Packing it in for good

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

To the unfailingly loyal football fans of Green Bay, it wouldn't have felt like it at the time, but Brett Favre's final season and final act as an NFL quarterback provided a snapshot that zoomed in on the appeal of his spellbinding career.

For the imperfect quarterback, there was no perfect ending.

Favre, who announced his retirement yesterday, thus ending the 17-year thrill ride he rode with flair, was not the greatest quarterback to play in the NFL. Far from it.

He was, however, one of the most captivating to watch over the course of those record-setting years crammed with highlight-reel material, both good and bad.

The legacy found in his numbers and the popularity he enjoyed through most of his 16 seasons with the Packers will make Favre a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible.

The high-profile blunders, including the interception in overtime of this year's NFC Championship, will keep him a notch below Joe Montana, John Elway, Johnny Unitas and likely Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and others in any objective ranking of all-timers at the position.

But at his best, boy was Favre fun to watch.

While it is true the Cajun from Kiln, Miss., was this close to a storybook ending, his career ended with a misguided and ill-conceived throw that ultimately propelled the New York Giants to the Super Bowl, a play that will haunt him throughout his retirement years.

Until that moment, however, the magical 2007 season was vintage Favre, which, when you think about it makes the contrast to the untimely mistake that ended it all somehow appropriate.

He took a young team that was supposed to challenge for the basement of the mediocre NFC North and made them into a contender good enough to host the conference title game.

Taking care of the football like he rarely had previously, Favre punctuated his legacy by breaking Dan Marino's records for career touchdown passes and passing yards and Elway's mark of most career victories.

Three times he was the NFL's MVP and eight times he was pasted on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Most impressive though may have been his 253 consecutive starts (275 with playoffs included) in a physically brutal game in which that shouldn't be possible.

Remember, though, that Favre wasn't without flaws away from the field. Early in his career, he was a booze hound and later admitted to being addicted to painkillers.

But when he seemingly beat both afflictions, it only added to his appeal with the common fan.

Of the many memorable performances in his career, one of the most compelling was a Monday nighter in December 2003. A day after his father died, Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Oakland Raiders. It was a night full hugs and tears, cementing the quarterback's place as a personality that could transcend the game.

Among the other highlights, albeit somewhat misleading, was Favre's lone Super Bowl win in 1997. Favre was just ordinary that day, completing 14 of 27 attempts for 246 in a 35-21 win over the New England Patriots. But it was the first championship for Titletown since 1968, the beginning of a longstanding love affair between Cheeseheads and their charismatic quarterback.

Of course, given that success relatively early in his time in Wisconsin, more was expected of Favre, which made this year's run -- in what was clearly the autumn of his career -- that much more compelling.

Flaws aside, professional and personal, it was almost impossible not to admire the grit and drive No. 4 brought to the America's most popular professional sport.

Ultimately, Favre never stopped being the little kid who was living his dream. The way he played the game was at least as important and appealing as the success he had doing it.

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FROM MISSISSIPPI TO CHEESEHEAD FAVOURITE

NAME: Brett Lorenzo Favre.

BORN: Oct. 10, 1969, Gulfport, Miss.

RAISED: Kiln, Miss.

RESIDES: Hattiesburg, Miss.

FAMILY: Wife, Deanna; children, Brittany and Breleigh.

COLLEGE: Southern Mississippi.

NFL DEBUT: Atlanta Falcons, Oct. 27, 1991 vs. L.A. Rams.

CAME TO PACKERS: Traded to Packers Feb. 10, 1992, for 17th overall pick in 1992 draft. Falcons trade the pick to Dallas, which selects cornerback Kevin Smith. Falcons acquire two picks from Dallas, selecting running back Tony Smith and cornerback Frankie Smith.

PACKERS CAREER: Favre led the Packers to a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, the team's first championship in 29 years.

Favre and the Packers returned to the Super Bowl the following season but lost to the Denver Broncos 31-24.

Favre set several records during the 2007 season, including most career touchdown passes (442), most career victories by a starting quarterback (160) and most career yards passing (61,655).

Favre has started 253 consecutive games, a record for NFL quarterbacks.

Including playoff games, the streak stands at 275.

His career has been marked by some off-field troubles.

He battled an addiction to painkillers, spending time in the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., in 1996.

AWARDS: Favre has won a record three league MVP awards, in 1995, '96 and '97; shared the '97 award with Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders. He is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection.

PERSONAL: Owns a 460-acre ranch in Hattiesburg, Miss. ... Made a cameo appearance in the 1998 hit movie There's Something About Mary. ... Avid golfer and fisherman.

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MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Sept. 13, 1992, at Tampa Bay. Favre completes his first NFL pass -- to himself. A deflected pass lands in Favre's hands, and he is tackled for a seven-yard loss.

Nov. 15, 1992, vs. Philadelphia in Milwaukee. Despite sustaining a first-degree separation of his left shoulder early in the game, Favre leads the Packers to a come-from-behind 27-24 victory.

Jan. 26, 1997, In Super Bowl XXXI at the Louisiana Superdome, Favre is 14-of-27 for 246 yards and no interceptions to beat the New England Patriots 35-21, the Packers' first championship in 29 years.

Dec. 31, 2006, at Chicago. Favre throws for 285 yards and a touchdown in a 26-7 victory over the Bears, the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC. Favre gets choked up in a television interview after the game, leading some to believe he had played his final game. But after again mulling retirement, he decides to return.

Jan. 12, 2008, vs. Seattle at Lambeau. Favre frolics in heavy snow showers, hitting on three touchdown passes -- and hitting wide receiver Donald Driver with a snowball in a 42-20 Packers playoff romp.

Jan. 20, 2008, vs. New York Giants at Lambeau. Favre generally struggles in sub-zero temperatures in the NFC championship game. His interception in overtime sets up the Giants' game-winning field goal, and the Packers lose 23-20.


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