ESPN.com’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert wrote a blog last Wednesday on broken tackles from this past season. He received his information from Football Outsiders, a website that tracks all kinds of stats, and revealed some pretty interesting numbers on NFC North tackling.
The first stat, percentage of tackles offensive players “broke,” slotted the Packers worst in the league at 3.3 tackles broken out of every 100 attempts. In comparison, the Vikings ranked second (7.6) while the Lions finished 29th (3.8) and the Bears 31st (3.5). The Carolina Panthers led the league with 8.4 percent.
1. How have Vikings fans taken the first loss of the season? Brett Favre seemed to lose his “can do no wrong” title for the first time all year. Are there any nervous fans on Favre’s play?
There has been some mixed reaction, but little of it negative toward the Vikings and Favre. A section of the fan base blame the referees for the “phantom tripping call,” as it has become known. And most of the fans feel that the Vikings played well and even outplayed the defending champions on their home field.
They were in a position to win and just did not finish the deal. As to Favre, the Favre haters are laying those two defensive scores at his feet, and while he might have held the ball a little long in one threw too quickly in the other, many see the plays for what they are–good plays by the defense and a not-so-lucky bounce of the ball.
Fans here recognize the upgrade they have at the quarterback position and certainly know that interceptions are part of the package, but his three picks this year are far outweighed by how well he has performed. No one here who was on the Favre-wagon is jumping off at this point.
2. The weather conditions in Lambeau Field will be similar to the conditions last week in Pittsburgh. How were the Vikings exposed with this and will it factor against the Packers?
Actually, it was a great day for football last weekend in Pittsburgh, and save for a recently re-sodded (and perhaps a little soggy) field, the conditions really weren’t a huge factor. Right now it looks about the same for Green Bay on Sunday, so I don’t expect it to be a problem for the Vikings. Favre knows how to play outside, and while playing on grass may slow the Minnesota defensive line and Adrian Peterson a bit, having played outside last week certainly should help.
3. Adrian Peterson failed to get things going against the Packers’ 3-4 defense and had just 69 rushing yards against Pitt’s 3-4 defense. He ran all over Cleveland’s 3-4 but who doesn’t? Is the 3-4 a problem for AD?
Looking at the statistics so far this season, the 3-4 defense does seem to present a problem for the Vikings rushing attack. Opponents have loaded the box against Peterson and stuffed the run early. In some cases, he has worn down the defense and started to pickup yards late, so the Vikings have to stick with the run and be patient with it (as they were not last week in Pittsburgh).
I believe Peterson is ready to bust out this week, but if the Packers have more success, the Vikings will need to get him involved with the short passing game more often. If you recall AP’s crushing run against the Steelers’ William Gay last week, you can see that he can do some damage no matter how he gets the ball.
4. How will the Vikings utilize Percy Harvin as compared to in week 4? He seems much more relaxed this time around and is making plays all over the field.
Percy Harvin is a bit of a question mark this week, as he has missed practice time due to illness–which many speculate are a reoccurrence of his migraine headaches. Harvin figures to be ready by game time, but wideout Bernard Berrian may not be with an injured hamstring, so that will mean an increased role for Harvin.
The rookie from Florida has performed well catching passes in traffic across the middle and you can expect to see more of that this weekend. But, as you said, Favre has found Harvin all over the field this season and the Vikings will try to get him loose. I believe Percy’s relaxed demeanor is directly attributable to the time and effort Favre has spent working with him–they have developed some pretty good chemistry.
5. How much does the loss of Antoine Winfield really hurt the Vikings? Will Aaron Rodgers have more success through the air with him out?
Anytime you are missing a player of Antoine’s caliber it creates a huge void that needs filling. Both in run support and pass coverage, there are few like him in the game. After a disastrous attempt to replace him in the Baltimore game, the Vikings defense did by committee (with Karl Paymah, Benny Sapp and Asher Allen) against Pittsburgh and had great success (holding the league-leading receiver, Hines Ward, to one catch for yards).
That said, Rodgers threw for a career high 384 yards against the Vikings last time out, and actually victimized Winfield for the two long touchdowns. A closer look revealed that Rodgers had his greatest success against the Vikings secondary when the defense blitzed, and the Vikings had its greatest success against Rodgers (eight sacks) when they didn’t. Expect the Vikings to do more pass rushing of the front four alone and less blitzing to keep more defenders in the pass defense mode–that should help them in the passing game, where Green Bay is down to only three healthy wide receivers.
6. What is your prediction for the game? It’s hard to beat a team twice,and the Packers have been swept by the Vikings just once since 1998. What’s your take?
Well, then I would say the Vikings are due for a sweep. The Packers are still fiddling with their offensive line and have changed personnel on defense as well (Clay Matthews is starting at linebacker and Atari Bigby returns to safety), so they are a little unsettled. Like last game, emotion will play a big part of it, and Favre used that to his advantage. Once it’s time for kickoff, it is all football, and I think the Vikings will squeak out a close one- perhaps on the toe of Ryan Longwell.
