Vikings best ever? Favre's old teammates disagree
By Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- "Physically, and from a talent level, this is the best team I've ever been on."
That's what Brett Favre said a few weeks ago about his Minnesota Vikings.
And fans in Wisconsin dusted off commemorative programs, pulled out VHS tapes, arched an eyebrow with a little attitude and thought, "Brett, all due respect, but are you for real?"
So you can imagine what his 1996 teammates think.
The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl after the 1996 season with Favre playing in his MVP prime and with the Minister of Defense, Frankie, Chewy, LeRoy, Free and the Gravedigger. They got big-time performances from starters and backups, top draft picks and castoffs. They dominated on defense, did what they pleased on offense and were kept in check by an all-star cast of coaches.
Today's 6-1 Vikings are good, and running back Adrian Peterson is the man. Favre kindly backed off his statement by saying he wasn't trying to slight his '96 team.
But his old mates sure seem to have good memories, and they had plenty to say about comparisons between the two teams and Favre's "homecoming" to Lambeau Field on Sunday.
LeRoy Butler, safety: "To say that the team he's on now, after seven games, is better than the '96 team -- that's just preposterous. Not only did we have the No. 1 defense in 1996, but we had No. 1 special teams.
"I bleed green and gold so much. I don't want somebody to beat my team. This is my team. I played 181 games, I was there before Brett, before Reggie White and Ron Wolf and everybody. This team means a lot to me, so when somebody calls up on the radio show: 'Brett Favre is the one that turned everything around' -- it's almost a disrespectful slap in the face."
Antonio Freeman, receiver: "You look at this Minnesota Vikings team and they have common strengths. I don't think their skill guys are as good as our Super Bowl team."
Mark Chmura, tight end: "I kind of went through the teams position by position, and they just aren't as good as we were. And it all starts with Brett-- Brett's not as good as he was.
"They have Adrian Peterson, but I think Chester Taylor is a guy. We had Dorsey (Levens) and Edgar (Bennett); that's pretty good balance. Our tight ends were clearly better (laughs). I may be biased. Their offensive line may be a little bit better. Our quarterback was 10 times better, our receivers were better, our special teams were much better.
"I mean, you're talking about the No. 1 defense in the league at that time, maybe one of the best defenses ever to play the game.
"Don't get me wrong. Favre is still a good quarterback, but he was unbelievable in the day. When we played back then, teams feared us. I don't know if teams fear the Minnesota Vikings today. We knew no one could beat us at home, absolutely nobody.
"I'm still green and gold all the way. I hate Minnesota; I can't stand Minnesota. I don't care if Brett is playing there. It didn't bother me, him with the Jets. But Minnesota I know personally I could never do it. I would just retire."
Ken Ruettgers, left tackle: "No doubt there was great talent on that 1996 team, great leadership and the coaching staff was phenomenal. In the spring, during workouts, I came home and told my wife: 'This team is going to the Super Bowl.' It's just that feeling you get when you're around guys who are all putting their own egos on the backburner and coming together for what's best for the team. We had some teams that were talented in the past, but there was no team where it was like, 'Wow, we're going this year.'
John Michels, left tackle: "Brett was coming off an MVP year, Reggie White was at the top of his game, Mark Chmura was a Pro Bowler. We were pretty stacked. They had lost to Dallas the year before in the NFC championship game and were favored in 1996. We had superstars, but we didn't have superstar attitudes.
"When Brett signed with Minnesota this year, I said that's my pick as favorite to win the Super Bowl. Adrian Peterson is just an incredibly special player; you cannot help watch him with awe. Jared Allen is just tearing up the league right now. The offensive line is good. Defense is solid. They're an incredibly talented team and the one thing they were missing was a standout player at quarterback."
Edgar Bennett, running back: "I think the strength of that '96 team was the team itself. That's the key to any championship -- that camaraderie, that chemistry -- and not just the guys in the locker room. The coaching staff, the organization, it's everybody working for that one common goal."