Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Favre's 'final' audible ill-timed
By Jeffri Chadiha
It made sense when Brett Favre was so angry with the Green Bay Packers that he turned last offseason into his own personal circus.
It also was understandable when he struggled to connect with some of his teammates on the New York Jets and ultimately opted for retirement for the second time in less than a year.
But now that Favre has turned his back on the Minnesota Vikings after nearly three months of suspense, it's time to call him out for this latest bit of news. That's because it clearly is the lamest move this quarterback has made over the past three years.
Before we go further, let me make this clear: I have no problem with Favre's decision to stay retired. My issue with Favre, as usual, comes down to timing. He easily could have chosen to avoid a return to the field when it became apparent earlier this offseason that the Vikings were interested in his services. Instead, he did what he always does: He hemmed and hawed until he eventually was backed into a corner and forced to make a decision.
For those who've forgotten, Favre was the one who demanded that the Jets release his rights a few weeks after he retired in February, presumably because he wanted to keep his options open. He also was the one who underwent surgery on the torn biceps tendon in his right arm and publicly told at least one media member (Joe Buck, during the debut of his HBO show) that he was interested in playing in Minnesota. There were even reports that Favre's family members had found a condominium in suburban Minneapolis. If Favre really was going to be watching football on his sofa this fall, he had a funny way of showing it to the Vikings.
The problem here is that Favre left head coach Brad Childress in a sticky situation. Childress now has to go to quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels and convince them that this entire episode doesn't say anything about the team's confidence in them. But Childress surely has to know how that will play. It would be one thing if the Vikings just flirted with the possibility of acquiring Favre, but their pursuit of the 18-year veteran made it clear that he would be the team's savior if acquired.
To understand how detrimental the Favre effect can be on a team, just look at how he affected three separate franchises last season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw quarterback Jeff Garcia become sullen after then head coach Jon Gruden openly revealed his interest in trading for Favre. The New York Jets dumped Chad Pennington after acquiring Favre and then watched Pennington win the AFC East with the Miami Dolphins. And let's not forget how Favre's drama played out in Green Bay last offseason. Even Packers linebacker Nick Barnett acknowledged that the Packers already are in a better mental state now that they don't have to deal with that sideshow this year.
It would be wrong to say that Favre personally derailed those teams' playoff hopes -- and not one of them reached the postseason -- but he certainly didn't help their causes. And now the Vikings are about to learn just how hard it is to move forward after an offseason of hoping he'd be on the Minnesota roster. Sure, the Vikings' players currently are saying all the right things about looking ahead and not wanting this to become a training camp distraction. But privately, they have to be thinking that this entire situation could have been resolved much sooner.
The reality here is that Favre could have been more conscientious to both Childress and Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, both of whom are his friends. They wanted him to make a decision on his career before offseason workouts ended and he passed. After that, they patiently monitored his progress and waited for his answer once Favre set July 30 as his decision-making deadline. Childress appeared to be compromising his demands on Favre at every turn and with good reason -- Childress thought he was about to hit the jackpot.
But here's where Childress and his team got bit in the backside. They forgot to pay attention to all the red flags that Favre has posted throughout his career. They obviously ignored the fact that Favre let his issues with Green Bay linger through most of last offseason and that Favre had taken long stretches in previous years to decide if he still wanted to play. Childress had plenty of opportunities to learn from those moments. Instead, he apparently let his friendship blind him to the possibility that he might get burned.
Look, Favre clearly is extremely talented in making people believe in him to that extent. He can get teams to fall in love with him and he always can get them to operate on the schedule he prefers. That's because he's at a point in his life where he really doesn't have to care about how his actions affect an organization. He's already gotten everything he ever wanted from his NFL experience.
In fact, that is probably the major reason why Favre backed out on the Vikings. He has the records, the awards and the Super Bowl ring to make him feel like another grueling season -- on sore ankles and knees no less -- wasn't really worth it. And the only other motivation he could have had to come back from retirement was a desire to stick it to Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, the man who supposedly ran Favre out of that town. It's now obvious that whatever animosity Favre still holds for Thompson can't fuel another season in the league.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they couldn't have known that when this entire affair started months ago. They were looking for a better option at quarterback and what they found was a man who always has liked the idea of having his ego stroked constantly. In the end, the Vikings gave Favre just what he needed in retirement, which is the feeling that some team couldn't succeed without his invaluable presence. The problem for the Minnesota Vikings is that they now have to find a way to do exactly that.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.