Pelissero: Being Brett Favre may only get him one more shot
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It was halftime of the NFC championship game in January 2008, and Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy was fed up with Brett Favre.
The veteran quarterback's numbers were fine -- 10-of-18 passing for 163 yards with a touchdown and a 104.6 passer rating -- and the Packers led the New York Giants 10-6.
But on a blustery night at Lambeau Field, where the game-time temperature was 1 below with a minus-23 wind chill, there were signs Favre was on the verge of freezing up. His body language suggested he simply didn't want to be on the field.
As those familiar with the scene tell it, McCarthy was venting when, in a particularly stressful moment, he blurted out something to the effect of, "If that guy weren't Brett Favre, I'd bench his ass!"
The rest of the story is well-documented. After halftime, Favre was 9-of-17 for 73 yards and threw two interceptions, including the overtime dagger into the hands of Giants cornerback Corey Webster that set up New York's winning field goal.
At 38 years old, Favre had provided evidence the Packers needed to move on when he retired, waffled and ultimately demanded his release the next summer. If Favre no longer could handle the cold, no longer could win in January, what was the point of getting strung along every offseason and letting former first-round draft pick Aaron Rodgers' development go to waste?
The Minnesota Vikings don't have Aaron Rodgers. They have 27-year-old Tarvaris Jackson, who already has flamed out in multiple shots at the starting role.
They also have Favre, a 41-year-old future Hall of Famer who has made abundantly clear he plans to start a 316th consecutive NFL game on Sunday at New England despite a significant ankle/foot injury -- and mistake-prone play that had Childress considering a switch in the second half last weekend.
There's a saying in NFL personnel departments that you compound an error by refusing to admit it soon enough. And that's precisely what Childress would be doing by sticking with Favre because of his name, a $16 million salary and the borderline-embarrassing way the Vikings begged him to play a 20th season -- if Childress thinks Jackson has a chance to do better.
Whether Jackson has that chance is hypothetical, of course. Everyone including Childress knows about Jackson's shortcomings and failings last time around, and if he had ascended beyond developmental QB, there would have been no need to entice Favre -- twice -- to come take the job away.
However, there's no question Childress is frustrated with Favre, as well as a 2-4 record that's turned the Vikings from contender to punchline in less than two months. After Sunday's 28-24 loss at Green Bay, Childress used his media conference to heap blame on officials and Favre's three interceptions -- an outburst he said on Thursday was a product of "being aggravated. That's it. You snap every now and then."
Favre ranks 30th in the NFL in passer rating (68.0). Opponents have turned his 14 turnovers -- five more than he committed in 2009, putting him on pace for a career-high 37 -- into 51 points. He was a physical and emotional wreck on Sunday night, the weight of his on- and off-the-field problems visible on his face as he held back tears in the locker room.
And even if Favre gets some practice work on Friday, he will have missed the bulk of the reps this week with an injury that had him in a walking boot for days -- making him even less mobile and no closer to finding the rhythm, timing and tempo he's lacked all season with his receivers.
All that said, this is Brett Favre, and deciding to sit him against his wishes for even one week would have far-reaching implications, particularly if Jackson flops. Considering how Favre has approached the week, it's probably a matter of when, not if, he declares himself fit to play on Sunday.
The near-comical dichotomy continued on Thursday afternoon -- Favre calling out within earshot of reporters that he needs a Size-15 shoe to accommodate a splint for his fractured heel, and Childress hours later saying Favre is "doing a little better every day. Whether it's good enough to play in an NFL football game remains to be seen."
The guess here is Childress will give the NFL's all-time ironman one more shot to prove he's willing and able to play efficiently and within the system, as he did so well one year ago. There's too much to lose, too much hell to pay, if Favre is put in a position to play the victim before kickoff.
And if he fails, because of injury or everything else, it finally wouldn't matter that he's Brett Favre. Few would fault Childress for trying to patch a sinking ship, at least temporarily, by doing the same thing McCarthy had a notion to do with Favre on that frigid night in Green Bay.
Bench his ass.