Favre on same road as Elway

The year was 1996. One QB – Brett Favre – was going to his first Super Bowl. The other QB – John Elway – had yet another disappointing playoff loss. Favre was about to achieve something Elway hadn't done in three tries, win a Lombardi Trophy. Elway, meanwhile, was contemplating his future after a home playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.<p>

Elway was mentally drained and his physical woes were starting to add up as his career winded down. After some reflection, Elway returned for not just one, but two seasons, and ended up leading the Denver Broncos to two consecutive Super Bowl wins. The first one came at the expense of Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

Favre and Elway are very similar. Both were gunslingers that never lost the heat off their fastball. Like Elway, Favre became famous for bringing his team back from certain defeat many times. One of the few times he didn't was against Elway and the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. Favre came very close that night, but in the end, Elway finally had his first title. Favre felt the pain that Elway had suffered three times before. Elway and Favre didn't lose very often. In fact, Elway is the all-time winning QB in NFL history with 148 wins. Favre is not far behind.

Brett Favre is a winner. He is only 13 games behind Elway in all-time wins with 135. He has never led a losing team in his 13 seasons in Green Bay. In those 13 seasons, the Packers have qualified for the playoffs 10 times. In that span the Packers have won 6 divisional titles, 2 NFC championships and one Super Bowl title. Favre's personal statistics aren't bad either. Favre has thrown 376 TD passes, which is second only to Dan Marino's 420. Favre has also thrown for 49,734 yards, which puts him only behind Marino and Elway. Favre has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season 13 consecutive years. Favre has thrown 30 or more TDs in a season eight times. But Favre's most impressive stat is his consecutive start steak. Favre has now started an incredible 205 straight games...225...if you count the playoffs. There is no doubt that Favre is as tough as they get, but the last two years have been tougher for different reasons.

Dec. 21, 2003. It was a shocking day for Brett Favre as he learned of the passing of his father Irv. Irv Favre wasn't just dad, he was also coach and more importantly, friend. Brett played the next night with a heavy heart, on Monday Night Football against the Oakland Raiders in a game that the Packers had to win. The performance was both emotional and remarkable. Favre threw for 399 yards and 4 TDs as the Packers whipped the Raiders 41-7.

Move to 2004. More tragedy for the Favres. First, Brett's brother-in-law, Casey Tynes, was tragically killed in an ATV accident on Favre's property in Mississippi. Then, Deanna Favre, Brett's wife and Casey's sister, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Favre showed his support of Deanna during this trying period by shaving his head in her honor. Brett was there to support Deanna, just like Deanna had supported Brett in some turbulent times earlier in his career. Favre used to live on the edge, now he was the consummate family man.

Like Elway in 1996, Favre has suffered some very painful playoff losses in recent seasons. The 2001 playoff loss to the Rams where Favre threw 6 interceptions. The 2002 home playoff loss to the Falcons, the first ever home playoff loss in Packer history. The 2003 4th and 26 game against the Eagles for the right to go to the NFC championship game. The 2004 home playoff loss to the Vikings. Also like Elway, Favre must ask himself some questions to help determine the future. 1) Do I have the physical capability to still play at a high level? 2) Does my team have the talent to get to a Super Bowl? 3) Is the organization doing everything it can to improve the team? 4) Does my family support my decision to play?

I don't know the answer to number four, but my guess is that the Favre family has and always will support Brett. The answer to the other three questions is simply, yes. 1) Favre is no spring chicken, but he still plays at a Pro Bowl level as evidenced by his 30 TDs last year and his 4,088 yards passing. 2) The Packers certainly have the offensive talent to compete for a Super Bowl, and the addition of highly regarded Jim Bates to head the defense will certainly strengthen that area. 3) Team President Bob Harlan made the right move by bringing in Ted Thompson to run the front office. Thompson is a Ron Wolf protégé and Harlan did ok when he hired Wolf in 1991 to start the Packer's renaissance. Like Wolf, Thompson knows talent and had a very good track record in Seattle drafting players. Mike Sherman can do what he does best...coach. In regular season play, Sherman is a very impressive career 53-27, with 3 divisional championships. The playoffs are where Sherman has had some issues with his career record a mediocre 2-4. Talent rises to the top in the playoffs and here is where Thompson can help fill the void. The marriage of Thompson and Sherman looks to be a good one because of lack of ego and incredible work ethic.

Still, Favre must think about these things as he rides his tractor on his vast Mississippi property. Like Elway in 1996, Favre has had numerous injury issues late in his career. The start streak has stayed intact but it doesn't get any easier. Elway almost gave in to calling it quits before he finally reached pro football's Nirvana. Favre has also been able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but that was a long time ago. The tractor will always be there for Favre to ride in bayou country. But a different type of ride is out there. That ride is one Favre has experienced once, a wild and exhilarating ride to the Super Bowl. It can happen late in a career, too. Ask John Elway.

Editor's note: Bob Fox is a freelance writer from Tampa, Fla. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.

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