Computer: Favre impacts stats, not wins

WhatIfSports.com went back to the computer simulation to rerun the Vikings' season 10,000 more times, this time with Brett Favre as their quarterback. The results may surprise some.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Packers fan – a Packers' shareholder in fact. I don't like talking about this story, which seems to be equal parts bizarre, "goofy," pointlessly vindictive and petty. As a fan, I've moved on. I guess that is what Brett Favre wants me to do. I try not to think about the situation or "the player." It's a story that I personally wish would go away, yet it is more prevalent than any story in sports.

I am also a professional spokesperson for a computer; so it does not matter what I think, just what the computer thinks.

The computer can definitively and without bias answer the question, "What would/will Brett Favre mean to the Minnesota Vikings?"

The answer: not much. The Minnesota Vikings mean a lot more to Brett Favre than Favre means to the Minnesota Vikings.

Using the same technology and approach as our 2009 NFL Preview, we simulated the upcoming season 10,000 times with Brett Favre taking every snap at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.


Brett Favre to the Vikings is Goofy to this writer.
Getty Images

Without Favre, we simulated the 2009 season with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels splitting time equally. Jackson is our projected starter in the playoffs. The Vikings utilize a playbook similar to last season with Jackson under center and the team running the ball about 57 percent of the time. The Favre-less Vikings win 11.05 games on average, to take the NFC North title over the Chicago Bears by 2.86 games. They are favored in 15 out of 16 games, only losing at Arizona by a score of 25-18.

Here is the Favre-less Vikings' projected schedule:

WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Cleveland Browns9233-18
2@Detroit Lions8128-19
3San Francisco 49ers6025-20
4Green Bay Packers7628-18
5@St. Louis Rams8430-19
6Baltimore Ravens7626-16
7@Pittsburgh Steelers5518-18
8@Green Bay Packers7025-20
10Detroit Lions8631-16
11Seattle Seahawks8026-15
12Chicago Bears6222-17
13@Arizona Cardinals3318-25
14Cincinnati Bengals7526-17
15@Carolina Panthers5723-23
16@Chicago Bears6521-18
17New York Giants5322-20

Largely due to their victory over Minnesota, the Cardinals finish ahead of the Vikings to earn the second seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye (Philadelphia is the top seed). In the playoffs, Minnesota must first defeat the Giants at home before playing at Arizona. The Vikings lose to the Cardinals on the road - this time by an average score of 28-21. Minnesota is eighth in or initial 2009 NFL Power Rankings.

With Favre and a more balanced playbook, the Vikings win 11.11 games on average, to win the division over the Chicago Bears by 2.84 games (the Bears are a little stronger now than a month ago). They are favored in 15 out of 16 games, only losing at Arizona by a score of 25-19. The Cardinals still finish ahead of the Vikings to earn the second seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

Here is Vikings' projected schedule with Brett Favre:

WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Cleveland Browns9333-16
2@Detroit Lions8030-21
3San Francisco 49ers6025-19
4Green Bay Packers7427-18
5@St. Louis Rams8330-19
6Baltimore Ravens7427-20
7@Pittsburgh Steelers5118-18
8@Green Bay Packers7126-21
10Detroit Lions8734-17
11Seattle Seahawks8228-16
12Chicago Bears5325-20
13@Arizona Cardinals3119-25
14Cincinnati Bengals8028-16
15@Carolina Panthers6326-24
16@Chicago Bears6724-23
17New York Giants5324-23

Essentially the same postseason result occurs, where the Vikings earn the third spot in the NFC Playoffs, defeat the Giants and then lose in Arizona. Minnesota does leap over the Saints to place seventh in the NFL Power Rankings with Favre.

Brett Favre is worth 0.05 wins to the Minnesota Vikings. Against some teams, Minnesota improves. Against others - typically those more adept at forcing turnovers - the Vikings are not as successful.

They may be the same in terms of wins and losses, but, statistically, these are two different teams. The Favre-less Vikings score 25.3 points per game and allow 18.6. They throw for 2,869 yards, 22 TDs and 10 interceptions and rush for 2,665 yards and 22 TDs. With Favre, the Vikings score 26.4 points per game and allow 19.7. Favre throws for 3,460 yards, 26 TDs and 15 interceptions, while the team rushes for 2,355 yards and 20 TDs.

The strength of this team is in its ability to run and stop the run. Adrian Peterson is approaching the prime of his career and should be a perennial MVP candidate. Chester Taylor and rookie Percy Harvin will also provide explosiveness out of the backfield. And the offensive line is among the league's best. Throwing more often may score a few extra points, but it is going to hurt a strong, yet thin defense and will lead to more turnovers. Even if the team runs the same amount as our original projection, the Vikings' turnover rate will still go up due to Favre's presence.

For Minnesota, according to our simulations, Brett Favre does not appear to be worth it. The team does not need a great quarterback to succeed - and Brett Favre is not a great quarterback anymore anyway. Plus, last season, Tarvaris Jackson appeared to turn the corner with regards to decision-making and limiting interceptions.

Would it be worth it to Favre to come in to Minnesota and win a division over his former Packers? The computer does not know the answer to that question. He would likely get far more credit than he should for the projected one-game improvement over last season and the 0.05 win improvement over the current roster. That may make him happy.

In five years, though (or six, or seven, or ten), when Brett Favre is eligible for the Hall of Fame and makes it in on the first ballot for what could have been the most attended induction ceremony ever, Vikings fans are not going to show. Jets fans are not going to be there either. And there will be far fewer Packers fans in attendance than there would have been. I know one who won't make the trip. I've moved on.

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Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!


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