What a pair: Favre and Holmgren

A Web site's listing of the top duos in NFL history neglects the pupil-teacher relationship that put Favre on top of the football world, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

If you've seen it, you either love or hate the Cold, Hard Football Facts Web site. Generally, it's downright cruel to quarterback Brett Favre, but it's full of original analysis.

Last week, writer Jonathan Comey compiled an interesting list of the 17 top duos on NFL history. They were listed in chronological order, and the halfback-fullback duo of Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor and the coach-quarterback duo of Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr made his list.

In an honorable-mention group, Comey named Favre and center Frank Winters. Good call, but the dynamic duo that put the Title back in Titletown was Favre and Mike Holmgren.

I mention this because Favre is getting awfully close to owning some of the NFL's marquee records.

Barring injury, the biggest record of them all, Dan Marino's 420 career touchdown passes, is sure to fall. Favre enters the season with 414 TD tosses.

Of course, no position on the field plays a bigger role in determining victory or defeat than quarterback, and Favre's 147 wins as a starter trails John Elway 's NFL standard by one.

With 57,500 passing yards, Favre trails Marino's 61,361. That's a difference of 3,861 yards. Last season, Favre threw for 3,885 yards, so that pursuit could add some late-season intrigue.

Is there any doubt that, without Holmgren, Favre wouldn't be near any of those records?

Holmgren won a test of wills with Favre, molding a wild gunslinger into an unprecedented three-time NFL most valuable player.

From 1994 through 1998, Favre topped 30 touchdown passes all five seasons, averaging 35 touchdowns and a ridiculous 4,054 yards while completing about 61.5 percent of his passes. He averaged just shy of 16 interceptions during that stretch, including a grand total of 40 during his MVP seasons.

Since then, Favre's play has eroded. In 1999 under Ray Rhodes, he threw for 4,091 yards, but completed 57.3 percent of his passes and threw 22 touchdowns compared to 23 interceptions.

The story was similar in 2000, with a lot of yards (3,812) but an uninspiring touchdown-to-interception margin (20 to 16).

He posted his last monster season in 2001, throwing for 3,921 yards on 61.6 percent passing, with 32 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He led the NFL in touchdown passes for the fourth time with 32 in 2003 — along with a career-high completion percentage of 65.4 — but he threw 21 interceptions to partially negate one of the greatest rushing attacks in NFL history: Ahman Green's historic 1,883 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

Of course, linking Favre's decline to Holmgren's departure is simplistic. The talent around Favre slipped and Favre got older. But it's undeniably true that Favre reverted to his pre-Holmgren form under the lax constraints of Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman.

Perhaps the most infamous of his up-for-grabs throws doomed his last, best chance to get to a Super Bowl. Say what you want about fourth-and-26 and Sherman's don't-go-for-the-jugular coaching in that Jan. 11, 2004, playoff game at Philadelphia, but Favre's off-his-back-foot heave in overtime turned into an easy interception and the game-winning points for the Eagles.

If Holmgren were the coach and not Sherman, would Favre have made such an ill-advised throw in that situation? We'll never know, but based on Favre's interception totals during and after the Holmgren era, the answer probably is no.

None of this is meant to diminish Favre's career. The ungodly stats, the longevity and the fact the Packers have had only one losing season under his direction speak volumes of his skill and guts. Favre's a singular talent in NFL history, but it took Holmgren's toughness and genius to bring it out of him.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

Packer Report Top Stories