GREEN BAY -- Vikings owner Zygi Wilf sat in a locker stall about 20 feet from his quarterback Brett Favre, who was doing the same thing, except in obvious pain from a balky ankle that had been wrenched again and was throbbing. The image of two of the oldest men in the room spoke volumes, as each looked as if he desperately wanted to say, "I didn't expect things to be like this."
Meanwhile, coach Brad Childress held a news conference and said that he thought about pulling Favre out of the 28-24 loss to the Packers and publicly chastised his former SUV-riding passenger for not protecting the ball -- Favre threw three interceptions. He questioned Favre's decision-making on his second pick, which ended with linebacker Desmond Bishop returning it 32 yards for a touchdown.
"It goes to taking care of the football," Childress said. "You can't throw it to them. You have to play within the confines of our system. Sometimes it is okay to punt the football. You can't have seven points going the other way, not in a game like this with a high-powered team."
Let's start with that before we get back to Favre because Childress has painted himself into a corner that only Favre can get him out of.
Though Childress was right in holding his quarterback accountable, I am pretty sure part of his public pricking was to placate players who have grown tired of Favre getting a pass for making mistakes that could have gotten a lot of other quarterbacks benched.
It just got worse with Childress grating an already hot and cold relationship with his quarterback. Favre rarely has been called out by a coach in 20 years and he's not going to like it. Favre said he agreed with Childress' analysis that he threw the ball to the wrong receiver on the pick to Bishop, but he tagged his remark by saying it's easy for Childress to say something -- in hindsight.
Childress also needs to be careful how far he pushes things because he brought this on himself and he has to live with it. He gave Favre anything he wanted and it worked, last season. Now, to call Favre out when things aren't going so well with the guy Minnesota's mortgaged this season on? Sorry, when you took the vows to sign him to a two-year deal, there was something in there about for better and for worse, through good times and bad. Childress has to support Favre through all of this, even if it kills him, because this is what he wanted.
Wilf too. The Vikings are trying to get a new stadium and parlay Favre's popularity into as much money as possible. That's why the $16 million being paid to Favre is viewed as an investment that, right now, isn't paying off except at the ticket booth. Seven touchdowns and an NFL-high 10 interceptions (he is tied with New Orleans' Drew Brees) for $1 million a game. The double standard for Favre didn't seem to get to people as long as the Vikings won and the quarterback played well. However, it's being talked about now. And don't think some of the players ownership wouldn't sign to contract extensions aren't upset that Wilf gave Favre an additional $3 million on top of the $13 million he was to get paid -- Favre also has escalators in his deal that could boost his take to $20 million.
He has thrown at least one interception in every game except for last week's victory over Dallas, when he dialed up a 118-yard effort against a team more mistake-prone than his.
What's intriguing this week is that the Vikings and Favre are at a crossroads as they prepare to travel to New England, where they won't and shouldn't be favored to win.
Favre's surgically repaired left ankle is re-injured. On top of everything Favre is going through off the field with an NFL investigation into him allegedly sending a former female employee of the Jets improper messages, he has two fractures in his left ankle. Favre said he has to use good judgment about playing because he doesn't want to step on the field and be ineffective. Could Childress' remarks make Favre consider sitting even more so he can show the Vikings they can't win without him (even though they're really not winning with him)?
Does he take another round of pain-killing relievers and give it a go, especially so he can help his long-sought threat Randy Moss make some plays against the team that dealt the receiver to Minnesota? Does Childress follow through on his threat and sit Favre, using medical reasons as a real or contrived excuse?
Who will show the best judgment?
Favre has become the biggest lightening rod in the NFL. It's gone from his delayed arrival (again) to a slow start to an NFL investigation to this. No one is even talking about his return to Green Bay, where he is a legend, or losing to his heir, Aaron Rodgers. Favre has rendered so much moot.
Here is the thing about all of this.
Although Favre takes even more risks and does even more dumb things now than he has in his illustrious career, he gives the Vikings a puncher's chance. They were in it at the end despite his mistakes against the Packers. Even on his last pass of the game, he slipped, got up on his bad leg and got the ball into the end zone. Whether his eyes were closed or not, he almost made a play.
The Vikings might not have been in such straits had Favre made a few more positive plays earlier, but he still has something that makes writing him off right now impossible. Minnesota had three touchdowns overturned because of replay and had two bad penalties on the final drive against the Packers when they got into the red zone.
What's clear is Favre's teammates are playing with everything they have -- as is Favre. To the latter, you just have to wonder if that is enough.