The Brett Favre Problem

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I think  Cold Hard Football Facts make a good case that Brett Favre--the Brett Favre of today--is not a very good quarterback. I had actually forgotten how many big games Favre has blown in recent years. Moreover, I knew the dude through a lot of interceptions--but the most in a single season in over twenty years:

Favre ended the disastrous 2005 season with 29 INTs. Since 1980, only Vinny Testaverde has thrown more picks in a season (35 in 1988)...

It's all part of a four-year trend of substandard play for Favre. These are Favre's cumulative numbers over the past four seasons (three with the Packers, one with the Jets):
  • 1414 of 2277 (62.1%), 15,393 yards, 6.76 YPA, 88 TD, 84 INT, 79.5 passer rating
His volume numbers are great - attempts, completions, yards - which means that teams still believe they can win by letting Favre gun the ball all over the field. His completion percentage is actually pretty strong, too.
 
But the all-important efficiency numbers - the numbers that mean the difference between victory and defeat - are mediocre to bad. In an era when a 2-to-1 INT-to-TD ratio is considered great, Favre's nearly 1-to-1 ratio is pretty pathetic. His passer rating is slightly below average. And his yards per attempt are slightly below average.

And then there's the big games. A few choice selections:

Jan. 20, 2002
The reality: The Packers have a shot to reach the conference championship game for first time since the 1997 season if they beat Rams in the divisional round.
 
The Favre apologist fantasy: The 12-4 Packers were no match for the 14-2 Rams
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Rams edged out the 11-5 Eagles by just five points in the conference title game and lost to the 11-5 Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Packers easily could have beat the Rams if Favre had not thrown 6 picks - tying the single-game NFL record for postseason picks last matched by a passer back in 1955.

The 2006 season
The reality: Packers climb back to respectability with an 8-8 record.
 
The Favre apologist fantasy: Favre helped the blind to see.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Favre had trouble focusing on the field, with a 72.7 passer rating that was among the worst in football that season. The list of quarterbacks with a better rating in 2006 included some of the most widely ridiculed passers in football: David Carr (82.1), Michael Vick (75.7), Alex Smith (74.8) and Rex Grossman (73.9)
 
Jan. 20, 2008
The reality: The 13-3 Packers were favored at home against the 10-6 Giants on one of the coldest nights in Lambeau Field history.
 
The Favre apologist fantasy: The Packers ran into a buzzsaw and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champs.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Favre, and the Packers offense, suffered one of the most colossal collapses in history. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Favre completed 4 of 10 passes for 32 yards with 2 INTs. Green Bay's final four drives, with a Super Bowl appearance easily within its grasp, went for 0, 7, 0 and 2 yards. Favre's final pick, on the second play of overtime, led directly to the Giants' game-winning field goal.
But at least he's a gunslinger!

Seriously, how do you throw six interceptions in a playoff game?


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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