NFC North: Malcom Gladwell

Sifting through the Favre buildup

August, 18, 2009
8/18/09
1:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The slow leak leading up to Minnesota's pending acquisition of quarterback Brett Favre has been unlike any story I've covered. As a result, we already have covered many of this story's angles.

Rather than totally rehash those topics, I'll instead provide a series of links and summaries to the primary Favre-related posts. (This will be especially handy for those of you who refused to acknowledge this possibility until Favre formally and officially joined the Vikings. And it's also good for bloggers who were on vacation when this story finally reached its conclusion.)

 
  Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
  The Vikings hope Brett Favre can be the perfect complement to their run-first offensive mindset.

In reality, the topic of Minnesota upgrading its quarterback started in March with the Jay Cutler sweepstakes. In this March 3 post, we noted how the Vikings have spent lavishly at nearly every position in recent years except for quarterback:

The Vikings have signed 18 veterans at 16 different positions to contracts that total nearly $456 million [since 2006]. But less than two percent of that sum is devoted to the quarterback position. That is an irreconcilable dichotomy for a team with annual designs on a division title and beyond. Why devote so many resources to proven players at other positions while taking a chance at the most important one?

When news first broke of mutual interest between Favre and the Vikings, we wondered whether Favre's interest in the Vikings was based too much on his bitter departure from their division rival:

The NFL game is too difficult, and the stakes in this decision are simply too high, to play merely for the sake of pursuing a vendetta. Proving the Packers made a mistake by trading him last summer isn't a good enough reason to commandeer the most important position on a team that has designs on a deep playoff run.

On the same day (May 5), Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson offered a blistering explanation for why he believes Favre is the wrong fit for the Vikings:

Favre Signs With Vikings
ANALYSIS/FEATURES

Favre signs with Vikings
No camp? No problem
Favre vs. Vikings' schedule
Reaction from Green Bay
Pasquarelli: Nothing's for certain
NFL Nation on Favre's return
Fantasy: Risk vs. reward
Sifting through the buildup
Favre's top 10 moments
Vote: Favre's impact on Vikings

VIDEO

Carter rips handling of situation
Gruden, Jaws break down move
Mortensen on Favre's return
Schefter analysis

Williamson: "If I'm the Vikings, here's what I'm doing: I'm playing heavy, heavy defense. I'm using my big, bruising offensive line and I'm handing the ball to Adrian Peterson. And I want a veteran quarterback who knows what he's doing but isn't going to kill us. Just give me a caretaker, someone who won't inflict any wounds. That's not Brett Favre. From what I saw last year, I don't even know he's one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the league right now. He might be an improvement over what they have, but there are so many different ways I would have gone. Brett Favre is a terrible fit for what I think the Vikings should be doing."

A week later, we considered some in-depth statistical analysis that revealed Favre has slipped noticeably in the final five games of the past four seasons. Favre has especially struggled in late-season, cold weather games, once his calling card:

From the outside, at least, [the statistics] reveal a simple but valuable fact: He hasn't had the stamina to maintain acceptable production over a 16-game season for some time. Favre will turn 40 on Oct. 10, and while he has considerably outplayed younger quarterbacks in recent years, his bionic arm and body have revealed their limitations.

Lest we get too negative, we also offered an argument for why Favre -- late-season struggles and all -- is the Vikings' best alternative. This Band-Aid approach would win the approval of noted author Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell: "The Band-Aid solution is actually the best kind of solution because it involves solving a problem with the minimum amount of effort and time and cost. ... There are times when we need a convenient shortcut, a way to make a lot out of a little."

When the Band-Aid works best

May, 26, 2009
5/26/09
3:00
PM ET
 
  Al Pereira/Getty Images
  Bringing Brett Favre to Minnesota would be a short-term solution for the Vikings.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

OK, I promise to institute a statute of limitations on referencing my week off. Right after this one. While on vacation, I decided to jump on the Malcolm Gladwell bandwagon and start The Tipping Point. It was a productive read, if for no other reason than giving me a column idea.

Gladwell traces how broad success stories can start with "tightly focused, targeted interventions" rather than comprehensive grass-roots efforts. He referred to this concept as a "Band-Aid solution," which immediately reminded me of Matt Williamson's analysis of Minnesota and its pursuit of quarterback Brett Favre.

Maybe I have a one-track mind. (Based on your mailbag submissions, many you would agree.) But I thought Gladwell's defense of the Band-Aid solution offered relevance to the Favre situation as well as a number of other personnel matters in the NFC North.

I'm among those who blanch when teams makes changes for short-term gain when the long-term ramifications are less clear. Signing a 40-year-old quarterback. Trading high draft choices for veteran players. Hiring an internal coaching candidate for continuity rather than seeking new ideas. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things, it seems, and in sports many of us prefer the building process over the quick fix.

That lofty approach, according to Gladwell, is impractical if not impossible. "[Band-Aids] should not be considered a term of disparagement," he writes. Here's the rest of his argument:

"The Band-Aid is an inexpensive, convenient and remarkably versatile solution to an astonishing array of problems. In their history, Band-Aids have probably allowed millions of people to keep working or playing tennis or cooking for walking when they would otherwise have had to stop. The Band-Aid solution is actually the best kind of solution because it involves solving a problem with the minimum amount of effort and time and cost.

"We have, of course, an instinctive disdain for this kind of solution because there is something in all of us that feels that true answers to problems have to be comprehensive, that there is virtue in the dogged and indiscriminate application of effort, that slow and steady should win the race. The problem, of course, is that the indiscriminate application of effort is something that is not always possible. There are times when we need a convenient shortcut, a way to make a lot out of a little...."

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