CANTON, Ohio — Brett Favre will take his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Saturday’s enshrinement ceremony, but he will do so with at least a tinge of regret about his ill-fated season with the Jets in 2008.
Favre, who helped the Packers win their first championship since the days of Vince Lombardi with a swashbuckling style and childlike enthusiasm, enjoyed one of the most spectacular careers in NFL history and finished as the record-holder in touchdown passes, passing yards and passing attempts.
But after his dramatic departure from the Packers, who traded him because of Aaron Rodgers’ emergence, Favre enjoyed a remarkable run with the Jets until the final month of the 2008 season. He wonders now what might have happened if he hadn’t suffered a torn biceps.
“I’ll say this, and I’m not an excuse guy, but before I tore my bicep, I was playing pretty good and we were 9-3 we weren’t hitting on all cylinders,” Favre said Friday. “I felt there was tremendous upside. I think our last good game was against New England on a Thursday night in New England, which we won and I played really well. It went downhill from there.”
Favre’s recollection is a bit fuzzy. The Jets actually were 7-3 after his game against the Patriots, a 34-31 overtime win on Nov. 13. And they improved to 8-3 on Nov. 23 with a dominating 34-13 win in Tennessee.
Then the wheels fell off, with Favre throwing two touchdown passes and nine interceptions in his final five games and the Jets losing four of those games to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
Shortly after the season ended, Eric Mangini was fired by owner Woody Johnson and Favre announced his retirement at 39. He eventually changed his mind and played two more seasons with the Vikings.
“My bicep progressively got worse, and it ultimately ended up surgery,” Favre said. “I would have liked to have seen how it ended up had I not had a torn bicep.”
Favre, who had an NFL-record 297 consecutive starts by the time he retired permanently after his second season with the Vikings, said the streak should have ended with the Jets.
“At one point, I wanted to remove myself from playing, because I would throw it over there and it would end up over there,” said Favre, pointing a finger to his left and then to his right, indicating how inaccurate his passes became late in the season. “I always felt like there’s a higher value to what a quarterback does, because you handle the ball every time. I felt like I was doing more harm than good.
“When I look at that year, that’s my regret, because I just didn’t remove myself from it altogether,” said Favre, whose backup that season was Kellen Clemens. “I mentioned that to Eric Mangini and [offensive coordinator] Brian Schottenheimer. I don’t know if they realized the magnitude of the injury. I just hate knowing or thinking that much of [the reason for] those losses were the result of my lack of being able to make plays. That’s what I think about from that season — what could have been.”
Favre did set one memorable milestone with the Jets that season. “I threw six touchdowns in one game, and — yippee — but that’s the only time I ever did it,” he said of his performance in a 56-35 win over the Cardinals.
In the end, it worked out for Favre. He changed his mind about retirement and led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game the following year. He again retired after the season but again was talked out of it by the Vikings. His career finally ended after the 2010 season, when the Vikings went 6-10 and Favre’s starting streak ended. He suffered a sprained shoulder against the Bills on Dec. 5 and couldn’t play when the Vikings hosted the Giants the following week.
The Packers, of course, are where Favre’s heart lies and where he enjoyed his finest moments after being traded from the Falcons. Favre led the Packers to the Super Bowl championship after the 1996 season and they went to the Super Bowl the following year, losing to the Broncos.
“I believed that there was always a connection and a perfect fit for me with Green Bay fans,” Favre said. “I know if I were a fan, I would want to see somebody just give their best. I don’t care about statistics. I don’t care about a number. I don’t care about where I ranked. That really doesn’t matter, because the people who make this game great are not the players but the fans. If they think what I hope they think, I’m OK with that.”