Before Tom Brady arrived, the Tampa Bay Buccaneeers had their eyes on another future Hall-of-Fame quarterback in Brett Favre 13 years earlier.
“You know, it’s almost nauseating,” former Bucs general manager Mike Dominik said on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday via JoeBucsFan.com. “Like, I appreciate that I became the Bucs GM the next year, but the reality is I probably shouldn’t have. Like if we’d had traded for Brett Favre, I probably could have been director of pro personnel for two or three more years, and that would have been great by me.”
Tampa’s bid for Favre fell through in 2008, and the New York Jets snatched him. Favre had a productive season with the Jets but then had a Brady-like career year in Minnesota for 2009, nearly leading the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Favre threw for 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns, and seven interceptions with a 68.4 completion percentage that season. He said in early 2020 that Brady going to Tampa reminds him of what he did in Minnesota per CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani.
The Bucs came into 2008 in a similar position to the 2009 Vikings. Both won their respective divisions the season before. Both sported strong defenses, and both looked like a quarterback away from a Lombardi Trophy. Tampa ironically had a similar situation before Brady’s arrival in 2020 — a solid defense but a quarterback away.
“I look back on that and say if we had just upped our ante a little bit more, I wonder how many lives would be different than they are today, versus Brett going to the Jets and then Minnesota,” Dominik said on SiriusXM per JoeBucsFan.com. “Because we went 9-7 in 2008 without Brett Favre, and I gotta think we would have been 11-5 easily, if not better, with Brett Favre, and that would have been awesome to see.”
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What Favre Could Have Done in Tampa
Favre got the most out of his receivers in New York and Minnesota, neither of which had perennial Pro Bowlers. Potential existed in 2008 for Bucs receivers Antonio Bryant, Ike Hilliard, and Michael Clayton to have strong seasons with Favre throwing to them.
Similar to Brady, Favre drew talent where he went, especially in Minnesota after 2009. The Vikings traded for receiver Randy Moss and nearly signed LaDanian Tomlinson in 2010.
Tampa lost five games by one score in 2008. Favre led six fourth-quarter comebacks/and or game-winning drives from 2008 to 2010. That included an ESPY-winning, game-winning touchdown to Greg Lewis in 2009.
If the Bucs went 11-5 in 2008 with Favre as Dominik hypothesized, the Bucs would have vyed for a tight NFC South title race with the Carolina Panthers (12-4) and Atlanta Falcons (11-5). Winning the division secured a bye that year with the only other record with 11 or more wins belonging to the New York Giants (12-4).
Favre with the Bucs that season could have led to some epic playoff matchups with other quarterback greats. Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals and Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles had the last two teams standing in the NFC Playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers reached the Super Bowl that year, played in Raymond James Stadium.
Brady led the Bucs to all of those things in 2020 — an 11-5 record, wins over three teams with future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks and making the Bucs the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium.
Bucs Need to Offer “A Little Bit More Juice”
Dominik, who served as the Bucs pro personnel director at the time, explained on SiriusXM that he took charge of the Favre discussion per JoeBucsFan.com. He knows too painfully how close the Bucs came to landing the Hall-of-Famer in exchange for a draft pick. The Jets got Favre instead for a conditional draft pick based on how he played.
“The only thing that I think we did wrong, is we probably could have offered a little bit more juice,” Dominik said on SiriusXM per JoeBucsFan.com. “I think if we would have done that, I think Brett Favre might have been a Buc. But the Jets came in out of nowhere and offered. And I think someone panicked, whether it was [Favre’s agent] Bus [Cook] or Brett, and wasn’t sure if it was the right fit.”
“I think it was Bus Cook because Brett and Jon [Gruden] were pretty tight,” Dominik added. “And I just look back and go, ‘I don’t know what would have happened to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if we’d have gotten Brett Favre. But knowing how great [Gruden] is with veteran quarterbacks and what he can get out of them, I just think my life would have been way different. The Bucs would have been a different organization.'”