Favre, Rodgers, Records, and Reality
by Dan Conklin
June 23, 2013
Over the last two years, little-by-little, we have seen the ice, formed from the frosty relationship between Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers since Favre's retirement and un-retirement in 2008, begin to melt. It started with little statements that would be made from time to time, by both Favre and Packers officials, hinting at the likelihood of an eventual reunion. Favre also began making more positive public statements about Aaron Rodgers' abilities as a top-level NFL quarterback (even if it seemed at the time to carry a little bit of an asterisk about Rodgers' years of learning under...ahem...Favre, and the top-level talent surrounding him which...ahem...Favre felt he never really had).
The Great Thaw jumped to a whole new level this February when the Packers' past and present quarterbacks went on stage together to present Peyton Manning with the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year award at the NFL Honors awards. In the comical presentation, Favre and Rodgers feigned (or didn't feign...) tensions and an awkward almost-hug. But simply appearing together was a clear sign that there was movement taking place toward the day when Favre and the Packers would make amends and ride off into NFL history together.
Most recently, Favre said that Aaron Rodgers would eventually break all of his records. "Aaron has played extremely well, probably even better than anyone anticipated, but I knew he was capable of that and that's why they drafted him. Barring any injury he'll shatter everything I ever did there except for maybe consecutive games."
It was the most effusive praise Favre had ever given to Rodgers, who by nearly all accounts had been the innocent bystander in the 2008 spat between the Hattiesburg and Green Bay camps. No doubt, Favre meant it to come out sounding supportive of his successor, and I accept it as just that. I believe that he has sincere respect for Rodgers as both a player and a person, and in no way am I second-guessing the goodwill behind this statement. Great step by Brett as he seems to continue to say all the right things.
But the statement appears a lot better on the surface than does the reality that exists behind it. Favre had a lot of records. He may have even set the record for the most records owned by one person. (Perhaps someone with more time on their hands than me should check into that.) The fact is that it is actually not very likely at current rates (based on the five years that Rodgers has been starting) that Rodgers will break very many...if any...of Favre's records (other than things like completion percentage and quarterback rating, which are based on ratios and not simply quantities.)
First of all, Favre's words “barring any injury” are more imposing than any of us would like to admit. Packers fans got incredibly spoiled by Favre's amazing iron man capabilities. Regardless of what you think, have ever thought, or ever will think of Brett Favre, you should think this: his ability to play through injury, pain, weather, turmoil, and personal tragedy at a position that takes so many hard hits is testament all by itself to Favre's greatness. Indeed, there are some people who suspect that M. Night Shyamalan's movie Unbreakable is loosely based on Favre's life. (OK, at least I suspect that.)
But in the unlikely event that Rodgers escapes the injury bug, how likely is he to break Favre's records? Currently, Rodgers' contract goes through the 2019 season. At his current pace, #12 would need to play longer than that to break any of #4's quantity-based records. Based on current paces, here is a list of what season Rodgers would have to play through to break these various records:
2020: Sacks (Rodgers has 211, needs 525)
2022: Touchdowns (Rodgers has 171, needs 508)
2024: Yards (Rodgers has 21,661, needs 71,838)
2025: Wins (Rodgers has 52, needs 186)
2026: Completions (Rodgers has 1,752, needs 6,300)
2027: Attempts (Rodgers has 2,665, needs 10,169)
2027: Starts (Rodgers has 78, needs 298)
2029: Losses (Rodgers has 26, needs 112)
2032: Fumbles (Rodgers has 36, needs 166)
2045: Interceptions (Rodgers has 46, needs 336)
If Rodgers follows in Favre's footsteps and plays until he is 41 (through 2024), and maintains his current paces, he would only break the records for sacks, touchdowns, and yards. I would personally be surprised to see Aaron play that long...I think he has interests outside of football that will make it easier for him to hang it up than it was for Brett. But things change regarding the statistics as well. It is more of a pass-happy league than it was even a few years ago, and it wouldn't be surprising to see his average yards, completions, attempts, and touchdowns per season go up (even if the Packers are trying to beef up their running game.) Also, the Packers are trying to make changes that will bring his sack numbers down. This is the crucial statistic. If the Packers can't drastically reduce the number of times Rodgers gets sacked, it's a safe bet to say that he will break none of Favre's records. But if they can get the sack numbers down and Rodgers stays healthy, if I were to go out on a limb, I would say that the only record that I think he has a realistic shot of breaking is touchdowns. During his last two seasons, Rodgers has averaged 42 touchdowns per season, at which pace he would break the record in 2020, which I think might be his last season.
