On Saturday, Favre made his first public statements to the media since April 25, the day he announced he would return to play football with the Packers for a 15th season. After a morning practice, the second of the post-draft mini-camp for the team, he spoke at length of his reasons for returning for another season and what went into his decision-making process over the past four months.
Besides asking the media to respect his wishes and not ask any questions about retirement during the upcoming season, Favre was candid about his intention to continue to play with the same style he always has, putting his will to win over everything else.
For anyone hoping the Packers might adopt the conservative-offense, win-games-with-defense system that seems to be a trend in the NFL, think again. Favre made it clear he is coming back with his gunslinger mentality. After all, it is the only way he knows how to play the game and that will apparently never change.
"I think I've played 15 years a certain way," explained Favre, "aggressively, not pretty at times, but there's been a lot of guys out there who are prettier who are out of the league now. I don't regret the way I play, the way I approach it, and I don't feel like I should change. My will to win is probably why I'm still standing here. My desire and commitment is why I'm here, not my footwork, not my mechanics, not arm strength or decision-making. It's my desire to win. I want to win more than anyone else, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes. Sometimes it's not pretty, but for me to change now would be time for me to leave."
If there ever was a time for Favre to change, take the safe pass, play within himself, or tone down his style to eliminate mistakes, it was last year. The Packers were depleted by injuries on offense at the skill positions and possessed a surprisingly strong defense that kept them competitive in games. Favre, though, as the leader of the team, suffered through the worst season of his career. He threw a career-high 29 interceptions and week-after-week made many of the same mistakes. Head coach Mike Sherman stood by him, unwavering in his support of the three-time MVP, not even giving the slightest of chances to playing first-round pick Aaron Rodgers. Mistakes that Sherman insisted would get fixed never did, and the Packers suffered their worst season since 1991. Through it all, Favre showed he still had skills, but could not get the results.
"To be honest with you, I don't think I played any differently in my approach last year than in any other year," said Favre. "I know when we were winning games every week and being ahead all the time, there's a different way of playing the game, and being 4-12 was obviously new to me. As the season progressed, we were playing from behind. It was just different. There was a different guy in the huddle every time, but maybe I should have made some different decisions at times. But we had to try to win the ball game with whoever was in there. In '95, '96, and '97, we would be up by 14, and I would throw a bad interception or something and (Mike) Holmgren after the game would say, ‘You're bored. You don't have to do that.' He was right. It would get boring. We'd be running the ball out and we would take a shot and I figured this was my only shot to take. Whereas when you're down week-in and week-out, you have to take chances. And sometimes you take chances and you know the odds are against you. But I'm not going to sit there and throw three-yard checkdowns and let the clock run out. I'm going to take chances. There are going to be people who are going to agree with that and people who don't agree with it. I really don't care."
Several Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the twilight of their careers have changed their styles with varying degrees of success. The Broncos' John Elway toned down later in his career and won two Super Bowls. The Dolphins' Dan Marino looked to his running game to help his waning passing game and went into retirement with a whimper. Should the Packers expect Favre to change his style? Can they expect to win if he does? The answer to both questions is no, even if logic suggests it should be yes.
As much as Favre probably needs to play within himself now more than ever, he cannot. Living on the edge made him who he is and without thinking that way, he would be embracing a foreign concept – one that would take more than just a year for him to really grasp. Even then, he maybe could not grasp it.
Now with a new head coach in Mike McCarthy, Favre has some new wrinkles to learn. So far McCarthy has been evasive in talking about how he will deal with Favre should Favre continue to make the poor decisions he did a year ago.
"It's important for him to play within the realm of the offense, which I think he always has," said McCarthy. "I've said it over and over again, when you call plays, the play-caller and the quarterback have to be on the same page. You've got to know when to push the envelope and when to pull back. If you're pushing the envelope too much, a lot of times you may get away with it, but you're also in an area of turnovers and things like that can happen. So you just got to be smart."
Smart has not always been the best term to describe Favre's play over his career, rather aggressiveness and toughness are better suited words. Should Favre play smart this year, the Packers have a good chance to reach eight wins or even sneak into the playoffs. Should Favre play with the same aggressiveness that has made him such a wild ride to watch, the Packers could well go 4-12 again, or reach heights not expected like an NFC North division title. It is in Favre's hands, and there is not much McCarthy, Ted Thompson, offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, or quarterbacks coach Tom Clements can do about it – or at least they have not shown those signs yet.
Favre is back, for better or for worse. He made it known on Saturday that everyone can expect to see the same player that Ron Wolf fell in love with when the ex-Packers general manger traded for Favre in 1991. As Packers' fans know that could mean 30 touchdowns or 30 interceptions, probably not anything in between. Let the adventure begin.
Editor's note: Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.