The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 gets inducted on Saturday. Shutdown Corner will profile the eight new Hall of Famers, looking at each of their careers and their impact on the game.
Atlanta Falcons, 1992
Green Bay Packers, 1993-2007
New York Jets, 2008
Minnesota Vikings, 2009-10
It’s hard to pick one. Just to mention some of the top candidates: His cannon throw to Sterling Sharpe to win a playoff game at the Pontiac Silverdome, his unbelievable 1996 MVP season that was capped with a Super Bowl XXXI title, the unforgettable game at Oakland after the death of his father, and the great 2009 season he had — which included an all-time game-winning throw to Greg Lewis — with the Minnesota Vikings.
I’ll pick a lesser-known moment that was a turning point in Favre’s career.
In mid-1995, Favre wasn’t a legend. He was building toward greatness, but there was still some question about his ceiling. Favre had 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the 1995 season as the Packers prepared for a Nov. 12 game against the Chicago Bears with first place in the NFC Central on the line. Favre was capable of things you’ve never seen before, and mistakes you’d never want to see again. There was still no definitive proof he could consistently be an MVP-level quarterback. Bears quarterback Erik Kramer had outplayed Favre over the first half of the 1995 season (yes, that happened).
Here was the rub: In a loss against the Minnesota Vikings the previous week, Favre was knocked out of the game with a severely sprained ankle. Nobody knew for sure if Favre would play against the Bears. Bob Gagliano was signed that week, and he was in line to start if Favre couldn’t. These were the days before smartphones and access to all information in seconds, and the crowd at Lambeau Field wasn’t positive Favre would start until he was introduced in pregame warmups. (Trust me, I was there, and nobody knew for sure. It was the last NFL game I’ve attended as a fan, and Favre’s introduction is still as loud as I’ve ever heard a crowd get).
And with one good leg, with first place on the line, Favre completed 25 of 33 passes for 336 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Packers won 35-28.
And that was it. The entire perception of Favre changed, starting that day. Suddenly it was clear Favre had the ability — and the toughness — to be special. He became the best player in the NFL after that. Counting that game, Favre threw 21 touchdowns and two interceptions down the stretch in 1995. He won an MVP. The next season, he won another MVP and the Packers won a Super Bowl.
You can’t always pinpoint when a Hall of Fame player takes his game to that rarefied level, but for Favre it was Nov. 12, 1995. Favre played 326 NFL games, including playoffs, and that win against the Bears was his greatest. The Packers’ franchise has never looked back from that day, either.
Impact on the game
There are many possible answers. For many years Favre was the epitome of toughness and excitement, starting an unbelievable 297 consecutive games and providing memorable highlights in most of them. Ultimately, his biggest impact can be seen in Green Bay.
Before Favre arrived in 1992, the Packers were a mess. They had one playoff win in the 24 seasons since Vince Lombardi stepped down as coach. The Packers were a laughingstock. Then Favre arrived.
Favre put Green Bay back on the map. The Packers broke a Super Bowl drought. Free agents like Reggie White, who never would have signed with Green Bay if not for Favre, came to join him. The Packers became a staple on prime-time television, after not appearing on “Monday Night Football” between 1986 and 1993.
Look at Green Bay now. They are contenders every year and one of the league’s marquee teams. Lambeau Field received an expensive renovation and fans from everywhere come to visit. The Packers are viewed as one of the great franchises in the NFL. Favre deserves a lot of credit for that.
Case against his bust in Canton
No reasonable person would say Favre isn’t a Hall of Famer, but there are legitimate criticisms of his career. At his worst he was reckless, and that’s reflected in his NFL-record 336 interceptions. You can argue Favre should have won more than one Super Bowl in 20 seasons. He had some devastating playoff mistakes like his interception to New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter in the NFC championship game in 2010 , when Favre was with the Vikings.
It’s not like Favre had an immaculate career that is above nitpicking. But we all know he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Case for his bust in Canton
Favre finished his career as the NFL’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. He turned around a franchise and won a Super Bowl. He was the first player to win three Associated Press NFL MVP awards. For most of his two-decade career he was the NFL’s most recognizable player. There haven’t been many players in NFL history more deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame.
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