Have gun, will unravel
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 07, 2005
By Cold, Hard Football Facts senior writer John Dudley
In the goal-post outpost known as Pigskintown, opinions used to roll down the dusty streets like tumbleweeds. No one paid them much mind or questioned where they came from. Player reputation was just accepted as reality.
Well, there's a new sheriff in town by the name of the Cold, Hard Football Facts. We have a sworn duty to rid these parts of "pundit"-prodded ignorance, and it's high time that we administered some frontier justice.
Green Bay's Brett Favre was once the ultimate gunslinger. When he ambled through the swinging doors of the gridiron saloon, everyone else would quake in their boots. Fellow quarterbacks dreaded getting into a shootout with him.
Now in his 15th NFL season, Favre has clearly lost his swagger. The man who used to be the fastest gun in the West has become slower on the draw and much less accurate with his shot. Sunday showdowns with the Packers are now welcomed by mature marksmen and young guns alike.
Over the last month, Favre has dueled with Charlie Batch, Brad Johnson, Mike McMahon and Kyle Orton. Those would be three QBs who began the year as backups and a rookie who was pressed into a starting role because of a preseason injury. Their numbers against Green Bay could best be described as "pedestrian" – Johnson posted a meager 196 passing yards, while Batch (65), McMahon (91) and Orton (68) failed to crack triple digits – yet Favre still couldn't lead his team to victory.
After defeats at the hands of the passing-challenged Steelers, Vikings, Eagles and Bears, the Packers have now fallen to 2-10. They are assured of their first losing season under Favre despite the NFL's 8th-rated defense, which is allowing just 289.8 yards per game.
It can certainly be argued that Favre hasn't had all of the bullets in his six-shooter. Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker tore his right ACL in the opener, and Robert Ferguson, his replacement in the starting lineup, has missed time with a knee injury of his own. Green Bay's top two running backs, Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, have also been lost for the season. Yet the harsh truth is that Favre's 2005 performance has largely been brutal regardless of what weapons he has had around him.
Favre leads the league in interceptions with 21. That is eight more than any quarterback other than the Saints' Aaron Brooks, who has 17. His passer rating of 75.9 ranks him 26th among those with a minimum of 100 attempts. Of the quarterbacks who have started at least 10 games, only Brooks (69.0), the Dolphins' Gus Frerotte (67.5) and Orton (60.2) are worse.
If NFL Films were casting a Western, Favre would definitely wear a white hat. He is the quintessential "good guy," exuding a genuine passion for the game. He provides not only dazzling highlights, but also good sound bites.
It is no wonder that the charismatic Favre is beloved by fans and the media. They have always rooted for him, both on the field and through difficult personal battles. Whether Favre was winning or losing, downing whiskey in a dirty glass or drinking sarsaparilla, the pigskin public has cheered him wildly.
Last year, we were subjected to a season-long Brett Favre lovefest because it was assumed that the quarterback would hang up his spurs at the end of the 2004 season. He, of course, did not ... but maybe he should have.
Favre's tremendous popularity has largely obscured objectivity as his play has drastically declined. "Pundits" make excuses for him and continue to worship his performances, even as the sun is setting on a once-great career.
Last month, the Boston Globe's Ron Borges wrote a story for MSNBC that cited free agency and injuries as the primary causes of Green Bay's demise. Borges has never been one to let accuracy get in the way of his personal agenda. His credibility has repeatedly been filled with bullet holes by the Cold, Hard Football Facts, but it took another shot with his lead sentence. Borges claims that Favre returned for "his 16th season as the leader of the Green Bay Packers." In actuality, Favre has been with the team for 14 years after spending his rookie season with Atlanta.
Another cheddar-sucking "pundit" is Dan Pompei of the Sporting News. He recently wrote, "I have to chuckle whenever I hear about how Brett Favre is slipping." No one else is laughing, Dan – unless they are likewise in denial. Pompei and Borges have apparently confused Favre's actual 2005 performance with his 1996 highlight film.
The quarterback's absolute nadir may have been reached on Sunday. Playing in Chicago, where he had won eleven straight times, Favre had the Packers in position to spring an upset on the division-leading Bears. Just before halftime, with his team looking to pad a 7-6 lead, he threw a horrible pass into the end zone that was picked off by Charles Tillman and returned 95 yards. The subsequent 25-yard Robbie Gould field goal allowed Chicago to take a 9-7 lead – and momentum – into the locker room.
Still down just 12-7 in the fourth quarter, the old gunslinger had multiple opportunities to lead his team to a go-ahead touchdown. Three straight possessions in the fourth quarter ended in Favre turnovers. He fumbled on successive drives, but the Bears couldn't take advantage. Favre then threw a ball that Nathan Vasher had no problem intercepting and returning 45 yards for a score, sealing a 19-7 victory.
Despite the QB's ongoing struggles, Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman has steadfastly refused to replace him with first-round pick Aaron Rodgers. "Brett Favre is our quarterback and gives us our best chance to win," he said on Monday.
But committing four costly turnovers in Chicago was just the latest example of Favre preventing his team from winning. He has shot himself in the foot with game-changing interceptions throughout this season. Here is a recap:
- Week 1: Trailing 10-3 midway through the fourth quarter at Detroit, Favre is intercepted by Kenoy Kennedy. The Lions score a touchdown on the ensuing drive to make the final margin 17-3.
- Week 2: Trailing 12-7 late in the third quarter against Cleveland, Favre is intercepted by Gary Baxter. The Browns score a touchdown on the ensuing drive and go on to win 26-24.
- Week 3: Trailing 17-16 versus Tampa Bay with just over five minutes remaining, Favre is intercepted by Will Allen for the second time in the quarter. The Buccaneers run out the clock to preserve the victory.
- Week 8: Trailing 14-7 in the second half at Cincinnati, Favre throws four interceptions on four consecutive drives in the third and fourth quarters. The last one, Odell Thurman's second pick of the day (and Favre's fifth), is turned into a touchdown by the Bengals, propelling them to a 21-14 win.
- Week 9: Trailing 13-10 in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh, Favre is intercepted by Tyrone Carter. The Steelers score a touchdown on the ensuing drive and secure a 20-10 victory.
- Week 11: Trailing 17-14 in the fourth quarter versus Minnesota, Favre is intercepted by Brian Williams. Each team adds a field goal for a final score of 20-17.
- Week 12: Trailing 19-14 at Philadelphia with less than a minute remaining, Favre is intercepted by Roderick Hood. The Eagles take one knee to run out the clock.
Including the Week 13 disaster at Chicago, that is eight games in which a late Favre interception has directly contributed to the Packers losing. In all of them, he has had the ball in his hands, down by a touchdown or less, with a chance to once again play the hero. Every time, he has failed.
It has been an incredible ride for Favre and his legions of loyal fans. Five years after his retirement, he will deservedly reach every player's desired destination: Canton, Ohio. His gridiron achievements are legendary – including a 1996 Super Bowl championship and an unprecedented three straight NFL MVP awards in the mid 1990s – and his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a certainty.
While Favre's coach still stands by him and the reverential media continue to sing his praises, the Cold, Hard Football Facts show no sentimentality. Favre simply is no longer a great quarterback. He's not even a good quarterback. He is prone to rookie-type mistakes that cost his team a shot at victory week after week – and that would have gotten any other QB benched long ago.
Sadly, the time has come for the old gunslinger to ride off into the sunset.
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