In what could be the most watched regular season Sunday-day game of all-time, the Packers will host Brett Favre for the first time in his career. In week four, Favre torched his old team in a 30-23 victory that seemed more like 30-3. But four weeks later, some things have changed for each team. Here’s five reasons why the outcome will be different this time around.
Last time around, Brett Favre and the Vikings has the leisure of not only playing at home in the Metrodome, but also the weather was not a factor for Mr. Favre and his stellar passing game. Fast forward three weeks and the weather conditions call for temperatures in the mid 40′s and a 30 percent chance of precipitation.
Lambeau Field calls for a 100 percent chance of a hostile environment that is sure to shake the “ol’ gunslinger” into making errant passes. Naturally, the nerves have to be getting to Favre as he prepares to face his old team in his old stadium for the first time ever. In week four, the jerseys on defense were green and gold, but the stadium wasn’t.
It’s easy to forget with all the Favre hype, but this game means a ton in terms of determining who stands on top of the NFC North in a few weeks. The Packers are one and a half games behind the Vikes, and with Tampa Bay following the next week, a win against Minnesota would mean first place for the Packers.
Combine that with the temperature change that has hurt Favre over the last three seasons and you have a recipe that, at the very least, is much different than it was in Minnesota. It’s never easy to win on the road in the NFL and next week will be no exception for the Vikings.
2. Packers’ Offense
In week four, the box score would have told you that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers played an outstanding game on offense and had their way with the Vikings’ secondary. However, the truth was that most of Rodgers’ stats came in garbage time while the Vikings played prevent defense.
While the offense was able to move the ball and scored 17 points on offense, the Packers allowed eight sacks and Rodgers was pressured on just about every play, leading to errant passes and a forced fumble on Rodgers’ part.
The offensive line remains the same for the next week’s game, Daryn Colledge will not see any time at left tackle like he did in week four. Also, rookie T.J. Lang has had extra reps at left tackle if Chad Clifton can not go due to an ankle injury. Expect Jared Allen to get his fair share of pressure, but the Packers have changed up their offense and have implemented many short passes that should help.
Rodgers has the second best passer rating in the league and has averaged the most yards per attempt, all while being sacked more than any other quarterback. If the Packers can get those short passes to work, it will take pressure off Rodgers in a mental and physical sense.
In week four, the Packers missed Atari Bigby and it showed as Favre and the Vikings’ pass attack had their way with the Packers’ secondary. This time around, Bigby will suit up and hopefully change the outcome in the passing game. Vikings Coach Brad Childress admitted that the Packers are a “different team” with Bigby and the difference between him and Derrick Martin will be night and day.
For the Vikings, standout cornerback Antoine Winfield is expected to miss the contest and Bernard Berrian has yet to practice this week. Both players were huge contributors in the Vikings week four victory as Winfield compiled ten tackles and an interception, while Berrian caught six passes for 75 yards and a third quarter, eventual game-winning touchdown from Favre.
Jermichael Finley, who led the Packers in receiving against the Vikings with 128 yards and a touchdown, will miss Sunday’s game along with wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Brett Swain was also lost for the season with a torn ACL against Cleveland, so Rodgers’ targets will be limited to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Donald Lee, and the backs.
There are injuries for both teams, but clearly the Vikings’ injuries hurt more than the Packers right now, the opposite of week four.
Aside from the fact that the Packers are coming off a bye week and two wins while the Vikings are coming off a loss, the Packers seem to be hitting their stride while the Vikings are fighting for their lives. The Packers have had three easy weeks to prepare for their big division rivalry game in playing the Lions and Browns off a bye week.
On the other hand, the Vikings just barely held on to defeat the Ravens in a shootout and went wire-to-wire with the Steelers in a loss. At the very least, the Vikings are more tired than the Packers are at this point. Losing the game in the last six minutes had to be disheartening for the Vikings and while they will not be resting on that fact, it’s different than coming out of Heinz Field with a victory.
No one needs to tell either team to get up for this game, but you can bet the Packers do not want to see Favre leave Lambeau Field with a victory. The tension was not as high in week four as it will be at 3:15 in Green Bay and the Packers will thrive off that.
The Packers finally feel confident in their offensive schemes and their defense has limited teams to three points in the last two weeks combined. Rookies Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji are getting much more involved and Rodgers has settled in, throwing eight touchdowns in the last three weeks. All signs point to the momentum being in Green Bay’s favor when the initial whistle is blown.
5. Twelve is greater than four
You knew it was coming, people. I stayed away from it in week four because thinking about Favre playing against the Vikings in Minnesota didn’t hit me as weird. But seeing Favre walk out onto the Frozen Tundra will be heartbreaking and as much as I love the man, Aaron Rodgers is my team’s quarterback.
Say what you will about the success Favre has had this season, but in four years when Aaron Rodgers is in his prime and Favre is (God, hopefully) on a tractor somewhere in his Wrangler Jeans, you’ll understand why Ted Thompson made the right call. Rodgers has been a top five quarterback this season and has four wins to prove it. Cheer Favre for everything he did for the Packers, but once 3:15 hits look to the other side of the field and watch the future of Green Bay Packers football, #12.
