Why the Fall of Brett Favre Started Much Sooner Than You Think
It’s time once again to look at the disgraceful downfall of one Brett Lorenzo Favre. Yes, everyone has beaten the topic to death the past few years but one thing that has not truly been discussed was the exact moment when Favre’s downfall began. Some say it was in 2005 with the hiring of Ted Thompson. Others argue it happened with the firing of Mike Sherman in 2006.
I’d have to partially agree with those who mention Sherman, except they have it backwards. I’d argue Favre’s meltdown began when Sherman was HIRED in 2000.
Wind the clock back to that year if you will: Ray Rhodes had just been fired and Favre was coming off a 22 TD pass to 23 interceptions season after battling a bad thumb all season. Keep in mind this was two years removed from the Packers trip to Super Bowl XXXII against the Broncos. Favre experienced his first non-winning season of his career as well.
More than that, players and coaches from the Super Bowl teams had begun to move on. Mike Holmgren was in Seattle, Reggie White was in Carolina for one last season and best bud former tight end Mark Chmura was on trial for sexual assault. Favre’s mentors and best friend were all gone.
Enter Mike Sherman. He came in talking about the great history and tradition of the Packers and wanted to make sure his teams were established in the same mold. This was a theme Sherman constantly revisited during his time in Green Bay.
He also talked about Favre as one of the greatest ever and a true legend despite the quarterback barely being over the age of 30. The overstuffing of Favre’s ego had begun. Instead of saying that yes, he is great but he still needs to be smart like Mike McCarthy later did, Sherman only praised his quarterback and when question about Favre’s faults (like those interceptions), he just basically shrugged them off as “That’s just Brett.”
The seeds were planted.
The first few years of the Sherman era were productive with the Packers making the playoffs in 2001 after a two year absence and they won the NFC North in 2002.
Then came 2003 and the death of Favre’s father Irvin. The game against the Raiders on Monday night will forever live on in Packer lore as it rightfully should, but perhaps that game and Favre’s performance was the end of a happy era and the beginning of a rapid acceleration into darkness for Favre.
Favre’s personality and playing style is like that of a wild dog. Unless you have someone very strong holding the leash who knows when to let the dog go and when to pull back, the animal could kill you. Essentially, that’s what happened with Favre. It seems now in retrospect that Sherman was so “ga-ga” over coaching the great Brett Favre that he actually took Favre off the leash and let the dog go wild. Is it any coincidence many of Favre’s most boneheaded plays came during the Sherman regime?
Want proof? Take a look at Sherman’s record in the playoffs. At least one of his teams should have won a Super Bowl, but they never even made it to the NFC Championship.
While Favre was going wild on the field, he was becoming more distant off of it. Later we found out Favre was dressing separately from the locker room where most of his teammates were. His press conferences were held in the media auditorium instead of at his locker (a trend Aaron Rodgers thankfully has reversed unless it’s a ‘special’ media session) and he was spending less time with his teammates. Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that Favre was older than a fair amount of his teammates, but most is due to an ego that was inflating so fast no one saw it coming.
Another cause perhaps was the lack of a true father figure for the first time in his life. Gone was Big Irv and Holmgren was long gone in Seattle. Not soon after Irvin Favre died, Reggie White passed away unexpectedly. I will even go so far as to argue that if any of these people had either been alive or in Green Bay during the final years of Favre’s time in Titletown, his career in Green Bay would have ended on a much sweeter note instead of the chaos that marked Favre’s constant waffling over retirement.
In 2006, Sherman was fired and McCarthy was brought on board. Then came the first truly long offseason of the “will he or won’t he?” game Favre made a summer tradition of the past five years. Finally, Favre decided to give it a shot under McCarthy and the two enjoyed what appeared to be a solid working relationship with Favre putting up MVP-like numbers in 2007.
One reason was that McCarthy put the leash back on his quarterback. The dog was back under control. Unfortunately for Brad Childress and Eric Mangini, they took the leash off and suffered the same fate as Sherman
At this point sadly, gone was the humble hillbilly of years past and here now was a full blown egotistical superstar putting himself above the team. Many fans at the time of Favre’s departure in 2008 were perhaps too much in denial of Favre playing for a team other than the Packers, but now after the quarterback’s antics with the Jets and Vikings finally see that Favre has become a mere shell of the human being he used to be.
It was a tragic downfall for the man we all use to call our hero. It’s an episode in Packer history that never should have happened, but one that perhaps helped lead to the Packers’ current success. Rodgers did learn a lot from Favre but perhaps he learned more of what NOT to do than what was the proper thing to do. The learning curve swings both ways.
Thanks to the superb play of Rodgers this past season and offseason, the book on Favre in Green Bay has forever been shut and stored on the shelf in Packers history. Still, it had a final chapter that bears revisiting once in a while so that the stars of today (including Rodgers) can learn that fame can be a good thing but it can come back to bite you if you raise yourself above others.
Perhaps one day a new epilogue will be written when Favre is once again embraced by the Packer faithful.
Until that time comes, all we are left to do is shake our heads and wonder what the hell happened to Brett Favre.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke