Getting better with age

For Brett Favre, age is nothing more than a number. The Packers quarterback continues to produce where the careers of many other NFL greats have come to an end, says's Matt Tevsh.

With Brett Favre on the verge of breaking another NFL record this week, his ranking among the great quarterbacks all-time has been a hot topic of debate for broadcast and print outlets throughout the country. Top 10? Maybe top five? Some might even argue No. 1.

Only when Favre's career is finished can the best evaluation of his ultimate status be determined. Until then, this ranking should leave no disagreement: Favre is the best there ever has been at his age.

On Oct. 10, Favre will turn 38, an age when many of the great quarterback careers all but die. While Favre may look the part of a quarterback on the way out with gray hair taking over his tightly-trimmed scalp, his performance the last two weeks hardly indicates that he has one leg in the casket. If anything, he is playing as well as ever with a better understanding of the game.

After a downright pathetic performance for the Packers' offense in Week One against the Eagles, the unit has unexpectedly surged forward behind an aerial assault. A second-half explosion in Week Two against the Giants contributed to Favre throwing for 286 yards passing and three touchdowns on 29 of 38 passing. This past week in an upset of the Chargers, he was just as good throwing for 369 yards and three more touchdowns.

The two-game total is among the best back-to-back games Favre has ever had in his career. It even rivals some of his consecutive game outputs during a magical three-year stretch (1995-97) when he became the NFL's top quarterback.

With a struggling rushing game, the Packers have all but indicated that they will play to their strengths this year and let Favre lead a controlled, passing-dominated attack. That will give him plenty of opportunities, and with health and good decision-making, he will put up the best all-around season ever for a 38-year old.

Of the all-time greats, only John Elway, Steve Young, and Warren Moon can compete with Favre this late in a career. Elway was as competitive as ever winning back-to-back Super Bowls (one against the Packers) with impressive passing numbers, but really was a different player with a great running back in Terrell Davis leading the way. Young put up a mind-boggling 36 touchdowns turning 37 years old during the 1998 season, but saw concussions cut his career short at 38 just three games into 1999, a season about to go bad on him anyway. And Moon does not necessarily get mentioned with the greats, but his outstanding individual performances in 1995 (when he turned 37 during the season) and 1997 are noteworthy even without such lofty team success. Moon played until he was 44.

What Favre has going for him more than the others is team success along with great statistics on a young team whose talent was questioned at the start of the year. Even Favre had his preseason doubts, making his recent accomplishments that much more impressive.

"My approach this year has been no different than any other year," he said on Wednesday. "I realize that if I make a lot of mistakes, that puts our team in jeopardy. We don't win many games when I do that. I think coming into this year, I felt more pressure than any other season, offensively-speaking. I know our defense is playing better, I know we have high hopes for our defense, but I also know we have to score points."

The Packers have found the end zone nine times in the last two games and are 3-0 as one of the NFL's great early season stories. Favre has definitely done his part. He is fifth in a pass-happy league with 861 yards and boasts an impressive 93.4 quarterback rating. Only four times in his 16 seasons has he finished with a quarterback rating in the 90's or higher. Other all-time great quarterbacks might have put up decent numbers at 38, but they were also feeling their careers fizzle, eventually retiring at that age. Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Fran Tarkenton, and Y.A. Tittle were much further away from their prime than Favre is now. Johnny Unitas played until he was 40, but faded his last three years after teaming with quarterback Earl Morrall to win the Super Bowl in 1970 when he was 37.

Other great careers never made it until 38 years old. Troy Aikman and Joe Namath were out of the league at 34, Terry Bradshaw and Bob Griese at 35, Dan Fouts at 36, and Bart Starr and Roger Staubach at 37.

Favre may fall in line with the aforementioned others and retire at the end of this year at 38, or he just might be rejuvenated by a winning season for another go around. Either way, he is playing at higher level than anyone at his age has before him. His skills are still strong. He may not be quite as accurate, but he still has a knack for avoiding pass rushers, making plays, and rifling passes. Most importantly he is smarter, and that knowledge is proving more valuable than ever on game days.

Matt Tevsh is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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