Thrilling. Thunderous. Inspiring. A few words that describe Brett Favre’s Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers.
Here are a few more: Turbulent. Frustrating. Complicated.
That last one, maybe more than all the others, best captures both the legendary NFL career and the man behind it, who was honored in Sports Illustrated among the list of “100 Figures Who Shaped the NFL’s First Century.” The list comes during celebration of the NFL’s 100th anniversary, which kicks off its centennial season next Thursday night at 7:20 p.m. when the Packers take on the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field.
The Sports Illustrated analysis identifies 100 influential people — from players and coaches to doctors and judges, all the way to the “King of Pop” — who have contributed to molding the NFL into its current form, underscored with the clarification that it is not meant to be a “definitive list” of the NFL’s greatest influencers.
“Omissions should be a slight,” The SI Staff introduction reads. “Rather this is meant as a mosaic, a picture with 100 pieces from which, when they’re fit together, an image of the NFL at the century mark emerges.”
As many obvious names (Bill Belichick, Vince Lombardi) as there are controversial (Colin Kaepernick, Michael Vick), seven of those listed played signature roles in the Packers organization, including Paul Hornung, Curly Lambeau, Don Hutson Tony Mandarich and Reggie White.
Though, none more recently than Favre.
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Favre’s Improbable Tale
Much of the list’s commentary on Favre talks about ascension against the odds, like rising from seventh-string freshman quarterback at Southern Mississippi into a starting role. Or leaving a four-pass, two-pick career behind in Atlanta to almost immediately take hold as the leader in Green Bay in 1992.
The odds went beyond just being the best on the field for Favre, too, as he battled a number of personal issues off the field throughout his two decades in the NFL.
Per the Sports Illustrated list:
“He was blunt, charismatic and, in many ways, grew up in front of America. Amid his push to become the league’s all-time passing leader (he was later overtaken by both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees), Favre battled through addiction and the death of his father, which was immortalized in an epic Monday night performance known simply as the “Dad Game.” He finished his career with typically eventful—even weird—stints in New York with the Jets and Minnesota with the Vikings.”
Dropping the Torch
Nice as it would be to just appreciate Favre’s career for all the good, like when his golden arm heaved the Packers to a championship in Super Bowl XXXI, the manner in which the now-Hall of Famer ended his time in Green Bay was less than desirable for both sides.
The SI piece, naturally, addresses the fallout of Favre’s retirement-that-wasn’t after the 2007 season along with the awkwardness that ensued throughout the transition to Aaron Rodgers as the franchise’s next quarterback.
“Never one to willingly give up his place, Favre made the Packers’ transition to Aaron Rodgers awkward,” the piece said, going on to explain how Favre played three more seasons between the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings before a sack against Bears’ Corey Wootton in 2010 officially ended his career.
“The rift with the Packers last seven years. Finally in July 2015 he returned to Green Bay to be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame—and was met by a sold-out crowd of 67,000 fans at Lambeau Field for a heartfelt reconciliation. Said Favre afterward, “It was like I never left.”
The veteran quarterback was hardly shy about his dislike for Rodgers in the years they spent together after the Packers drafted him in 2005. Jeff Pearlman noted several examples in his book about Favre’s life, “Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre.”
Years on, though, Rodgers and Favre have a better relationship. According to Favre in a 2018 interview with ESPN 540AM’s Wilde and Tausch radio show, Rodgers says he now understands why Favre acted the way he did back in his early years in the league before assuming the mantle of starting quarterback.