One Of The Greatest Ever?

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: March 29, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — The definition of “great”: a person who has achieved importance or distinction in a field: She is one of the theater’s greats. After what many would call a comeback season, Brett Favre, quarterback for the Green bay Packers, announced his retirement at an emotional press conference.

The “iron man” quarterback who is beloved by the small city of Green bay and others who love the NFL, decided to take off his Packer uniform for the last time so he can spend more time with his family and as he said at the press conference “It’s just the right time”.

As I look back at Favre and his career, a few words come to mind: longevity, risky, MVP, champion, toughness, excitement, disappointment, touchdowns, interceptions, fun, and arrogance. These are the words that I feel best describe Brett Favre and his NFL career.

Most of these word definitions of Favre are positive and a few are negative but to me, they DEFINE the type of quarterback he was during his long career. But are these the definitions of one of the greatest quarterback of all-time? In Favre’s case, I have to say no when you look at some of the quarterbacks that played the game both from the past and the modern era.

To me, the Packers never knew which Favre they would get on a game by game basis. The Favre that won three league MVP’s (co-MVP with Barry Sanders in 1997) because of his play on the field or the Favre that had a bad substance abuse problem off the field.

The Favre who can beat a defense with a bullet pass between defenders to one of his receivers or the Favre who on many occasions, threw the crucial interception in a regular season or playoff game to cost his team a victory.

Does longevity define greatness in a player? I don’t think so.Gale Sayers played less than a decade, is not among the all-time leaders in total yards rushing yet he is in the Hall of Fame based on how great and spectacular he was in a short period of time.

The same could be said about Terrell Davis, Lynn Swann and others who packed there greatness in a short period of time.

Does winning a Championship as a quarterback make you great? It gives you some credibility but it doesn’t make you great. If you believe that as your determining factor, then Trent Dilfer, Kurt Warner, Mark Rypien and Doug Williams were great because they all won a Super Bowl although, I think if Doug Williams was given the opportunity and didn’t get injured early in his Career, could have been considered among the greatest.

Is the fact that Brett Favre holds the all-time NFL passing yardage and touchdown records or playing in the most consecutive games in NFL history showing his longevity make him great?

If you subscribe to that thought process, Dan Fouts and Fran Tarkenton should be in that discussion. Fouts held many passing records for years before Dan Marino came along (more on Marino and Fouts a little later) and Tarkenton played for over 20 years before finally retiring.

Are they among the all-time greats?

Some feel Favre was great because he won games and a Super Bowl with not a lot of talent surrounding him.Others feel he was great because of the toughness, durability and the will to win he possessed.

A few based his greatness on total yards and touchdowns over his career. All of these attributes Favre may possess but so did many great quarterbacks who played the game of football. Let’s compare Favre to some of the quarterbacks who played before and during Favre’s tenure in the league:

Favre vs. Montana

Both were Super Bowl MVP’s, both led there teams to multiple Super Bowls and both were perennial Pro Bowlers but that’s where I think the comparison ends. Montana has won four Super Bowls, he has won multiple Super Bowl MVP’s and his touchdown to interception ratio in the regular season and playoffs were clearly better than Favre’s. Montana rarely threw the BIG interception in his playoff career and certainly played better in the Super Bowl than Favre.

Some will say Montana had better players around him over his career than Favre, but having the talent is one thing, executing the offense game after game, year after year and winning is another. Montana certainly possess the ability to utilize his talent. To me, Montana was the greatest “clutch” quarterback in the history of the game. When they needed a big pass, drive or touchdown, Montana delivered over and over again.

Favre vs Unitas

Once again, both quarterbacks were Champions, but imagine how many Super Bowls Unitas could have one if he entered the league when the Super Bowl was the official Championship. As Favre, Unitas played injured on many occasions throughout his career and held a lot of passing records before quarterbacks like Favre even played the game.

Favre vs Elway

If some feel Favre had success despite having talent around him, then those people need to acknowledge John Elway. Elway led the Denver Broncos to four Super Bowls (all losses) with the same argument made in regards to him. It was only when Terrell Davis came along giving Elway and the Broncos there first legitimate running back and running game leading to two Super Bowl victories including one over Favre and the Packers. Elway also put up huge numbers over his career despite having a coach like Dan Reeves who tried to focus more on the run and limited the amount of Passes Elway threw. He’s won a Super Bowl MVP and once again has a better touchdown to interception ratio than Favre.

Favre vs Bradshaw

This comparison favors Favre in a few areas: Career touchdowns and passing yards, League MVP’s and regular season touchdown to interception ratio but I still would take Bradshaw over Favre. Bradshaw has more Super Bowl appearances, victories, MVP’s, touchdowns and less interceptions. He had averaged numbers in the regular season but was superb in the playoffs and Super Bowl. Again like Montana, some will say Bradshaw had better talent, but like Montana, Bradshaw got the most out of his ability and the ability of players like Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Franco Harris and others. Bradshaw also had a coach in Chuck Knoll who didn’t necessarily believe in him as the leader of the team in the beginning of his career and didn’t allow him to throw the ball as much so who knows how many yards and touchdowns Bradshaw would have had in his career.

