A legend born in Green Bay, Brett Favre decides to call it quits while still on top.
|Did the media fall asleep at the wheel, because Packer nation did not see the retirement of Brett Favre coming? Who could have imagined that number four would hang up his cleats after a year like the Green Bay organization had, a heartbeat away from Super Bowl XXXXII?
In previous off-seasons, fans sat on their hands and waited to hear whether Favre would call it quits. He had plenty of reasons to end his career, as it became apparent the team was in decline, while his beard grew whiter. But by the end of this season, there seemed so much hope for another year and possibly more. Brett played one of his best seasons ever. Who knew he wanted to end it here?
Was it the Packers inability to land free agent wide receiver Randy Moss, who resigned with the New England Patriots? The quarterback would tell ESPN's Chris Mortenson it had nothing to do with the receiver he coveted these past two winters. But Favre's agent Bus Cook is reported to have said the fateful retirement hinged on Moss' decision to 'stand Pat'.
Fans are likely in shock. With all the takeaways from this past season, it didn't seem possible Favre could be burned out on football. It's likely the media was lulled into a sense of false security and didn't press Brett or speculate on his retirement this off-season, as in years past. The doubters turned into believers, some opining he would play another two or three seasons.
So, why now?
Did he stick around in 2007 to just break records and hopefully get a last shot at the Super Bowl? Could the disappointment of losing the NFC conference final with his last play being an interception thrown in overtime be another reason he decided to leave the cleats on the wall? Did the three-time NFL MVP want to go out on top, proving wrong the detractors who thought he was a little too long in the tooth for the game? These and many other questions will likely be denied or go unanswered.
Who could imagine Favre would not be able to envision himself starting his 17th season in green and gold this fall? The youthful exuberance Favre displayed in 2007 gave not an inkling this would be his final run. If anything, he was reinvigorated, hauling receivers off the field on his shoulders. He cracked jokes on the sidelines, hamming it up for players, fans and the cameras. I'll always admire the prankster that threw a snowball at Donald Driver in their first playoff game. His enthusiasm and passion for the game gave us a true appreciation of the boy inside the man.
So, it is sour grapes?
I don't think it's feasible Favre held out on the Packers for not dipping into the free agent market. With number 4, what you see is what you get. Yet, some feel he'll come out of retirement, like this announcement was some kind of April Fools joke. But looking at the calendar, it was March 4th. The irony is evident in a year when Packer fans were confident Brett would return his team to another title; he instead saddles up to ride off into the sunset.
As much as we are in awe of his durability, starting every game since he took over the signal calling in 1992, Favre admits he is no longer the ironman. Like baseball's Cal Ripken, all those years of mentally preparing for every ball game erodes the psyche. The long hours of preparing and training to be the best took away his competitive edge. Physically, he took a pounding, too. You can't blame Brett for not wanting to line up behind center while younger, stronger players come after him, chomping at the bit to put a football legend on his back.
He proved his critics he still had plenty of gas in the tank. After being named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of Year and reaching milestones at his position, Favre can savor the knowledge he is going out on top. Considering the years he's contemplated retirement, you have to believe Brett is prepared to put it all behind. But, I also imagine retirement will not be easy. And, ol' number 4 will likely be tempted to compete again, even imagine a scenario where he could return to the game. For some, they will not believe he is done until the team lines up on the field of play without him, while a shadowed jersey hangs alone in a distant locker room.
It's a sad day for all. Brett Favre will fondly be remembered for leaving everything he had on the field of battle. Even if backup QB Aaron Rodgers has a reason to smile, he likely mourns a legend lost. Favre leaves the game in style. The gunslinger packs up his pistols. As infectious as his smile, he breathed joy into the hearts of many by what he stood for on the gridiron.
My response to Favre's official annoucement at the Packer's press conference on Thursday...