The Final Drive
The last drive of the NFC Championship by the Vikings against the Saints on Sunday was in many ways a microcosm of Brett Favre's career.
It featured a magnificent pass to get the Vikings within range to win the game, a Favreian laser threaded in the only place it could have been put, thrown by an injured and battered warrior showing toughness that has long been his trademark. With a kind of John Wayne/John Elway limp/walk, he was poised to bring his team into the Promised Land. But then there was the catastrophic event, the pass where coaches, teammates, fans and media all yell "NO!", the dreaded throw that Brett had managed to avoid for all but a few plays this entire season.
Brett did not lose that game, but that pass will live on as the one two years ago against the Giants. He spent a career throwing bullet passes that only a handful of quarterbacks can throw and played through incomparable pain and injury (his pristine joints are phenomenons in the world of sports medicine), but also has in his history some by these maddening flings.
So now Brett has fired up the plane from the frigid Midwest to take him to his refuge in Southern Mississippi, an end of season egress he has made so many times, just now with the outbound from a little west of Green Bay.
He will spend time on the tractor, hunting deer, and ignoring calls and texts until he decides not to. He will say he is deciding on whether to play again, but will only think about it when the Vikings call to ask for a decision. He will continue to be a prankster, exchanging barbs with friends, family and agent Bus Cook. He will say that the records and the legacy are not important to him, and some people will actually believe him.
Was the signing of Brett Favre by the Vikings a success? My answer would be, even as a rival of the Vikings for many years, an unqualified yes. We can all wax on about Brett riding off in to the sunset with a Super Bowl trophy, but how many of us really thought that would happen?
Although the Viking franchise appears no closer to its revenue-generating objective of having public funding for a new stadium (one of their reasons for signing Favre), the Vikings became significant in 2009-2010. With essentially the same team in 2008 except for the quarterback position, they were a mildly interesting and successful team, but not embedded in the national consciousness as this team had become. In the landscape of sports and teams all competing for some slice of pertinence, Brett Favre made the Vikings relevant on and off the field.
Brett and Deanna felt comfortable in Minnesota back in his adopted home of the Midwest, away from the foreign life he led in northern Jersey last year, and he was a genuinely popular teammate despite missing the offseason and displacing two quarterbacks.
Will He or Won't He?
I think Brett will be back, but I have always thought Brett would come back year after year. One thing about Brett: he is easily bored, which is one reason he hates the tedium of the offseason and training camp.
Brett loves the games and the competition. He enjoys the banter in the facility, especially with the "back room guys" -- trainers, equipment guys and security guards. He is the ultimate prankster, snapping towels and passing gas through the locker room. Those gags are fairly incomplete away from the team setting. He will miss that, as will his teammates miss him. And, of course, the 13M waiting for him does not hurt; even though Brett will say he doesn't even know what he makes and ask you to borrow $20.
The question for the Vikings is if they will allow Brett to show up when the lights come on while the rest of team goes through its offseason regimens. My sense is the Vikings will allow it, with some modest requirements, and Brett will be back. Yes, he is 40, but he'll be retired the rest of his life whenever he stops playing
So the inexorable Favre watch begins again, but there is no need for us to engage in it, just as Brett won't engage in any of it for a while. At some point, he'll probably be back and the Vikings will welcome him with open arms. As a couple senior team officials told me, Brett had a fantastic impact on their organization that will carry forward long after he's gone, whenever that time is.
Brett was good for the Vikings and the Vikings were good for Brett, a welcome refuge from a messy divorce across state lines. They probably deserve another year together to both continue their drive for a new stadium, a Super Bowl and a ride off into the twilight.