For the Packers’ week four game against the Minnesota Vikings, I did a Q+A with Examiner Joe Oberle. These are his responses to my questions on the Vikings. You can see my responses to his questions by clicking here.
Mark Strotman: What has the transition been like in going from hating Brett Favre for the last 17 years to embracing him as your team leader? Is it still as weird to see him in purple as it is for me?
Joe Oberle: The first time I saw him Brett Favre in a Vikings’ purple uniform during preseason, I laughed at the almost surreal nature of it. It really looked strange because he truly was the face of that team to all us Vikings fans. It has taken some getting used to, but is happening sooner than I expected, and I think it is because he is seems to be emerging as the team leader. It is his personality and love for the game that is coming through with his teammates and also with the fans. Personally, I never hated him. I didn’t like the Packers, but I always respected Favre for the way he played the game–all out and with a genuine love for it. I always wanted the Vikings to squelch his joy, but I thought he was great for the game and a great rival. He single-handedly took this rivalry to new heights, and this season, he is doing it again.
MS: When the Packers offense takes the field, it will really mark the first good passing team the Vikings have gone up against this season after facing Brady Quinn, Matt Stafford, and Shaun Hill. The run defense is outstanding, but has the loss of Darren Sharper hurt the pass defense a considerable amount?
JO: I don’t think so. As you have noted, the pass defense hasn’t been tested all that much because the Vikings’ first three opponents have attacked the Minnesota run defense to help keep the pressure off their quarterbacks. Sharper was great while he was here, but he seemed to have lost a step–and it really showed during last season’s playoff game. It was time for some new blood in the secondary; it may come at the loss of some experience, but I think they Vikings will gain in terms of speed and ability.
MS: For the first two weeks of the season you were able to run the ball with ease against both the 3-4 defense in Cleveland and a 4-3 scheme in Detroit. From what you could see, which seemed to be easier for AP to run against: the 3-4 with quicker athletes or the 4-3 with bigger bodies to clog up the line?
JO: That’s a good question, and it is one that I think will play out all season as Peterson and the offense will face a variety of those two types of defensive schemes. Speaking statistically, AP rushed for more yards against Cleveland’s 3-4, but I think that may be the better defense for him to run against–if they play it straight and don’t cram the box with eight or nine defenders. If he can get past the first line of defense, his speed and agility come more into play, not to mention his size and speed with some linebackers and defensive backs. If you clog the middle on him at the line and slow him down there, he has less change to break free into the open field to do what he does best.
MS: The Vikings now use a form of the Wildcat because of their specialty man Percy Harvin. I have never been a fan of the Wildcat, but how has it worked so far with two of the game’s fastest players in the backfield (Harvin and Peterson). Do you see it being a factor against the Packers or more of an “every now and then” play?
JO: We have only seen it on a limited basis for the Vikings, and head coach Brad Childress, who has long demonstrated a proclivity for the clandestine, may be either teasing opponents so they have one more thing to think about, or really sitting on it until he feels it’s ready to go. So far, at least in the Vikings version, I am not a fan either, mostly due to its lack of success. For a team with a rookie running it and a new quarterback learning the rest of the system, it seems like right now there is a greater chance of something going really wrong with the Wildcat than having it really surprising someone. I am for keeping under wraps until you really know it’s going to work or else make it a bigger part of your offense (a la Miami) and really dedicate yourself to it. I am not sure they would be interested in doing the latter if it is going to put their $12 million dollar man on the bench.
MS: Staying on topic with Harvin, has he overtaken Bernard Berrian as the Vikings’ number one receiver? In Green Bay, Favre favored Donald Driver over Greg Jennings because Driver was more of a possession guy than a home run threat as Favre favored the short pass. Both Harvin and Sydney Rice have more often been targets than Berrian this season.
JO: For the time being, Harvin has emerged as Favre’s favorite target, connecting on two (what we like to call) “Farvins”–a Favre to Harvin TD pass. The Vikings offense has been seemingly designed to go underneath quite a bit this season, as Favre continues to acclimate himself to the offense and his new receivers. It has worked well so far, as he is league leader in completion percentage. In addition, Berrian missed all of the preseason with a hamstring injury and is working his way back into the lineup. Once he is at full strength, I think you will see Favre take more shots downfield. To be honest, I am surprised Favre hasn’t connected more with Visanthe Shiancoe, as No. 4 made a career out of hitting his tight ends in Green Bay.
MS: The Packers huge weakness this season has been the offensive line, while the Vikings biggest strength on defense is their defensive line. Do you think the Vikings will be able to rush just four linemen effectively so they are able to drop seven back in coverage? Because of your secondary, will this be a key factor in stopping Green Bay’s passing game?
