That was the first time Irvin would get excited watching his son lead the Packers to victory. Over the next dozen years he'd have plenty of other opportunities to witness Brett in person and on TV doing the same. But on Monday, he watched his son from high above. Almost 30 hours before Brett took the field against the Oakland Raiders, Irvin Favre suffered a fatal heart attack while driving his truck near his hometown of Kiln, Miss. He was 58 years old.
Irvin was more than Brett's father, he was his coach. A damn fine one at that. The residents of Kiln even had the street the family lived on named after him. Football was more than just something he coached or a game Brett played. It weaved through the family like DNA and was a backdrop for countless stories and conversations long before Brett was collecting NFL Most Valuable Player trophies.
So when Brett learned of his father's passing, it really wasn't that much of a surprise that he decided to play, not that anyone would have blamed him if he had gone home to join his family. Sure, a playoff spot was on the line. Sure Brett means everything to his team. But some things are bigger than football. Even Vince Lombardi properly prioritized God, family and the Green Bay Packers. But Brett did what he thought his old coach would've wanted him to do: he played football. Oh, did he play. Flawlessly. Passionately. Spectacularly.
"I knew my dad would want me to play," Brett told ABC's Lisa Guerrero after the game. "I love him so much and I love this game. It meant a great deal to me to my dad and to my family. I didn't expect this kind of performance, but I know he was watching tonight."
There would be a time to grieve. But as a national television audience looked on, hoping for the best, bracing for the worst, Brett delivered the ultimate tribute to his father with one of the most amazing performances in his Hall of Fame career. He completed his first nine passes of the game for 184 yards and two touchdowns that moved him past Fran Tarkenton into second place on the league's all-time touchdown list with 343.
"It's just unbelievable," guard Mike Wahle said. "I just can't believe he went out and did what he did today. You know, you're so sad for him, but you're so damn proud of him."
By halftime, he had shredded the Raiders secondary for 311 yards and four scoring tosses leading to a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating – an accurate measurement for two of the finest quarters of football ever played. He'd finish 22 of 30 with 399 yards in the 41-7 victory, just three shy of his career best and a quarterback rating of 154.9, his highest single-game mark ever. The four touchdowns were one away from his personal best, though tight end David Martin dropped a potential fifth touchdown that might have been the easiest grab on a night of highlight-caliber catches from his receiving corp.
Brett connected with 12 different players on Monday including his top four receivers, all three tight ends, three running backs and two fullbacks. If you were illegible to receive a pass, you got one thrown your way. And to his teammates' credit, through inspiration, not wanting to let their heavy-hearted quarterback down or both, they made some of the most amazing catches of the year despite facing double and even triple coverage at times.
Again and again Brett heaved the ball down field. Again and again, it found its mark. Robert Ferguson hauled in a 47-yarder on the team's first possession. Tight end Wesley Walls beat safety Derrick Gibson to the corner of the end zone for a 22-yard score when Brett put the ball right on the hands of his hunting buddy for the game's first points. Javon Walker was wide open for a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter and out-jumped two Raiders for a falling-down 43-yard score in the third that broke the game open at 24-7. Walker's 46-yard grab later in the quarter set up a 6-yard toss to Martin.
"I walked over to Brett on the sideline and told him, ‘Your dad is having a hell of a time watching you play tonight,' " Walker said.
And I'd like to think he's still asking someone, ‘Did you see what my boy just did?;' just as any proud father would.
W. Keith Roerdink is a freelance writer from Wausau, Wis. and a longtime contributor to the Packer Report. Check out his weekly Hot Read column every Thursday.