Pass it up


On Brett Favre

Holding on elsewhere could dim QB's star

July 26, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

It is almost certain that Brett Favre will finish his career playing for a team other than the Green Bay Packers, the franchise with which he will be associated decades from now. And the thought of Favre in an unfamiliar uniform brought back a moment from the first NFL game I covered as a green sportswriter an eon ago.

It was an exhibition game in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and when it was over and I walked into the locker room, sitting on a stool 10 feet away, still in uniform, was Joe Namath. In my mind's eye, I can still imagine myself, eyes wide, mouth agape.

When I collected my wits and got up the courage to ask Namath a question, I began to feel an obvious dissonance. Here was the quarterback who had defied the conventions of his era as a New York Jet and was so closely identified with that team's city that he was called "Broadway Joe" wearing the blue and gold of the Rams.

Even the callow journalist I was at the time felt it was all wrong. And a battle-scarred Namath would go on to play that way, too. Like a man out of sync with his new surroundings, Namath played in just four games in his final season in 1977, completing just 50 passes for three touchdowns and five interceptions. Luckily, few fans remember.

When you look at the roster of Hall of Fame modern-era quarterbacks, you'll notice that a huge number spent their careers with one team or at least ended it where they were stars.

Elway, Aikman, Bradshaw, Marino, Kelly, Staubach, Graham, Starr, Griese, Fouts and Waterfield all played for one team. Dawson, Tarkenton, Jurgensen, Blanda, Young (and, it can be argued, Tittle and Van Brocklin) closed out with the teams with which their Hall of Fame legacies were sealed.

And the few who became end-of-career itinerants usually did so with undistinguished results.

It is hard to tell how Favre will fare with his new team. But that he will try to extend his NFL career in some environment other than the one in which he flourished is risky business.

Like Namath, Baltimore's own John Unitas took one last drink from the well with the San Diego Chargers. And also like Namath, it was a season worth forgetting: 34 completions, three touchdown passes, seven interceptions.

But many observers - certainly Favre himself - believe he still has game. And because of that, his own situation is much closer to that of San Francisco demigod Joe Montana when he moved from the 49ers to Kansas City.

By the time he got to the Chiefs, Montana might not have been able to walk on water as he did when he played in the Bay Area, but he still had the skills and savvy to help an already-good team.

In 25 regular-season games, Montana threw for more than 5,400 yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He won duels with John Elway and the Denver Broncos and Steve Young and the 49ers. He led the Chiefs to the playoffs in both his seasons in Kansas City, including once to the AFC championship.

Assuming Favre moves to a new team, he might be in a position to have a career endgame like that of Montana, but there are no guarantees. He'll be surrounded by new teammates and coaches and possibly have to adjust to an unfamiliar offensive system. There might be injuries to important players.

The one quote I recall from that interview with Namath was that he said preseason games were to see whether the new "shoulder pads fit."

In his case, they never did. Maybe for Favre, it will be as simple as that. The new pads just won't fit.

But even if they do and Favre plays with his customary gritty elan, seeing No. 4 in a different uniform will be a disquieting dissonance. At least for me.

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