JO: If I were drawing it up, I would certainly try it. Aaron Rodgers is arguably Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s biggest concern, and if you can put pressure on the Rodgers with the four lineman augmented by a few blitzes, it would seem to attack the Packers at the weakness. But with this game, as with many in the past, I think you can throw records, expectations and plans out the window, as emotion will take over the game and it could be pretty wild. There will be so much hype coming into this game that any number of things could happen. That said, I believe the team that controls their emotions the best will come out on top–and I am not yet sure who that is going to be.
Over the past two days, we have focused on the Packers team and the players that make up their roster. But what about the teams they are going to face? Let’s take a look at the Packers’ schedule and determine how they should fare this upcoming season. **There will be an emphasis on NFC North opponents.** Check out the rest of the week’s articles by clicking on the links next to the days and make sure to stay tuned the whole week to get yourself ready for the 2009 Green Bay Packers season.
Monday, Part One: Just How Good Can the Offense Be?
Tuesday, Part Two: How Will This Year’s Defense Be Different From Last Season?
Wednesday, Part Three: What Does Their Schedule Look Like and How Will They Fare?
Thursday, Part Four: How Does Aaron Rodgers Match Up Against the Rest of the NFC North?
Friday, Part Five: Which New Players Are Looking To Rebound, and What Will the Newcomers Contribute?
Saturday, Part Six: Packers-Bears Pregame: Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers, Round One
The two things to note when looking at the 2009 schedule is 1) teams change throughout the course of an offseason, and 2) injuries occur that can change the whole outlook to a team.
The Baltimore Ravens finished 2007 with just five wins and were entering the season with a rookie quarterback in what surely looked like a rebuilding season. Eleven wins and a playoff win later, the Ravens were one game away from the AFC Championship Game during an outstanding year.
That is just one example of many occurrences in the NFL where a team has completely turned their team around. The 2007 Dolphins won just one game before making the playoffs last season. Remember that the Packers won just six games last season and are probably being overlooked by some teams despite their excellent preseason.
So as much as I will predicting the Packers’ opponents based on their 2008 season and 2009 offseason and preseason, unexpected changes happen over the course of the year.
Week One: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Before last season’s 37-3 drubbing of the Bears, Chicago had won the previous four games against the Packers inside Lambeau Field. Professional sport’s oldest rivalry will add another chapter this season when the Bears and Packers open up their respective seasons on Sunday night.
For whatever reason, the Bears have a lot of success in Lambeau Field, and the overall season series when the Packers are at home is an even 40-40-4. Something will have to give, and I look for the Packers to come out strong in the opener.
Rodgers threw for four touchdowns last season against the Bears and the Packers were a blocked field goal away from sweeping the season series and have only improved. Jay Cutler should make the game interesting, but the game will depend on whether or not Matt Forte can get the ground game working. Look for Rodgers and Jennings to have a huge game here. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Two: Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Much like the Packers, the Bengals are looking for a big rebound year after a disappointing 2008. Also like the Packers, the Bengals have shown improvement this offseason and are still being overlooked to some extent. The Bengals struggled on the road last season, winning just one game, and the Packers should once again have a big day offensively. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Three: Green Bay Packers @ St. Louis Rams
If it weren’t for the Detroit Lions last season, everyone would have been talking about the historically bad season the Rams had as well. At just 2-14, the Rams struggled mightily and lost veteran wide receiver Torry Holt this offseason. The Rams are not expected to have a huge turnaround season, although they might steal some wins in the weak NFC West. The Packers used to hate domes, but their speed on offense and lightning quick defense should do extremely well in the Edward Jones Dome. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Four: Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Yes, this is probably the game you all scrolled down to see the analysis on. This game is a lot bigger than Brett Favre returning to play against his former team. Their are NFC North Division Title hopes on the line every time these two teams meet. Last season, the Packers were a field goal away from stealing the game in Minnesota away, but Mason Crosby missed.
Truth be told, the Packers struggled in both games against the Vikings, despite going 1-1. This time around, all eyes will be watching that Monday night to see who will play the most mistake-free and take the game. Aaron Rodgers will need to perform better because as long as the Williams Wall is playing, running the ball will be virtually impossible.
The one thing that scares me about the Packers defense this season is their ability to stop the run. That bodes well for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, and I expect the Vikings to take this game at home. Tensions will be running extremely high and this will probably be the most watched game of the year, but the Vikings take it in a squeaker. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Five: Bye
Week Six: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
It’s true that the Lions were as bad as they could have been last season, but consider this when looking that this game: The Lions have not defeated the Packers on the road since 1991. That’s right. Brett Favre never lost to the Lions and neither has Aaron Rodgers while playing in Lambeau.
The Lions have made improvements this offseason (the only direction to go was up) but it will not be enough to stop the Packers at home. Detroit had the worst defense in the league last season, so make sure just about every skill position player on the Packers is in your fantasy football lineup. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Seven: Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns
Not many people put stock in what happens during the preseason, but if the Packers play even half as well as they did against the Brows earlier this year, this game will be a blowout. In the first preseason game of the year for both teams, the Packers shut out the Browns 17-0 and clicked on all cylinders.
