Favre is going to prove everyone wrong, as always, and Trader Ted is going to end up with egg foo yung on his face.
I remember some foos here who said Favre had lost it years ago, and that he sucks, and should retire or be traded.
It's funny when those people are wrong!
With Jets, Favre tries to turn back Father Time
Will N.Y. QB be among the NFL greats who have hung around for too long?
By Ethan J. Skolnick
updated 8:31 p.m. ET, Wed., Sept. 3, 2008
The first Sunday of the NFL schedule offers the usual share of compelling storylines.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open in New Orleans, against a Saints squad predicted by many to reclaim the NFC South title. The New England Patriots try to start another streak of perfection, at home against the rebuilding Kansas City Chiefs. The Indianapolis Colts open their new stadium in a Super Bowl XLI rematch against the Chicago Bears.
Yet the featured matchup of the day will occur in South Florida, between two revamped division rivals that finished 5-27 last season, the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets. That's because a 38-year-old quarterback, whose offseason retirement and unretirement saga put most soap operas to shame, promises to be the signature storyline of 2008.
"The pressure is going to fall on Brett Favre with the Jets," said Ron Jaworski, the lead analyst on ESPN's Monday Night Football. "They have really raised the bar as far as expectations."
The Green Bay Packers, coming off an NFC Championship, chose to promote a fourth-year man, Aaron Rodgers, who has never started a regular-season game. The Jets, seeking their first Super Bowl appearance in nearly four decades, acquired the proven veteran to lead them to the playoffs.
When a team in the nation's largest media market trades for a living legend, hype happens. How 'bout hope? How hopeful should Jets, and Favre, fans really be?
After all, for Favre to become the NFL's all-time leading passer, something else had to pass:
Lots of time.
With time, athletes inevitably wear down.
So does Favre, who turns 39 on Oct. 10, have another playoff run left in him? Can he continue his remarkable streak of longevity, one that stretches 15 seasons without missing a start? Can he continue defying age the way swimmer Dara Torres did at the Olympics, Nolan Ryan did as a fire-balling pitcher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did as a sky-hooking center and John Elway, Rich Gannon and Warren Moon did as NFL quarterbacks?
Or will he limp around like Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Sammy Baugh and other luminaries who played one or two or three years too long?
"I think that Favre will have a really good year," said former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg. "He has got that extra fire in him now. With all his knowledge and talent, and now he has the passion to make something special happen. I just think he will."
Favre isn't making any promises.
"I understand most people think the odds are against me," Favre said Wednesday, shortly after his teammates voted him as one of the team's two offensive captains. "If it doesn't work out, so be it."
Favre said he would have liked to have played more in the preseason, but said he felt "OK" and that "I can be in great shape and still get tired."
As long as the right arm still works.
"Brett can still sling the ball with the best of them," Jaworski said.
Jaworski has learned the folly of doubt. A year ago, the former NFL quarterback wasn't sure that Favre still possessed the necessary physical attributes. It was natural to wonder. It was widely believed that Favre had not played well, by any reasonable standard, in 2005 or 2006, but that could be attributed to many factors, such as the team around him.
Favre heard Jaworski's concern. On the field before the Packers played the Broncos, the two men stood together on the field at Invesco Field in Denver. Favre planted his toes on the 50-yard line, rotated his hips, and struck the goal-line pylon with a laser that never rose above 10 feet off the ground.
"How's my arm strength?" Favre asked.
"Obviously, very good," Jaworski replied.
As if Jaworski needed more evidence, Favre closed the contest by opening overtime with an 82-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings.
"He kind of put me in my place," Jaworski said.
Jaworski, who went 33-15 as the Philadelphia Eagles' starter from 1979-81, remembers when he knew the end was near. In 1988, he returned to training camp as a 37-year-old backup for the Dolphins, and the zip was gone. He had become more of an anticipation thrower, because he couldn't make the same old throws.
"I felt that I had worked out and all those things," Jaworski said. "I guess Father Time just caught up."
Now it's in hot pursuit of Favre. Jaworski expects Favre to elude it a little longer.
"Clearly, he still has the physical ability," Jaworski said. "He still has that great feel for the pocket. He was not a guy who was going to run. He was somewhat Dan Marino-like in knowing where the pressing is coming from, and taking that subtle slide step. You still see that with him. The biggest concern is him assimilating that system, and understanding the complete way that the Jets offense will attack a defense."
Jaworski believes it will take a few weeks for those synapses to connect instantaneously, and that Favre will begin connecting with receivers regularly once it does.
Plus, Favre isn't quite as old as some others.
His distinction? DeBerg was 44 years and 279 days old when he took snaps for the Atlanta Falcons in 1998, making him the oldest man to ever start an NFL game at quarterback. He lost that day, but his appearance alone was a testimony to his mental and physical conditioning over time. In fact, after years of struggling on terrible teams, DeBerg had his best seasons with Kansas City, after joining the Chiefs at age 34. He went 21-10 in his third and fourth years there, after turning 36.
DeBerg acknowledged that he was so "awful" early in his career that he didn't expect to last long, and attributed his longevity to his increased knowledge about how to prepare and perform.
