Brett Favre: Record-setting quarterback. Three-time MVP. All-time ironman.
Pro Football Hall of Famer.
In what surely was one of the easiest Hall of Fame deliberations in memory -- the debate took a whopping 9 seconds, according to Hall of Fame President/Executive Director David Baker -- Favre on Saturday officially was selected for induction. He’s be joined by Kevin Greene — the NFL's career sack leader among linebackers and a formr Packers assistant coach — Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Dick Stanfel, Ken Stabler and Eddie DeBartolo. That’s a strong class, but it’s Favre, the legendary former Green Bay Packers quarterback and the franchise’s 24th Pro Football Hall of Famer, who will headline the Aug. 6 enshrinement ceremony.
“It's an incredible feeling, it really is," Favre said. "I'm well aware of my career and what I've done but I've never really -- I've accepted it for what it is but Roger Staubach comes up on stage and I still get goosebumps. That was my childhood hero (and) the Dallas Cowboys were my team. Last night in the hotel, Ed 'Too Tall' Jones comes up to me and says hello. 'Man, he's actually talking to me?' That's how I feel. I'm extremely thankful that I'm part of the group but I don't necessarily feel like I'm part of the group."
Favre knows who will present him but would not give it away. It's been a whirlwind period for Favre, highlighted by the halftime ceremony vs. Chicago on Thanksgiving night with Bart Starr.
"My ultimate goal was to do something with him, and that happened. The last eight, nine, 10 months have really been awesome."
Favre’s path to Canton began on Feb. 11, 1992. That’s when new general manager Ron Wolf, who had coveted Favre while working for the Jets during the 1991 draft, made the startling and defining decision to trade Green Bay’s first-round draft pick — No. 17 overall — for the Falcons’ talented wild child.
“People have asked me repeatedly what I saw in Brett Favre,” Wolf said last year. “Well, what I saw in Brett Favre is what everybody who’s ever watched him play saw. Those are the same things — that dynamic quality that he possessed, how important the game was to him. He’s going to play regardless. He set a standard of excellence in that area that may never be broken, although they keep changing the rules on quarterbacks and it could be that maybe somebody will break that. What he was, in my opinion, turned out to be the best player in the 1991 draft, bar none, and it turned out he was the best player in the 1991 draft — at the position in the NFL.”
Wolf had his diamond but he need polishing. A lot of polishing. When you looked up the word “raw” in the dictionary, then-quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci said, it was alongside a picture of Favre. Favre showed up at about 250 pounds, Mariucci recalled, and had spent the 1991 season operating the Falcons’ run-and-shoot offense.
So, with two veterans — Don Majkowski, who was two years removed from being runner-up for NFL MVP, and Mike Tomczak — there wasn’t pressure for Favre to play.
“The first thing that showed was arm strength,” Mariucci said. “You could sit there and watch him sling it through the wall. A lay person could see that. You knew he was a tough guy, you knew he was strong, you knew he was kind of a fun-loving kid. But we also felt that, oh boy, we’re going to have to have some patience. Just slow your roll here a little bit. This other guy’s got to start and this guy’s got a lot to learn and a lot of skills to catch up with and all the things we were doing.”
Tomczak, stuck in a contract dispute, was released at the end of August, so Green Bay went into the season with Majkowski as the starter and Favre as the top backup. When Majkowski went down with an ankle injury in the third game of the season vs. Cincinnati, Favre got his chance. His last-second touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor kicked into motion one of the most amazing careers in NFL history.
“When he went into that first game against Cincinnati — I’m sure you all remember it — he didn’t start that game but that game was probably a microcosm of his career,” Mariucci said. “He some great things, he did some crazy things, he fumbled the ball, he threw the ball away, he forgot to go out there for the extra point when he was supposed to hold because Majkowski was the holder and he didn’t practice it much. It was the start of something special, like one of those, ‘Whoa, I can’t believe he just did that.’”
There would be a lot of those moments, with Favre's arm and nerve overcoming almost every obstacle early in his career.
