Rex Ryan liked Brett Favre

Updated: October 4, 2010, 7:59 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Technically, Brett Favre was Rex Ryan's quarterback for 23 days in the winter of 2009 -- from Ryan's hiring by the New York Jets to Favre's "retirement" announcement.

They spoke only once, and it wasn't until the day Favre quit -- an "uncomfortable" phone conversation, according to Ryan. The perception was that Ryan wanted to start fresh at quarterback, that he wanted no part of the interception-prone gunslinger.

On Monday, Ryan added a new twist to the coach-quarterback relationship that never made it to the field.

"If we never drafted Mark Sanchez, there would've been major recruiting," Ryan said, claiming he would've tried to talk Favre out of retirement to return to the Jets. "Maybe nobody knows that, but I can promise you, that's what I was feeling."

That Ryan never mentioned this until now seems a bit odd. There were ample opportunities to throw it into a conversation over the past 17 months, but he always was curiously vague about his ever-so-brief overlap with Favre.

Of course, the Jets (3-1) are facing Favre and the Minnesota Vikings (1-2) next Monday night at home, and it just so happens that Sanchez is the fourth-highest rated passer in the NFL (105.3) after three straight wins.

Obviously, the Jets are thrilled with Sanchez, but Ryan made it sound like he would've been happy to coach Favre, whom he described as "a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback." Revisionist history?

If Ryan really wanted him back, he would've called a lot sooner than the day of Favre's retirement -- a retirement that lasted only six months. Ryan said he wanted to draft a quarterback, revealing that he was smitten with Kansas State's Josh Freeman before Sanchez. As the pre-draft process unfolded, the Jets got hot for Sanchez, and selected him fifth overall.

The day after the draft, Favre asked the Jets to release him from their reserve/retired list. Obviously, he already had designs on joining the Vikings, his preferred destination in 2008. The Jets were his third choice, his only choice really, as the Green Bay Packers refused to trade him to an NFC team.

If necessary, Ryan believes he could've convinced Favre to stay a Jet.

"Yeah, I do, because he would've seen how sincere I was and the kind of passion I have," Ryan said. "I'm not going to say it's equal to his, but maybe it is. We both want to win, I know that."

It would've taken one of the all-time sell jobs because Favre never got comfortable in the Jets' offense and, according to friends, didn't love living in New Jersey.

Favre's only season with the Jets ended dismally after a promising start. The team was 8-3, in first place, but he injured his throwing arm (not disclosed until after the season) and played horribly down the stretch. The Jets finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, and Eric Mangini got fired. Enter, Ryan.

Favre was reborn last season with the Vikings, enjoying a career year, but he'll be remembered in New York as the hired gun who failed to deliver.

"I'm sure they're probably not going to embrace him," said left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, anticipating the crowd reaction at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

It's hard to second-guess the Jets' decision. After struggling for most of his rookie year, Sanchez has won seven of his past nine starts (including playoffs), with 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in that span.

"It worked out I'm sure for Brett and the Jets," Ryan said. "We got a quarterback that'll be here for the next 10 years. Brett Favre, he's a great player. Last year, those statistics [33 touchdowns, seven interceptions], I kept saying, 'That can't be right.' This guy is ridiculous, how good he is."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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