The totality of Brett Favre’s NFL career cannot fully be measured in statistics and milestones.
We all know the resume: 20 years with the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, and Minnesota Vikings. He had 6,300 completions in 10,169 attempts for 71,838 yards and 508 touchdowns. His career quarterback rating is 86.0.
Favre was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times, a First-team All Pro three times, and a Second-team All-Pro three times. He is the only player to win three consecutive NFL MVPs. He led the league in passing touchdowns four times, passing yards twice, and was NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
He started more games at the quarterback position than any other signal caller in NFL history with 321 consecutive regular season and postseason starts from Sept. 27, 1992 to Dec. 10, 2010.
His teams won eight division titles and played in five NFC Championship Games. Favre appeared two Super Bowls: winning Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots (featuring Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin and coached by Hall of Famer Bill Parcells) and losing Super Bowl XXXII to the Denver Broncos (led by Hall of Famers John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, and Gary Zimmerman).
To fully understand Favre’s impact on the National Football League, a great place to start will be with the men who coached him.
Jerry Glanville coached the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted Favre with the 33rd overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft out of Southern Mississippi. Glanville was not happy with the drafting of Favre, once quipping that it would take a plane crash to get him to put Favre in a game.
Favre only attempted four passes in his Falcons tenure, two of them were the first of his record 336 interceptions. He didn’t take preparation or attending team functions seriously. But Glanville did see something in the quarterback he didn’t want.
“He feared nothing,” Glanville said. “He was overweight, he was fat, but nobody could sack him. He wasn’t fast but he could get away. He could throw the ball. When we traded him, I had a sick feeling inside of me.”
Mike Holmgren coached the Green Bay Packers from 1992-98. It was in the city known as Title Town that the legend of The Gunslinger was born. Favre enjoyed his greatest success under Holmgren but his Gunslinger mentality once had Holmgren considering benching Favre for Mark Brunell during the 1994 season.
“Coaching Brett was like trying to rein in a giant stallion,” Holmgren said. “There was nothing he couldn’t do on the field. It was the most fun I ever had coaching. He was the son I never had.”
Ray Rhodes coached the Packers in 1999. Favre played most of that season with an injured right thumb that caused him pain.
“Brett is one of the best to play the game,” Rhodes said. “Being the iron man that he was, all the games he played in and what he accomplished throughout his career, you can’t put a number on that.”
Mike Sherman was coach of the Packers from 2000-05. Sherman was on the sideline when Favre torched the Oakland Raiders for 399 yards, four touchdowns, and a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 in a 41-7 victory during a Monday Night Football game on Dec. 23, 2003.
The game was just a day his father (and high school coach), Irvin, died of a stroke at age 58 while driving in Favre’s hometown of Kiln, Mississippi.
“You couldn’t draw up a script better than that,” Sherman said. “You hoped he’d play that type of game but the chances of that happening, unless it’s Brett Favre, are unlikely. The guy put together a career day.”
Raiders Nation, perhaps the most fanatical fan base in the NFL, saluted Favre with applause throughout the game.
Mike McCarthy was Rhodes’ quarterbacks coach and was head coach of the Packers during Favre’s final season in Green Bay.
“As his position coach, he clearly was the most aggressive quarterback that I’ve ever been around,” McCarthy said. “That was a great coaching experience for me and obviously a lot of fun. People talk about how tough he is and the record for consecutive games, but more importantly he practiced every day.”
Eric Mangini coached Favre for one season after Favre was dealt to the Jets. In spite of reported friction between coach and quarterback, Mangini’s son Zack has the middle name Brett in honor of Favre.
“That’s what makes him a special guy. He likes hanging with the O-linemen,” Mangini said. “He likes being with everybody. He’s a fun guy to be around. Not because he isn’t serious, but because of the way he treats everybody, the way he approaches things. There was never anything but a real team-first attitude from him.”
Brad Childress was coach of the Vikings during Favre’s most statistically successful season and when the iron man streak ended. When Favre traveled to Minneapolis after signing with the Vikings, it was Childress who picked him up from the airport.
“I will say this: when he played for us he had his best year,” Childress said. “He had 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. I know some stuff’s been reported about the relationship being testy and that, but I think you have to stay within the confines of the system and then stay aggressive within that. The thing that always rang true, and I know Coach (Andy) Reid believes this and coached him that way, was ‘keep shooting, keep shooting’. And he had no trouble following those orders.”
Favre will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. All of his NFL coaches, except Eric Mangini, will be present. In typical Favre fashion, he will not prepare a written statement.