That helped him compensate for any physical decline.
"The mental part if huge," said DeBerg, who has spent the past decade as a personal quarterback trainer. "You learn to train better. You learn techniques. You start doing all of that stuff as a pro for more than 10 years, and you've pretty much got it down."
Favre has been doing it, week in and week out, for 16 years. DeBerg believes that Favre has made late-career success possible by greatly quickening his release, becoming more efficient in the style of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
"He used to be a windup and let it rip guy," DeBerg said.
That put his body at more risk, because it increased the odds of taking a shot while still in the throwing motion. That was a style that DeBerg would never teach young quarterbacks.
"A veteran quarterback, he will make plays happen fast and not take a lot of risks," DeBerg said. "And really, that is the way it is supposed to happen. What happens with these young quarterbacks, even if it was John Elway or Steve Young, when they were rookies, they were so athletic, they would look at one guy and take off. You just learn to stay in the pocket, make the original play work and read it out, and then if you have ability to escape, then you do."
Or you throw it away.
Favre was sacked only 15 times last season, the second-fewest of his career. Now he will play behind a different offensive line, but one fortified by the free-agent additions of veterans Alan Faneca and Damien Woody.
The more hits he avoids, the better.
"The recovery part just gets worse and worse," DeBerg said.
That's what Marino discovered. The Dolphin posted his worst numbers in his final season, throwing 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions at age 38.
"For me, playing at that age, it was getting up for the games, getting through practice sometimes, was the tough part," Marino said. "Because of injuries over my career. When you get to 37 or 38, you might not be able to make the plays or throws as well you made in the past. You are going to need a group around you to help you succeed."
Marino stuck around longer than many elite quarterbacks. Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, Boomer Esiason and Dan Fouts all retired between the ages of 34 and 36.
Other quarterbacks were just getting started.
Many ridiculed the Raiders for signing journeyman Rich Gannon in 1999. Gannon was 34. He had started only 58 games. Yet those fresh legs came in handy. With the Raiders, Gannon made four Pro Bowls. He won a regular-season MVP and an AFC Championship.
"Early in my career, it's like I was sleepwalking," said Gannon, now a CBS analyst. "You don't know what you don't know. As a young player, I had no idea. I wasn't nearly as prepared as I should have been or could have been. I wasn't trained that way. I didn't really know how to prepare for a game."
He had streamlined his training enough that he believes he could have been productive into his 40s if not for a neck injury suffered in 2004. Phil Simms also played to age 39. In his final season for the Giants, he finished 11-5, and posted the highest completion percentage of his career.
"There is no question I could have played a few more," said Simms, also a CBS analyst.
But the Giants chose to go with the unproven Dave Brown and Kent Graham, so Simms retired.
That's one reason that many quarterbacks retire before 40: their team wants to get younger and cheaper. (That would be Ted). When the Packers stood firm on promoting Aaron Rodgers to the starting spot, Favre chose to keep playing elsewhere. Just as when the 49ers elected to elevate Steve Young, Joe Montana accepted a trade to Kansas City, and led the Chiefs to two playoff appearances.
Many have no choice but to retire in their 30s. Troy Aikman and Steve Young retired due to concussions. Joe Theismann retired due to a severely broken leg.
Others just keep going.
Warren Moon is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame largely on the strength of his play long after many contemporaries had retired. He played in the CFL until age 28. He established himself as one of the NFL's most prolific passers during 10 seasons with the Houston Oilers. Still, they wanted to turn the offense over to Cody Carlson, so they dealt Moon to Minnesota.
"I played seven more years," said Moon, who threw 8,492 yards his first two seasons as a Viking. "Cody only played one. But if I was a general manager, I would have made the same decision. They want to see the guy they put all their money and time into. Economically, it's often better to play a younger player."
Moon had the body of a younger man. He never suffered a serious injury, and he had maintained a strict diet, massage and chiropractor regimen.
"Some don't take care of themselves until they feel their body change or their skills deteriorate," said Moon, a Seattle Seahawks radio analyst. "It's almost too late at that point."
Late in a career than included years in Houston's quick-trigger run-and-shoot, Moon could think at warp speed. He felt like he was always a step ahead of the defense, knowing where he was throwing by the third or fourth step of his drop, allowing him to get a pass to its target quicker than the kid who threw with more velocity.
Moon also attributed his success to the chip always on his shoulder every time he played poorly or tweaked an ankle, observers attributed it to age.
Many say the the same in regard to Favre if he stumbles. As he noted Wednesday, he has a daughter who is only a few years younger than some of his teammates. And after remarking that Favre's "peers" had voted him a captain, Jets coach Eric Mangini smiled and corrected himself: "The kids voted him in."
What's changed over the years?
"As I've gotten older, I would like to sleep in a little longer," Favre said of game day.
Favre used to be an early riser, pacing as he pined for kickoff, and his roommate Frank Winters would tell him to settle down and go back to sleep.
"I kind of feel like Frank now," Favre quipped.
When does he get excited?
"When the first guy chases me," Favre said.
Chasing him like Father Time.
Ethan J. Skolnick is a sports columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.