Football coaches and general managers are not a generally sympathetic lot. By nature and training, they tend to be authoritarian, paternalistic and frequently insufferable. Then again, Brett Favre has become insufferable as well. And in his advanced years — just months from his 41st birthday — one would’ve thought he had more in common with a bunch of middle-aged guys.
Instead, he’s spent the last several years making fools and beggars of them all:
Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen of the Green Bay Packers. Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini, formerly of the New York Jets. And, of course, Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings. Among the most unseemly aspects to Brett Favre’s perennial un-retirement were Childress’ periodic pilgrimages to Hattiesburg, Miss.
He retired. He un-retired. He said he would think about it. He said he needed more time. More rehab. Maybe even more money. He needed to talk with his family. He needed to soul-search. What he really needed, it seems, was to jerk everyone around.
Yes, he is the most daring and durable quarterback of this or any other era. But he has diminished his legacy with a dreadfully predictable ritual.
You’re not surprised, are you? You can’t be. Last summer, it was the shoulder. This year, it’s the surgically repaired ankle. In 2009, he signed with the Vikings on Aug. 18. This year, he shows up Aug. 17.
There is, however, one welcome twist to this summer’s story, broken by my colleague, Jay Glazer. Apparently, it’s a lot easier to mess with your coaches than your teammates. For the better part of two decades, you’ve heard about Favre’s fidelity to the game. But only now have his teammates — a triumvirate of Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell — put that to the test. They flew out to Hattiesburg Monday evening, but not for another pilgrimage. Rather, it was their way of calling him out.
Of the three, Hutchinson is an All-Pro guard, a man charged with his quarterback’s well-being. Longwell, a kicker who has played with Favre all but three years since ’97 when they first played together with the Packers, has long been his de facto interpreter and spokesman. But Allen is the interesting one here, as he represents the most ferocious component of the Vikings’ championship aspirations.
Front offices everywhere — in each of the pro sports and a good many college programs — have dedicated themselves to placating the superstar, be it Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James or Favre. But Allen was willing to do what none of his bosses could stomach. Last week, he said the team and backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson needed an answer by the third preseason game.
But now, by traveling to Hattiesburg, Allen and Co. accelerated the timetable with thankfully little regard for the superstar’s privilege. It was their way of saying that time for text messages and other insidious but easily misinterpreted forms of social media had passed. It was time for Favre to make up his mind. And it would be done the old-fashioned way, face-to-face.
Disregard the inevitable spin. The mere presence of three respected veterans posed the question more explicitly than anyone from the front office: You in or you out?
And I can only assume that Favre declared his intention with a recollection of Nov. 4, 2007, when (according to STATS LLC) Allen took him down with a fine and fierce shot to the ribs.
Next thing you know, Brett Favre was on a plane to Minnesota. It shouldn’t have come to this. Still, it’s good for the Vikings. It’s good for football. And it’s good to know that the prospect of his shame hurt Favre more than his surgically repaired ankle.
Now you wonder if he can dispatch with another part of the ritual. Can he end a season with something other than an interception?