No one doubts that Brett Favre hung around one season too long.
Not even Favre.
Seeking one last shot at NFL championship, one final chance to leave the game at the top, he'll exit chastened and part of a Minnesota Vikings team crumbling into rubble.
The Vikings face the Redskins Sunday in the debut of interim head coach Leslie Frazier, elevated to that post Monday with the firing of Brad Childress. Widely expected to contend in the NFC, the Vikings are a sagging 3-7 after reaching the conference championship game last season. One of Frazier's first orders of business was to state that Favre would start against the Redskins.
I've been writing about Favre since he was drafted in 1991 by the Atlanta Falcons. I got to know him and his wife during the glory years with the Green Bay Packers. He'd open up during interviews and just keeping talking. It was more conversation than question and answer, hardly like an interview at all.
I never really knew anyone like him in the game and probably won't again.
Sure, he drove everybody nuts over the last few years with his on-again, off-again retirements. The way he bickered with the Packers, who then traded him to the New York Jets for the 2008 season. How he wangled his way to the Vikings and extended his football life to 20 seasons, though this may be his most forgettable.
I remember being in Green Bay for the opening of training camp in 1996, covering that scene for USA TODAY. Favre had spent a couple of the off-season months in a rehab facility kicking a dependence on a prescription pain killer. The Packers knew they verged on greatness with a whole and healthy quarterback.
At his press conference, Favre proclaimed: "Super Bowl or bust." I thought coach Mike Holmgren might lean over and smack him.
The Packers did, in fact, go to the Super Bowl. And win it. They went back the next season and lost it, to Mike Shanahan and John Elway and the Denver Broncos. I sat one row in front of Packers general manager Ron Wolf in the press box at that second Super Bowl and remember him, as the game ended, pounding the table and declaring his team "one-year wonders." The Packers never returned to the Super Bowl. Nor did Favre, not with the Jets nor the Vikings.
Like him or hate him for his endless retirements but remember the thrills he provided as he blew through every significant passing mark in the NFL record book. And for all the histrionics, how many players laid bare their emotions the way he did, so reveled in playing the game?
I spoke with him in 2007 in Green Bay as training camp opened. The team hadn't even practiced it yet when he received word his father-in-law had died. Before he left for his home in Mississippi, he and I spent 20 minutes in a Packers meeting room, just talking about life and loss.
We all remember in 2003 how he played in a Monday night game a day after hearing of his father Irvin's death. How he lit up the Oakland Raiders for nearly 400 yards. How he helped his wife Deanna cope with breast cancer in 2004, shortly after her brother died in an accident with an off-road vehicle.
Now we see the quarterback ravaged by time and opposing pass rushers, the most durable player – Sunday will mark his 296th consecutive regular-season start – at a most dangerous position brought low.
Yes, we also think of the ongoing NFL investigation into text and voice messages he reportedly sent to a New York Jets intern in 2008. What a cloud over his legacy.
Favre has said he is done at the end of this season, that there won't be another comeback. He truly does look done, down, even defeated.
He's 41, a grandfather. A graybeard. Think of the quarterbacks he dueled – Elway, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon – already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He bridged generations.
I needed to talk to him for a feature I was writing once. Got him on the phone as he drove home from a Packers' practice. I said, "Let me know when you reach the house and we'll be done." Green Bay being the size of a Hummel figurine, I figured I'd get five minutes.
Half an hour passed. I said, "Are you home yet?" Favre laughed and told me, "I've been in the garage for 20 minutes." I thanked him and said goodbye.
Which I will now do again.
Bye, Brett. I expect that Sunday will mark the last time you and I are in a stadium again in our current capacities. Thanks for your time over the years. Thanks for the memories. You certainly made the games more interesting. Please don't do it today.
QUOTABLE: "Stats are for losers. We don't deal with that. We deal with playing hard, playing fast, and playing smart and consistent." – Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris. The Bucs are 7-3 and tied for first in the NFC South. ... "There never is a margin for error in this business. You get yourself in those positions, you've got to close the deal." – Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak, after another last-second loss, this one to the New York Jets. ... "The guy has really done an outstanding job of keeping the team together and I think that's critical for a head coach in this league. You can't minimize that and he doesn't get enough credit for that." – Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, talking up coach Lovie Smith. The Bears are 7-3 and have won three in a row since losing to the Redskins.
AROUND THE NFL: The Atlanta Falcons have outscored their opponents 73-30 in the fourth quarter and that's a big part of why they're 8-2 and in first place in the NFC South. They're hosts Sunday to the Packers (7-3), who, like the Falcons, have won four in row. The Packers have allowed only nine touchdown passes this season. ... Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe had the look of a busted No. 1 draft pick but he rededicated himself to the game and it shows. Eleven of his 45 receptions for the run-heavy Chiefs have gone for touchdowns. ... Somebody's season is headed for complete ruin when the Tennessee Titans visit the Texans. The Titans have lost their last three, the Texans four in a row. ... The New York Giants lead the NFL in turnovers with 30. They've replaced fumble-prone running back Ahmad Bradshaw as the starter with Brandon Jacobs.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.