Maybe Brett Favre in a New York Jets uniform is turning out exactly as some of us thought it might last August -- a lot of hype followed by little, if any, substance.
To be certain, it is one of the compelling stories in a young season already overflowing with them.
I'm just not convinced it will ever amount to much more than "interesting copy."
Face it. Monday night's game against San Diego was set up to be a watershed moment for Favre as a Jet -- when his impact, all $12 million worth, should have been felt. As difficult as it might have been to expect the Jets to travel across the country and win a game against an extremely desperate opponent that was clearly better than its 0-2 record indicated, there was still reason to believe they might do something memorable. The reason was Favre.
It was Monday night. It was the prime-time stage that he had owned for the better part of the past 16 seasons. As long as Favre had decided he should not stay retired, he was obligated to at least show that he could still perform at a level commensurate with his legend.
Instead, the man who never lost a game to the Chargers wasn't on par with his much younger counterpart, Philip Rivers. As a kid, Rivers owned a poster of Favre in a Green Bay Packers uniform -- the one Favre used to wear when he routinely won this sort of game that the Jets lost, 48-29.
Favre finished with three touchdown throws, as many as Rivers had, and 271 passing yards. But the bulk of his positive numbers came late in the game, after the Chargers had built a comfortable lead and were conceding the middle of the field to the short and intermediate routes that Favre completed in a hopeless comeback attempt.
When the game was still a game, Favre was mostly inept. He threw a pair of terrible interceptions, one of which Antonio Cromartie returned for a touchdown, and had two would-be pickoffs that were dropped (including another that Cromartie easily would have returned for six).
Frankly, Favre looked much more than a year older than he was during that MVP-quality season in 2007. For the most part, he played the role of dinner for a Charger defensive front that generally got the better of him, especially when the game was close.
I don't want to hear about Favre's difficult transition in learning a new offense with which he has had limited exposure. He made bad reads and poor decisions. Throughout his career, he has been a quarterback who mainly relied on his instincts. Those instincts often let him down Monday night and they haven't exactly been good to him for the better part of the past three weeks.
If the problem truly is that Favre has yet to fully grasp the playbook of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, then what are the Jets doing with him as their quarterback? Wasn't part of the benefit of having such a highly accomplished veteran that he could provide fairly instant production because of his wealth of knowledge? So far, Favre's contributions have been good enough to give the Jets a close win over the rebuilding Dolphins.
Some analysts say it will take many more weeks for Favre to find that comfort zone. The Jets had better hope that's wrong. By then, their season might very well be over.
More Monday night musings
» If the game served to reveal the shortcomings of Favre in his twilight on the prime-time stage, it also showcased Rivers' considerable skills and first-rate leadership when San Diego needed it the most. He functioned with an air of confidence that made him seem so much more experienced than his boyhood hero. Rivers threw the ball with tremendous accuracy, avoided pressure and constantly put himself in the best position to deliver throws. He did not allow the early interception that was returned for the game's first points to bother him in the least, another sign of an exceptional leader.
» The Chargers played every phase of the game with the sort of urgency that you expected to see from a presumptive Super Bowl contender trying to escape a shocking 0-2 hole. That was particularly true for a defensive unit embarrassed by its performances against Carolina and Denver. Even without Shawne Merriman, the Chargers are still loaded with talented defenders capable of making big plays on a consistent basis. They are fast, punishing, and relentless. They still have an outstanding defensive coordinator in Ted Cottrell, who has taken his share of heat for the poor showings before Monday night. I suspect Cottrell's gang will build upon what it did against the Jets, and follow it up with another strong effort at Oakland in Week 4.
» Let's not put all of the blame for the Jets' humiliating loss on Favre. The Jets did not show a whole lot of life in most areas. Their defense doesn't have enough difference-making players. For all of the investment they made in their offensive line, they did not provide the greatest protection for a quarterback who desperately needed it.
» Final thought about the Jets: I know it's early and the AFC East is looking more wide open than ever after the Patriots' sad showing against Miami -- a collapse that could be much more than a one-game thing -- but I'm just not seeing how the Jets are going to jump into the divisional race. I'm just not seeing how the Jets, Patriots, or the suddenly competent Dolphins are going to knock the 3-0 Buffalo Bills off their perch.
Strange days in Oakland
What possible good could Al Davis achieve by keeping his head coach's employment dangling in the breeze? I doubt it's motivating Kiffin to do his job better. Under the circumstances, he's doing it about as well as can be expected. Under the circumstances, it's incredible the Raiders actually have one win and were ahead by nine points during the fourth quarter against Buffalo last Sunday.
