In his 20 years in the NFL, Brett Favre was an 11-time Pro Bowler, a three-time NFL MVP and a Super Bowl champion. All of those accolades, as well as his many others, led him on a path to a Hall of Fame career and the title as one of the all-time great quarterbacks the league has ever seen.
The now 47-year-old Favre accomplished just about everything possible throughout his career, so he’s familiar with what it takes to not only be a talented quarterback but to reach the pinnacle of the sport and win a championship. He did so during the 1996 season, when he led the Packers to a Super Bowl title in just his fifth season with the team.
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One year later, he got back to the big game. Only this time, he wasn’t able to capture a second ring, falling to the Denver Broncos. In the span of one year, Favre felt what both Matt Ryan and Tom Brady are going to experience this Sunday: One will cope with defeat and the other will relish the victory.
In a wide-ranging interview with FOXSports.com on Tuesday, Favre opened up on Super Bowl LI, his potential future endeavors, and his new Super Bowl ad campaign with Buffalo Wild Wings, “The Conspiracy.”
FOX SPORTS: How much longer do you think Tom Brady can play at a high level?
BRETT FAVRE: I know his age and how many years he’s been playing, but I don’t see a decline. His style of play is one that is to his advantage for longevity – he’s not asked to move around. You don’t see a decline if he takes off running, and his arm strength seems to be as good as it’s always been. It hasn’t been an overpowering arm, but it’s highly effective. His mind is as sharp as ever, and his leadership seems to be better than it’s ever been.
I think he could play, for sure, five years more as long as the cast around him is as good as it’s been. I don’t see any reason he can’t play five more years easily and be highly effective.
FOX: At what age did you notice that your skills may have been declining, and what was the first thing to go as you got older?
FAVRE: When I went to the Jets, we started off 9-3. I was playing fairly well considering I was in a completely different offense than I had ever played in before. I played in the West Coast offense for 16 years and Run ‘n’ Shoot in my first year.
For the most part I was playing well, then I tore my bicep. At the time, we didn’t know. I knew something was wrong, and then I declined in a hurry to the point where I was afraid to make a throw because it hurt so bad and my accuracy was really affected. So, that was really the first time.
In hindsight, it really wasn’t a decline – it was a matter of this: If I chose to play again I would have to get that fixed, and so I did. Dr. Andrews fixed the bicep. I went back to Minnesota in an offense that I was familiar with and had my best year ever, statistically speaking, in a different offense with a new team. At 19 years, I had played my best year ever, which was really impressive. The following year, with really no injuries to blame, I, as well as the team, had a bad year. I knew the writing was on the wall.
I didn’t feel confident. Not that at that point in my career I was mobile or ran for a lot of yards, or anything. When I felt a defender coming, my-move-out-of-the-way skills weren’t as sharp as they had been, and so I took a lot more hits than I normally would have.
From the outside looking in, 20 years, it’s easy to say, ‘Yeah my better days are behind me.” Considering the previous year was as good as it was, I think when you get to that age and point in your career, you’re really on a game-by-game, and certainly year-by-year basis and that was the case for me – and I knew that it was time to get out.
FOX: You played for the Falcons for a year. Does that give you any rooting interest in this Super Bowl?
FAVRE: Not really, that was a long time ago. I wasn’t on that team long enough to feel anything more than a brief stay. I’m forever thankful to be drafted by Atlanta and that everything worked out the way it did. Had I not gotten drafted by Atlanta, I don’t get traded to Green Bay and we’re not having this conversation, most likely.
FOX: What do you remember most about your Super Bowl win?
FAVRE: Someone reminded me that it’s the 20-year reunion since our win in New Orleans, which was my first Super Bowl in ’96. My first thought when I heard that was, “Wow time sure flies.” We went back the next year and played against Denver, which was a great game. We lost and I never went back. I thought it was relatively early in my career. My thoughts were, “We will be back.” That was not the case.
I just remember both games very well. Of course, I want to remember the one in which we won more so than the other. The overall experience itself, to win one was really a special moment in my career. Winning it so close to home, having family and friends there to witness and experience it with me was really special.
I have fond memories of my career in general. Those two years in particular because those were Super Bowl years and that’s what it’s ultimately about. I think after the fact, as I look back, they’re even more special because they’re so hard to get to. Not everyone can be Tom Brady and go [seemingly] year in and year out. I just have fond memories and I would tell the guys never take anything for granted because you may not go back.
FOX: What advice would you give Matt Ryan as he goes into his first Super Bowl?
FAVRE: Enjoy the moment. Obviously he hopes he wins this game, as do all the Falcons fans across the country. You have to enjoy the moment, with so much fanfare and excitement and build-up, sometimes it’s easy to say, “I just want to get to the game” and next thing you know the game’s over and you may not be back. So really just enjoy the moment as much as possible.
FOX: If you had a vote for NFL MVP this weekend, who would get it – Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady?
FAVRE: In the big picture, all those guys are certainly worthy and I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of them were picked. I would have to say Matt Ryan. The thing that haunted him is the fact that he hadn’t gotten to the big game. Well, here he is, and his play has been nothing short of spectacular week in and week out, and the bigger the game, the better he’s played. I would give the nod to him.
FOX: How much did you enjoy this campaign and shooting commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings? (See Favre’s acting chops below.)
FAVRE: It was a fun shoot. But I could never be an actor because I have zero patience. I really enjoyed working with the crew, the other actors were great. The directors were awesome. Overall, it was a great experience. I’ve done a lot of commercials and been fortunate to be continually asked to do them. This is the biggest stage you can have for commercials and I just hope it’s a win for Buffalo Wild Wings and for my career.
FOX: Is your future more as an actor like this, or do you have any kind of itch to get back into football with a team, or possibly as a commentator?
FAVRE: Really, I would say neither. Commercials, I’m extremely thankful that I’m asked to do them. I don’t do every one that comes my way. Fortunately, I have the option to pick and choose. So, it’s been a win-win and we’ll continue to do that, if the right one comes around.
I don’t know how much I’d get involved with teams. I’ve done an NFL radio show all year that has been fairly painless. It’s something that I obviously feel comfortable talking about, so maybe that continues.
I would love to coach, but I just don’t want to give up the time that it would take to be a college or pro coach. Commercials take a day, maybe two days and you’re done. So, it’s pretty easy in that aspect.