The Browns offense has been in disarray and young Brady Quinn will have to do a lot if he wants his Browns to come out on top. The Browns ranked 26th in rushing offense last year and 28th in rush defense. While road wins are tough to come by, the Packers should take this game. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Eight: Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
In what will probably be the most awkward scene in all of professional sports, Brett Favre will run out of the Lambeau Field tunnel in a Vikings jersey. Fans will boo the future Hall of Famer and all the pressure in the world will be on No. 4. The Packers will want to win this game more than any other game on the schedule, so I look for them to come out with plenty of motivation and fire to take this game. There will be an added incentive as well if the Vikings win in week four. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Nine: Green Bay Packers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is a game that could go either way, depending on which Bucs team shows up. I am a believer that Tampa Bay is going to do better than most analysts predict. Their defense will always rank in the top half of the league and if Cadillac Williams can become a legitimate starter, the Bucs could easily top the .500 mark.
Last season, the Packers and Bucs fought a back-and-forth battle with the Bucs coming out on top 31-20. If there was a game where the Packers might have a let down, this will be it. There is nothing easy about playing in the Tampa heat. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Ten: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
For as much as I think the Bucs will play better than their expectations, I expect a down year from the Cowboys. Not enough people are putting emphasis on the fact that the Cowboys lost one of the best receivers in the game. Yes, they become better in the locker room and there will be less distractions, but on the field they are going to miss the 80-yard touchdowns. Tony Romo is going to be under a lot of pressure to perform without Owens this year, and to date he has not done too well in those situations. Revenge from last year for the Packers in this one. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Eleven: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
It seems as though the one thing people are talking about when it comes to the 49ers is the one player that actually isn’t on the team. Michael Crabtree has yet to sign a contract and rumors are the team has not talked to him or his agent in five or six weeks. This game will be eleven weeks into the season so there is a chance Crabtree will be back against the Packers, but it’s hardly a sure thing.
The 49ers have a tough time stopping the pass and have a few question marks on defense that the Packers should take advantage of. Simply put: the 49ers just will not be very good this season. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Twelve: Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
The Packers will have just four days to prepare for their Thanksgiving showdown against the Lions, but that should be more than enough time. The Lions are 35-32-1 on Thanksgiving but have lost their last five contests on Turkey by an average of about 36 to 12. Matthew Stafford should have a better grasp on the offense at this point, but the Packers should hand the Lions their sixth straight loss on Thanksgiving. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Thirteen: Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco is an excellent game manager on offense and Ray Lewis takes control of his defense better than any other player in the NFL. Add Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs to the equation and you have an excellent team capable of great things this season. The Packers are going to have problems against the pass defense of the Ravens and their ground game on offense. It should be a matchup of two of the best teams in the NFL at this point in the season, but the Ravens come out on top. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Fourteen: Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
This matchup could very well have playoff implications at Soldier Field, so you can bet both teams are going to come out fighting. The Packers are expected to take the matchup on opening night and I see them taking this game as well. Until Cutler finds more weapons on offense other than Greg Olsen and Matt Forte, it will be tough for them to score points. Against the Packers this season, that’s going to be a problem. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Fifteen: Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Packers’ tough stretch over the course of the year ends in the hometown of the defending Super Bowl champs. There are a ton of similarities between the Steelers and Ravens, the only difference being the Steelers do everything better. This will be the toughest game of the Packers season, and a win would be an added bonus to the season. PREDICTION: LOSS
Week Sixteen: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks had one of the biggest free-agent signings this offseason when they picked up T.J. Houshmanzadeh, formerly of the Bengals. Still, their run game is a huge question mark and teams will be able to defend the pass with ease until someone steps up in the backfield. Defensively, improvements are being made and while this might be a low-scoring game, the Packers should come out on top. PREDICTION: WIN
Week Seventeen: Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have won 12 of 16 games at home over the last two seasons and have established a nice little home-field advantage playing in the heat. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald don’t hurt their cause, either. Look for this game to be a shooutout at the end of the season, or potentially a blowout if either team has wrapped up their position in the playoffs and sits their starters. Either way, this will be a tough game for the Packers to win on the road. PREDICTION: LOSS
Predicted Finish: 11-5, first in the NFC North
Mar. 6, 2008: The day that I thought changed my life.
Yes, you’d only know it if you were a Green Bay Packers fan, but Brett Favre has meant that much to me and every other Cheesehead. I’d go out on a limb and say no other player has meant more to an NFL franchise than Favre has. As I watched his press conference on NFL Network, I found myself choked up and literally fighting back tears as the gunslinger from Mississippi announced his retirement.
He spoke of how he felt he had given as much as he could give to the Green Bay Packers and that there was nothing more to give. Seeing him play my whole life, I knew first-hand the joy he gave me and rest of the Packers faithful.
This was THE best quarterback to ever play the game hanging his cleats up for good. Hanging up his smile. Hanging up his touchdowns. Everything was gone and it was time for me to move on with the Green Bay Packers without Brett Favre, something I had never known.
