King: Call It What You Want

Mangini vs. Favre is a classic storyline, and Steve King pulls no punches in getting to the heart of it. Much will be said about it over the next week, but Steve King nails it right off the bat...

When the possibility of it happening was first brought up to him by the media, he talked around it, saying nothing.

And, once it was a done deal, when the certainty of it happening was brought up to him by the media more recently, he again danced around it, saying a little more, but still basically nothing.

Now, however, with the event itself bearing down on him, Eric Mangini will have to deal with it directly – if not publicly, then at least privately.

Mangini, in his first game as head coach of the Browns, going against Brett Favre, in his first game as quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, next Sunday in the regular-season opener.

Mangini going against his quarterback last year with the New York Jets – the quarterback who arrived with the team at the 11th hour, no doubt flustering a coach who is so organized so far down the road that he probably knows where he'll be and what he'll be doing on Jan. 6, 2012.

Mangini going against the quarterback who, despite the fact he'll a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, got into one of his interception-throwing frenzies, helping take the Jets, who were 8-3 with five games left and seemingly a sure bet to make the playoffs, to a nose-diving 9-7 finish, keeping them out of the postseason and costing Mangini his first head-coaching job.

And it also caused Favre, who never seemed to fully embrace the Jets and the opportunity there, to retire – again – but only for a while until he was lured out of it by the Vikings, the whole long-drawn out process doing much to tarnish his image and causing people who a couple years ago never wanted him to leave, to start begging him to just please go away.

The Vikings, the hated division rivals of the Green Bay Packers, with whom Favre built his legacy. Seeing him in Jets green instead of Packers green was bad enough for Green Bay fans, but seeing him in Vikings purple will no doubt make them green – as in sick to their stomach.

Favre a Viking? Doug Dieken a Pittsburgh Steeler? Jason pitching fast-food French fries? Barack Obama a Republican? Rush Limbaugh on Air America?

Come on, man, some things just weren't meant to be – ever.

But money (lots of money), opportunity (a good one) and ego (a big one) can change all that.

And it has.

Favre went to the talented Vikings to try to win one last championship. If it doesn't pan out, then it could tear the team apart – if it hasn't already since he never bonded with the club through all of the painstaking, yet critical offseason work. By showing up so late, he's just skimming all the glory and face time off the top.

But Favre doesn't seem to care. The guy who used to be the ultimate team player has now pared his own personal roster to just three names – me, myself and I.

Favre gets to start his second do-over in the place where he started – more or less -- his first go-around, for it was in Cleveland against the Browns on Oct. 18, 1992 as a member of the Packers that he got his second career start, resulting in a 17-6 Green Bay loss.

But that game – and the one he played against the Browns in Cleveland on Nov. 19, 1995, when he directed a 31-20 victory when everybody's focus was on the Browns' impending move to Baltimore after the season – won't have nearly the meaning of this one.

Time is running out on Favre. His playing career is winding down – if it hasn't already done so. If it doesn't happen this season with the Vikings, then when – and where – will it happen?

Next season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

The season after that with the Houston Texans?

The 2012 season with the new Los Angeles franchise?

The 2013 season with Art's Vacuum Cleaner Sales and Supply?

By that time, he may not be able to fit into the jeans he wears on those TV commercials, and it will be the other guys who will taking it easy on him in that pick-up game, not the other way around.

And at the same time, you can bet that Mangini, fully aware of how Favre being forced upon him by Jets management shattered his carefully laid-out plans, would like nothing better than to put his team above Favre's in this first meeting.

Call it revenge. Call it settling the score. Call it what you want.

Cleveland, of course, was a special place for Mangini long before he was hired here last January. It was in 1994, two seasons after Favre had played here, and just as the quarterback was elevating himself to one of the best in the game at the time, that Mangini arrived in Cleveland as a public relations intern and a ball boy for the Browns.

Now here they are back in town, older, wiser, more well-traveled and more accomplished.

Mangini's clock is running, too. When he came to the Jets, he was a young, hot head coaching prospect. Now with the Browns, there is no guarantee he'll get a third chance somewhere else – at least immediately – if things don't work out in Cleveland. He would probably have to go back to being a defensive coordinator to rebuild his resume.

So, just like Favre, he has to win – soon and frequently – or else the voice of their critics will grow louder than those of their supporters.

Although both men learned last year that quick starts don't necessarily translate into quick finishes and successful seasons, Mangini and Favre would both like to get off to fast beginnings this year so, just like their teams, they can begin putting 2008 behind them. Both the Browns and Vikings failed to meet expectations, Cleveland obviously much more so than Minnesota.

So this won't be a football game as much as it will be theatre, with all kinds of sub-plots and heroes and villains. It's made for TV. The people at FOX, which is televising the contest, have to be uncontrollably giddy over the fact they literally fell into this classic story line.

The talkative, free-wheeling, fun-loving quarterback who's likely to say anything, and has, much to many people's chagrin who believed him way back when he first said he was retired.

The tight-lipped, conservative, ultra-serious-minded coach who's likely to say nothing, and has, much to the chagrin of writers who wanted him, even prodded him, to wax poetic about meeting up with Favre in some kind of Same Time, Next Year scenario.

Favre and Mangini know how each other thinks. So does the coach know more about how to control the quarterback's passing than the quarterback knows how to beat the coach's defense?

Or is it a wash and will the names of two other people be on the lips of the fans and media after the game?

Now, after all this hoopla concerning Mangini and Favre leading into this meeting, that would certainly be something to talk about – if Mangini would be willing to do so, which would have about as much chance of happening as say, a Packer becoming a Jet becoming a Viking and retiring and un-retiring every time that cold north wind blows in the land of 1,000 lakes.


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