For more than a week, Brett Favre(notes) had been telling the Minnesota Vikings he was too old, too fragile and too far gone to give this another shot. As ESPN reported, he was 39 and joking that he had "a lot of sacks to my name."
He couldn't return. He couldn't do it. He was staying in Mississippi and mowing the lawn.
And time and time again, Minnesota kept calling and trying to convince him he was wrong, like Brett Favre, of all people, just needed a little confidence boost to give it the old college try. Like if there was even a million-in-one shot this would work, he wouldn't have been dragging himself out there in purple.
"They were telling me, 'You went through all this, you had the surgery and you've got to finish it off,' " Favre told ESPN's Ed Werder. "I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable."
And Minnesota wouldn't accept that? They kept trying to tell him he was fine?
Just when you thought the Vikings self-made mess was a potential season-killing disaster, just when you wondered when the last time a team worked so hard to create, not quell, a quarterback controversy, it gets worse.
How the heck does coach Brad Childress face the top two quarterbacks he actually has this season – Sage Rosenfels(notes) and Tarvaris Jackson(notes) – and convince them that he has even a modicum of respect for their abilities?
How, after an already questionable pursuit of a mostly washed-up, broken-down, diva of a signal caller went from bad (a three-month soap opera) to worse (an on-your-knees begging session) does he have any credibility?
"It was a rare and unique opportunity to consider adding not only a future Hall of Fame quarterback but one that is very familiar with our system and division," Childress started spinning in a prepared statement. "That does not detract from the team that we have."
This wasn't a unique opportunity; it was an act of desperation and delusion. It's one thing to leave the door open to a return; it's another to prod and plead.
Childress clearly thought Favre could upgrade his team's offense; ignoring his age, health and nine post-Thanksgiving interceptions as he drove the Jets season into the Jersey turf.
In other words, he doesn't think Rosenfels and Jackson are worth a damn.
The problem is, Rosenfels and Jackson may not be much, but they are all Minnesota has at this point. Childress has to convince them that all of the above didn't happen or even if it did, he didn't really mean it. Or perhaps that while he actually thinks they are great, he had a John Madden-esque man crush on Favre and just couldn't help himself.
Neither quarterback has proven himself enough as a player to pout publicly, but what everyone thinks privately can't be helped. Sure, they should use this as motivation to get better, but should doesn't always happen. Killed confidence can be a killer.
Entire NFL seasons have crumbled over less, which is why coaches are generally control freaks that abhor even the slightest bit of turbulence.
It's difficult to recall the last time any team, let alone a 10-win, division champion, playoff squad, dared to go to the eve of training camp purposefully creating confusion around the most important position on the field.
"As we have consistently communicated, we feel good about our team," Childress said. "With this behind us, we look forward to getting to Mankato [Minn.] and getting training camp under way."
Well, that isn't the message the Vikings were consistently communicating when they were trying to convince Favre he was actually healthy.
Favre was living off a reputation that was propped up by his media fan club. He was coming off of his worst season as a pro and spring surgery to his throwing arm. ESPN claims he was suffering from sore ankles and the pain in his left knee courtesy of private workouts.
And his motivation to return was based on embarrassing the Green Bay Packers for not accepting his first unretirement after the 2007 season, not getting the Vikings to the Super Bowl.
At this point, Favre was all about Favre. He was a circus act in cleats, loving every minute of speculation about him.
He was so far gone he was actually praised on ESPN for not being so selfish that he rejoined the team despite knowing he couldn't cut it physically. Is that really a standard worthy of citation?
And despite all of this, even Favre, previously the last to recognize anything, understood it wasn't possible.
Now Brad Childress has some communicating to do: First with his actual quarterbacks, then with everyone who is expected to faithfully follow their lead and believe in their ability.
If he can't salvage the situation, he may not be able to save the season. No wonder the Vikings were begging Favre to reconsider, they'd so boxed themselves in he had become their only hope.
- Brett Favre
- Brad Childress