It's not for me or any observer to decide whether Brett Favre's career is over. It's up to an NFL club to decide if he can still help a team win games. Even if Favre really does want to play, he does not control his future.
That said, Favre must have the right reasons for returning to the field. Seeking revenge on the Packers is not a reason. Bolstering records is not a reason, nor is getting the "itch" to play.
Having enough talent to win games is the only reason, and a smart front office and coaching staff will determine whether Favre is capable of that. Keep in mind that how much gas Favre has left in his tank and how effective he can be is relative to the talent a team puts around him. Favre isn't going to help a team like Indianapolis or New England because they have quarterbacks that are better than he is at this point in his career. But not every team has a quality quarterback under center, so speculation regarding a team like Minnesota will continue to grow.
First, let's get a few things in order. The most important issue surrounding Favre right now is his health and the state of his throwing arm. If he is healthy enough to withstand the rigors of all the throws in practice and games, then a team can take the next step and decide if he makes the club better. A full medical exam and a long, intense workout are the first steps in the process.
If that goes well, then a contract that protects the club in every way is the next step. At this point, Favre would have to understand that the days of the big bonus and long-term deals are over. If he breaks down in camp or during the season, the club needs a parachute out of the deal. There shouldn't be any financial risk for the club. Favre would be the one taking most of the risk.
If he passes that hurdle, then it's time to sit down and tell him what has to change in his game in order to be effective -- fewer throws per game, less risk-taking and more attention to detail to prevent fumbles and interceptions. That hurdle can only be cleared if Favre trusts the head coach and coordinator and comprehends what the team needs him to do in order to win.
In plain English, is Favre willing to accept a role like the one Kerry Collins has taken in Tennessee? Collins has a big arm and from 2000-2005, he always attempted 500-plus passes per season. Those days are over, but Collins, who is only three years younger than Favre, threw 107 less passes than Favre last year and now plays in a run-based offense with a very solid defense. Favre would get the same scenario in a Vikings offense, if they were interested in him.
The obvious reaction to the Favre specualtion in Minnesota is, "Don't do it, it's not worth the headache." But maybe it is. When you look at what Favre did last year and compare it to Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, it might be worth it. Here are some facts to ponder as it relates to the other options on the Vikings' roster. Then you decide.
In 2008, Favre finished the season in a disappointing manner, going 1-4 down the stretch. He did have some bright points in a 9-7 season, however. Favre finished sixth in the NFL in completions (343), fifth in completion percentage (65.7), ninth in touchdown passes (22), 11th in passing yards (3,472), tied for 12th in completions of over 20 yards (40) with Peyton Manning (who had 33 more attempts) and tied for 13th in completions over 40 yards (7) with Manning, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger and Marc Bulger. The question at Vikings headquarters might be: Can Rosenfels or Jackson do that for us? Or maybe, do we need that from Favre to win?
The bad side of the Favre evaluation is going to include the following statistics from last season: Favre was first in interceptions with 22, but his ratio of interceptions to attempts was one to every 18.4 attempts. In his career, Rosenfels has thrown an interception once every 19.3 attempts, and Jackson connects with the other team once avery 29 attempts.
It's critical for Favre to understand that he hurts the team when he gets careless with the ball. The good news is that in 2007 he was much better with the ball, throwing a pick once every 35.6 attempts. Could Brad Childress or another coach get him back to that form? It's possible when you consider some factors the Vikings have in their favor. Here they are:
» The Vikings have the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. Favre would see eight in the box all day long. Minnesota was one of the league's best rushing teams (146 yards per game) and still runs the ball well against defenses looking for the run. Gone are the days when Favre was the No. 1 threat on the field, but his presence might loosen up coverages on occasion -- something the other quarterbacks might not be able to do.
» Favre hasn't played with a defense like the Vikings' defense since Reggie White was harrassing opposing quarterbacks in Green Bay. Minnesota's defense was first against the run and sixth overall.
» The Vikings will play 11 of their 16 regular-season games indoors, which would help mitigate Favre's diminished arm strength.
» The Vikings use the same offensive terminology Favre used in Green Bay, so the learning curve would be shortened.
» Darrell Bevell, Minnesota's offensive coordinator, has worked with Favre and would know what he is capable of at this point in his career. A restricted package with less flexibility at the line of scrimmage might be a good thing for Favre.
» Favre has thrown 50 touchdown passes over the last two years, while Rosenfels and Jackson have thrown 50 touchdown passes combined in their careers.
» Favre was born in 1969 and turns 40 in October. He is old, by football standards. But so are Kurt Warner, who turns 38 in June, Kerry Collins at age 36 and 34-year-old Jake Delhomme.
» Favre could be a distraction. The Vikings would be opening their organization up to a lot of scrutiny if they brought him in.
» Favre retards the growth of the other quarterbacks. He would take reps away from Rosenfels and Jackson, but are they really the future anyway? Is there a future for anyone if the Vikings don't get past the first round of the playoffs?
» A move for Favre could be seen as an act of desperation. The team went 10-6 and won the NFC North with Gus Frerotte and Jackson last year. Yet, the team still let Frerotte go, didn't win the Jay Cutler sweepstakes, didn't trade up in the draft to get Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman and never showed any interest in any veterans other than Rosenfels, whom they tried to trade for last year. Could a new stadium get pushed through if Favre took them to the promised land?
Here's a plan that would have to be considered if you brought Favre back to the league in a place like Minnesota: Look at how Mike Shanahan used John Elway in 1998. The Broncos won their second Super Bowl that year and Elway was 38 years old. He only started 12 games and threw just 356 passes. There were games he could have played but didn't, and the rest throughout the season paid off. The Broncos had a great running attack and a fine defense, much like the Vikings have now.