Updated: March 8, 2008
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We interrupt the continued deification of Brett Favre — a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the most durable player in NFL history — with the following reality check.Yes, Favre played long enough to throw the most touchdown passes and collect the most wins by an NFL quarterback. But let’s examine the second half of No. 4’s career. The truth is, Favre did little over the past decade to earn the gushing praise heaped upon him by our fawning brethren in the media.
In his 17 seasons, Brett Favre set numerous NFL records, including most yards passing (61,655) and most touchdowns (442).
But do those numbers, combined with Favre’s three MVP awards and one Super Bowl victory, put him among the top 10 quarterbacks of all time?
After beating the San Francisco 49ers in the 1997 NFC Championship Game, Favre won just three of his last 10 playoff games. Eli Manning had more postseason wins in a 29-day span this past season than Favre had in his last decade with the Green Bay Packers.
Yes, Favre won a Super Bowl — 11 years ago! But as his career arc spiraled downward, the blind adulation only got worse.
Favre’s passer rating in his last 12 postseason games was a pedestrian 77.8. In his last five wild-card games, he went 2-3 with more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (seven). In his last three divisional playoff games, he went 1-2 with seven TDs and seven interceptions. That’s a 3-5 record with 14 touchdown passes and 16 picks.
In two of his last four postseason appearances, Favre threw two of the most unthinkable playoff interceptions in NFL history, both in overtime — to Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003 and to Corey Webster of the New York Giants in January. In fact, Favre is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw overtime interceptions in two playoff games. In his last nine playoff games, Favre threw 18 interceptions.
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Brett Favre’s career playoff record was 12-10. Fellow Packer star quarterback Bart Starr, above, was 9-1.
In the first 81 years of the Green Bay franchise, the most hallowed in all of pro football, the Packers were 13-0 at home in the postseason. But since 2002, the Packers have gone 2-3 in playoff games at Lambeau Field, with Favre losing to three not-quite Hall of Fame quarterbacks: Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper and Manning.If Manning had a decade like that, he’d be run out of New York. If Philip Rivers kept chucking ridiculous overtime interceptions in the postseason, he would be branded a first-round bust. If Drew Brees came up short in three out of five home playoff games, he’d be mocked.
But no matter how many dumb passes he threw and how many playoff games he lost, Favre remains immune to criticism.
Favre isn’t even the greatest quarterback in the history of the Packers. It’s not even close. Bart Starr won five NFL championships — four more than Favre — and retired as the NFL’s most accurate passer.
Oh, you say Starr was surrounded by a Hall of Fame roster with a legendary coach. But Starr still is the NFL record holder with a 104.8 career playoff passer rating, nearly 20 points higher than Favre’s. That wasn’t Vince Lombardi or Ray Nitschke throwing those passes for Starr, whose career postseason passer rating, by the way, is 38 points higher than Johnny Unitas’.
Favre’s career playoff record was 12-10. Starr’s was 9-1 — without the benefit of wild-card games. Favre threw 28 interceptions in 22 playoff games. Starr threw three in 10. Think about that — just three picks in 213 postseason attempts.
But Bart Starr gets the Ringo Starr treatment — underappreciated and overlooked. Favre gets put on a pedestal. Yes, he had a Pro Bowl season in 2007 with the youngest roster in the NFL. But his final moment on Lambeau Field was a wildly errant pass that turned into the NFC title for the Giants.
Indeed, a decade after his last moments of glory, the football hype machine continues to paint Favre as a hallowed icon of Americana, a symbol of all that is right with sports, a Wild West gun-slinging good ol’ boy. There’s Brett on the farm! There’s Brett with his family! There’s Brett on the cover of Sports Illustrated! There’s Brett throwing another overtime interception!
Favre was among the best in the game, once upon a time. Those days are long gone. Only the idolatry remains.
This is adapted from the best-selling book “The Paolantonio Report: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players, Teams, Coaches and Moments in NFL History” by Sal Paolantonio with Reuben Frank, which is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com.