No quarterback won more games. No quarterback made more consecutive starts. And, soon, no quarterback will have thrown for more touchdowns.
So Brett Favre is a first-ballot cinch for Canton. I think we all agree there. But where does he fit in among the game's quarterbacks?
|First-ballot Hall of Famer? That's a definite thumbs-up. (US Presswire)|
"He has to be in the top five of all time," said Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz, "because of his competitiveness and his energy. His energy is different from any other quarterback I've seen take the field.
"I don't care who's in the huddle with him. He brings the level of that whole huddle up. Then there's his aggressiveness, his toughness and the success he's had. You can build a whole team around someone like that."
The Packers did. When Favre took over the club on Sept. 20, 1992, Green Bay was 0-2 and working on a streak of 18 straight non-strike seasons without reaching the playoffs.
On Favre's watch they've been to the playoffs 10 times, won six division titles, reached the conference championship game three times, the Super Bowl twice and compiled a 150-90 record.
Good? No, it's remarkable. And it makes Favre a candidate for inclusion on the Mt. Rushmore of quarterbacks.
Let's say you make John Unitas, Otto Graham and Joe Montana your top three at the position. Then what? You have guys like Sammy Baugh, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino, John Elway and Bart Starr.
And you have Brett Favre.
"Brett Favre is in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks of all time," said the Jets' Chad Pennington. "Number one, he's had that competitive fire from Day 1. Second, he's a winner. Even when he's had teams that weren't in the top echelon they'll go 8-8 or 9-7 just because of him."
Pennington is on to something. In Favre's 16 years as the Green Bay starter the Packers had only one losing season. Now look at his supporting cast. No Hall of Fame receivers. No Hall of Fame running backs. No Hall of Fame offensive linemen. I think you get the picture.
"If you look at the cast he's had to play with his whole career I'd say Brett Favre got more out of the teams he was on than any quarterback in this league -- at least in my era," Detroit's Jon Kitna said. "Aside from Reggie White and a few guys here and there, there aren't going to be many Hall of Famers from the teams he played on. Yet he's competitive every year."
|NFL record for wins by a quarterback|
|1. Brett Favre||GB||1992-07||150|
|2. John Elway||DEN||1983-98||148|
|3. Dan Marino||MIA||1983-99||147|
|4. Fran Tarkenton||MIN/NYG||1961-78||125|
|5. John Unitas||BAL/SD||1956-73||119|
He is again this season. In fact, at 3-0 the Packers are two games ahead of defending NFC North champion Chicago, and Favre -- who turns 38 next month -- is largely responsible. In his last six quarters, he has six TD passes, no interceptions and two big victories.
"He's a rare one," Buffalo coach Dick Jauron said. "He has a great feel for the game around him. He's very athletic. He gets the ball out fast. And while he's taken a lot of hits he's avoided a lot of them, too. Most important, he always gives his team a chance to win."
It's easy to make a case for Favre. He went to two Super Bowls. He won one. He was a three-time MVP. He was one of two quarterbacks on the all-decade team of the 1990s when Steve Young, Elway and Troy Aikman -- all Hall of Famers -- were at their best.
He has more completions than anyone. He's second in yards passing. And he hasn't missed a start since taking over in 1992, a string of 240 games that is 93 ahead of Peyton Manning.
The knock on Favre, of course, is that he takes too many chances; that he forces throws others would not. And that's reflected by his 275 interceptions, only two off George Blanda's NFL record.
"To be honest with you," Minnesota safety Darren Sharper said of Favre, his former teammate, "I think Brett could be the top quarterback of all time if he just didn't have that gunslinger mentality. Because if anyone's going to talk about anything with Brett, it's the fact that sometimes he decides to throw the ball no matter how much guys are covered.
"Still, he can do things no other quarterbacks could have thought about doing. I've seen him make throws in practice that no other quarterbacks could dream of doing. So he would have to be in my top three (of quarterbacks I faced). It would be Dan Marino, him and Steve Young."
Fair enough. But it's Favre's recklessness, his penchant for taking chances and assuming risks that I find refreshing. In an era where too many quarterbacks are handcuffed Brett Favre will try the unthinkable, the uncoachable, the unpredictable -- and, often, pull it off.
Maybe a general manager doesn't like that, but I do. I watch the Packers not because I want to see Brandon Jackson run into a pile of bodies. I watch them because I want to see Brett Favre improvise.
"He loves to play the game like no other," Philadelphia's Andy Reid said. "I mean, he's like a kid. It's like when you used to get your buddies together and you'd say, 'Let's go out in the backyard and play.' You'd get a rush from that. He's like that every play. And it's contagious."
"He's not afraid of anything," Martz said. "Nothing intimidates him. Nothing. And that toughness when he steps into the huddle affects the whole team. Plus, he makes big plays with great throws."
San Diego was reminded last weekend. The New York Giants saw Favre at his best the Sunday before that. Having Brett Favre make big plays with great throws is nothing new, but having this conversation is.
So let's get back to the original question: Where do you put him among the game's great quarterbacks?
"I guess," said Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, "it depends on what the criteria is that you're going to use to judge them. If you're talking about who's the most fun to watch I think he's got to be No. 1.
"But it's hard to compete with a guy like Joe Montana, his stats, his postseason and his Super Bowls. But there are a handful of guys that people would say were the greatest of all time.
"Brett is very, very different than those guys. He's the only one in that group who, on numerous occasions, started out throwing three interceptions, then came back to throw four touchdowns in a game.
"Everybody loves him. The touchdowns, the interceptions, the decisions ... maybe some of them were questionable, but they all became amazing plays."
Montana made amazing plays, too. So did Unitas. So did almost everyone enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And, in the end, it's those plays that make Brett Favre the outstanding quarterback that he is.
Martz has Favre in his top five. You may have him in your top 10. It doesn't really matter. The guy will be remembered as one of the best and boldest to play the game, and isn't that enough? It is for me. I don't know where I put Favre; I just know I can't wait to see him play again.
"When it's all said and done," said Reid, "whoever you consider the elite, Brett Favre has got to be in that group."