Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vikings Play the Fool with Favre

According to Favre himself, he is planning on telling the Minnesota Vikings whether or not he plans to return to the NFL this season by July 30, the day before training camp.

No surprises, and anyone feigning shock is only trying to fool themselves. This has been part of Favre's modus operandi for several seasons now, trying to prolong his decision-making process for as much of the offseason as possible.

The fools in the case are the Vikings, who needed to set a deadline a long time ago to make this work for all parties involved. While I'm the last person to ever think that the Vikings organization is capable of making smart moves that would actually work to their benefit, I am somewhat surprised that Childress and Co. haven't taken enough clues from past offseasons to put the onus on Favre.

According to Favre:

"There's two weeks left and I'm doing everything I can," Favre said. "I was down here Sunday morning working out. I'm trying to get everything to where I feel 100 percent when I go in. I can't go in any less. When you're 39 years old, it's hard enough. But it's getting there."

Now, let's be serious...there are a lot of factors at work here. First of all, Favre is in this for a lot of reasons. The most ballyhooed reason cited is his desire to "get back" at Ted Thompson, mostly sourced from comments he made during the 2008 season with the Jets. Certainly, there's no doubt that he has a fixation to prove to himself that the Packers would have benefited from having #4 in Green and Gold for one more season. But there is a bit more at work here.

First of all, there is the simple comfort zone, and this is being illustrated right here in this announcement. I think Favre likes being the prima dona in the clubhouse, and likes having familiarity around him. With the Vikings, he not only gets to play on a team he knows, but with a coaching staff he is very familiar with. He didn't agree to accept a trade to the Bucs last season simply because they were a good team, but because there were coaches there (Jon Gruden) that he had worked with before. While the Vikes do offer him that opportunity to face the Packers, they offer him something I think is just as valuable in his eyes: Childress and Bevell, who seem willing to cater to him.

And that segues right into what we're dealing with now: how many coaches out there would deal with an aging quarterback who needs until the end of July to decide whether or not to come in and start learning your system? It is admittedly quite different from the days with the Packers, where he was showing up for training camp with familiar surroundings and schemes. But, even if the Vikings run the exact offense that the Packers did, there's a lot of time and work needed to get in a groove with your teammates, and last year's situation with the Jets exemplified that.

Another issue, as mentioned a while back by Andrew Brandt of the NationalFootballPost, is money. It's not established what kind of contract Favre might be offered by the Vikings. Most of us would guess that it would be a lower salary that would offer incentives: keeping the Vikings free from risk. And of course, we would imagine Favre and agent Bus Cook would like to see a big number guaranteed (preferably with eight digits). The Vikes would be smart to go with the first option, but their lust for #4 already seems to be blinding them from logic.

The final issue, as touched on by Favre, is going to be with his health and ability. As he states, 39-40 years old is a far cry from your prime, and we saw last year that his endurance tapered at the end of the season, and an injury affected his play on the field. And, of course, we can only speculate as to how much the mental and emotional toll takes on him at this age.

A smart organization would have played this far differently. Take this old vet, offer him a a modest contract with crazy incentives and set a deadline in time for the OTAs. This protects the organization in every way, and puts the onus on the quarterback to decide how badly he wants to play.

But the Vikings are idiots. This is now quickly becoming a coach-killing situation (just ask Eric Mangini, who took the brunt of the blame for unmet expectations with Favre at the helm). Brad Childress isn't exactly walking on solid ice right now, and you start to get the feeling that Childress is pulling a "Holmgren" with Favre: "Either we're going to the top of the mountain together, or we're going to wind up in a dumpster together."

Those were inspiring words 15 years ago. But, in those days, that mountain was a journey of several seasons, with a team being built around a young Favre by one of the greatest GMs in team history, Ron Wolf. This is a one-season, one-shot deal, and Childress seems to be going all-in on #4 to lift this team to essentially save his job.

Look, unlike many Packer fans who are gnashing their teeth and rending their clothes over Favre in purple, I think it would be a great situation for both teams. The fan interest for two mediocre teams in a mediocre (and nearly irrelevant) division would generate national attention. The first game is already a Monday nighter. Don't doubt if somehow the second game got moved to a later time from its scheduled 12:00 start.

This is the kind of scenario that makes fans go to the stadium and scream with every shred of passion in their's not just a game, and a loss...THIS PARTICULAR LOSS...would be totally unacceptable. Seriously...when was the last time you went to Lambeau Field and felt that kind of complete electricity from kickoff to the final whistle?

But, I just don't see it coming to fruition, and that actually is a bad thing for everyone. I don't think Favre is going to be able to lead the Vikings like they want, or he's going to get hurt or just not recover enough from his injury last season to be effective. The fact that Favre has put this off until July 30th just provides evidence that not only is he going to be struggling to get into a groove with his teammates again, but that the Vikings aren't going to hold him accountable along the way (they just sat and undermined every other quarterback on their roster while waiting for Favre).

A Favre that struggles as a starter (or to stay healthy) is a coach-killing situation...bad for Favre, bad for Childress, bad for the Vikings. But it is also bad for the Packers. The Packers would actually benefit more in this troubled economy from an intense rivalry that spur the fan support back from a disappointing 6-10 record in 2008. Such an "I-told-you-so" with Favre's failure isn't a win, but just a non-loss that, once again, is burning the fanbase out. We're growing weary of the ongoing Favre melodrama coloring everything that the Packers do, and we're tired of arguing amongst ourselves, blaming or exalting Ted Thompson for pulling the plug. It would be great PR and great stirring of the fan base to just get this grudge settled on the field like men once and for all (instead of the ongoing wussy "he said, she said" garbage we've been dealing with for the last 14 months).

Regardless, if Favre does return, it will be daily news for us in Packerland...we'll have his passing stats from every practice reported more often than that of Aaron Rodgers.

My hope: Favre simply decides that this was a "passing fancy", but it is time to retire. Trust me...if Favre had reported back in June and spent time at OTA's, getting that hunger in his belly to compete, I'd give him a shot.

But the Vikings can take gold and turn it to lead. And they are playing the fool with Favre.


Anonymous said...

Brett has always responded to the tough love like he got with Big Irv.

His best seasons were under Holmgren and McCarthy and I suspect Childress will be another Ray Rhodes-like coaching experience for him in 2009.

If his play slips, who will have the guts to bench him ?

C.D. Angeli said...

I said that for years: I don't care how old he is, some people are going to need structure, guidance, and accountability their whole lives. Favre could be 50 years old and still need that contentious relationship he had with Holmgren in order to succeed.

If Favre had been willing to sacrifice his ego for that shot to play for the Vikings, to play for a small contract and do everything a player would be expected to, I'd put money on him to beat the Packers this year. But he didn't, he hasn't, and it doesn't look like he will....and it doesn't look like the Vikes are going to even try to play their part.