Besides continual embarrassment, all that this never-ending saga creates is confusion for players who are trained to follow a leader -- unless that leader's leadership is undermined by his boss. If Davis is convinced that Kiffin can't get the job done or is someone he no longer can tolerate as an employee, he should fire him. Now. Otherwise, he should make it clear, once and for all, that Kiffin will remain his coach.
Detroit rock-bottom city
The Lions officially hit rock-bottom when their vice chairman, Bill Ford Jr., decided to go public Monday with the fact that if it were his call, he would fire general manager Matt Millen. The authority to make such a move belongs to his father and team owner, William Clay Ford.
If ever there were a situation that could breed the sort of dysfunction that exists in Oakland, the Lions might very well have found it. Was the younger Ford's intention to deliver a message that would crank up public heat on Millen higher than it has ever been and possibly persuade his father to make the change for which fans have been clamoring for? Perhaps. Only Bill Ford Jr. knows for sure, and he didn't expand on the comment he made to reporters at a Detroit Economic Club event.
The elder Ford might very well rank as the most patient owner in NFL history, at least where his GM is concerned. In a trend familiar on Millen's eight-season watch, the Lions are 0-3 and headed nowhere. The younger Ford accurately described Sunday's 31-13 loss to San Francisco as "an embarrassment," adding that fans deserve better. What they're getting is a team that offers no hope for improvement. Someone has to be accountable for that. And when a member of the Lions' ownership is identifying who that person is, it's difficult to believe that even someone with Millen's incredible survival skills will manage to stay afloat.
The formation where teams direct snap to a running back in the shotgun, while moving the quarterback out wide, is one of the season's hot early trends. No one made it hotter than Miami's Ronnie Brown, who was in that formation on three of his four touchdown runs and when he threw a touchdown pass in the Dolphins' lopsided win over New England.
Cut your own highlights
Impressed by Ronnie Brown's five TDs on Sunday? Cut your own highlight reels of the running back's big day using game footage, graphics, and music with NFL.com's Replay Re-Cutter. More ...
The Dolphins call it their "Wildcat" package. Other teams in the league do the same thing or have it available in their playbooks. It's a case of the NFL imitating the college game, which has had direct-snap plays as part of the single-wing dating back to the 1930s and '40s.
Among the copycats are the Raiders, who occasionally direct snap to rookie running back Darren McFadden (who thrived from the formation at Arkansas), and the Bills, who have utilized reserve back Fred Jackson in the same role. Dolphins quarterbacks coach David Lee spent last season as offensive coordinator at Arkansas, where he kept defenses off-balance by frequently lining up McFadden in shotgun formation and having him take direct snaps as a runner and passer. Michigan's Rich Rodriguez built his substantial coaching credentials by direct-snapping to running backs when he coached at West Virginia, and many NFL coaches have closely studied videotape of how the tactic is designed and executed.
It tends to cause greater confusion among NFL defenders than those at the collegiate level because the pros generally have more defined responsibilities that can be disrupted by the sight of a running back taking the snap and a quarterback playing receiver. The Patriots were especially confused because their defense calls for an inordinate amount adjustments before the snap. They were never able to get a handle on what the Dolphins were doing the six times Brown ended up in shotgun, quarterback Chad Pennington became a receiver, and running back Ricky Williams ended up in the slot before going in motion. As New England defensive end Richard Seymour told reporters after the game, "We were running out there like chickens with our heads cut off."
Shock to the system
It seemed as if the New York Giants made the proverbial addition-by-subtraction move when they shipped four-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey and his attitude issues to the New Orleans Saints in late July. It seemed if the Saints added a critical receiving/blocking element to their offense that could go a long way toward helping them to get back to championship contention, provided Shockey's attitude issues didn't create the distraction they did in New York.
After Shockey gave his best performance as a Saint (eight catches for 75 yards) in Sunday's loss to Denver, it was revealed he would need sports hernia surgery that will sideline him for three to six weeks. His gutty performance was commendable, but the fact he will be out of commission for a significant stretch while the Saints try and rally from a 1-2 start raises questions over just how wise it was to part with second- and fifth-round draft picks for Shockey.
The Giants have the choices, a 3-0 record, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy they won while Shockey was out with a broken leg. Early during Saints' training camp, Shockey suffered a groin-muscle injury that caused a setback while he was still recovering from a broken leg. He wasn't deemed back to top form until late August. Now Shockey, who missed the final seven games of 2003 with a knee injury, is out of the lineup again.
With the Saints already missing top receiver Marques Colston (thumb) and with an injury list that also includes offensive tackle Jammal Brown (hip) and tight end Mark Campbell (hamstring), the timing of Shockey's loss couldn't be worse.
But the question is, how much of him have they ever really had?