If my own family and friends are typical, there has been a sometimes-heated battle going on for the last two years about Favre's post-Packer career. It was bad enough last year, but at least Favre was playing outside the division, and not against the Packers. And, in any event, the Jets didn't even make the playoffs. But it really got bad this year, when he signed with the Vikings, when he beat the Packers, solidly, twice, and when he continued to play as close to a flawless season as he ever has, all the way to the NFC Championship game.
I have one cousin whose "status" on Facebook today was wishing Favre an awesome day. Another cousin admitted to experiencing schadenfreude over the outcome of the game. One friend was rooting for Favre, mostly just because it is incredible that he can play the game at this level at age 40. Another relative (and here I really do need to be discreet to protect the guilty) has been photographed wearing a Vikings' Favre jersey, and seems to have been rooting for him all year.
A Packer fan I met yesterday said she was rooting for the Vikings to win the Super Bowl so that Favre would retire. It may take awhile before we find out, but I am pretty sure he will retire anyway. Now, the cynical might say that it doesn't take Nostradamus to predict that Favre will retire, and that the real question is whether he will play again. We'll see, but I don't think he will.
In my immediate family, all four of us were rooting for the Saints today, with differing sets of reasons and intensity. One of us would have been OK to see Favre go to the Super Bowl again if it turned out that way, while the rest of us (including me) did not want to see that happen. I have been very unhappy with Favre the last two years, so I suppose I am at the more militant end of the spectrum.
The thing that I have probably found most irritating about this year was that Favre played so magnificently. Favre's best two years as a Packer were probably 1995 (which ended with a loss to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game), and 1996 (which ended with the Super Bowl victory against the Patriots. In the regular season in those two years, Favre had three times as many touchdowns as interceptions (38-13 in 1995 and 39-13 in 1996). That was as good as it got for Favre, with a much closer ratio of TDs to interceptions in every other year.
Until this year. Favre had 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions this year in the regular season. Almost 5 to 1 touchdowns over interceptions. This is the year he chooses to play flawlessly, for the Vikings? And he had several other career-best stats for the Vikings this year. Of course, there are reasons for this. I am no fan of Brad Childress, but I have to give him credit for reining in Favre's wildness, probably better than any coach in Favre's career. Favre probably never had as dominant a running back in the backfield as he had this year. Favre certainly had a better offensive line with the Vikings than he did in recent years with the Packers. Favre always made the receivers around him look better than they really were, so I am not giving a huge amount of credit to the receivers, though they were good. To sum it up, with the exception of the 1996 team, I don't think Favre ever had the combination of great offensive line, dominant running game, dominant passing game, and dominant defense that he had this year. So it makes sense that Favre and the Vikings had a great year.
But still, for the Vikings and their fans to get the benefit of all the good side of Favre, and almost none of the downside that Packer fans lived with every year, was infuriating to me. Today, the downside returned. Because of the pressure the Saints brought on Favre all day long, he was hit often, hit hard, and he was hurting badly by the end of the game. It is no accident that both of Favre's interceptions took place in the second half. (As an aside, the Saints did to the Vikings this week and to the Cardinals last week exactly what the Packers should have done, and could have done with a better defensive plan, but that is another column for another day.)
It was poetic justice for Favre to effectively end the Vikings' season with an interception on his final pass, just as he had done to the Packers two years ago. The pass tonight was just as incomprehensible as the one against the Giants two years ago. Yes, the late throw back across the field is the sort of thing that he has done his entire career, and he has gotten away with it many times over the years. But it is still a stupid throw. Michael Irvin (believe it or not) said it well on the NFL Network when he said that the real problem with the throw was the situation. He was at a point on the field where the Vikings had some shot at the game winning field goal even with an incomplete pass, and a much better shot if he gained a few extra yards, with his legs if necessary. To throw a low-probability, high risk pass in that situation is inexcusable. (By the way, although I did not remember this, Favre's last pass for the Jets was also intercepted - I think I am detecting a pattern here.) [Ed. note - upon further review, it was Favre's second to last pass for the Jets that was intercepted. His last pass, with 17 seconds left in his last game, was completed to Leon Washington, who then lateraled it back to Favre, who then tried to pass it again to Jerricho Cotchery, which of course resulted in a penalty for an illegal forward pass. You can't make this stuff up.]
But despite how critical I have been of Favre, my hat is off to him. He was really battered today, and was limping around for much of the second half. He demonstrated again today that he is probably the toughest quarterback in the league. He was largely responsible for keeping the Vikings in the game, despite their six fumbles. He has always showed a lot of heart in his play, and today was no exception.