Rewriting history

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

As Brett Favre stands at the edge of owning the record for most career touchdown passes, here's hoping he and the Green Bay Packers can leap beyond the mark and achieve something great.

Not just fall off the edge the way Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins did in 1995.

The Packers travel to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday with Favre and Marino tied at 420 scoring passes. More important, the Packers enter the game 3-0 and play the first of two straight NFC North foes (the Chicago Bears visits the Pack next week).

Similarly, when Marino broke all the significant passing records (touchdowns, yards, completions and attempts) in 1995 with Miami, the Dolphins started 4-0. Under coach Don Shula and loaded with a roster that included 19 former first-round draft picks, there was great hope.

Unfortunately, hope deteriorated quickly in a season of backbiting. By the end, the Dolphins were 9-7 and limped into the playoffs where they were crushed by the Buffalo Bills. Shula retired a week later, paving the way for Jimmy Johnson.

During what should have been a magical season, the Dolphins routinely lost when Marino broke a record. In fact, the day he set the touchdown record was when the bottom fell out. The Dolphins were behind 24-0 at Indianapolis, already dead in the water when Marino hit Keith Byars for the touchdown that moved him past Fran Tarkenton.

That loss dropped the Dolphins to 6-6.

"We were feeling so good about that season and then it all came apart," said Troy Vincent, the then-Dolphins cornerback who also left after that season, joining Philadelphia as a free agent. "Then it all blew up … We thought we had this great team, but it was all on paper. We didn't work together. We weren't really a team in the sense that you need to be a team.

"We all wanted Dan to have this great season, for Coach Shula to have this great season. A great season for all of us. But it was a dream that turned into a nightmare."

Now, Favre and the Packers are hoping their season doesn't take a similar downturn. For his part, Favre is optimistic. Not that he was always happy before this season. Favre had a snit in the offseason when Packers general manager Ted Thompson didn't complete a trade for wide receiver Randy Moss, a subsequent move that has helped the New England Patriots get off to a strong start.

"I know it's a tough road ahead of us," Favre said before the Packers beat San Diego last Sunday. "As we gain chemistry and confidence, which as you're young, you get beat, something happens, it puts a dent in you, but we've got to be able to overcome that and continue to not only handle adversity but probably more importantly handle success.

"I think the good teams are the ones that are able to do that and go on to the next play. You've got to do it during the bad times, but in the good ones, too. This team has some potential, very, very much so, and I hope I'm around when it happens. I mean, I'm having a lot of fun right now playing with these guys."

Thompson, unlike the Dolphins of 1995, has built a team through the NFL draft instead of relying heavily on free agent signings. The Dolphins had assembled a team of former first-round guys who perceived themselves to be stars. Instead of cooperation and willingness to play roles, many of the players griped when they didn't get to play.

"Guys on that team just weren't happy," former Dolphins guard Keith Sims said.

Counter that with the Packers of today, who have a load of younger players who are just happy to be in the NFL. Beyond Favre, who is in his 17th season, only three other players on the roster have been in the league at least 10 years: cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson and long snapper Rob Davis.

By contrast, 38 of the 53 players on the roster have played less than four full seasons in the NFL.

"The guys on this team are young and excited and that wears off on old guys like me," Favre said. "It's fun to be around them."

Beyond that, while the record is something Favre will treasure, he knows he'll probably only hold it a short while. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning already has 280 career touchdown passes in the early part of his 10th season. At his current pace, Manning is going to own the mark around 2013 – depending on Favre's final output.

"But to me my legacy is much more than the records," Favre said during a conference call this week. "If I have to have records to continue my legacy, then somewhere along the way I did something wrong. I hope it's the way I played the game and the durability, the reliability means much more to me than that."

Hopefully, that perspective and a good team can keep Favre's record chase from becoming bittersweet.

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