It was as surreal a moment as you could imagine after the shocking trade from the Packers brought Brett Favre to a windowless room in the ground floor of Cleveland Stadium on Aug. 7, 2008.
With team officials scrambling to put up a Jets’ banner in the background, Favre sat between team owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum for his introductory news conference just minutes before a preseason game against the Browns.
It was weird for everyone, especially for Favre, whose emotional and dramatic split from the Packers brought him to a Jets’ team that desperately wanted him to revive the team’s fortunes under third-year coach Eric Mangini.
“This is unique,” Favre said.“I haven’t faced anything like this. I don’t know anyone in this locker room. To a certain degree, I don’t know what I’m getting into.”
Making things even more uncomfortable: On the same day the Jets announced they had released longtime quarterback Chad Pennington, who quickly signed a two-year deal with AFC East rival Miami. In fact, Johnson and Tannenbaum spent more time thanking Pennington for his service than extolling Favre’s virtues before introducing Favre.
“We’re happy, we’re excited, we’re really glad he’s a member of this team,” said Tannenbaum, who outbid the Buccaneers for Favre’s services, even though the quarterback had expressed a preference for either staying with the Packers or playing for the Vikings.
Favre drew heavy crowds when he made his first practice appearance at the Jets’ Hofstra University-based training camp, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer put him through quite an extended workout for a player so new to the team. Afterward, a fatigued Favre met with reporters and said, “I feel rough.”
But as clumsy as the introduction and early days had been, Favre settled into a routine, and he looked more like the quarterback who had led the Packers to Super Bowl glory in the 1990’s. Johnson’s gamble appeared to be paying off, and it looked as if Mangini, who’d made the playoffs in his first season but had quickly worn out his welcome the following year, might save his job and get the Jets back to the postseason.
The season started off with a promising win over the Dolphins and Pennington in Miami, and after back-to-back losses to the Patriots and Chargers, the Jets won seven of their next eight games. The run included a thrilling overtime win in New England followed by a 34-13 thumping of the 10-0 Titans in Tennessee.
At 8-3, there was talk of the Jets being legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Even though Favre tried to temper those expectations.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’ve established ourselves as the best team in football,” he said afterward. “All it says is we beat the best team in football today.”
Unfortunately for Favre and the Jets, it went downhill from there.
Favre’s performance tailed off dramatically with just two touchdown passes and nine interceptions the rest of the way, and the Jets won just once down the stretch to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. Favre had complained of soreness in his throwing arm, and it was revealed late in the season that he was playing with a torn biceps that required offseason surgery.
And that was that. Favre, who simply never seemed fully comfortable being in a Jets’ uniform, had offseason surgery to correct the problem and then asked the Jets to trade him to his preferred destination in Minnesota, where he could face the Packers twice a year.
In New York, the fallout was massive. Mangini was fired, and the Jets hired Rex Ryan, who would get the Jets into the AFC Championship Game his first two seasons with quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Though there are plenty of similarities with the Aaron Rodgers trade to the Jets — almost eerily similar, considering Rodgers replaced Favre, grew disaffected with Green Bay because a younger quarterback, Jordan Love, was ready to replace him — this simply does not feel the same.
Unlike Favre, Rodgers has embraced New York, has adjusted his contract to help with the Jets’ salary cap situation and is eager to face the challenge ahead. And not just in the short term.
“There is a lot of positivity around here, which I think is a good thing,” Rodgers said during training camp. “When you have so many great players on rookie deals, it’s exciting knowing you can do something, that you’ve got a good window.”
And unlike Favre, who never truly embraced his short time with the Jets, Rodgers seems quite content being here.
“It’s not just a one-year thing where you can be competitive, which is fun,” he said. “There’s a lot of fun things that have come along with this time in my life, and I’m just enjoying every minute of it.”
Bob Glauber, who retired in 2022 after 30 seasons as Newsday’s NFL columnist, covered the Jets’ one season with Brett Favre in 2008.