For Favre, High Expectations in New York

Mike McMaster

He did everything he needed to do. He won a Super Bowl, threw more touchdown passes than anyone in the history of the sport and won two MVP awards. So, through alligator tears, Brett Favre explained that he had nothing more to give to football, and football had nothing more to give to him, when he announced his retirement last March.

Favre had always been a country boy anyways. He wanted to return to Mississippi and spend more time with his wife, Deanna, and his two daughters, Brittany and Breleigh.

And that would be it. Brett would sit at home, relaxing the body that had been battered through sixteen years without missing a start as an NFL quarterback. He would do yard work for Deanna, play touch football in his Wrangler jeans and go to church on Sundays.

But no one believed it. Not even Brett. Only a few short weeks after the announcement on his retirement, rumors of his return began to surface. Sketchy details of text messages to reporters and Packer executives became front-page news, and before long, it was clear that Brett would be coming out of retirement shortly.

Brett Favre was only kidding himself. As hard as he tried to walk away from football, he knew he couldn’t. Favre needs football like Barry Bonds needs syringes, Colgate students need the Jug and fat kids need chocolate. Because as many times as Favre said he was done with football and he would never go back, it just wasn’t true.

Favre knew walking away wasn’t going to be easy. What he didn’t expect was that coming back was going to be even harder. The Green Bay Packers had already filled his position as quarterback with their 2005 first-round draft pick, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was not ready to step aside for the retiree, and to the surprise of Favre, Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy and Head Coach Mike McCarthy were not about to make him do so. The Packers are paying Rodgers a lot of money, and they did not want their investment to sit on the bench. It was time to pass the torch; it was time for Rodgers to take over.

Last spring, I had the opportunity to interview Mark Murphy, and he told me, “Most people think he is going to come back. We are very close (to getting him back), and he is still playing at a very high level. I would be surprised if he doesn’t come back.” One week later, Favre retired.

However, despite Murphy’s confidence that Favre would continue to play and still play at a high level, Packer management treated it as a surprise and a nuisance when Favre indicated that he wanted to return. Not even four months after they had tried to convince him to return, the Packers offered Favre a variety of options to try to keep him off of the team. They even offered him money not to play football.

Then, finally, after almost a month of intense negotiations, the future Hall of Fame quarterback was traded to the New York Jets, a team that he had previously indicated he was not interested in playing for.

Jets fans, who suffered through twelve losses last year and watched Darren McFadden slip between their fingers on draft day, had a field day. All of a sudden, Mangini was a “Man-Genius” again, not a coach who only won four games last season. Jets fans started talking about the playoffs, and some of them even had the courage to whisper the words, Super Bowl.

For Favre, this will be a season of both redemption and high expectations. Not only does he have an entire organization to prove wrong, but he has a new fan base that is expecting him to return its team to the playoffs.

However, don’t be surprised if this year turns into a bit of a disappointment. Donald Driver will be on the receiving end of zero touchdown passes from Brett Favre this year, and Jericho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles may not be the kind of receivers Favre needs to find deep down the field. Coles and Cotchery were fine targets for the weak-armed Pennington, but neither of them is bigger than six feet tall, and Favre may not have a viable downfield target. In addition, Thomas Jones has a lot left to prove in the Jets backfield. Therefore, Favre’s success this season may be contingent on the success of his supporting cast. If Cotchery and Coles prove that they can play taller than they are, and if Jones takes on the load at tailback, the Jets could win considerably more games this season.

But even if all the pieces do fall into place, and the Jets have a storybook season, will Brett Favre retire again? And this time, will anyone believe him?