[Photos: Latest images of Brett Favre]
Since the seeming finality of that emotional retirement media conference, I've learned not to react to reports of the great quarterback's vocational intentions with a death-and-taxes sense of certainty.
That's because Favre is the Boy Who Cried Wilf, as in Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who just saw his team's Super Bowl dreams (at least for the time being) placed into the unsteady throwing hand of Tarvaris Jackson(notes).
Tuesday's reports of Favre's retirement notwithstanding, I close my eyes and see the NFL's most conspicuous Drama Queen suiting up again in purple-and-gold, either for the Minnesota Vikings' Sept. 9 regular season opener against the Saints at the Superdome (an NFC championship game rematch), or perhaps as late as their Oct. 11 Monday night road matchup with his other former team, the New York Jets.
You might think I'm quarreling with logic, but I prefer to think that I'm hardened by 29 months worth of speculating about the future Hall of Famer's intentions. If one of us is in denial, there's a much better chance that it's Favre.
[Timeline: Brett Favre's roller-coaster]
For the record, I'm not questioning Tuesday's reports from Fox's Jay Glazer, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Judd Zulgad and others that Favre has informed Vikings officials he won't return for a 20th NFL season. The man is 40 years old, and it's quite plausible that his left ankle has been slow to respond from offseason surgery.
It's very possible that Favre, at least for now, sincerely believes he's done, after having performed at a stunning level during his sole season in Minnesota and come hauntingly close to guiding the Vikings to the Super Bowl.
Pardon me for being skeptical. I have my reasons.
I'm the guy who nearly started shopping for real estate in Green Bay during a surreal week in the summer of '08 during which, among other things, a 6-year-old kid told Rodgers "You suck" at a Packers training camp practice and Favre responded to Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy's one-on-one admonition to stop leaking details of their conversations by phoning a reporter hours later to give him the low-down.
Only after Favre was traded to the Jets was I, too, able to escape Green Bay. The quarterback proceeded to prove he was still an elite player during the '08 season's first 11 games, only to suffer a late-season flameout that he would ultimately attribute to a torn biceps tendon in his throwing arm. So when the quarterback announced his retirement – again – in February of '09, I believed him once more. He had proven his point, and now he could walk away with his head held high and spend his days driving his tractor on his Mississippi ranch.
It made sense, except that a) Favre didn't think he was done; b) the man has such a desperate need for attention that it would be a disservice to describe as LeBronesque; and c) what he really wanted to do all along was to play for the Vikings, a team that ran a familiar offense and happened to be the arch-rival of the franchise to whom he wanted to stick it.
So a few months later, when the Jets released the allegedly retired quarterback shortly after drafting successor Mark Sanchez(notes), the Favre-to-Minnesota talk began anew. And he did his best to squelch it, as late as last July 29, when he told Sports Illustrated's Peter King, "By saying no, I know I'm leaving an incredible opportunity on the table, and that opportunity is not coming back."
Three weeks later, Vikings coach Brad Childress rolled up in an Escalade, gathered Favre at St. Paul Downtown Airport and drove him to the team's training facility amid great fanfare. And the legend delivered – throwing an "oh no he didn't" touchdown pass to beat the 49ers in the final seconds, taking down Rodgers and the Packers in Minnesota and delivering a dagger of a victory over his former team at Lambeau en route to an MVP-caliber season.
It wasn't perfect – he had issues with Childress late in the season – but it was pretty damned close. The Vikes entered the NFC title game with swagger and legitimate championship dreams, and even after Favre threw the ugly interception late in regulation that facilitated the Saints' overtime triumph, no one could call his 19th NFL season anything but a resounding success.
Favre never committed to coming back for a second shot in Minnesota, but unlike the previous two offseasons, it was generally assumed that he'd play – the belief was he'd arrive late-August, when training camp was over and he could sneak in a preseason game or two before things got serious.
The Vikings certainly behaved as though they expected this eventuality. Rather than, say, making a run at trading for Donovan McNabb(notes), with whom Childress had worked successfully as the Eagles' offensive coordinator, Minnesota maintained the status quo. This meant that, should Favre spurn them, the team's options at QB would be Jackson, the Vikes' displaced starter who struggled during an uneven '08 season, and former Houston Texans backup Sage Rosenfels(notes), who has been invisible since being acquired in a Feb. '09 trade.
In other words, if Favre really is retiring, Wilf might want to address star halfback Adrian Peterson's desire for a new contract with a bit more urgency.
But I'm not buying Jackson, Rosenfels or anyone else as the Vikes' quarterback in 2010, because I'm a cynical columnist worn down by 882 days of speculation, whispers and more flip-flops than Venice Beach on an August Saturday afternoon.
The Vikes are built to win now, and Wilf knows the window isn't indefinite. The owner will show up at Favre's Hattiesburg home with an armored truck full of cash (he was scheduled to make $13 million in 2010), or Faith Hill in a bikini, or a monogrammed Ted Thompson Dartboard, or whatever it takes to get his quarterback back.
More important, Favre will reconsider. He always does; chances are, during the time I've been writing this column, he already has. As the season draws near, his competitive instincts and his unending quest for drama and attention will overcome his hesitancy, and the man will arrive at Winter Park to even more fanfare than he generated a year ago.
Then, in August of 2011, we'll go through the same drill – and the Boy Who Cried Wilf will fool us once more, at least for a little while.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. At least for now.
- Green Bay
- Zygi Wilf
- Minnesota Vikings