The NFL Says Goodbye to an Icon, Again

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: February 13, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — After backtracking from retirement last year to play one more season with the New York Jets, “American icon” Brett Favre decided that the 2008 NFL Season would be his last.

After 18 years of thrilling millions of football fans with miraculous passes into the tightest of spaces during his Hall of Fame level career, Favre quietly announced his retirement through a written statement.

Favre said in an e-mail to ESPN, which was the first to report Favre’s intent to retire, “My time with the Jets was short, but I’m honored to be given that chance.” Unlike his retirement in March 2008, Favre this time did not shed any tears in a knightly press conference.

But you could sense after enduring a horrible 1-win and four losses end of season stretch while battling injuries (shoulder and elbow) that caused him to throw an NFL-high 22 interceptions that the former Green Bay Packers legend was finally at peace in walking away from the game that he played with childhood joy.

Favre, elected to his 10th Pro Bowl this season, gracefully bowed out leaving the J-E-T-S in the hands of up and coming quarterback Kellen Clemens.

For all of the naysayers who believe that Favre will acquiesce and return again this July at the beginning of training camp, you should know that No. 4 and his agent Bus Cook have filed the necessary retirement paperwork with the NFL league office, which is something they failed to do throughout Favre’s on again-off again retirement after the 2007 season.

Though he started out as a free bird kid quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons in 1992 — I can still remember loose cannon Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville calling his 3rd string quarterback “Mississippi”, because he couldn’t say ‘Farv’ correctly during his rookie season — and finished in the unlikely uniform of the New York Jets, the ‘crazy kid’ from Mississippi will forever be a Packer.

Favre became a man and then a legend in his 16 years in Green Bay, Wisconsin producing an NFL Films vault worth of treasures that will surely place him in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in five years.

Though the 2008 season with the Jets did not end the way Favre wanted — limped home to a 9-7 record after a 8-3 start of the season — no can take away the enthusiasm, mentoring, and courage that No. 4 brought to the youthful Jets.

The former 4-12 squad, which had been searching for a leader since former head coach Bill Parcells had left years ago, found one in the future hall of fame quarterback. There were times in 2008 that indeed Favre did look 39 years old, but my lasting memory of his one season in Gotham will be his incredible Week 4 performance in a home win over the eventual NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals.

The graybeard quarterback could do no wrong as he put an exclamation point on his storied 18-year career by tying fellow legend Joe Namath’s franchise record by throwing an amazing six touchdowns in the Jets 56- 35 win over the Cardinals.

Favre (24-34, 289, 6 TDs, 1 INT) left the game in the 4th quarter leaving us to see his usual playful manner on the sidelines, but you knew that you had just seen a master at work.

Though some will try to paint Favre as an egotistical bully after forcing the Packers and their general manager Ted Thompson to part ways with him in 2008, his legacy can never be faded.

The three-time NFL MVP endeared himself to NFL fans by giddily waltzing through the storm of eighteen NFL seasons producing win after win including an indelible victory in Super Bowl XXXII, where of course he won the MVP of the game.

Then there are the numerous records that are securely in his treasure chest including most career NFL touchdown passes (464), most career NFL passing yards (65,127), most career pass completions (5,720), most career passing attempts (9,280), most career NFL interceptions thrown (310), his “iron man” most consecutive starts quarterback streak (269 and you can make it 291 if you include the playoffs), and most career victories as a starting quarterback (169).

Favre had a quality that made everyone love him to the point that you had to root for him even if he was on the opposing team’s sideline. Fans sometimes ask me is it all an act by No. 4 with all of the smiling, laughing, and his just plain having fun approach to football.

To answer them in a word “No” as his passion for the game stems from a pure love of “street” football that we all remember from our youth.

So close your eyes and remember the moments that Favre produced:

— The Super Bowl win over the Patriots where he and Reggie White brought the title back to “Title Town”.

— The magical December 2003 night in Oakland where playing through tears he won one for his Dad throwing four touchdowns in a 41-7 rout as every pass seemed to find a receiver.

— Snowball fighting on the field in his 2007 playoff win over the Seahawks.

— Leading the youthful Jets to an improbable 34-13 victory of the previously undefeated Titans at Tennessee in Week 12 of 2008 season while completing an NFL weekly high of 70.6% of his passes.

— Taking on Warren Sapp after sacks, blocking on end-around plays downfield, and numerous other stories — because one day your grandchildren are going to ask you, “Was Brett Favre really that good?”

Though the yo-yo back and forth soap opera story from last summer between the Packers and Favre was extremely trying at times, the 2008 NFL season now takes on a significant note. It was the last time that we saw one of the NFL’s All-time greats at his very best.

The rickety 39-year old graybeard’s play was inspiring as he made everyone have visions of a New York vs. New York Super Bowl in Tampa while pumping life back into the Jets.

Though the New York-New York Super Bowl never materialized, I am glad that Favre went out on his own terms with his guns blazing. Football may have lost their John Wayne, but the legend of Brett Favre will continue to grow by the day and happily we should all plan to be in Canton for his induction in a few years.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan said of Favre, “It was an honor to coach against Brett over the years, if he’s not the best quarterback ever, then he’s certainly in the conversation. I have great admiration for him as a player and a person”.

Well said Rex and Good Luck Brett, we will miss you!!