If you’ve watched any SportsCenter or read a newspaper over the past few weeks, you have surely heard about the ongoing saga that is Brett Favre and his retirement status. After 16 illustrious seasons at the helm of the Green Bay Packers, Favre decided to call it quits. That lasted all of about five months and Favre ended up in a New York Jets uniform. He started out the season well leading the Jets to an 8-3 record but he fizzled during the final five games of the season winning only one game during that stretch and throwing just two touchdowns in comparison to nine interceptions. Many attributed his slide in performance to his age and felt that Favre, at age 39, was simply too old and too tired to compete for a full 16 regular season games plus any playoff games on top of it.
What I’m about to say may be called blasphemy in the state of Minnesota where I was born and raised, but I grew up a Brett Favre fan which made me a Green Bay Packer fan. I liked the Vikings, but when they came head to head I was cheering for Favre. There is something about the way he played the game with passion, toughness, and (for lack of a better word) balls that made me root for him. Another reason that I wasn’t a die-hard Vikings fan had to do with Dennis Green and Daunte Culpepper, but that’s another story. I have to say that I have become a bigger Vikings fan with the arrival of Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen. As the talk about Brett Favre continues this summer and questions of his arm strength, age, and other factors are debated, I decided to take a look into why Brett Favre “works” for the Vikings this season and why it would be a mistake for them not to sign him.
This season will be easier on Favre’s body than last season. Although Favre will be a year older, he’s coming off of a surgery that should help with the soreness in his throwing arm/shoulder. While I’m sure there are some out there who would disagree with me, I think that the Vikings offensive line is better than that of the Jets and will be able to provide Favre the protection he needs (I’ve searched for offensive line rankings in several locations but many are based on fantasy related aspects which isn’t what we are looking, such as here and here). Some say the Jets have better pass protection than the Vikings, but everyone knew the Vikings were going to run last year and defenses planned for it but the Vikings still ran and ran well. I believe that with a legitimate threat at quarterback, a quarterback who can get rid of the ball quick and make fast reads, the Vikings offensive line will soon be called one of the best at pass protection as well as the best to rush behind.
If you look at last year’s New York Jets’ schedule, Favre played in six games from November on that were in cold weather, outdoor stadium cities. That takes a toll on anybody and especially quarterbacks who have to throw in bad conditions with cold hands. Looking at the Vikings schedule this year, from November on the Vikings have just two outdoor games in cold weather cities. The warm confines of the Metrodome will keep Favre out of the elements late in the season for the most part. The Vikings also have the second easiest schedule this year in terms of strength of schedule and while this doesn’t guarantee that the Vikings will win games, there are definitely some weak teams on their schedule.
Another reason that the Vikings should sign Brett Favre can be summed up in two words. Adrian Peterson. Peterson is the best running back in the game and has been able to put up huge numbers despite the fact that the Vikings had no threat of a passing game over the past few years. The Vikings won’t have to rely on Favre’s arm to win games, he just needs to provide enough of a threat to keep defenses honest and not stuff the box with eight defenders to stop Peterson. The addition of Percy Harvin gives the Vikings another threat at the wide out. Jackson and Frerotte were inconsistent at best last year hitting the open man and while Sage Rosenfelds might provide a spark, he is FAR from being considered a top quarterback. Favre instantly brings them experience and leadership in the backfield. The Vikings don’t need Favre to make big play after big play, they just need him to make the right plays and let Adrian Peterson do his thing. As far as running backs go, Chester Taylor is no slouch himself and would be the featured back on several NFL teams but provides a fantastic one-two punch along with Peterson. The Vikings defense is also stacked and won games themselves last year. They are good enough to keep the Vikings in games even with no passing game, imagine how this will look if the Vikings become more effective in the passing game. Many said last year that the Vikings were a Super Bowl contender if their questions at QB were answered. Simply put, those questions weren’t answered and they weren’t contenders. Favre makes them one.
While I don’t like bringing the economy into a sports discussion, it needs to be considered here. In a year when several NBA teams struggled financially, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume some NFL teams will feel the crunch this year as well. If the Vikings sign Favre, it will cost them around $12-13 million unless there is some contract restructuring. The Vikings are currently around $20 million below the salary cap. If Brett Favre dons the purple and gold, you can mark down November 1st and October 5th as the two biggest media-hyped games of the year. The press will absolutely eat up the Packers-Vikings, or should I say Packers-Favre, rivalry to unknown proportions and his return to Green Bay will must see television without a doubt. With all this hype and media, the Vikings are bound to sell more tickets and more jerseys making a gamble on Favre worth it in itself.
Considering all that the Vikings have right now (Peterson and a great defense) and what they are lacking (a good quarterback), I believe that Favre is worth the risk that comes with signing a player who will turn 40 during the season. Worst case scenario, Favre fizzles out early and costs the Vikings a few games which is probably what any of the other four Vikings quarterbacks on the roster are good for. On the other hand, guys like John David Booty and Tavaris Jackson could learn from Favre which sets them up to compete for the starting spot for the next season. As I mentioned early, Brett Favre isn’t being asked to come in and perform miracles, he just needs to provide some expertise and efficiency throwing the ball. The focus of the Vikings has been and will continue to be running the ball and a crushing defense that stops the run better than anyone. The Vikings need to do all that they can to bring Brett Favre in and make the Vikings the Super Bowl contenders that they should be.