For the next two or so months, I dealt with the mystery that was life without No. 4 and decided that newly installed quarterback Aaron Rodgers could get the job done. With a pin-point accurate arm and the credentials that almost made him the first overall pick in 2005, everything was in place.
Then one day, while watching Sportscenter, breaking news came out that Brett Favre had the itch to play football once again and was considering coming back for another year.
YES! My hero was back to take the Packers to the promised land and realized that the ol’ gunslinger still had something left in that cannon of his. Not so fast.
As more and more reports came to light, it was discovered that general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy had already told Aaron Rodgers he was the quarterback of the future and that, somehow, the Green Bay Packers had moved on from Brett Favre.
What? So you are telling me that you are showing the door to the greatest thing that has ever happened to your franchise and almost led you to the Super Bowl last season? That’s right. The Packers, my pride and joy, did the unthinkable and told Brett Favre “no”.
They told him he could come in and back up Rodgers for the season but could not compete for the starting job whatsoever. Someone once said that if a team has two candidates for starting quarterback, they really have none. In what was more of a bluff than anything, the Packers gave Favre that option which he decided to take.
Favre never took the bait and did not show up to training camp, but did send his official reinstatement to the NFL which was granted a few days later. After a lengthy talk with McCarthy in Green Bay, it was decided that Favre coming to training camp was not going to help anyone’s party.
A few days after that, my hero was holding up a New York Jets jersey and smiling, ready for a new start with a new team. How could the Packers do this to my favorite player to ever step on the field to play the greatest game on earth?
I was mad at the Packers for what seemed like the first time since the Ray Rhodes hiring, and knew it would take time to get over.
Nine wins and seven losses later, Favre had again hung the cleats up as he announced his retirement from the New York Jets.
To make a long story short, there were rumors about him wanting to come to Minnesota early in the offseason and it seemed as though a different official from the Vikings was taking a plane to Mississippi every weekend.
Favre asked for his release from the Jets, had surgery on his shoulder, and began working out at the same high school he did the previous offseason. When push came to shove and the Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress put a deadline on Favre, he decided he did not have enough in the tank to come back. Favre was retired once again.
Three weeks after that, the saga took another unbelievable turn as it was rumored Favre was set to sign a contract with the Vikings out of nowhere. The same quarterback, who three weeks ago said he was done for good, was coming back for another season.
Man oh man, was it ever fun to look at message boards and forums that day! I learned who Benedict Arnold was, saw a picture of Judas wearing a Favre jersey, and heard Favre called a lot of different names that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy.
But as I read on and on about how mad everyone was at Favre, Ted Thompson, and the Packers organization, it hit me that this was no one’s fault.
Back in May of 2008, two months after Favre has his initial retirement press conference, Favre supposedly went to the Packers and told him that he once again had the itch to play football.
The Packers told Favre that they would love to have him back and were ready to welcome him in with open arms. A few days later, No. 4 told the Packers the feeling had passed and he would stay retired.
Somewhere in between that conversation and the day I saw the Sportscenter Breaking News, the Packers decided that Aaron Rodgers was their man.
While he had not accomplished much other than two season-ending injuries in his career, the Packers felt he was good enough to become the franchise quarterback everyone had hoped he would be.
When Favre came calling once again, the Packers welcomed him in, but this time with a clause thrown in. Sure, the Packers knew Favre would not come in as a back-up, but at least they made the offer.
They didn’t kick Favre out, make him retire, or tell him he was no good. They eventually gave him wishes of starting at quarterback by trading him to the Jets and everyone went their way.
It was no longer fair for the Packers to have to keep waiting on Favre going back and forth, and at some point they had to have something in place for training camp. Making Rodgers their go-to guy gave him full confidence and gave the Packers a definite starter at the most important position on the field.
It has always been my thinking that no player or person is ever bigger than the franchise itself. Yes, I believe Favre has meant more to the Packers than any other human being alive, but as close as he is to God in Green Bay, he still is not.
The Packers were here before Favre and have survived after him, and that was something he was going to have to deal with.
A lot has been made about the real reason for Favre coming back. Some believe he genuinely wants to return to try to add another Super Bowl ring to his storied resume, while others believe he is coming back to spite Ted Thompson and the Packers.
Whatever you believe the reason to be, Favre is not at fault for this either. He isn’t Judas and he isn’t Benedict Arnold. There are no daggers in the Green Bay Packers’ back with Favre’s fingerprints on it.
As much as it hurts and as physically sick as it makes my stomach, Favre is not at fault in the situation and I support his playing for the Vikings.
Last week I wrote an article explaining why Michael Vick deserves a second chance in the NFL, despite his past mistakes and the negative feelings that people would show towards him. If we are going to let a convicted felon back in the league, then there’s no reason Favre can’t play again.
Yes, it’s annoying and we wish that he would just make up his mind on whether or not to play, but who cares if he is indecisive? The NFL is better with Brett Favre and there is no disputing that. The first time Favre felt that now-notorious “itch”, he wanted to come back and play for the Packers.
