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With the Saints winning the NFC Championship game, ending the Vikings’ season, there is an inevitable question that we must ask: Is this Brett Favre‘s last year? To be sure, he proved he can still play at the professional level, leading a talented team nearly to the Super Bowl (“nearly” being the operative word). And yet, it is difficult to look at this season and see it as anything but the swan song for an aging quarterback. It was good, but not good enough to merit return next year.
When it comes down to it, wins and losses are really all that matters. The Vikings went 12-4 under Brett Favre’s command this year. And he really did command. He was more than a role player on this team: he was a leader. The stats (4200 yards, 33 touchdowns, a QB rating of over 107, and just 7 interceptions) back up this claim. Brett Favre proved this year that he could rise to the challenge the Vikings put before him by offering him $12 million to come out of retirement one more time. He had a phenomenal season, avoided injuries, and led his team to second place in the NFC and a first-round bye for the playoffs. He looked terrific against Dallas, but then everything went to mush against the Saints.
Against New Orleans, Favre threw for two interceptions and muffed a handoff that resulted in a lost fumble. The second interception was by far the more costly. The Vikings were already inside the kicking range of Ryan Longwell, and they had a time out. On the Vikings’ last play in regulaton, Favre was flushed from the pocket and rolled to his right. He did not have a man open, but when he got to the line of scrimmage he opted to try and jam a pass into double coverage. New Orleans read the play, undercut the throw and picked it off. While this did not lead to a score, it cost the Vikings a decent shot at winning the game.
Favre made the wrong decision, it’s as plain as that. Faced with a choice, Favre thought he could jam the ball into a double-covered receiver and pick up a few more yards, making it an easier kick. Had he tucked the ball and opted to run, he probably would’ve picked up nearly as many yards. But if he decided not to run, he should have just tossed the ball out of bounds. Hindsight may be 20-20, but there’s no way to look at this play and not question Favre’s decision-making skills. The risks (interception) of that pass far outweighed the potential rewards (6 yards) of it, not to mention that same yardage was available if Favre had just run the ball.
Like so many other playoff games, Favre fell back on old habits and regressed to the inconsistency that has plagued him his entire career. Favre-lovers call him a “gunslinger.” This is just a kind way of calling him inconsistent and not-clear thinking. No other elite quarterback, given that situation, would have made the choice he did. Not Drew Brees, not Tom Brady, and not Peyton Manning.
The passing game has changed since the 1990s. It’s now OK to throw the ball away in lieu of making a bad pass, and every other top quarterback in the league knows when to hold it and knows when to fold it. Brett Favre still has not learned that yet. He still doesn’t quite get it. And as long as that’s the case, he will continue to throw interceptions in key situations, as he has during so many playoff games throughout his career.
The game has passed Brett Favre by, and it’s long past time Brett Favre called it a career. He can no longer win a championship, not with decision-making skills as poor as his. Were he to come back, I fear it would be as bad as his season with the Jets. So I say, so long Brett, it was fun while it lasted!