Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Favre: It's all about him now
By Jeffri Chadiha ESPN.com
It's obvious that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre didn't learn some valuable lessons from his single season with the New York Jets. If he had, he wouldn't have shown up in Minnesota nearly three weeks after his teammates started training camp. That's the first thing we should've questioned in Favre's latest return from retirement. He still has no clue how selfish his recent actions appear to those who've followed his Hall of Fame career.
At this point, it's fair to say Favre will have to lead the Vikings to a championship for this entire soap opera to have any merit. That's the kind of pressure that's on his shoulders now that he has finally signed a two-year, $25 million deal in Minnesota. But what's far more interesting is how Favre has become the NFL's biggest diva in just two short years. You have to admit that his latest comeback is far more audacious than his attempt to strong-arm his way back into Green Bay last summer.
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Somebody please tell me how a 39-year-old man who hadn't spent a minute practicing with his new teammates before Tuesday is going to be Minnesota's savior this season. It's not as if Favre is a cornerback or a punt returner who just needs to regain his feel for the game. Hello, he's the quarterback. That title alone demands that he spend as much time as possible developing valuable chemistry with his receivers and gaining the trust of his other teammates.
Granted, Favre has the advantage of returning to the same West Coast offense that he ran for 16 seasons in Green Bay, and he's playing for two friends -- Vikings coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- who certainly know his strengths and weaknesses. But this really isn't about how the Vikings will tailor their system to fit Favre's talents. It's about how Favre once again has proved himself to be more of a prima donna than anybody ever imagined.
As much as Favre spent part of his Tuesday news conference talking about how great a teammate he has been, the fact is that few recent teammates have been saying the same thing about him. It's hard to remember anybody from the Jets standing up for Favre when anonymous team sources were ripping him for being aloof during his few months in New York. You also can bet many Packers weren't too thrilled by all the drama he created with his attempted return to their team last summer. Let's face it: Favre has cared more about getting his way lately than he's cared about being the ultimate team player.
That's the only part of his legacy that he has really been tarnishing these days. While his place among the game's all-time greats will never be in question, Favre has undergone a stark transformation over the past two years. He used to be a passionate, charismatic, fun-loving guy who was as genuine as they came. Now he's just insecure, indecisive and manipulative, a man who clearly has shown us why the Packers finally got tired of dealing with his difficult ways in the first place.
It's utterly laughable that Favre expects people to believe the entire courtship process with the Vikings didn't hinge on one thing: his desire to avoid Minnesota's training camp. Sure, it's easy to understand that a man with his experience wouldn't want to face the grind of two-a-days. But the reality is that most NFL players can't stand training camp, including many who will be sharing a locker room with him this fall. They found a way to get through the dog days and Favre should've done the same.
The fact is that Favre probably will catch on quickly to the offensive system that Childress and Bevell want to run. What he can't do is compensate for all the bonding he missed by putting off his return until now. As corny as it sounds, winning football teams start creating their unity during the spring and summer months that Favre so desperately wanted to spend at his Mississippi home. Every coach will tell you that it's a process that is essential to the game.
However, Favre clearly sees himself as the exception here. That's the gunslinger in him coming out once again. Even with a slight tear in his right rotator cuff and the memories of how badly his 2008 season ended (the Jets finished 1-4 as he struggled with a torn right biceps tendon), Favre clearly believes he has plenty more to offer an NFL team. As he acknowledged Tuesday, the Vikings are a perfect fit for him at this stage of his career.
What Favre doesn't seem to realize is that a perfect fit should work both ways. While the Vikings can offer Favre a talented supporting cast, he also has to be willing to offer those teammates more than he's given at this point. That's because all Favre has produced to date is half-truths, subterfuge and an ability to avoid the long hours his fellow players already have put in for the team. He has won enough in this league to know he owes them more than a wink, a smile and a guarantee of highlight-reel throws this fall.
That's why it will be fascinating to see how this plays out for Favre in Minnesota. He has everything he could want, from a familiar system and friendly coaches to a schedule that offers him two cracks at beating up on the Packers. But there's also a heavy price to be paid for his decision to blow off all the work the Vikings already have done. Let's hope he eventually understands that before this season comes to a conclusion.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.