For the latter half of his brilliant 16-year career as the Green Bay Packers' quarterback, Brett Favre tormented the Minnesota Vikings. And on Tuesday afternoon, Favre tormented the Vikings once again.
With Favre deciding to stay retired rather than sign with Minnesota after a three-month flirtation with the Packers' bitter rivals to the west, the Vikings are left in a quarterbacking lurch just three days before their first practice of training camp.
Either wearing Vikings purple or his Wrangler jeans, Favre has shaken up the NFC North Division.
The fate of the reigning division champions very well could rest not on the physical tools of quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels but their mental toughness. For almost 90 days, Jackson and Rosenfels had been hearing — not just from the media but their coach — that they weren't good enough. That they were the weak link. That they were standing in the way of the Vikings' trip to the Super Bowl.
"It was a rare and unique opportunity to consider adding not only a future Hall of Fame quarterback but one that is very familiar with our system and division," Vikings coach Brad Childress said in a spin-job of a press release issued by the team. "That does not detract from the team that we have. As we have consistently communicated, we feel good about our team and they have put forth a tremendous effort this offseason preparing for the season ahead. With this behind us, we look forward to getting to Mankato and getting training camp under way."
But facts are facts. Childress spent three months doing nothing to hide his infatuation with Favre. Just days after Favre got his release from the Jets, Childress admitted that the team was interested. And at that point, Favre was the same broken-down quarterback who had thrown two touchdown passes against nine interceptions during a season-ending five-game swoon in which New York went from championship contender to just one of the 20 teams not good enough to play in January.
For almost 90 days, Childress was asked about Favre. For almost 90 days, Childress made it clear that he was ready to hitch his wagon to a quarterback who would turn 40 in October. For almost 90 days, Childress did nothing to dissuade Jackson and Rosenfels from the notion that they weren't as good as an old, injured quarterback with a decade's worth of mostly bad playoff history.
"That's the chance Brad Childress took," Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-ESPN analyst Steve Young said.
The million-dollar question is where Minnesota goes from here — and, of course, whether the Packers will be able to pounce should the Vikings falter.
The Packers no doubt won't have much sympathy. Last year, the entire Favre saga proved to be the beginning of the Packers' undoing after a run to the NFC championship game the year before. Whether it was a distraction or it simply threw the players off-kilter, the ordeal disrupted the Packers' mojo.
Will the same thing happen in Minnesota? Maybe the players believe they're on a Super Bowl-caliber team, with or without Favre. Maybe Rosenfels and/or Jackson have the mental toughness to move beyond being told they're not good enough by their coach. Regardless, in the pits of their stomach, the players will know that their coaches don't have 100 percent confidence in their ability to go from good to great.
That the rest of the team knows that the coaches don't have faith in the quarterback has got to count for something.
So, on this day, the Vikings are big losers and the Packers and their fans are big winners. If they weren't before, the Packers are legitimate challengers in the NFC North. And the unsettling prospect of Favre hearing boos at the stadium that he helped build has been averted.
"They're partying in Wisconsin, you better believe it," new Packers Hall of Famer Antonio Freeman told ESPN on Tuesday. "They're partying. They're down at the bars, they've got their cheese going. Let's face it. He's going into the Hall of Fame as a Green Bay Packer, and I'm glad to see it play out this way."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.