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Favre too hard to predict

Michael Silver
Yahoo Sports

It is said that revenge is a dish best served cold, and for Brett Favre(notes), the notion of punching the clock as a purple-clad waiter for Coach Chilly in the frigid Twin Cities was apparently a bit too much to stomach.

At least, that's what I want to believe in the wake of colleague Rick Schwartz's report Thursday that Favre spurned the advances of Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress during a phone conversation.

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We're still not certain if Favre has left the gridiron for good.
(The Star-Ledger/US Presswire)

Until Favre explains his apparently abrupt change of mind and tells us why he's not coming back for a 19th season, it's tough to know what cooled his reported interest in signing with Minnesota. Then again, even after Favre does speak, a lot of us still won't be sure what to believe.

Given his record of self-contradictory statements over the past 14 months, beginning with that teary-eyed retirement announcement in Green Bay, Favre isn't exactly the most trusted name in news. Some would also argue that he's not especially fair and balanced, with an emphasis on the latter.

There's little doubt that Favre, a future Hall of Famer and perhaps the most beloved player in the Packers' proud history, wasn't just a stubborn old gunslinger unwilling to part with the game he loves when he forced his way out of Titletown last summer. Angry over what he viewed as a betrayal by Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson – and, to a lesser extent, coach Mike McCarthy – over their refusal to undo plans to proceed with Aaron Rodgers(notes) as the team's starter following Favre's retirement announcement, the legendary passer tried unsuccessfully to force his way to Minnesota a year ago. Only after those efforts failed did Favre accept a trade to the New York Jets, and vengeance was a driving force.

We know this because in February, after officially ending his six-month experiment with the Jets and retiring a second time, Favre told SI.com's Peter King, "Part of me coming back last year, I have to admit now, was sticking it to Ted."

Even as Favre was leading the Jets to an 8-3 start which included impressive back-to-back road victories over the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans and rival New England Patriots, his success had more to do with settling a score than with scoring big in the Big Apple. His new teammates were little more than accessories who existed for the purpose of tweaking the Pack.

Need I remind you that it wasn't just Thompson and McCarthy to whom Favre wanted to stick it? Remember that phone conversation he had with then-Lions president Matt Millen before the Packers' Week 2 game against Detroit, a talk in which the quarterback admitted he shared "general" information about his former team's tendencies while the Lions' coaches likely eavesdropped?

That's the equivalent of a man who breaks up with his girlfriend and wants to take out his wrath on everyone: his ex, her friends, her family members, their co-workers, the restaurant where they had their first date. Surely, watching the Packers plummet from a 13-3 record in his final season in Green Bay to 6-10 in '08 was a source of immense pleasure for Favre, who by late November looked like he might be Super Bowl-bound.

Yet when one is driven by anger and spite, it's not a very healthy situation. This is especially true in the context of football, a game in which a team's success depends on mutual sacrifice that often borders on the irrational.

In other words, when you're about to throw your body in front of a charging behemoth whose momentum may or may not pin your arm back at a 150-degree angle, you need something to convince you that this is not a horrible idea. A genuine bond with your teammates, a belief in your coach's philosophy, a deep commitment to an organization's core values – those are the hokey but sincere motivational forces which separate the great teams from the merely good ones.

As such, when the presumed leader of your team is exuding a "Let's stick it to Ted" obsession, that probably won't be enough to make you hold your stance for that extra second when Brandon Jacobs(notes) comes barreling across the line of scrimmage.

This is not to declare with certainty that the inability of Favre's teammates to connect to his motivation was what doomed the Jets to a 1-4 finish. If anything, Favre's miserable performance over that stretch (two touchdown passes, nine interceptions) might have been as much a product of his physical issues – a shoulder strain and partially torn biceps on his throwing arm – as it was his or anyone else's state of mind.

I do know this, though – a player whose unbridled style once symbolized the joy of the game had become caught up in its cruel impermanence, and he was willing to jeopardize his cherished status with a largely forgiving fan base just to prove that the Packers needed him more than he needed them.

Fine. Mission accomplished. As I wrote when Favre told the Jets he was retiring this past February, he had accomplished enough during his brief stay with the Jets that he could now walk away with dignity and commence the inevitably reconciliation with Packer Nation.

Yet hell hath no fury like a legend scorned, and Favre seemed unwilling – or unable – to let it go.

When the Jets, after drafting Mark Sanchez(notes), released him last week, the Vikings suddenly became a possibility. Now, to go back to that analogy about the scorned dude who has it out for his ex-girlfriend, he was confronted with a chance to sleep with her nemesis at the office – and man, was it tempting.

