Commentary: Streaking Favre plays it a certain way

It's the equivalent of some hot-shot hitter obliterating Pete Rose's career record by retiring with 7,320 hits.

If Emmitt Smith would hang up his cleats today, some future NFL rushing champion would have to end his career with 31,090 yards.

It would be like a basketball player breaking Wilt Chamberlain's single-game scoring record by tallying 172 points.

That's what Brett Favre has done to the consecutive-starts-by-a-quarterback record. Ron Jaworski owned the old mark with 116 straight starts. On Monday night, Brett Favre will be the starter for the 200th consecutive regular-season game.

Even people with a cushy office job have a problem showing up at work every single day for 40 consecutive workweeks. The workplace hazards in the office include paper cuts and the germs on the telephone. The workplace hazards for Favre include 300-pound linemen and blitzing linebackers.

As you'd expect from the down-to-earth Favre, the future hall of famer put a whole lot less importance on the milestone than the rest of us.

"I never thought about 200 straight games because there's so many factors that go into playing each week, injury, how you play, once again, business decisions, things like that," Favre said Wednesday in a national conference call. "So I've been able to sort of outlast all those. That to me is as amazing as anything."

What's also amazing is what Favre has accomplished simply by showing up to work every day. The Bears may turn to Chad Hutchinson next week. He would be their 15th starting quarterback in the last decade. Baltimore is on its 13th starter while Washington is on starter No. 12. Since Favre's streak started, the other 31 teams have gone through 178 starters. Eleven of his backups have gone on to starting gigs.

Favre is the only player in the four major professional sports to start every game since Sept. 27, 1992, the date of Favre's starting debut against Pittsburgh. Sports' all-time iron man, baseball's Cal Ripken, topped Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak by three seasons. Favre has lapped Jaworski's mark by 5.25 seasons.

Favre says there's no secret formula for his ability to stay healthy.

"I'm sure luck, a lot of luck," Favre said. "I think hard work. I think at this stage in my career, I don't work any harder than the next guy. Early part of my career, I mean, I was — oh, God, I was almost a weight room junky. I was also man about town, too. I had to kind of offset it.

"The way I play the game is a big part of it, too. I honestly believe that. I mean, I really don't know if there's a secret formula. I've been asked that question thousands of times. I always answer with the way I play the game."

By that, he means throw it and get the heck out of the way. Blessed with such a strong right arm, Favre more often than not has been able to get away with fundamentals that would make a Pop Warner coach cringe.

"I think mechanically speaking, if you were going to teach a young quarterback say coming into high school, a kid with a lot of talent, who has maybe a chance, not only for college football, but maybe the pros, mechanically speaking, you ... would not take me," Favre said. "Mechanically speaking, I'm about as unsound from a quarterback guru's perspective. I was never taught mechanics.

"My dad was a running football coach. I'd say, ‘What about throwing it, dad?' He'd say, 'Get your ass in there and worry about blocking right now.' That's the coaching points that I got.

"So I probably escaped a lot of injuries by throwing with both feet off the ground, by back-pedaling when I'm throwing, by leaving the pocket when I'm throwing."

Of course, it helps to have some guts. A lot of guts. How many times have you seen Favre leading the way on a reverse? In one game earlier in the season, Favre led the way on an Ahman Green sweep.

"I never, ever have been concerned about injury," Favre said.

It can be argued that philosophy led to the rebirth of the franchise.

During his first season as a starter, Favre was hit so hard by Eagles defensive end Reggie White that he separated his left shoulder. Favre returned to the game, impressing White so much that it played a role in his signing with the Packers as a free agent. White, of course, legitimized the Packers franchise, helped lure other free agents and started the Packers on the road to the Super Bowl.

"That was the game that proved to me that Brett was going to be the player that he is today," White said a few years ago. "I knew he had separated his shoulder. When he came back out, the first thing that ran through my mind was, ‘This guy's going to be good.'"

The only thing more impressive than Favre playing through separated shoulders and injured knees and broken thumbs is his playing with broken hearts.

His father died in December, and when nobody would have said a bad word about Favre had he taken the night off, he produced his signature performance. This year, his brother-in-law died and his wife, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the midst of these tragedies, Favre has rallied the Packers out of a 1-4 hole and into a lead in the NFC North by winning five consecutive games.

Perhaps the same genes that let Favre play through physical pain help Favre perform through mental pain.

"I'm not going to say it's easy. I'm not going to give you a formula. I'm not going to write a book. I don't know," Favre said. "Life goes on. As difficult as it may seem at times, it goes on. And you will be left in the rearview mirror if you don't step up to it and deal with it.

"My wife, she said one time, ‘See life through the windshield, the front windshield, not the rearview mirror.' I thought that was a great comment."

The day when we are viewing Favre through the rearview mirror is going to be a strange, sad day. The Packers are more than Favre, but the two are so inextricably linked that it just won't be the same. The Packers someday might get a quarterback as good as Favre, but there's no way he will be as fun to watch.

"When people say, ‘How do you want to be remembered?' I guess this is the best example I can give," Favre explained. "In my mind, the best way to be remembered is, I could see a man with his son sitting in the stands and talking and he says, ‘If I was able to play the game, that's the way I would play it.' Whether you like me or not, whether you're pulling for my team or the opposing team, they say, ‘I can't help but appreciate the way that guy plays. He plays it.' I could almost see myself, Joe Blow down there who works at the gas station, could say, ‘If I was able to play, I could see myself playing that way. He plays it a certain way.'"

Huber writes for Contact him via e-mail at

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