EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – There is something so familiar about it, this whole production. You have Brett Favre(notes) taking the lead, charming the audience with his awww shucks passion play. You have the supplanted quarterbacks moving stage left, shrugging in forced submission. And you have veteran players sitting in the front row with the rest of the fan base, awestruck by the grandiose nature of it all.
The Phantom of the Soap Opera has moved off Broadway – new costume, new audience, same old plot.
Favre hands off to Peterson during Wednesday's practice.
(Hannah Foslien/AP Photo)
All you had to do was hover around the Minnesota Vikings players on Wednesday, and you were suddenly trapped in an NFL Network re-run. Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels(notes) was playing a more subdued Chad Pennington(notes), the New York Jets quarterback who was ejected from the driver's seat in favor of Favre one year ago. Players were once again fawning, with Vikings defensive end Jared Allen(notes) calling Favre's passes "missiles." The mania even spilled over to Favre confidant Steve Mariucci, who held court with the media for more than 30 minutes Wednesday.
"I think people are still kind of shocked," said Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie(notes). "I was in the huddle [Tuesday], and I was looking at people's facial expressions when [Favre] was calling the plays and people were just kind of amazed, looking at him like 'I can't believe this.' "
As we found with the Jets, the sobering moment can't be far off. Favre wasn't brought to Minnesota to be a rock star. Nothing remains more prevalent than the hope that he can be the adrenalin shot that propels this team into the NFC elite. That's the expectation which makes the chaos of this week palatable. Favre's missing training camp? The bum rotator cuff? The franchise looking desperate? A Super Bowl is what makes it justifiable.
As Allen put it, "If we're all sitting in Miami, waiting to go on the field for the Super Bowl, do you think we really care if he came here in July?"
But that's the rub. Favre's high-maintenance offseason antics one year ago came with that same price tag. If the Jets made significant strides, it would have all been worth it. If they rode Favre to the Super Bowl, it was a fantastic gamble. But one year later, it looks like a complete failure. The team missed the playoffs. The coach was fired. And the player who was supposed to have brought it all together isn't on the roster anymore.
And lest we forget, the same veterans who were saying all the right things in August were blasting Favre in February.
That reality gives the situation in Minnesota a familiar feel. There is already an undercurrent that some veterans aren't happy the way Favre's courtship played out. And we've yet to hear a peep from Vikings executive Rick Spielman, who engineered the trade for Rosenfels and then had it summarily checkmated by Favre's arrival. And none of this takes into account Favre's torn rotator cuff, which creates a pre-existing excuse should he flame out down the stretch for the second straight season.
Instead, it's all about turning back the clock, ignoring history and extolling the positives. It's the only thing the players can do. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) said with Favre in place, "Now it's just time to ascend, ascend, ascend."
Certainly, the Vikings have reasons to believe it will happen. Unlike the situation with the Jets, Favre is taking over an offense he has already mastered. He has a running game that is stronger than any he has ever known, and a defense to match. And there just might be enough offensive pieces in the passing game – guys like Shiancoe, Bernard Berrian(notes) and Percy Harvin(notes) – to maximize his diminishing skills.
But the Jets were hardly talent poor last season. And they had every bit the optimism and opportunity that exists in Minnesota right now. Ultimately, Favre faded, the team spiraled, and hindsight showed us fantasy masquerading as hope.
Now, we're full circle with Minnesota. Favre may have delivered the seminal point about his arrival on Tuesday, when he was spelling out how he ended up in a Vikings uniform. He said that when he and coach Brad Childress spoke earlier this week, Childress delivered an unambiguous message about joining the team: "It's now or never."
The two men are clinging to each other at a pivotal part of their careers. On one hand you have Childress, whose coaching career has been dogged by sentiment that he can't maximize his talent, and has never truly been embraced by all of his players. On the other, you have Favre, whose career flip-flopping has frayed the nerves of players and fans alike, and whose legacy in Green Bay could be a smoldering heap of wreckage six months from now.
The Vikings are following them, hoping for now. But through the lens of history, it looks a lot like the same never that we've already seen.
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