Favre simply needed to rewrite final chapter

Updated: April 26, 2006, 6:46 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Packers coach Mike McCarthy can rest a lot easier. General manager Ted Thompson can report to his Lambeau Field office now without having to feel as though his offseason moves will determine whether he has Brett Favre as the Packers' quarterback.

According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Favre will be back for the 2006 season, and no one should be surprised. From the very first month when Favre sat down with Mort and questioned whether he was going to retire, it was inevitable he was going to return for his 16th and final season. Why? Because he can.

Brett Favre
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBrett Favre is looking for one last shot at Super Bowl glory.

At 36, Favre is blessed with the one thing Hall of Fame quarterbacks wish they had: The health to come back for one last season. Many Hall of Famers couldn't, and it nagged at them. Remember how Troy Aikman struggled with the idea that he could come back from his chronic back problems? Joe Montana didn't take the idea well that the 49ers thought he was done, so he went to the Chiefs for a couple of years.

Favre might have lost some of the confidence in his legs the past two seasons. But he still had the arm and healthy body to complete 61 percent of his passes for more than 3,880 yards last season, and that's with the biggest void of receiving talent he has worked with in years.

Here was Favre's point in taking so long to decide whether to return: He wants to retire playing in a Packers uniform, and he wants to finish as a winner. Last year's 4-12 season destroyed him mentally. As he told Mort in January, his mind struggled during games. For the first time in more than a decade, his contributions meant little. The Packers were out of the playoff race early. The more he threw, the less he accomplished.

Since teaming with Mike Holmgren in the 1990s, Favre has been all about winning. Every year, he felt his arm could carry him to a Super Bowl. He succeeded twice, winning once. The consecutive-game starting streak and the impressive statistics were nice, but Favre cared little about regular-season stats. He cared about the playoffs. How he finished meant more to him than what got the Packers into the playoffs.

Hall of Fame quarterbacks are a different breed, and there is no debate Favre will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He has won three MVP awards, and his consecutive-game streak makes him the Cal Ripken of football. Favre, like most Hall of Fame quarterbacks, judges the season by how he finishes. Those playoffs losses hurt. Those playoff loses at Lambeau hurt even more.

For Hall of Fame quarterbacks, it's all about the finish. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw came back and played an extra season with a bad elbow because his final throw the previous season was an interception His final game was on a Saturday against the Jets. He played a little more than a quarter and threw two touchdown passes. Then he blew out his elbow for good. Although he waited until the next June to decide to retire, he at least had the satisfaction that one of his final NFL passes was a touchdown pass.

Favre struggled with the idea that his final season was going to be for another 4-12 Packers team in which he would be remembered only for interceptions. Retired Packers tight end Mark Chmura called Favre selfish. He's right. Hall of Fame quarterbacks are a little selfish. They care about image. They care about how they are remembered. Name a player at any position on the field who doesn't care about how he is remembered, though.

The difference with quarterbacks is that they are under scrutiny every single play. No offensive play starts until the quarterback gets the ball. Every pass, every completion, every fumble is judged. Favre clearly didn't like going out with a 29-interception season, but he worried about coming back and having another one.

So he put the pressure on the Packers' front office to give him a sign the team could be good. Unfortunately, Thompson likes to build through the draft. His ventures into free agency have been weak at best. Favre got excited enough about the possible signing of LaVar Arrington to call Arrington on the phone and try to recruit him.

Arrington went to the Giants. The Packers are working on something with Charles Woodson. They are expected to draft linebacker A.J. Hawk, but they could surprise Favre and give him tight end Vernon Davis. In the end, though, Favre decided the chance to play one more season was enough.

From the timing standpoint, Favre is fine. Had he let this decision go past next week's mini-camp, he would have been wrong. The players on the Packers need to know Favre is there for them. Tuesday's decision is timely enough.

A lot of people in the state of Wisconsin are feeling a lot better.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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