"There were many times when I could have and should have failed," Favre said. "I knew I had ability. Even dating back to college or Atlanta and then eventually in Green Bay, all I needed, in my mind, was a chance. I didn't get that in Atlanta. I just needed a chance. I was one of those -- no surprise to anyone -- I felt like I learned the X's and O's later. I just need a chance to get in there and I'll make something happen. I was way behind from a passing standpoint. I played a lot of games in college but not really in a passing offense. I had to rely on just make something happen and learn on the fly. My first 10 years was really athletic ability overcoming lack of knowledge. I just felt like if I got a chance, I could make something happen, and I'll get the other part of it down as I go."
Favre turned around the fortunes of a franchise that hadn’t won anything of significance since Super Bowl II three decades earlier. With Favre at quarterback, Wolf as general manager and Mike Holmgren as coach, Green Bay reached the playoffs in six consecutive seasons, including NFC Championship Games in 1995, 1996 and 1997. The Packers reached the Super Bowl in 1996 and 1997, and won Super Bowl XXXI 35-21 following the 1996 season.
“Suddenly, a losing franchise became a winning franchise,” Wolf said. “When he came here, the Packers had the poorest record in the NFL. I left nine-and-a-half years later, the Packers had the best record in the NFL. Guess who the quarterback was? That’s a tribute to him.”
Then, there was the rebirth. With Favre heaving a staggering 29 interceptions in 2005, the Packers went 4-12. That cost Mike Sherman his job. In 2007, Favre’s second year with coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers went 13-3 and Favre was back to his brilliant self with 28 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions. Favre and the Packers returned to the NFC title game but lost to the Giants 23-20. His overtime interception in that game would be his last pass with Green Bay and start a bitter divorce between the beloved quarterback and beloved franchise.
Individually, Favre’s career is beyond compare. He won an unprecedented three consecutive MVP awards in 1995, 1996 and 1997. He was selected to 11 Pro Bowls, including in 2008 with the Jets and 2009 with the Vikings, when he reached a fifth conference title game but again fell short with a late interception. In NFL history, he ranks first with 6,300 completions, second with 71,838 passing yards and second with 508 touchdown passes.
"It's impossible. As soon as I think of one, I think of many others," Favre said on Saturday of a favorite memory.
While Peyton Manning eclipsed Favre’s records in yards and touchdowns, his consecutive-starts streaks might be untouchable. Favre started 297 consecutive regular-season games. The record that Favre broke belonged to Ron Jaworski with 116 games, making Favre’s final streak two-and-a-half times longer.
Manning is next on the current list with 208 and Eli Manning is the active leader with 183. It would take Eli Manning until the 2023 season to break Favre’s record. When you put playoffs into the mix, Favre’s streak extends to 321 games. That’s almost 100 more than runner-up Peyton Manning’s 227. Eli Manning has the longest active streak with 194 games — a difference of 127 games.
“That’s ridiculous,” Mariucci said, “because, believe me, he was hurt a lot. If you play this game, you get hurt a lot, and there were times he couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Hated to miss practice, just hated to miss anything — meetings, practice. That’s why he was so special. Of all the records he has, the one that’s going to be so hard to break is the consecutive games played. It’s just ridiculous for a football player to do that.”
On July 19, Favre was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. On Nov. 26, Favre was honored at halftime of the Thanksgiving night game vs. Chicago. His name was unveiled alongside the other five players whose numbers have been retired: Tony Canadeo, Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke and Reggie White.
“Disbelief. Probably continued disbelief forever,” Favre said following the halftime ceremony. “I’m well aware of what I’ve accomplished and the career that I’ve had. It was a long, wonderful career. I just don’t ever look at myself as being … I have to say to myself sometimes, ‘Really, with Bart Starr? Are you kidding?’ And really, you think about the players that have played in Green Bay, not just with their number retired, and the Hall of Fame here is probably close to rivaling the NFL Hall of Fame with the number of unbelievable players that have played here. So just to be part of that, whether your number is retired or not is quite an honor. To be one of what? Five? Including me, six? It goes without saying that’s a tremendous honor.”
Said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy in a statement from the team: “The Green Bay Packers organization and all our fans congratulate Brett on his election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brett was a one-of-a-kind player with an approach to the game that endeared him not only to Packers fans, but also to millions of football fans across the world. He’s one of the game’s all-time greats and this honor is well deserved. We look forward to his enshrinement ceremony in August.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.