets couldn't get there with Favre, Viking couldn't get there without him. Old Man River v The New Gun; it just goes on really.

    what do make of the history of no team being beaten by the bucs making the superbowl, Neil?

    actual curse, phycolgical or mere coincidence!

  • Comment number 18.

    I think it must be purely physical - the Buccaneers do a great job of beating opponents up when they win that they simply cannot recover !!

    That is said with tongue firmly in cheek... I would say it is purely a coincidence.

  • Comment number 19.

    personaly i think it's the phycological factor the team has do deal with, and never can recover from the shame for 3-4 months.

    how i long to turn the clock back 10 years (sighs and looks longingly into the distance)

  • Comment number 20.

    #9 - I did read the article and yes the headline was fair, my comment asked why the blogger himself does not write the headlines? It surprised me that someone else would simply read the article and make up the headline themselves (whether fair or not).

  • Comment number 21.

    You really have to live in Minnesota to fully understand the feelings of angst and trepidation, the wailing, gnashing of teeth and hand-ringing that Vikings fans normally go through as game day approaches; made even worse if the team is on the road and the game is to be shown on prime time.

    Not really related to the blog, but there are some good jokes doing the rounds of the frozen state that are helping keep people somewhat distracted ahead of this weekends show down in New Orleans. Then again though, you really have to live here to fully appreciate Sven, Ole, Lena et al....

    Go Vikes!

    Ole & Sven died and went to hell. The devil walked by and they were sitting their with their winter coats still on. The devil asked, "Aren't you hot?" Ole replied, "Nah, you need to remember dat ve is from Minnesota where it is very cold, this feels very gute to us." This infuriated the devil and he turned the heat up 200 degrees! The next day the devil again passed by and there were Ole and Sven with their winter coats still on! The devil again asked, "Aren't you hot?" Sven replied, "Nah, you need to remember dat ve is from Minnesota where it is very, very cold, the heat is good for our muscles and soothes da aches and pains." This infuriated the devil even more and he turned the heat up to the maximum temperature! When the devil walked past Ole and Sven the next day, there they were, their winter coats were now unzipped, but still on! The devil screamed at them, "Aren't you hot with your winter coats on?" Both Ole and Sven replied, "Nah, you need to remember dat ve is from Minnesota where it is always very cold, this is very nice for us." The devil was determined to make them suffer. He decided to punish Ole and Sven by making hell colder than Minnesota. He turned the furnaces of hell completely off and it became very, very cold. Ice hung from the caverns of hell, frost was everywhere. When the devil approached Ole and Sven they could be seen jumping up and down and cheering and giving each other high five's. The devil could not believe this. He asked them, "Now it is colder than Minnesota - how can you be happy? Ole and Sven replied, "Ve were always told dat when hell freezes over, da Vikings would win da super bowl!"

  • Comment number 22.

    Excellent joke,Turvey!!!! Ve are from Visconsin, ya. Your simblings of the cold!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Neil - enjoyed that.

    No' 3 (Sonny) were the Packers merely not doing what they thought was best for the long term future of the Packers ?
    No question Favre gave years of dedicated service and will always be a Green Bay legend, but I don't see the issue in a franchise saying thanks, but we've got a new guy, do you fancy mentoring him for a year or so to ensure there is long term success here ?

    Favre is still a good QB but he's made to look better by the protection his o-line provide and the running game that AP offers, he's also been helped along by the emergence of rookie Percy Harvin who looks a bit special for me and Shianco who is a decent TE, throw in Rice and Berrian and there are enough weapons there any half decent QB would make good use of.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nice post, Neil. The big surprise as you pointed out is how Favre has transformed the Vikes O into a passing machine. Unlike you, I thought Favre would do well at the Vikes - because Peterson would carry the offense and ensure Favre wasn't overworked. So I was wrong too, Favre owns this offense (As underlined when he had his chat with Childress).

    I also think Sonny's comments are a great contribution. Favre is grossly unfairly treated on his two moves since leaving the Pack. On his first move, Favre had given all he could to the Pack. Yeah, the franchise had been great to him too, but when they made the (fully justifiable) call to go with Rogers, they should have allowed Favre to make his own mind up on his future. He'd earned that right.

    The acrimony was really, really unfortunate, but it was brought on by the Packers' management who were badly insensitive to Favre's interests.

    Cue the Jets, where I think there were three issues. First, the offensive line got progressively weaker through the season. Second, Mangini. Third, New York - the media spotlight is so much more intense in the Big Apple than anywhere else bar Dallas, and Favre grew to dislike New York as much as he grew to dislike playing for Mangini's team.

    Next, why did he take so long to sign for the Vikes? Two things surely - first, the Jets experience left a sour taste and he must have been questioning if he wanted to risk a repeat this season. Second, it was the Vikes! It was inevitable he'd have thought long and hard about whether he wanted to join his erstwhile divisional rivals.

    But in the end, as you say, Favre wants to play. And the Vikes are a team in their prime; he knew he had a shot at a Superbowl at this franchise, that's why he there, and he may just get the ultimate payback.

    I've predicted Colts and Vikes this weekend - Vikes because of their defense mainly, and the Colts because the Jets won't get by again on missed field goals.

  • Comment number 25.

    As my money this year went on Chargers for the AFC and Eagles for the NFC, I am looking at these Championship games from a totally impartial view, but cannot avoid the home advantage counting for a helluva lot. Saints (with everything NO has been through) and Colts fans will just create too much for the respective opponents. Having never made it to a NFL game (a few pre-season games don't count), what are people's take on this massive home advantage and how many "away" fans to the Championship games get?

  • Comment number 26.

    On the home advantage front, you have to consider what many of the commentators say about the crowd noise and audibles. People with the first-hand knowledge of these games, such as Troy Aikman, say that playing away in a dome is very hard because you cant hear the play calls properly. If thats the case, then the two first seeds should walk away with these matches.

    As a Denver fan, I am totally neutral at this point, and also my pre season pick went out last weekend (Baltimore). As a neutral, I would love to see #4 get a second superbowl ring, and also take the last couple of records he is just short of. Brett Favre is guaranteed a hall of fame spot regardless, but for his Iron Man streak alone, he deserves to go out in a blaze of glory.

    Whether he can get there against the Colts is another issue, because they are sure to get past the Jets. That match puts me very much in mind of the Superbowl 3 years ago, when the Colts got past another team with an outstanding defence and no passing game.

  • Comment number 27.

    BarrySanders20 - I assume your question regarding "away" fans refers to ticket allocations? If so, then over here this is an alien concept. If a supporter wants to attend an away game, then typically he, or she, has to fend for themselves; either obtaining tickets from the ground Ticket Office or other mainstream ticket outlets like TicketMaster or the NFL Ticket Exchange. The lack of accommodation, for what you would regard as a travelling fan (don't forget the sheer distances involved & travel costs too), adds another dimension to home field advantage. As an organisation, the Vikings have no tickets to sell to their own fans for the Championship game; meaning that if they want to attend the game, they will have to be creative about how they go about it and have a lot of cash at their disposal as well. According to news reports, the Saints organisation will be trying all manner of ways to ensure that tickets do not fall into the hands of Vikings fans. All in all, if you were to estimate the number of "away" fans attending the game this weekend, I think all you can say is that it will be a number greater than or equal to zero!

  • Comment number 28.

    Cheers for that... a lot clearer now. i kinda knew that due to the reasons you list (distances, travel etc.) One of the main reasons I asked is that I noticed at the Dallas vs Minnesota game there seemed to be cheering when Dallas did something good - which was rare in that match I admit - wonder why that was or I may have been imagining.


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