Frank Fran reaction: The columnists deliver

Fran Tarkenton asked for sportswriters to weigh in with their opinions on Brett Favre and Tarkenton's comments about him. The former Viking may be sorry he asked for that, as most of the columnists came out against Tarkenton. We also offer up our take on the different comments.

The claws are coming out. This little fight just might make the ratings in prime time, but it's much more fitting for a daytime drama, where bad acting and adultery rule the screen.

Fran Tarkenton is coming out of his shell and ripping Brett Favre for being selfish, disrespectful and not a team guy. It's almost as if Favre is sleeping with the enemy. In fact, during a radio interview Tarkenton challenged sportswriters to offer their opinion on Favre.

"I had an opinion that was not in agreement with Brett Favre's opinion," Tarkenton said Thursday during an interview on radio station 790 The Zone in Atlanta. "Now, have the sportswriters and sportscasters across the country, have they just sucked up to Brett Favre and glorified Brett Favre on this subject matter — don't they have an opinion? They certainly haven't expressed it, have they?"

Fran asked for it and by Thursday afternoon he got it. The chewed-off fingernails of sports columnists were replaced with razor-sharp claws.

Here are some of their opinions of the last few days, along with my reaction to their vitriol.

Tarkenton repeatedly said during his original three radio interviews (two on The Zone in Atlanta and one with KFAN in Minneapolis) that it should be about "the team" and not an individual, asserting that Favre wasn't being loyal to the Green Bay Packers and the legacy he built there.

Actually, I agree with Tarkenton on that point. Since the whole Favre uproar started last summer, I haven't been able to understand the revenge angle he has forwarded against the Packers. Favre made the decision to retire at his press conference. I saw the tears being wiped away in a high-def, NFL Network, agony-of-defeat moment.

Whether or not the Packers pressed him for a decision on his future is irrelevant, in my opinion. He made the decision to retire and the Packers made their decision to move forward with Aaron Rodgers and two quarterbacks they subsequently drafted. Favre had the right to change his mind, but I don't think his anger with Packers management is justified. And I don't think the Packers were required to acquiesce to his every whim, which included him wanting to be traded to the arch-enemy Vikings.

If the Packers had traded him to Minnesota, they would be getting crucified by their media and fans with the Vikings advancing to the playoffs last year while the Packers were sitting at home and giving up their division crown to their Western rivals.

But, since Tarkenton brought up the issue of Favre not being a team player because his actions, Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansavere found some telling old quotes about Tarkenton's team-oriented tendencies during his playing career:

    Here's what Chuck Foreman told me then about Fran the Team Man: "Everybody on the team knew he was for himself. It was no secret. He was a helluva football player. We all knew that. He was just a 'me' guy. ... he didn't give a (damn) about anybody but himself."

    And Ron Yary said, "I think Chuck's assessment about Francis is dead accurate."

    And Stu Voigt: "Francis is the man as long as you treat him like the man. But you better not vie for the No. 1 position. It's OK if you're No. 2, 3, or 4."

Tim's take: I've never personally met Tarkenton, although I've heard the same type of comments about Tarkenton, so it should come as no surprise to him when he requests columnists opinions and they don't always agree a person who didn't return their calls. If Tarkenton claims it's about relationships and loyalty, he didn't do a very good job building those relationships with his former teammates or the media that covers the Vikings, past and present.

From Pioneer Press columnist Tom Powers in an open letter to Tarkenton:

    Who knew you were so passionate about the Minnesota Vikings? As far as I can tell, you don't attend many — if any — alumni functions, and we never see you during the football season. … Your opinion is very much respected, even if it seems to be based on intangibles such as disloyalty to his former organization, the Packers.

    Anyway, I've been in Minnesota for about 20 years. Hope to see you at a Vikings game some time.

Tim's take: Well said. When I first started attending Vikings games regularly for Viking Update, Tarkenton's absence from alumni functions was curious. As I learned more, it wasn't so curious. By some accounts, he felt disrespected by the organization (any maybe the NFL media at large) for his accomplishments. That bitterness may be part of why he wasn't always admired by the teammates, as Sansavere's provocative quotes from the past seem to prove. But I do have proof of Tarkenton's halftime attendance honoring one of the team's greatest players – himself. We have photographic proof that Tarkenton did indeed attend the ceremony to retire his own jersey. We don't have as much proof of him attending similar ceremonies for the teammates he apparently views as so very important.

From Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters:

    If there's an innocent victim in this latest controversy, it is, believe it or not, Brad Childress. The Vikings' coach hasn't had a bona fide quarterback since he's been in Minnesota. Now he's at the mercy of Favre, who seems to relish in this childish behavior.

    But the last guy who should be criticizing Favre is Tarkenton, who has been selfish, critical and every bit an opportunist during and after his days as the Vikings' quarterback. Tarkenton's rips on Favre represent hypocrisy at its worst.

Tim's take: I agree with the second paragraph, but I hardly think Brad Childress is the innocent victim here. Childress is left to wait and wonder on Favre's availability, but the coach has had three years to find another quarterback or better groom the one he traded up to get in the 2006 draft, Tarvaris Jackson. He and the rest of front office have done a solid job of acquiring talent at numerous other positions of need, but after trying time and again to patch the quarterback position without the required success, this is the hand Childress is dealt – or has dealt himself.

Finally, this is how Tarkenton justified the Favre bashing later to the Star Tribune:

    "I know the Minnesota press, fans, whatever have gotten kind of excited about is the flamboyant, Hall of Famer to be, the great Brett Favre going to come here. But if they sober up a little bit [it's going to be], ‘Is that the old Packer over there leading the Vikings?'"

Tim's take: Vikings fans have been sobered up by the struggles at the quarterback position for much of this decade. Are they drunk or delusional about Brett Favre riding in on his white-horse lawn tractor and saving the franchise that couldn't win a Super Bowl in four previous tries (three with Tarkenton at quarterback)? It's possible, but all of the long-suffering fans want to see a Super Bowl won by the Purple and some of them don't care who delivers it. Some can't stand the thought of Favre leading the Vikings. Others are willing to see if he can complete the puzzle so Vikings fans can look at their neighbors to the East, rubbing it in that an old Packer stuck it to them. Why should Vikings fans, or ex-Vikings quarterbacks, care about what that does to Favre's legacy in Green Bay? That's between him, the Packers and their fans.

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