Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brett Favre's Streak Ends; Vikings Eliminated

On a random Monday night in Detroit, of all places, the greatest starting streak in NFL history -- and perhaps sports history -- came to a screeching halt.

After 297 regular season games (321 counting playoffs), Brett Favre stood on the sidelines during an NFL game. That hadn't happened since the first quarter of a Sept. 20, 1992, game between the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals. On that day, Packers starting quarterback Don Majkowski suffered an injury that would allow Favre to take over the team. Favre started the next week against Pittsburgh, and Monday night was the first time since that he did not make a start for his team.

That Minnesota lost 21-3 in one of the more hapless offensive efforts you'll see is somewhat fitting. The only reason the Vikings have been at all relevant since the start of the 2009 season has been Favre, and while he may have turned the ball over quite a bit this season, reality is that he also made that offense tick in a way. With the starting quarterback sidelined, the Vikings couldn't do anything of note with the ball, scoring their only field goal when they got a short field on an Eli Manning interception.

Pro Bowlers Favre, Percy Harvin, and Steve Hutchinson were sidelined, providing a bit of a glimpse into the Vikings' future. Adrian Peterson ran for 26 yards, and Tarvaris Jackson was downright pathetic under center, meaning that the Vikings' offensive future is with someone else at quarterback. That someone won't be Joe Webb, either. He's just not going to be ready by 2011. Maybe not 2012, either.

Oddly, fans have complained about Favre hogging the headlines for years. They've been right. And on a night he didn't even play for his team, Favre still owned the headlines. This time, it was justified.

You're not going to find an obviously-more-impressive starting streak anywhere in sports than Favre's 297/321 (use whatever number you'd like). Cal Ripken's ironman streak in baseball was great, but largely only because he played every day. Baseball isn't the most physically demanding sport out there. The fact Ripken avoided any kind of anomaly -- pulled hamstring, bruised knee, ankle sprain -- over all those years is downright incredible, but Favre started 297/321 straight games with defenders much bigger and stronger than him breathing down his neck. Favre took hits, stood tall, shook off injuries that would have sidelined virtually every other player at his position, and often thrived while playing hurt.

For Favre, it had to be a depressing night. On one hand, he told ESPN's Ed Werder before the game that there was a sense of relief ... that he perhaps had valued the streak more than he had ever let on. On the other hand, his team -- one that he's grown to love in his two years there -- looked absolutely putrid and lost without him.

There's a good chance Favre's season is over, and so is his career. Not many people will be upset about this, given all the drama Favre has generated since 2005. That shouldn't preclude them from celebrating Favre's legendary career and great accomplishments.

After all, the drama was as much a media creation as it was a Favre creation. No matter what was going on off the field, Favre always rose above it, playing so well that people had a reason to talk about him. It's fitting, in a way, that the streak and the career likely ended at a time where Favre was never able to play well enough for people to forget about the latest piece of off-field drama he has generated.

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