The Packers made it clear that Favre could not come back and start for the Packers but told him there were other options for him. He exercised that option and played for a team that wanted him in the New York Jets and went on his way.
Yes, he reportedly did not respond to any of Aaron Rodgers’ calls and might have slipped in a few knocks on Ted Thompson in some interviews, but anything he did was going to be blown out of proportion based on the situation.
Now let’s talk about the whole situation with the Vikings. When rumors popped up about him wanting to play again, I had no problem with it. The “here we go again” sigh came into play and I knew that ESPN would be drooling all over the place to get information on one more Favre return, but alas he decided to stay retired.
Then he decided that he wanted to play once more. The team that was willing to take him and he also wanted to play for happened to be the Minnesota Vikings. He is good friends with Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Simply put, a guy wanted to play football and one team wanted him.
If you want to believe that Favre is doing this to get back at the Packers, go ahead and believe that. Be mad at Favre and do not cheer for him when he enters Lambeau Field on Nov. 4. Forget the great memories that he left us for 17 years and the Super Bowl he brought us.
As for me, I wish Brett Favre the best. I do not wish the Minnesota Vikings anything good and hope that the Packers embarrass both Favre and the Vikings both times they meet this season. But it’s still Favre and he is still the same guy that I tried to replicate hundreds of times in my backyard as a youngster.
If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at the Vikings. The Minnesota faithful won’t want to hear this, but they handled the situation terribly and came out looking pretty bad.
Childress told Favre that there was a strict deadline for him and there would be no going back on his situation. Three weeks later, all credibility Childress had was out the window.
It’s quite obvious that Favre did not want to attend any part of training camp and was going to wait until it was over to make his return, but the fact that Childress lied to his players, the fans, and everyone else makes him look pretty bad.
Last season, it was much easier to cheer for Favre’s team and Favre himself. The Jets had no affiliation with the Packers, and the better the Jets did during the year, the better the draft pick in return would be for Green Bay. This time around, any move Favre makes will directly affect the Packers.
That being said, I am a Packers fan before I am a Brett Favre fan. I trusted that Thompson and McCarthy had it right when they decided on Rodgers, and a year later they look right. Argue what Favre has or doesn’t have left in the tank to play for the Vikings, but the Packers are better off with Rodgers.
I hope he enjoys playing football and shows it in his emotions because, regardless of helmet color or uniform, nothing makes me happier. He is still my hero and favorite player to ever play the game and I am happy to see him back.
Whether he misses the playoffs or gets the Vikings their first Super Bowl, nothing will replace what he did for the Packers and their fans. We thank you Brett, and wish you the best of luck in the future.
Well the day finally arrived, folks. I never once mentioned Brett Favre to the Vikings in any of my articles and never took a stance on the issue because, to be honest, I never wanted to imagine that it might come true.
Another article will come later that breaks down my personal feelings on Favre wearing purple, but for now, we’ve got a free agent signing to break down.
Today it was announced that, pending a physical, Favre will join the Minnesota Vikings and presumably take over the starting quarterback responsibilities. With Tavaris Jackson still fighting the injury bug and Sage Rosenfels being, well, Sage Rosenfels, it’s easy to believe that Favre will be an improvement over the two.
Favre will turn 40 right before the start of Week Five and will be entering his 19th year in the National Football League. It has been a storied career for Favre, who has won three MVPs, a Super Bowl, and holds all major passing records including completions, passing yards, and touchdowns.
As good as his career has been, he has made just about as many headlines in the last two offseasons than he did the last 16 combined. Coming in and out of retirement became almost a game for people, and no one knew what to believe.
He played with people’s emotions, couldn’t decide what to do, retired, un-retired, retired again, “got the itch” again, said no, and is now on a plane to Minnesota.
For the Vikings, the addition of Favre is one of the biggest PR moves in football history. The move is literally the equivalent of Derek Jeter to the Red Sox or Coach K taking a job with the Tar Heels. For a struggling franchise who has never won the Super Bowl (in four attempts) and doesn’t have the biggest fan base, Favre will be like a Godsend.
Last season, the Vikings ranked 25th in all of football in attendance, and have not had a competent quarterback since Randall Cunninghman or Daunte Culpepper in his glory days. Fans will come in flocks to see their once-hated rival don the Vikings helmet, will buy jerseys in heaps, and will get to experience what it is like to cheer for Brett Favre.
Favre looks like the last piece to a Vikings team that can run the ball on offense and stop the run of defense. Last season, Jackson and Gus Frerotte faded towards the end of the year and could not do anything in the playoffs, as the Vikings were taken down by the Eagles in the first round.
But in breaking it all down, will the 40-year-old gunslinger really be able to take the Vikings to the promised land?
Last season with the Jets, much drama was made about Favre’s ailing bicep and shoulder, and was dubbed the reason Favre struggled at the end of the year. He just did not look like the same quarterback and visibly struggled.
New York would end the season 1-4 after knocking off the Patriots and the then-undefeated Titans to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. Head coach Eric Mangini was promptly fired and Favre announced his ”retirement”.
