When it's obvious skills have declined, or if a team decides to cut ties because of financial ramifications or the need to "prepare for the future," a longtime star will try to stretch out a stellar career by signing with another team. Consider:
• Johnny Unitas — San Diego Chargers
• Joe Montana — Los Angeles Rams
• Franco Harris — Seattle Seahawks
Two of the greatest players in Dallas Cowboys history did the same thing. Tony Dorsett finished his playing days as a member of the Denver Broncos. Emmitt Smith is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after stretching the NFL's all-time rushing record as a member of … the Arizona Cardinals?
Nobody has the right to tell a star when to retire, with the exception of the team cutting him paychecks. Players retire for an infinite number of reasons, and the timing of such decisions is always a matter of debate. Some players retire with something left in the tank, while all too many hang on waaaaaay too long.
Did Dorsett and Smith need to stretch their careers with short, meaningless stints in Denver and Arizona, respectively? Of course not. They're among the greatest players ever to carry a football, but their final seasons — in uniforms without a blue star on the helmet — were a shame, at best.
Favre faces a similar dilemma. He's on the short list of the greatest players at any position. He has won more games and thrown for more yards and touchdowns than anyone in NFL history, and it's not like he limped through last season — he broke the NFL career records for touchdowns, yards and victories, and earned his ninth Pro Bowl bid. He led a team of no-names to a stellar season that ended in overtime in the NFC Championship Game.
So what happens now? Favre has asked the Packers to reinstate him … and then release him. But the team has resisted. Green Bay has been grooming Aaron Rodgers as Favre's eventual replacement, and drafted Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn as potential backups.
There are several teams that have been speculated as potential Favre destination:
division rivals Minnesota and Chicago have poor quarterbacks, but it's highly unlikely the Packers would trade their living legend within the division … if at all.
The New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs have been speculated as potential targets, but if he plays again, it's going to be with a team that has a chance to reach the Super Bowl. None of those three has a chance.
Carolina Panthers? Jake Delhomme's arm might be busted, but can you really see him in teal and black and silver?
Then there's Tampa Bay, which reportedly might have interest, but the Buccaneers already have too many quarterbacks, one of whom is 38-year-old Jeff Garcia. No way. Besides, any team that brings him in runs the risk of looking desperate if Favre's performance doesn't live up to the standard he has set for himself through his brilliant career.
Favre needs to stay retired. If he comes back to Green Bay, he'll look — regardless of how he performs — like he's trying to squeeze one more year out of a once-brilliant career. If he goes elsewhere, he'll look like a mercenary. Short of a Super Bowl victory, it will be hard for Favre to save face, regardless of which team he joins.
Adding years in Denver and Arizona did nothing to help Dorsett's and Smith's legacy, respectively. If anything, the overtime session each former Dallas star reduced the shine on their stars, if only a little.
They never should have tried to extend their careers with teams other than the Cowboys. Favre absolutely must follow suit, and stay retired. He'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no matter what, but between now and then, he needs to just stay retired.
Favre should learn from Smith, Dorsett
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