The Vikes were all over it: It was a perfect storm of mutual attraction, for Childress was a man in desperate need of a big-time quarterback. The Vikings, a team with a dominant running back (Adrian Peterson) and a strong defense bolstered by last year's trade for star pass rusher Jared Allen(notes), have a window that may be closing more quickly than they care to realize.

Coach Chilly, despite an NFC North title in '08, has made several questionable decisions about the quarterback position while failing to deliver the "kick-ass offense" he promised shortly after his arrival. He may be coaching for his job in 2009, and he thus wasn't overly moved by the logic that bringing Favre aboard could stunt the team's long-term growth.

However, the deal is now off, and we're left with questions:

Is it really off, or is Favre trying to shake down the Vikings for more money?

Will he feel differently in August, and if so would the Vikings (or another team) still be interested?

Did Favre, despite his scars and fulminating fury, finally allow rational thought to prevail?

I hope that the answer to the latter question is affirmative, because Favre had more to lose by going to the Vikings than he realized.

First, there's the practical matter of his failing health. Unless he were to undergo a significant procedure to repair his biceps, it's likely that he'd continue to struggle with his throws, creating a situation in which Childress might actually have to bench him – and end Favre's cherished consecutive-games streak in the process – in a desperate effort to save his job.

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Favre during his Packers retirement announcement.
(Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

Further, there's the matter of his Titletown legacy. A year ago I think Favre underestimated the degree to which some Packers fans would turn against him as his feud with Thompson dragged on, and I don't think he would have been prepared for the enmity heading his way had he joined up with the rival Vikes and returned to Lambeau Field wearing white and purple.

One fervent Packers fan who lives in the Green Bay area told me via email of her 8-year-old daughter's reaction to the possibility: "If Favre goes to the Vikings, I can't cheer for him. How could he do this to us? I'm never wearing my Favre jerseys again if he plays for them. He's being a jerk."

Clearly, for kids and adults alike, this is an emotional issue. And over the long haul, emotion should not be the driving force behind a man's quest for achievement. That's especially true of a 39-year-old man trying to motivate a football team.

But don't take this from me; take it from the man who has thrown for 65,127 yards. Back in 2004, Favre related an anecdote about a motivational ploy that fired up his high school football team, with he and his teammates convinced they'd been called "chicken" by an opponent.

"We crushed them on the first play," Favre recalled, but his team lost the game.

"Emotions play a great deal in a team's success or lack of success," the wise quarterback later concluded. "But it can only carry you so far."

If this is the end of Favre's professional journey – and I know we've been there before, so brace yourselves for another round of rumors of his return – then give the man some credit. When confronted with a golden opportunity to stick it to the Packers, he apparently concluded that revenge is a dish best not served at all.

TAKE IT TO THE ATM

When Jacksonville Jaguars players are introduced to new teammate Torry Holt(notes), they'll invariably opt for the fist-bump over the handshake. … As we discussed awhile back, there will be a Super Bowl in London sometime in the next decade – and the world will continue to spin on its axis. … The next time a radio producer, under the mistaken impression that I live on the East Coast (perhaps I should start making California references in my columns once in awhile), calls my home phone before 7 a.m. Pacific time, I will track down his/her home number, dial it at midnight Pacific and ask that person to provide free content for The Gameface.

LIES, LIES, LIES

1. Manny Ramirez mistakenly took a banned medication (prescribed by his personal physician, Dr. Shawne Merriman(notes)).

2. After donning a Patriots cap during a recent appearance at Gillette Stadium, the Dalai Lama decreed that "the fifth noble truth is this: In 2009, Tom Brady(notes) will make people suffer for the suffering he endured in 2008."

3. In a continuing effort to cut costs, the Detroit Lions convinced current third-string quarterback Drew Stanton(notes) and ex-third-string quarterback Drew Henson(notes) to share an identity.

OXYGEN-DEPRIVED THOUGHT FROM ABOVE

Three years ago, my then-SI colleague King interviewed Favre about the quarterback's decision to return for a 16th season. In a hallway behind the Packers' locker room at Lambeau, Favre talked about how he happened to hear a Phil Simms interview while listening to his Sirius satellite radio at home in Mississippi and said Simms' remarks helped sway his decision. On Wednesday, that made me wonder if Favre heard former Green Bay teammate Darren Sharper's(notes) Sirius interview in which the recent Vikings safety described the quarterback's possible presence in Minnesota as "the right fit." I guess he wasn't listening. And hopefully, for Deanna Favre's sake, he didn't tune in to comedian Colin Quinn's recent appearance on the Howard Stern Show.

LET'S DO SOME DON JULIO SILVER SHOTS FOR …

Dallas Cowboys scouting assistant Rich Behm, who was paralyzed after last Saturday's practice facility collapse. I don't know Behm, but my thoughts and prayers go out to him and to the other injured parties (special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and assistant athletic trainer Greg Gaither) – and I trust that all NFL teams will do everything they can to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.