As to breaking all of Favre's records, Rodgers will have to play until he is 62. Or start throwing a lot more interceptions. Nice gesture by Favre to say the kind words, but not gonna happen! The fact is, they are two different quarterbacks, and Packers fans should be grateful to be able to watch two amazing quarterbacks for 21 years and running. It's silly to always want to compare them. Let's let Brett be Brett and Aaron be Aaron. Packers fans win either way.
Lest it end up sounding like I was bashing Brett Favre with the numbers, I want to assure the reader that that is far from the case. The reason it would take Rodgers so long to break Favre's records is because Favre owns all the records, both positive and negative. That includes the negative things like losses, fumbles, and interceptions. But in my opinion, it is these negative records that accentuate Favre's true greatness. You don't let someone keep losing games unless they are winning enough games to offset the losses. Favre's career winning percentage was 62.4%. That's amazing! You don't let someone keep throwing interceptions unless they are throwing enough touchdowns to offset them. Favre's touchdown-to-interception ratio was 1.51—fourteen teams would have seen that as an improvement last season.
But above all, you let a player like that keep playing because of what he brought to the game. Unlike many top quarterbacks, Favre was hard to really hate. He was Everyman. He had his ups and his downs, just like most of us. Every game he played brought with it both a chance for exultation and a chance for deep frustration. Usually the two happened within five minutes of each other.
Nearly every game he played was exciting. We rejoiced with him when he ran down the field holding up his helmet like the Statue of Liberty's flame after a great touchdown. We screamed at him when he ended playoff runs early with an interception. We stayed glued to our seats as we watched him attempt yet one more dramatic fourth-quarter comeback. We gasped and cheered when he created something out of nothing and invented the shuttle toss. We pulled for him as he fought off addictions. We wept with him when he played out of his head after his father's death and when Deanna fought cancer. We felt with him as he struggled within himself between how to balance the years of pounding he had taken with his continued passion for the game. We loved him because he was us! He represented both our highest aspirations and our own personal frustrations, along with our internal anguish that it was so hard to be our own "good Brett." Brett Favre was the original reality TV. On any given day, he may have been your hero or your goat. But you couldn't not watch him. He was too compelling. And as Packer fans, he was ours.
Brett has been saying all the right things in order to bridge the rift that has come between him and Packer Nation. For that I applaud and commend him. On behalf of Packer Nation, I want to try to do the same thing. Brett, you were great! You gave us tremendous joy and countless thrills. You made it fun to be a Packers fan again. You were the NFL. You gave us not only great moments, but also someone we felt personally attached to. We loved you, your lovely wife, your family, and even Wrangler jeans.
We got angry with you because you felt you still had something to give the game, and we didn't like the way it played out (especially when you wore that horrible purple!). Your statistics clearly proved you were right. We don't like to get pushed around and told what to do either, so when all is said and done, we should have been more understanding of what you did and supportive of what you accomplished. We get it now, and we're sorry. (Oh, and we're sorry for cheering when you were getting pummeled in that playoff game against the Saints.) Just as you represented us when you were our champion, you continued to represent us as you launched into new ventures and continued to follow your heart. Because it was your heart that always defined you. And it always will. That's why we loved you.
As a Brett Favre fan and a Packers fan who went through all of the emotional ups and downs of those ugly years, I'm ready to put all this anger behind us, and love you again the way I did in the past. I feel pretty sure I speak for lots of others, too. You will always be a Packer at heart, and deserve a chance to be seen that way again. We were great together. We'll feel more complete when we know that you are ours and we are yours again. We hope you feel the same way. Thanks for the past, we hope to see you in the future. If I get the chance to see you again, rest assured that you'll get a loud cheer and long ovation from me. Because you are inseparable from who I am as a lifelong Packers fan. And don't worry, you'll keep most of the records. And we're good with that!
Photo Credit: Associated Press