Last year with the Jets, Favre finished the last five games with two touchdowns and nine interceptions. Four of those games were in cold weather, with a game in Miami being the only warm weather contest.
Say what you will about last year’s end of the season failures, but this isn’t the first time Favre has fluttered at the end of the year.
In 2007, Favre finished the year (the last five games) with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. Just two of the games were in cold weather conditions, but Favre also played terribly against the Giants in the NFC Championship Game, completing just 19 of 36 passes and being intercepted twice.
In 2006, Favre threw four touchdowns and eight interceptions over the course of the last five games. Four of those games came in cold weather atmospheres, and while the Packers won four of their last five games, they did so in spite of Favre’s lackluster performances.
In 2005, Favre met cold conditions in his last five games and threw just one touchdown compared to ten interceptions in that span.
More so than just an injury to Favre last season, it has become apparent that the wear and tear he takes during a 16-game season gets to him by season’s end. Remember, Favre starts and plays in every single game, which is something 95 percent of quarterbacks do not do.
That means 16 games of hits, throws, scrambles, and sacks that do the body no good at all. Throw in Favre’s age of 39 (and soon to be 40) and you have a recipe for disaster for the Ironman.
Favre played his cards right this season by waiting until training camp was over to finally join the Vikings, but Favre didn’t really take a beating before the regular season in previous years anyway.
Playing in the NFC North will surely make things easier on Favre as he begins his season with the Vikings. They play Cleveland, Detroit, and San Francisco in the first three weeks, which will surely make it easy for Favre to get the rust off.
A week four match-up in Minnesota against the Packers will be his first test, and there will be much more than just a regular season game riding on it.
The Vikings have a fairly easy schedule this season, playing the AFC North and NFC West, and the season has clearly become Super Bowl or bust. Whether or not Favre can lead them to an NFC Championship will not be apparent until later in the year, but a quick start will be important to keep the fans excited and buying into the Favre signing.
The way I look at it is if Favre was any other quarterback coming off a season in which he led the league in interceptions, would he warrant a $10 million contract?
Add the fact that he is 39 years old and coming off shoulder surgery and you have a huge question mark.
The Jets had nothing but bad things to say about their season with Favre after he retired. He rarely interacted with the players, had his own locker room, played the blame game, and accomplished very little on the field.
While Favre has a great relationship with head coach Brad Childress, nothing says that he will interact with the Vikings any better. Add in Favre’s late arrival and that chemistry will need to come even faster if he is going to succeed.
For a guy who last month said he would not come back because he was not in good enough shape physically, Favre must have been drinking a lot of Gatorade or something, because the Vikings expect him to play 16 games plus the playoffs.
If he has 11 good games and flounders in the last five like he has the last four years, the Vikings will accomplish nothing.
For Brad Childress, the move will either make or break his future with the Vikings. He has all but given up on Jackson, and the fourth round draft choice he gave up for Rosenfels is now being spent on a backup.
Smart thinking says he should have called up Eric Mangini and talked this move out before he actually did it.
It’s all but set in stone that Favre will join the Vikings, and is expected to start in their preseason game on Friday against the Chiefs. It starts a journey that will last the next 19 weeks and, hopefully for the Vikings, beyond.
The track record on Favre says that he is all but finished as a superstar quarterback, but he is an upgrade over either of the two quarterbacks in Minnesota that were battling it out for the starting spot. While an upgrade, Favre also has the capability of ruining things in a hurry.
Only time will tell.
Welcome back, Brett.
As I sit in my Anthropology class taking notes, I glanced over at a kid’s computer and saw that Brett Favre is ready to hang up the cleats again…all I can say is Brett, “I hope the Jets know that every penny they spent on you was NOT money well spent.” What did Brett do this year that Kellen Clemens couldn’t have? Run around like a little kid after touchdowns? Get called a “gunslinger” by the CBS TV crew after every completed pass? If Brett is actually done for good I would be more than disappointed. Not just that my favorite athlete of all time would leave the game for good, but that he did it in a Jets uniform and the way he did it. Brett knew he was done after the 2007 season and I’m sure of it. He wasn’t the same Brett after Thanksgiving, and sorry but Ryan Grant beat the Seahawks in the Snow Bowl. He took a bad Jets team and turned them into a 9-7 ballclub that played as many playoff games as the Chiefs. I’m sure Eric Mangini is grateful right about now. The fact is that Brett lost and the Jets did too and, as scary as it sounds, I hope the Bears or Vikings take a stab at #4 because he just doesn’t have it anymore. He’s the reason I love football and would cut my left pinky off to see another Packers Super Bowl. He’s also the reason my team has a free third round draft pick and their QB of the future. To the Jets, he’s the reason Kellen Clemens lost a year of experience and the reason Jets jersey sales went up this year. Unfortuanetly that’s about it. I think it’s time we all take a trip out to Hallmark and get Ted Thompson an apology card because he knew something that we all assumed: that AA-Rod was ready and that Brett waited an off-season and 16 weeks too long to go hunt. Hopefully this time “all good things must come to an end” for good.