Three Brett Favre thoughts, and one strong opinion about why the consecutive-games record will be the one he values most when he's back home in Mississippi sitting on the tractor:
1. The consecutive-game record should be 321 straight, not 297. Defenses don't hit softer in the playoffs.
2. I agree with Ed Werder: It makes more sense for Favre to not play in the last three games than it makes for him to play now that Minnesota is out of it. There's no sense in pushing a three-week injury when the games mean nothing.
3. The Vikings need to play Tarvaris Jackson the final 12 quarters of the season. If he doesn't play, Minnesota will wonder in the offseason whether to re-sign Jackson for 2011, and really have no solid feeling one way or the other.
Now for the streak and how Favre views it. He seemed mostly subdued -- maybe relieved -- last night in discussing it. But I can tell from being around him over the years that when the subject of records comes up, this is the gold standard. This is the one he cares about. Even when he was about to break Dan Marino's record for career touchdown passes three years ago, I never sensed it was a record he particularly revered. And he certainly didn't think he would keep that record, and most others, away from Peyton Manning for long. "Peyton's probably going to break them all,'' he said to me that September day in Minnesota when he threw a touchdown pass against the Vikings to pass Marino. "Who are we kidding?''
As it stands, Manning has started 205 straight regular-season games, 93 shy of breaking Favre's mark. Including playoff games, Manning's streak is at 223, 99 short of a new record. Doing the math, Manning will need to play six more seasons to break Favre's regular-season mark and average one postseason game in each year to break the playoff record. (If the NFL goes to 18-game seasons, the math obviously changes. Stay tuned.)
The game streak was more important to Favre, because it said a lot more about him as a player and a teammate. It said to Antonio Freeman and Chad Clifton and LeRoy Butler and Mark Chmura and Frank Winters:
From being around the Packers a lot in the '90s, I can tell you his attitude won that locker room. Favre wasn't the kind to have a lot of guys from the team over to his house at all hours. He wasn't the kind of guy (at least not after his first few seasons as a wild and crazy Packer) to bar-hop. He had to be the leader on the field more than off. And those teammates respected what he was as a player between the lines, even if they didn't know him as well as many teammates know their quarterbacks.
What Favre learned from his hard-bitten football-coaching dad Irvin was excuses didn't matter. Nothing mattered except being out there and playing as hard as you could and winning the game. Nothing. So it was important to Favre that his teammates knew he wasn't going to shirk any of his duties for those 60 minutes.When he stayed in the pocket until the last possible moment before getting clobbered, that was the football mentality that had been drilled into him, much of it by his dad.
One of the reasons I think Manning will break the record -- and why Favre, six years from now, will be disappointed about it -- is because he doesn't take the hits Favre took. Manning knows when to throw it away or throw quick when the blitz is coming. Manning knows when to live for another day. Favre never played a snap like that. Not saying Manning's wrong; he's not. But the amount of punishment Manning has taken is a fraction of what Favre took. Manning has come close to missing a game, really, only once, when he was coming back from his second knee staph infection at the opening of the 2008 season. Other than that, he's never really been hurt. That's a credit to him, obviously, and his good health. But Favre took some hellacious hits, and I can't really remember too many hellacious hits on Manning.
Finally, this point: Favre's legacy is clouded by many events of the past two or three years. His waffling, his carpetbagging, his terrible interceptions -- one to Corey Webster of the Giants in overtime in the NFC title game three years ago, one last year at the end of regulation against the Saints in the NFC title game. And this still-to-be-adjudicated dalliance or non-dalliance with Jenn Sterger. How will history remember him?
I'd love to know how the average football fan will remember Favre in, say, 2020. Will fans remember the tarnished last three years more than the previous 15? I think back to Jerry Rice, who basically went knocking on any NFL door to try to keep playing seven years ago, and how revered he is today. The Favre story is very different, for many reasons. But I think the day he walks into Canton -- in 2016, unless he stuns us all again next summer -- most people will remember the gunslinger, one, and the amazing durability, two.
Now onto your e-mail:
• I WONDER IF THIS IS
Well, I'm not sure I am. You aren't the only one to make this point, or one like it, and my point, very simply, is I believe Aaron Rodgers would have put more than three points on the board in the final 35 minutes of the game. This is a guy who'd completed 74 percent of his throws in the previous four games, with 11 touchdowns and no picks -- one of the best quarterbacks in football. You act like games are 25 minutes long. You think Rodgers wouldn't have made any plays to score in the second half? I'm not buying that.
• THE PANTHERS TICKET SITUATION IS NOT AS SIMPLE AS YOU THINK.
Good point, Terry. Thanks for writing, and for educating me.
• THE BACKUP HAS DIFFERENT ROLES ON DIFFERENT TEAMS.
Good question. Teams have differing philosophies with the backup quarterback, some of it depending on whether your team is keeping two or three quarterbacks. Mostly, if the starter is healthy, the starter will take almost all of the snaps in practice. Different teams do the scout team in different ways. The Broncos, for instance, use both Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow in varying amounts during the week as the scout team quarterback. Some teams, if they're facing an athletic quarterback who runs a lot will use, say, a defensive back who might have played quarterback in high school as a scout team quarterback, to simulate the kind of mobility the defense might see in the game. Your point is a good one. I think teams like the Patriots (with Brian Hoyer) and Packers (with Matt Flynn) should play their backups whenever the situation presents itself -- say, in the fourth quarter when the game's out of reach, either way.
• THIS IS A MORE IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR THE BENGALS, TO ME, THAN WHO THEIR COACH IS IN 2011.
My feeling is the Bengals should listen to offers for Palmer. Maybe from Miami, maybe from the 49ers, maybe from the Cardinals, maybe from Minnesota. But if the Bengals consider Hue Jackson for the head-coaching job, he might feel he can do something positive with Palmer. But I do think it's at least worth exploring.