THIS WEEK'S PROOF THAT CAL IS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

In a massively disappointing display of failure, Cal's top-ranked rugby team lost a 25-22 thriller to BYU in last weekend's national championship match, denying the Golden Bears a sixth consecutive title (and 18th in 19 years). And yes, that was a spot of sarcasm for coach Jack Clark's benefit – he'll have his lads ready for another title run in 2010. In other news, Pac-10 swimmer of the year Nathan Adrian swam in Guar gum. I know that sounds like an image you might find on a less savory website, but Adrian, the NCAA champion and American-record holder in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, was doing it for a show called MythBusters: He was featured in a "Swimming In Syrup" episode, which aired Wednesday night on the Discovery Channel. Finally, mad props to recent Cal journalism school graduate Alexandra Berzon, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for her "courageous reporting" on a string of construction-worker fatalities.

YAHOO! SEARCH WORDS OF THE WEEK

silent library Japanese

ROLLIN' WITH THE ROYALS

In the course of my two-season stint as a Reading fan, I've learned that the Royals can't seem to do anything easily, and thus it's no surprise that they squandered a chance for automatic promotion last Saturday and will now have to scrap their way back to the English Premier League. It turns out a victory over Birmingham at Madejski Stadium would have allowed Reading to finish second in the Football League Championship and join Wolverhampton with an express trip back to the big show, but Blues snatched the spot with a 2-1 triumph, leading for all but the first 19 minutes. Now comes a four-team playoff for the final promotion berth, with Reading facing Burnley in a two-legged semifinal set beginning Saturday at Turf Moor. The second match comes next Tuesday at Madejski, with aggregate goals deciding the overall victor. For those of you familiar with such arrangements, no away-goals rule will be in effect, meaning that if the combined score is tied after regulation at Madejski there'll be a 30-minute "extra time" period and, if the deadlock remains, it will come down to penalty kicks. Should the Royals prevail, they'll face the winner of the other semifinal set (between third-place Sheffield United and sixth-place Preston) in a single-game playoff final at Wembley Stadium on Monday, May 25.

LYRIC-ALTERED SONG DEDICATION OF THE WEEK

Ah, Vikings fans, close your eyes and imagine what might have been: Were you, like me, hearing that primal shriek reverberating through the Delta breeze earlier this week? No, not Chris Cornell desperately searching for a Starbucks, but a tormented quarterbacking legend brimming with what former Vikes owner Red McCombs liked to call "Purple Pride." This was the early '90s grunge anthem you know Favre thought about belting out to all of humanity, to the tune of Soundgarden's "Outshined."

I got up out of T-town
I got off being sold out
I've kept the movie rolling
But the story's getting old now
Oh yeah
Well I'm up on my John Deere
And things aren't looking so good
I'm looking Mississippi
And feeling Minnesota
Oh yeah
So now you know, who gets crucified
So now you know, who gets deified

Give me the playbook, Chill
I'd like to say
That I'm sticking it to Green Bay
Yeah – it gives me schadenfreude
Gives me away
Till I'm back in Lambeau again
I'll be leaping, while Ted's weeping
P. Pride, P. Pride, P. Pride, P. Pride

Ohhhhhhh yeeaaaahhhhhhh!

I'll put a hat with horns on
I'll take a ride with Ragnar
The tundra ain't so frozen
In the Metrodome y'all
Oh yeah
Well I'll look so good in purple
Do you think I'm a traitor?
Well, I'm feeling kind of fertile
Y'all is just some haters
So now you know, who gets crucified
So now you know, who gets deified

Show me the money, Zyg
I'd like to say
That I'm sticking it to Green Bay
Yeah – it gives me sc hadenfreude
Gives me away
Till I'm back in Lambeau again
I'm leaping, while Ted's weeping
P. Pride, P. Pride, P. Pride, P. Pride

Ohhhhh yeaaaaahhhhhhhh!
I rise
Ohhhhhhhh! Ohhhhhhhh! Ohhhhhhhh!
So now you know, who gets deified

Hand me a donut Sage
I'd like to say
That I'm sticking it to Green Bay
Yeah – it gives me schadenfreude
Gives me away
Till I'm back in Lambeau again
I'll be leaping, while Ted's weeping

Hand the ball to All Day?
Sorry, Chil-lay
I'll be sticking it to Green Bay
Yeah – it gives me schadenfreude
Gives me away
Till I'm back in Lambeau again
I'll be leaping, while Ted's weeping
P. Pride, P. Pride, P. Pride, P. Pride