Monday, February 11, 2008

The Quarterback Quiz: Green Bay Packers

So my Internet, which is prone to go out at the drop of a hat anyway, went out last night in the middle of the turbulent windstorm we were having here in New York. Therefore, the Quarterback Quiz for the spiritual leader of Cheesehead Nation was delayed until tonight, but here we go. To be fair, I even included Aaron Rodgers, since the he will/he won't of the One Great Big Huge Favre Retirement Question is still going on. Just pick one way or another, or maybe he's being an altruist and saving a scrap of football news for the officially inaugurated offseason.

On a random note, am I the only one wondering how the heck Derek Anderson got named as Brady's replacement after watching him "play" in the Pro Bowl yesterday? Now, I realize this is unfair, as the referees called penalties on the NFC defense when they started actually trying, but Anderson's method was to waft a floater up there and hope one of his guys caught it. And besides, an AFC quarterback who had an 88 rating was ignored in favor of 82-rating Anderson (I don't have a clue who this would be, and I certainly don't know what team he plays for) so if they really wanted to get a replacement who's not going to be booted by Brady Quinn in a few years (Patrick Ramsey isn't that much of a threat... oops, forget I said that) they could have done differently.... But whatever.

The Cheesehead Messiah is examined next.

Green Bay Packers (13-3): Brett Favre

Favre, like Brady, needs no introduction, but this is my feature and I'm going to introduce him anyway, so shut up if you don't like it. (Mwah). Born in Kiln, Mississippi, he attended Hancock North Central High School (how can you be north and central? Crazy Southerners) where he was coached by his father and due to the run-heavy offense they employed, rarely threw more than five passes a game -- a 180 from his later, gunsling-at-will style of play. He got one college scholarship, to the University of Southern Mississippi, and followed it up, where he opened camp as the seventh-stringer quarterback but made a meteoric rise -- he took over as starter in the second half of the third game of the Golden Eagles' 1987 season. He did well there, but in 1990, just before the start of his senior season, was involved in a very serious car accident that almost cost him his life (rather like Roethlisberger) but Favre, also like Roethlisberger, made a complete and comparatively quick recovery, leading Southern Miss to a win over Alabama only six weeks later.

(In this interim, I am explaining the West Coast offense, 3-4/4-3 defense, the role of linebackers, and much more to my sister, who watches for the entertainment but does not know that much about positions, strategies, et al).

Anyway. Favre was drafted in the second round, 33rd overall, by the Atlanta Falcons, but since head coach Jerry Glanville was not a fan and was famously quoted as saying it would take a plane crash for him to put Favre in the game, he barely saw the field and attempted precisely four passes in his career as a Falcon. One was intercepted and run back for a touchdown, and none of the other three found friendly hands. You can say that the Falcons committed one of the great tactical blunders of all time when they unceremoniously turned Favre loose, and then Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who had meant to take Favre before the Falcons nabbed him, traded up the following offseason to land his man. It turned out to be a solid investment, to say the least. Since September 20, 1992, Favre has not missed a game for the Pack, earning his reputation as an iron man. He holds the record for most consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback (275 including playoffs) as well as a slew of others: most career NFL TD passes (442) most career NFL interceptions (288) most career pass attempts (8,758) most career pass completions (5,377) most career passing yards (61,655) and most career QB victories (160). Not to mention the record for league MVP awards, three. As you might imagine, this has earned him deity status in Wisconsin, and he's played all of that in the frigid climes of the still roofless Lambeau Field, so his skin is tough enough to take anything. (Oh God, I'm sounding like Peter King again).

Favre led the Pack to the 1996 Super Bowl against the Patriots, who hadn't yet started their dynasty-winning ways, and made good; 14 of 27 passes, 246 yards, 2 TDs, and a 35-21 win over New England. But although the Pack made a return trip to the big game and were heavily favored in 1997 against the Denver Broncos, I think you know who won that one -- Elway, 31-24 (and he won the next one as well. Heh). Since 1998, the closest the Packers came to a losing season was a 8-8 campaign, at least until 2005. The Pack finished that year a miserable 4-12, Mike Sherman was fired, and was replaced by Mike McCarthy. Favre himself hasn't had the greatest success in the playoffs since 1998 -- his postseason record was 9-4 following the loss to the Broncos and has since fallen to 12-10. At one time he owned a 92.0 rating in the playoffs, but that too has fallen, to 70.1. Counting the NFC Championship loss to the Giants keyed by his crucial interception, he's 3-6 since then. But on March 1, 2001, he received a 10-year contract extension, making him the NFL's first $100 million man and the possibility (at least in theory) of him hanging around until 2011. Seeing as it's only 2008 and he's not sure he'll come back, that doesn't seem very likely.

One of Favre's history-making moments came on December 22, 2003, in an otherwise unremarkable game against the Oakland Raiders. His father had died in a car accident just the day before (eerily enough, in almost the exact same place Brett almost did) and he elected to play through it. Raiders fans, proving that they are sub-human instead of sub-sub-sub human, offered their support and condolences as well, which I suppose helped take the sting away from the fact that an emotional Favre threw for four touchdowns and 399 yards in delivering a 41-7 beatdown. He has suffered other off-field family trauma as well; his brother-in-law was killed in an ATV accident on his property, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Hurricane Katrina swept through his hometown. But Favre, who is Tuff , soldiered on, and on November 4, 2007, joined Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks ever to have beaten all of the 31 other current NFL teams.

2007 also saw Favre enjoy a resurgence personally, as he compiled numbers of 28 TDs, 15 INT, 4,155 yards, and a 95.7 rating, his third-highest behind 99.5-rated 1995 and 95.8-rated 1996. The Packers beat the Seahawks 42-20 in the divisional playoffs, but famously fell to the Giants in an exciting NFC championship contest when Lawrence Tynes finally made good on his third field goal attempt. This led to Favre's yearly contemplation as to whether or not to retire, which has not yet been announced.

The heir to this lofty throne appears to be 24-year-old Aaron Rodgers. A Cal product who transferred there after three years with Illinois (his only Div I option out of high school) Rodgers led the Golden Bears (Golden Eagles, Golden Bears, I'm sensing a trend here) to a #4 national ranking in 2004, his senior season. The only game they lost that year was to #1 USC, where Rodgers nonetheless tied a NCAA record with 23 consecutive completed passes. Overall, that year, he threw for 209 of 316 (66.1 CP) and racked up 2,566 yards, 24 TD passes, and 8 INT for a 154.35 rating. He was named Cal's co-MVP, All-Pac 10, All-American, and Academic All-Pac 1o (an American Studies major) for his efforts, and was expected to be taken high in the 2005 draft. Although he slipped all the way to 24th overall, he was still the second quarterback chosen, and got rewarded for it with the Pack's stinker of a 4-12 record.

The next year, 2006, to add injury to insult, he broke his foot while being whitewashed by the Patriots, 35-0, and had to sit out to heal. But he was ready to go as a backup for the opening of 2007, and is probably the only person in Wisconsin thrilled by the prospect of Favre's retiring, since it means he gets a shot at the big banana. A musical type who plays acoustic guitar and piano, is nicknamed "A-Rod" and is a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan, it looks as if A-Rod lite (and hopefully much less annoying then the real one) may have to wait a little longer. At least until King Brett releases his announcement and Rodgers finds out if he'll be holding the clipboard or taking the snaps. If it's the latter, there will probably be some growing pains for the Pack with a young quarterback taking over the reins, but it's something every team has to go through when they're transitioning.

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