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What seemed like an absurd fantasy mere days ago has become reality.
First, the New York Jets convinced Brett Favre they were worth his energy. Then they offered the Green Bay Packers enough to beat out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and close the deal.
The Jets, inspired by neither Chad Pennington nor Kellen Clemens, acquired the charismatic leader they sorely needed to galvanize a revamped roster and make a run into the playoffs. The cost was believed to be a fourth-round draft pick that increases in value depending on how the Jets perform in the 2008 season. According to the NFL Network, if Favre takes 50 percent of total snaps with the Jets in 2008, the fourth-rounder becomes a third-round pick. If he gets 70 percent of the snaps and the Jets make the playoffs, it becomes a second-round pick; and if he gets 80 percent of snaps and the Jets make the Super Bowl, it becomes a first-round pick.
And, rest assured, this move makes the rest of the AFC East nervous. Teams knew they could stop Pennington or Clemens.
Favre's presence not only improves the offense; it shapes a franchise-wide mentality that anything is possible.
The Jets' front office had been satisfied with the rest of their roster, especially their upgrades on the offensive line and their defensive front seven. But they were anxious about their most important position. They privately wanted Clemens to seize the job, but he didn't respond. Pennington, a player who openly wondered if the Jets wanted him to lose the competition, was a little better -- and that wasn't acceptable.
The other players felt it. None of the quarterbacks in camp offered credibility in their teammates' eyes. The holdovers watched Pennington and Clemens struggle during a 4-12 season. The big-ticket newcomers -- many of them handpicked for their wisdom -- were leery by what they saw so far in camp.
Jets coach Eric Mangini, on the eve of their preseason opener Thursday night in Cleveland, refused to announce a starter for the game.
Favre, however, would have been an improvement even if Clemens had established any sort of authority.
Favre will turn 39 in October, but he is coming off a sensational season. He completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 4,155 yards and 28 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. He had a 95.7 passer rating, the third-best of his career and his highest since 1996.
Here's a little perspective: Favre last year would have set Jets franchise records for completions and passing yardage and would have been one touchdown short of tying that mark, too.
The Jets are bent on reaching the postseason and becoming relevant again in a market dominated by the New York Yankees and the defending Super Bowl
champion New York Giants.
For starters, the Jets brought in perennial Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca, right tackle Damien Woody, fullback Tony Richardson and outside linebacker Calvin Pace. They traded two draft picks for run stuffer Kris Jenkins.
Jets owner Woody Johnson ran the risk of throwing away his investments without a quarterback who could bring it all together.
Now, they have that man.
There was a sense of urgency on all sides to strike a deal. The Packers needed to unload the sports world's biggest sideshow and end a story line that was trumping the Olympics.
The Jets needed to bring in Favre as soon as possible to learn the offense. They made the trade 32 days before they'll open their season Sept. 7 at the Miami Dolphins.
Mangini and his staff believe he can pick up about 50 or 60 percent of the playbook, enough to run a capable game plan. Suffice to say, Favre at 60 percent will elicit grins from Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery.
Favre hasn't worked with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer or quarterbacks coach Brian Daboll, but he should be familiar with the work of assistant head coach and offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Callahan was the Oakland Raiders' offensive coordinator under Jon Gruden, who was an offensive assistant with the Packers from 1992 through 1994. Callahan surely will be pivotal in helping Favre assimilate from an offense he knew cold to another one.
An extra benefit of the deal is Favre's likely influence on Clemens, a third-year pro from Oregon who won the job from Pennington last year but performed unconvincingly.
Clemens has the potential but simply isn't ready. A season or two under Favre should do wonders for the kid's development.
Pennington is likely gone. Clemens is 25 and was drafted by the current front office. Pennington is 32 and makes too much money for a player the front office doesn't trust with the job.
Favre gives the Jets a whole lot of what they were lacking. He brings unquestioned leadership, an impeccable resume and a playful swagger his teammates will embrace.
The Jets pulled it off.
If Favre can pull the Jets into the playoffs, he will have been worth all the fuss.