NFL's top-rated passer still doubting himself

Brett Favre is the league's top-rated passer and still able to sling it with the best of them, but the great contrarian talks openly about self-doubt and the people that helped boost him up.

Brett Favre continues to downplay his performances while upgrading the Vikings' standards.

Favre is receiving awards and praise from teammates, coaches, opposing players, analysts and fans. After completing a career-high 88 percent of his passes Sunday for four touchdowns, it was time for analysis mode. Why is Favre being so efficient this year after 18 years of earning a gunslinger reputation?

"I think he is doing a great job of using the system to his advantage," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Obviously not many people know it better than him. He's got a good feel for all the tools that he has – wide receivers, tight ends. You see those top four guys and their numbers receiving wise – its tight ends, it's every one of the wide receivers and he's parceling it around pretty good to all those guys with merit."

Eight Vikings were targeted for receptions Sunday, seven of them caught passes and six of them caught more than one pass. On the season, 12 Vikings have caught passes, including Favre himself, who caught a pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage.

Sidney Rice, who is having a breakout (read: Pro Bowl) year, leads the team with 50 catches for 875 yards and is probably Favre's overall favorite target. But Percy Harvin, who has 36 catches, is probably Favre's favorite third-down target with 18 of those catches coming on that critical. If it's not Harvin in those situations, it might be Chester Taylor, who has 15 third-down receptions. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe already has seven touchdown catches and should become the franchise's single-season leader for touchdowns among tight ends (Joe Senser currently holds that distinction with eight). Shiancoe is one of Favre's favorite end zone targets. And Bernard Berrian has earned the reputation as the "slant king."

The point is that Favre doesn't have a discriminating bone in his passing arm. He is willing to chuck it to any receiver at any time, whether he's looking at them or not.

Jim Mora's Seahawks beat Favre's New York Jets 16-3 in Week 16 last year and the head coach has no doubt that Favre is a different player this season after surgery to release a partially torn biceps tendon in his right arm during the offseason.

"He's not the same guy; he is a different player," Mora said after Favre lit up his Seahawks on Sunday. "At the end of the year in 2008, his shoulder was hurt, he wasn't on a team that was 8-1 coming into this game, and he wasn't in a system he was familiar with. Now he is in a system he is familiar with, coaches he is familiar with. I talked to a couple of coaches before the game and they said he was taking over this team with his leadership and changing the environment single-handedly. That is what Hall of Famers do. That is why he is who he is, why he is a great man and why he is still in demand."

But Favre is the great contrarian when it comes to his answers with the media. Coming off any one of his stellar performances this season, he is ready to find fault with a play he wants to have back.

"The fact that we are 9-1, you would think that my confidence would be sky high," Favre said. "It's not that I'm not confident, but my wife would attest to this and actually (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) would as well – he probably wouldn't admit it. But going into this season and debating on whether or not to play, obviously the arm had a lot to do with it, but my confidence was not at a real high level. Being inconsistent, whether it be injuries or whatever it was, the last couple of years I think played a big part in that.

"Going to a new team again, even though the pieces were in place, you would think that we go in there and hand it off, throw it up occasionally and everything would be fine. Well, there is so much more to it than that. I let doubt and maybe some insecurities seep in."

There is nothing to be insecure about now. The NFL's leader for throwing interceptions isn't throwing them very often anymore. He has 21 touchdowns and three interceptions. He is averaging throwing an interception one out of every 100 pass attempts, easily the best in the league. And he set an NFL record Sunday with his 22nd game throwing four touchdowns.

Some fans and media can doubt his motivation for returning to the game and playing for the Minnesota Vikings, but no one can doubt his resolve and his results on the field. He is the league's top-rated passer at 112.1, with Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints checking in second at 105.8.

Favre said his wife Deanna and Bevell kept encouraging him through his times of self-doubt.

"I didn't really believe it or buy into it, but as the season has progressed Darrell was always saying, ‘I told you. You can do it. You can make those throws.' I'm getting back to that confidence that I had when I didn't know any better. I was pretty good. I'm feeling more confident," Favre said. "I think I'm more of a realist at this age, but that doesn't mean that you can't go out and turn it loose and play, because my arm feels great. Physically, I feel pretty good. I don't feel like I'm 25, but I still feel like I can make a lot of the plays that I used to make. A key for me, and really for any player, is you can't second guess. You've got to turn it loose and this year I've been doing that.

While Deanna stood in a hallway of the Metrodome's lower level, Brett talked about another courtship he had this summer. He credit Childress for saying all the right things to get him to finally commit to a relationship in purple.

"He caught a lot of heat throughout the whole courtship, or whatever you want to call it, but I give him an ‘A' for effort," Favre said of Childress. "The team has thankfully welcomed me in."

And now, after 10 games, nine of them wins, Favre admits his surrounding talent is as good as it has ever been, he has the wisdom that experience brings, and he still has a cannon for an arm and the feet to sidestep trouble. He said he's actually feeling better as the weeks go by, but he still isn't able to forget the few plays that didn't work.

"Maybe in the back of my mind I don't feel like I have to do as much. I threw one at (Visanthe Shiancoe's) feet today. I threw it away. To me that was the one play that stands out because I never do that," he said. "It's hard to do for me."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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