Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Best Quarterback Ever.

I was all set for a different topic today and then I turned on the radio and heard that Brett Favre was retiring.

Brett Favre is The Best Quarterback. Ever. Period.

I don't want to get into stats or Superbowls or all that junk. Yes, Favre trails Elway and Montana and some other guys in terms of Superbowls won -- playing in two, winning one, both relatively early in his career. Yes, Favre has thrown more interceptions than any other QB in history (but he's started more consecutive games than any other QB, too, so that makes sense.) That all doesn't really matter, because Best-Ness is not about stats.

Best-Ness is about intangibles, and not the kind of intangibles that let you line up under center for every single game from the 3rd week of 1992 on-- the longest streak ever and one that will be hard to break.

Intangibles beyond that make one The Best and Favre has those intangibles.

I'll let you in on a secret: I didn't always like Brett. In fact, I thought it was a mistake to trade for him and a mistake to start him. I wasn't converted to a Brett fan until I found out that God liked Brett (and me, and the Packers) one day during a playoff game.

I don't usually call on God for favors in football; I don't like to use up the favors I get on things like football games. I never did it before this and I never did it after, but I was a younger guy then and didn't give much thought to how serious the world could be. So as I was watching Favre, as a younger guy (both of us were younger guys) run around the end at the end of a game against, I believe, the Falcons, in a game that the Packers had to win to either make or advance in the playoffs, I made a quick deal with God: Let him make it and I won't ever rip on him again.
Favre got in.

And I never ripped on or criticized him again, even while acknowledging his occasional bad plays.

But Favre had more going for him than simply being great or having God root for him. What Favre had was an obvious sense of enjoyment and fun playing the game. Those are the indelible images of Favre that stick in my head: Favre scrambling around, waving his arms, 'directing traffic,' to make a play. Favre getting admonished by Holmgren: no more rocketballs, please. Favre running down the field, arms upraised, after the first touchdown in his first Superbowl.

And, even more recently: Favre looked alive and vibrant against Denver. And he was throwing snowballs at people in the Seattle playoff game.

Brett Favre was, is, a throwback to a time when football was still a game. He played football in an era when offenses became more predictable, when press conferences stopped saying anything, when teams had more vice presidents of football operations than they had quarterbacks, when the NFL cracked down on headbands and shoes and nicknames and celebrations -- when the NFL became the "No Fun League," but Favre was still having fun. He was still playing sandlot football and throwing with the wrong mechanics and shovel-passing to get out of trouble.

Has any other quarterback ever become synonymous with the kind of football people like to watch and play? Favre was never about dink-and-dunk "West Coast Offense." Favre never spend a season handing off to the MVP of the team, never got lauded for 'playing smart' by throwing it out of bounds. He played football the way people are supposed to play a game -- to win and to have fun, and while his reasons were probably in that order, they were so close as to be almost tied. There's nobody playing football like him now. There's nobody that can jet a ball down the middle of the field, nobody that can turn nothing into something, nobody that can electrify and captivate the fans and the players, the way Brett Favre has for 17 years.

He's become larger than himself. What do you hear now when someone makes an amazing play? That was Favre-like. Someone scrambles around or heaves a pass down the field: He's like a young Brett Favre.

He started out as a quarterback, but he became an adjective. That's better than being a legend. Football, and I, will miss him.

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