With one phone call late Tuesday afternoon, Brett Favre turned the Minnesota Vikings' offices into a frenzy of motion -- a "zoo" is how one employee described it -- as the quarterback informed coach Brad Childress that he would not be joining the team for the 2009 season.
It took a lot for Favre to get there, even though he already was there.
Favre already had retired after his comeback for the New York Jets' 2008 season fell short of a championship, short of even a playoff berth. Had he decided to return to the NFL for a 19th season, he would have been required to apply for reinstatement with the league. Of course, that would have been a formality.
Nothing about this twisting decision, however, was mere formality.
Favre danced with the Vikings. It was a juicy twirl. The idea of one more season. One in the NFC North, where he could play his old Green Bay Packers at least twice. One more chance to finish his career on top. One more shot in a familiar offense. Surgery on his injured throwing arm and passes zipped to Mississippi high school receivers. Vikings coaches and trainers visiting him in Mississippi during the process.
Would Favre actually do it?
He promised the Vikings he would inform them of his decision by July 30, and he beat that deadline by two days. Two Mondays ago, he seemed ready to make his decision by last Friday. And that made those closest to Favre think he was itching to play. Ready to go.
But as last week wore on, Favre began thinking about moving his family from Mississippi. About the grueling nature of one more training camp. About whether his arm would hold up late in the season.
And then Favre began thinking more about how it all faded with the Jets last season. That became a lingering, stinging bur. We may never know how much the Jets' 8-2 start that became a 1-4 finish and a failed playoff push really stung Favre. Sources close to him say the blame for it all, the pain of it all, resonated. And to possibly endure that again with the Vikings? The idea of "What if we don't win?" It was a mountain, in the end, that Favre was not willing to scale.
An NFL personnel executive said of Favre: "I think it was a big thing for him in considering Minnesota that he would play half of his games in a domed stadium. He looked terrible last year in cold weather. He looked like a tired old man."
He turns 40 on Oct. 10.
Favre has that trait that the best NFL players and coaches in history often share: The losses, the disappointments, the rawness of failure hurt more than the joy of winning.
This throws the Vikings for a loop.
They knew the shot of landing Favre began with great promise but in recent days waned to no better than 50-50. The longer it went, the less likely it seemed among the Vikings. But they were clinging to "yes." Now they move forward with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels at quarterback and that nagging notion that they are one player away -- a big-time quarterback away -- from a legitimate championship run.
Vikings players report to camp Wednesday.
And that is why Vikings management was in such a state of flux Tuesday night. Their message to the team must be refocused. Their season is all about how these players buy it. And if a quarterback can emerge among them to fill what is clearly a hole.