Former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson has weighed in on Brett Favre's poor start to the season and believes it has as much to do with work ethic as injuries.
Johnson acknowledges that injuries to Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin have altered the Vikings offense, along with the fact that Favre wasn't in training camp, but Johnson believes there is another reason for Favre's early-season struggles.
"He's not a young guy. I have always thought with veterans that, the older a player is, the more time he has to spend studying and preparing himself," Johnson wrote in his column for FoxSports.com. "As players get older, they need to work harder, not less.
And Brett has worked less."
Vikings coach Brad Childress says Favre hasn't changed his routine from last year.
"I don't see anything physically. Everybody has a routine that they go through in-season. Whether it starts with a scouting report; whether it starts with a Tuesday film study when nobody else is around, familiarizing yourself," Childress said. "I don't see it that way. There are a lot of turns out there that we take while you guys (in the media) aren't here, whether it's on air or in a group install. I haven't seen a lot of difference."
Last year, players and coaches referenced a strong work ethic from Favre, citing his presence in the team's Winter Park practice facility as late as 9 or 10 p.m. looking for an edge on an opponent with additional film study.
Childress said Favre gets a copy of the game plan that is installed on Tuesday nights and understands it.
"If he's not in the building at that point in time, he's usually been in the building for 3, 4 or 5 hours earlier in the day sitting back in the running back meeting room," Childress said.
The revolving door at wide receiver, where the Vikings traded for Greg Camarillo in the preseason and signed Hank Baskett on Wednesday, has made the situation more urgent for Favre to search for a comfort level with his receivers.
"It's like starting over again. We've got a lot of new guys. The issue is pressed even more in my mind. Yeah, you have to spend time on who you're playing, but equally as much on what we're doing and who's doing it," Favre said.
"I'm not one of those to stay here until (midnight), 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock in the morning. I could never be a coach because I could never stay that long. I'll go home, come back and just really whenever I feel the need to just get away and concentrate on (it). I would say I spend the majority of my time on studying what we're doing. It's always important to know your opponent, but it's more important to know what you're doing and who's doing it.
"If I sat here and told you that I know exactly what we're doing right now, I'd be lying. A lot of work is left. It will be, once again, an ongoing process until we have our (offensive) unit how we want to go about things. We're not there yet."
That might be why Favre was spending time Thursday working individually with receivers and letting them know what he's looking for them to do if a cornerback presses one way or another.
The great unknown is whether Favre will be able to turn around a slow start this year like he did last year. Playing at Cleveland and at Detroit to start the 2009 season, Favre's yardage totals – 110 and 155, respectively – left something to be desired.
This year, without Sidney Rice, Favre's issues are a little different. He has passed for 171 and 225 yards in his first two games, but they were both losses. In the opener in New Orleans, he had a touchdown and an interception. On Sunday against the Dolphins, he didn't throw any touchdowns, was intercepted three times and his fumble in the end zone was recovered by the Dolphins for the game-deciding touchdown.
The four interceptions so far have to be the most concerning for the Vikings, who pointed to turnovers being the difference in Sunday's loss to the Dolphins.
Last year, Favre was able to become more productive after the first two games. Following two games with less than 200 yards passing each, he only dipped below the 200-yard mark just once the rest of the season, throwing for 192 yards against Cincinnati.
Johnson, the former coach with Super Bowl credentials, believes there could also be long-term ramifications to the Vikings allowing Favre to missing training camp once again and therefore not treating all players the same. He admitted that when he was coaching, he treated players differently, but he also contended that the Vikings "were setting themselves up for failure" when they made concessions that allowed Favre to miss training camp.
"I did treat everyone differently, but I expected every one of them to work hard," Johnson wrote. "I expected everyone to be on time and to be at practice. It was just that the ones who did all those good things, I cut them some slack when they had a slip-up. But that didn't mean I let them out of work."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Favre's work ethic questioned
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