In professional football, there is a small group of ultra-elite players who transcend even the Hall of Fame. Players like Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, and Walter Payton changed how the game is played by their talents and work ethics. The legends of these players have passed from generation to generation, and their names have outlived their playing days because of the brilliance of their performances on the field, usually against championship level competition.
The most difficult position in all of professional sports is NFL quarterback. The speed and violence of the game combined with the inherent demands of the position make the job an amalgam of leadership, toughness, fearlessness, decision-making, and athleticism, more so than any other position in any other sport. The great quarterbacks who have played the game at the highest level are all legends. Fran Tarkenton, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady are some of the best of the best, and each one exemplifies what makes a great quarterback, and we could debate until the end of time who is the absolute best of them all.
However, if you look at the numbers, one quarterback, and only one, holds every single career record that matters. For 20 seasons, Brett Favre played the position as well as anyone ever has. Yes, those of us who follow the game grew weary over the last three or four seasons with the retirement/contract game he played, and yes, he might have sent some inappropriate pictures to a reporter, but on the field, he was a general, a surgeon, a gambler, a rock, and a little boy all rolled into one. I’ve not enjoyed watching a quarterback play more than I enjoyed watching Favre, even when he was playing against my Steelers. In fact, one of my favorite Favre moments came in the 95 season when Greg Lloyd came untouched on a blitz and absolutely crushed him. Favre had to be helped from the field, went to the sidelines for one play, threw up from the pain, came back in the game, and then threw a touchdown pass. That’s tough, the kind of toughness he displayed for 20 seasons, even at the end.
The game will not be as fun without him. His sense of humor and love of the game made it a pleasure to watch him compete, and his willingness to put it all on the line every single play is why he was so great. Yes, he threw more interceptions than anyone in history, but he also threw more touchdowns and won more games. In the end, that’s what it’s all about. Thank you, Brett Favre, for all of the great, breathtaking moments you gave us. Thank you for playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. You will be the standard against all others will be measured for many decades to come.