Favre vs Moon

Clearly, fans of Brett Favre will say Favre was better than Warren Moon based on Super Bowl appearances and victories as well as total yards passing and touchdowns but like Doug Williams, Warren Moon wasn’t given a fair chance at a time where black quarterbacks had limited chances to play in the NFL because of racial discrimination and the stereotype of the black quarterback even though he was one of the most prolific passers in the history of the Pac-10 at Washington State.

Moon spent the beginning of his career in the CFL where he set many passing records and won Championships yet the NFL in my opinion, never really embraced Moon and his abilities. Moon also went on to take the Oilers, Vikings and Chiefs to the playoffs and played exceptionally well in those playoff games. His career touchdown to interception ratio is better than Favre’s and he had a better completion percentage. If you add Moon’s CFL and NFL passing yardage and touchdowns, he is the most prolific quarterback in the history of professional football. Agree or disagree, he is among the greats and his Hall of Fame induction is confirmation of how great he was.

Favre vs Young

Like Moon but for different reasons, Steve Young began his career in another league before making his way to the NFL. After leaving the USFL, Young was a back up to Joe Montana before becoming the starter and leading the 49ers to there fifth Super Bowl Championship. Young was one of the most accurate passers in NFL history and has a better Touchdown to Interception ratio than Favre. Young also had one of the greatest performance ever as a quarterback in a Super Bowl routing John Elway and the Denver Broncos. He is another player that we could be talking about when it comes to all-time leaders in passing yards and touchdowns if he hadn’t play the beginning of his career in the USFL.

Favre vs Marino

To compare Brett Favre and Dan Marino, you really have to go back to another great quarterback: Dan Fouts. Before Brett Favre surpassed Dan Marino in passing yards and touchdowns among other records, you have to remember Dan Marino obliterated the records that Dan Fouts set in his illustrious career. Understand that Dan Marino CLEARLY had no dominate running back, average receivers and a average defense during his career yet he led his team to a Super Bowl and led the league in numerous passing categories for most of his career.

There was no quarterback better than Marino in throwing the ball deep and accurate during his time. Marino was not a scrambling quarterback like a Steve Young which made all of his records and accomplishments so amazing. His quick release, ability to read defenses and his competitiveness made him one of the most feared quarterbacks in the history of the game. Marino also threw less interceptions and didn’t have a Hall of Fame defensive lineman like Reggie White to make big plays on defense to get Favre and the offense the ball. Marino more than any other great quarterback had the least amount of talent on both sides of the ball to work with during his career.

Favre vs Aikman

When I think of Troy Aikman, one word comes to mind: accuracy. Like Steve Young, Aikman ranks among the greats in terms of accuracy and completion percentage. He had a Hall of Fame running back and receiver a solid offensive line, great coach and great defense but again, he did the job as the leader of the team performing well in the playoffs and Super Bowl. He led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories and was an MVP in one of them.

Concussions and other injuries forced Aikman into retirement which shortening his career and his career passing numbers. Keep in mind, Favre and the Packers never got to the Super Bowl until they finally beat the Cowboys in the playoffs. It was Troy Aikman and his team blocking the Packers. It wasn’t until Aikman retired when the Packers finally got over the hump called “Dallas” and made it to the Super Bowl.

Favre vs Staubach

Was there ever a quarterback more elusive and creative than Roger Staubach? Although Favre has better passing numbers but Staubach has more Championships. By all accounts, Staubach was Montana before Montana was Montana even in his college days at Navy. He was athletic, had great instincts and found a way to win games under some tough circumstances. He is among the top quarterbacks in comeback victories and threw less interceptions. He won two Super Bowls and should have one three if it wasn’t for a certain receiver dropping the ball in the Super Bowl against the Steelers.l He was also a Super Bowl MVP.

Favre vs Starr

If Favre resurrected the Packers to a Championship franchise, Bart Starr was the originator of “Titletown”. Like Johnny Unitas, played most of his career prior to the Super Bowl Championships but took advantage of the first two Super Bowls winning both against the Raiders and Chiefs. He performed at a high level in the “Ice Bowl” game against the Cowboys. He led his team to league Championships and Super Bowls and was a more proficient passer than Favre. He had a solid defense, a Hall of Fame coach and a solid running game so he didn’t throw the ball as much as Favre, but when he did, he was accurate and didn’t throw as many interceptions as Favre. He has more Championships and was a winner for a longer period of time in his career than Favre.

You can make an argument that quarterbacks from the past like Sammy Baugh, Bob Griese and Dan Fouts to present day quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady also are were/are better than Favre based on the same attributes and criteria previously mentioned.

Was Favre a good quarterback for the Packers? Sure. Did he lead his team to Super Bowls and a Championship? Absolutely. Did he cost the Packer franchise and there fans games and even more opportunities to win more Super Bowls? Yes, on too many occasions.

To understand my thoughts on Favre, look no further than the final game he played in his career which I thought was a microcosm of his career.

He led his team to the playoffs, played well for most of the game but in the end, threw a crucial interception against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants costing his team the victory and a spot in the Super Bowl.