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Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

Where Does This Leave That Other Guy?

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The Packers' triumph in the Super Bowl is, among other things, a vindication of the team's commitment to Aaron Rodgers three years ago to replace a retiring Hall of Fame quarterback—even when the Hall of Famer made himself available again.

Now Rodgers is on top of the football world. And the guy he replaced? What have the last three years done to his legacy?

Frank: Why the puzzled look? More puzzled than usual, that is.

Artie:
Do you hear anything? I need to have my ears checked. It's been weeks since I heard anything about, or from, Brett Favre. The guy has gone from Chatty Cathy to Marcel Marceau.

Frank:
Maybe it has something to do with the Packers winning a Super Bowl with no help from him.

Artie:
No help except the two wins he and the Vikings supplied for the Pack's record.

Frank:
Then there's the fact that despite all of Favre's accomplishments in Green Bay—which he thought would rate a "whatever you say" response when he un-retired—he and Aaron Rodgers are tied in Super Bowl triumphs.

Artie:
Rodgers needs to stay healthy and productive over the long haul, but in terms of the ultimate prize, they're even.

Frank:
I think Favre threw the Packers a generic "good for them" before the Super Bowl. But I've seen no evidence that he's personally congratulated the team or anyone on it.

Artie:
As you would say, "No surprise to this veteran scribe."

Frank:
Favre showed no interest in mentoring Rodgers when they both wore green.

Artie:
Just the way Joe Montana acted when it was clear Steve Young was on the rise in San Francisco. He was insulted they'd even consider "moving on," to use the Packers' phrase from the summer of ’08.

Frank:
If I were a Packer fan, I'd definitely hold that against Favre. It's one thing to believe you can still play—and Favre's ’09 season in Minnesota was great—but he couldn't handle the idea of even competing with Rodgers.

Artie:
Here in the Dairyland we don't cotton to prima donnas. If you can't be a team player, you fall out of the fans' favor fast. Just take the Brewers' World Series team of ’82. They're still beloved for being guys who just went out and played for the team, not their stats or their next contracts.

Frank:
As personified best by Robin Yount. I can attest from several years of trying to get him to talk about himself: All he cared about was winning today's game.

Artie:
So is it any surprise that I hardly want to talk about Favre?

Frank:
For now, anyway, he's undermined his legacy by making people so sick of him.

Artie:
Plus the sex-harassment stuff in New York, and the lawsuits.

Frank:
I wonder how long it will take the Packers to put him in the Ring of Honor at Lambeau.

Artie:
At least a few years, I think, just because of all the sniping between... well, actually the only sniping has come from Brett toward Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. Talking about how he wanted to "stick it" to Thompson, petty stuff like that.

Frank:
They were going to honor Favre in 2008, a few months after he tearfully retired. But by September he had un-retired, demanded the freedom to go to Minnesota and gotten traded to the Jets. It was unthinkable to honor him while he was still playing, especially as a Viking. And amid the post-Super Bowl hoopla there sure won't be any rapprochement...

Artie:
Rap what?

Frank:
Reconciliation in the 2011 season.

Artie:
I think theharassment stuff with the Jets makes it possible that he could never be in the Ring of Honor. You can't put a guy with that kind of integrity issue up next to, say, Vince Lombardi.

Frank:
The recent HBO documentary shows Vince wasn't perfect. But he wasn't stepping out on Marie after attending mass every morning.

Artie:
Nor was he sending photos of "Little Vince" to women, ain’a?

Frank:
By making himself a smarmy guy, Favre has also made himself a joke. And that sticks with you. Can anyone make a reference to Bill Clinton without either smirking or thinking there's a reason to smirk?

Artie:
When we first learned of Monica Lewinsky and Leno and Letterman were making all their jokes, we might have thought, "In a few years it'll die down." But 15 years later it hasn't stopped.

Frank:
Because Leno and Letterman never fail to get laughs with Clinton jokes.

Artie:
Next fall, if Brett hasn't come back yet again, the jokes will still be there.

Frank:
And even if he doesn't try again, he's the poster boy for guys who hang on too long.

Artie:
When he's eligible for the Hall of Fame, I think there'll be enough negative vibes that he doesn't go in on the first try.

Frank:
In a strictly football sense, where do you, as a Packer fan, see him?

Artie:
In terms of league championships he's not even close to Bart Starr—two NFC titles and one Super Bowl to five NFL crowns and two Super Bowls.

Frank:
To be fair, Starr didn't have multiple levels of playoffs until 1967, the last of his title seasons.

Artie:
But that's true of any "old school" dynasty. The Yankees of the ’30s or ’40s or ’50s wouldn't have won as many World Series if they'd had three rounds of postseason.

Frank:
In 16 years with Favre as their quarterback, the Packers reached four NFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls, winning one. Does that make Favre's legacy one of "Gee, he and the team should have done better"?

Artie:
Yeah, the team should have done better, but how much of that falls on him and how much on the fact that the team couldn't get the right players, or that for five years Mike Sherman was both the coach and GM?

Frank:
Favre's numbers are certainly huge. But nationally, I think many will remember him as the guy who threw away two NFC Championship Games in three years— for the Packers in ’08 against the Giants and two years later for the Vikings in New Orleans.

Artie:
Of course he's a Hall of Famer, the leader in all the big statistics, and his streak of starting 297 straight games is mind-boggling. But if you talk about a Top 10 for QBs, I'd put him toward the bottom of that list, at best.

Frank:
Add in his last three seasons and in 19 years Favre was 2-3 in NFC title games. With a single Super Bowl ring, he's tied with Rodgers and the two Mannings. And Young, who won once as the 49ers' starter.

Artie:
But ahead of Dan Marino, who piled up the passing numbers but made it to only one Super Bowl and didn't win. In sheer ability he was tremendous, but people focus on winning.

Frank: John Elway reached five Super Bowls and won the last two—which kept him out of the "coulda, shoulda" category. So in the all-time rankings, do you start with Montana and Terry Bradshaw, both 4-0 in Super Bowls? And Troy Aikman, who's 3-0, or Tom Brady, 3-1 and part of a 16-0 regular season?

Artie:
In the hearts of Packer fans, as great and exciting as the Favre era was, there's no way it matches the Glory Years of Lombardi and Starr.

Frank:
And going back that far, any all-time QB list has to include Johnny Unitas. His Baltimore Colts won titles in ’58 and ’59, then lost to the Browns in ’64. Unitas was hurt for the Super Bowl run in ’68 but took the Colts back to the big game two years later and they won.

Artie:
In pro football, throw career stats out the window because for a lot of years they played 12 games, then 14, and finally 16.

Frank:
And soon it may be 18 games—after the league and players' union figure out whether there'll be any in 2011.