Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
English novelist (1812 - 1870)
Brett Favre's retirement is about a number of things - it's about one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of football hanging up the cleats; it's about the team's failure to land Randy Moss for the second straight year (no matter what might be said publicly to the contrary); it's about a change to the face of a franchise; and, mostly, it's about two cities and the divergent paths they took a little more than a decade and a half ago.

This is about Atlanta and Green Bay.

This is about the 1991 second round pick that became one of the most recognizable and most accomplished passers in the NFL over the better part of the last two decades. He won a Super Bowl, appeared in another, and appeared in 22 playoff games overall. Favre was traded by Atlanta to Green Bay between the '91 and '92 seasons for a first round pick.

With that pick the Atlanta Falcons picked running back Tony Smith. Smith played in 33 games over three seasons with six starts. He was primarily used as a kick and punt returner. His combined yardage for those 33 games - 2,267. That's 68 yards and a little more than two feet per game, almost all on special teams. He averaged fewer than ten yards per game as a tailback.

He had three total touchdowns. One for every eleven games in which he appeared.

Since the trade the Falcons have had eight different quarterbacks lead the team in passing, and at least sixteen different QB's have started at least one game for the team since Favre first started for the Pack in the third game of the 1992 season.

Favre has been great, albeit flawed. While he holds the NFL record for touchdown passes, he also holds the record for interceptions. Most fan bases would take that, I think.

He had his issues with pain killer addiction, but owned up to it in a way that is rare with professional athletes.

Through it all, Favre has had a Hall of Fame career.

There's no guaranteeing that Favre would have gone on to the career he has had would he have remained in Atlanta. I think it's unlikely. However, since Favre took over the starting reigns in Green Bay here are some basic facts about the two teams -

According to ESPN, Green Bay has the best record in the NFL since Favre joined the team. Their record with Favre as the starter - 160 -94. The Falcons during the same time period - 111-142-1.

For the better part of 17 years the gunslinger from Mississippi was the face of the franchise in the Frozen Tundra.

He is likable, and amiable in interviews, coming across with an "aw shucks" country charm that has allowed him to get free passes from the press and football announcers for his questionable decisions on the field. But his easy charm and the way he wears his emotions on his sleeve - shaving his head in support of his wife's battle with breast cancer, talking candidly about the passing of his father during the post game of a contest with the Raiders - made him seem approachable to the fans, not just of the Packers, but of football.

Teams in all sports look for that Face of the Franchise. Someone marketable, someone with star power and ability. In Favre's time, the Patriots had Drew Bledsoe who pulled the team out of the mud and put them on his back for the better part of the 1990's, and then Tom Brady, and to a lesser extent, Tedy Bruschi. The Red Sox have David Ortiz (would Big Papi have become Big Papi had he remained with the Twins?). The Yankees have Derek Jeter. The list goes on - Steve Nash, Peyton Manning, Jason Taylor. You say the names and people automatically think of the teams.

Sometimes the face is indicative of the team. Isiah Thomas was once a face with which teams wanted to be associated with. Same for Matt Millen. And even Michael Vick. All of that is less true now.

The franchise that traded Favre had no true Face of the Franchise until they committed to Vick in 2004. Thirteen seasons after their back-up left to become the face of another, Atlanta finally found their face. Now the face of their franchise is a convicted felon. That face followed them through a season without Vick appearing in a single game. It will likely follow them through one more season, until they find someone charming and marketable and can take the franchise to the next level...someone like a backup quarterback they once had.


David Sullivan said...

Atlanta sucks. It needs new everything ala NE in 1992.

sugarshane024 said...

I got the recommendation to read this particular post from Behind Enemy Lines.

It truly is remarkable how one move, which may seem insignificant at the time, can make (Packers) or break (Falcons) a franchise. And how ironic is it that Favre's last season is the same year that the Falcons franchise has officially gone down the toilet?