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Sports Then and Now

Favre Streak Ends, But Legend Grows

Posted on December 14, 2010 by Dean Hybl

After 297 consecutive NFL starts, Brett Favre watched from the sidelines Monday night.

Brett Favre’s streak of 297 straight NFL starts ended Monday night in Detroit, but ironically, the end of the streak could actually do more to enhance the quarterback’s legacy than if he would have played against the Giants.

Once one of the most admired and beloved players in the NFL, the last three years have not been kind to the veteran signal caller.

The worst thing a player can be labeled in professional sports is selfish or self-centered. With his annual “will he or won’t he” saga, Favre’s indecision has turned many former admirers into critics.

Favre has always been seen as a tough and hard-nosed player who left everything on the field. However, over the last several years many have believed that Favre was more concerned about playing to preserve and grow his own legacy than to actually help his team win.

After three straight off-seasons of wondering if Favre would return, the Green Bay Packers finally gave up and moved on with Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback.

During his single season with the New York Jets, Favre started out strong, but injuries late in the season reduced his effectiveness and cost the Jets a playoff spot. Favre’s eventual admission that he probably shouldn’t have been playing was seen by many as just another example of how the quarterback put his own records over the success of his team.

Favre engineered his exit from New York and after waiting until the end of training camp joined the Minnesota Vikings for the 2009 season.

While the mainstream media did everything they could to hype the 40-year-old Favre’s amazing season, he and the Vikings were met by a mix of indifference and ridicule by many fans who were conflicted as to whether to root for or against Favre.

When Favre ended an NFC Championship Game with an interception for the second time in three years it offered relief for many fans and set in motion the disaster of 2010.

Even though he didn’t officially return until mid-August, there was never any doubt that Brett Favre was going to return for the 2010 season. With the Vikings having been just one win short of the Super Bowl in 2009, it was too tantalizing an opportunity for Favre (or likely anyone else) to leave on the table.

Of course, Favre couldn’t just announce in June that he was going to return to the team after having ankle surgery. Instead, fans had to endure another round of “will he or won’t he” that culminated with a trip to Mississippi by a number of Vikings players to beg him to return.

However, from the beginning, the 2010 season was very different for Favre and the Vikings.

Favre always played with an enthusiasm that made him fun to watch.

One of the things that endeared Favre to the fans throughout his career was his “kid in the candy story” enthusiasm that was infectious and got everyone excited about the game. Favre didn’t invent the “Lambeau Leap”, but he was the quarterback of the fun-loving Packers when that exercise started and his joy and enthusiasm on the field was transcended to others who played with him.

From the very beginning of the 2010 season it was obvious that Favre wasn’t playing with the same level of enthusiasm and excitement as he had in the past.

Age and injuries were finally starting to take their toll on the man who turned 41 in October and it was clear that he knew it even before everyone else.

After a nearly flawless All-Pro season in 2009, Favre often looked like a 41-year-old on the field in 2010. Through the first 12 games he tossed only 10 touchdown passes, with 18 interceptions, while enduring a series of injuries.

Finally in the 12th game of the season against Buffalo, Favre was dropped to the turf early in the game and injured his shoulder. He didn’t return to the game and that led to a week of drama as to whether Favre would be under center against the New York Giants the following week.

Starting at quarterback in the NFL is hard. There are few jobs where you have to be both physically and mentally completely alert for every single second while 300-pound men are chasing you with their sole mission being to knock you to the ground.

That Brett Favre started 297 straight games at quarterback is one of the most amazing accomplishments in NFL history. However, his antics of the last couple years have in some ways trivialized his accomplishment. It was easy to dismiss the streak as just a hallow record with the argument that Favre was just playing for the streak and was no longer playing for his team.

Given that he couldn’t lift his arm and throw in practice all week, had Favre strapped on his helmet and gone out there against the Giants without being able to really help his team it might have been the final nail in the coffin of Favre’s legacy. Instead of being seen as gallant, Favre would have forever been exposed as selfish and self-serving.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that seemingly forgone conclusion.

Whether it was his body finally telling him that enough was enough or his mind finally realizing that he had done enough, Favre didn’t suit up against the Giants and instead watched in street clothes from the sideline as Minnesota lost 21-3.

Sure Favre’s streak fell three games short of the magical 300, but by sitting out, Favre reminded fans across the NFL that there is more to being a quarterback in the NFL than just putting on the equipment and going out there every week.

Great quarterbacks go out onto the field ready to give it everything they have and for 297 straight games Favre did exactly that. It may not have always been pretty, but it was always everything he had and often it was magical.

And when he no longer could do that, instead of going through the motions to extend a record, Favre stood on the sidelines and let someone else give it their best shot.

Now, instead of concentrating on his self absorption, maybe we can get back to remembering that for two decades Favre has been one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

No quarterback has won more games, thrown more touchdown passes or accumulated more passing yards in the NFL than the gunslinger from Southern Mississippi.

Many fans have spent the last three years just wishing Favre would retire before he completely tarnishes his legacy. Now, I’m betting everyone is hoping he will make it back one final time so we can all give him his just do and watch him out there competing just once more.

His legacy is certainly different than it would have been had he left the NFL wearing the green and gold of the Packers, but by continuing to play and now by stepping aside when he couldn’t go anymore, Favre has forever reminded fans that being a quarterback in the NFL isn’t easy and that he was indeed one of the all-time greats.

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