Just think, if Brett Favre hadnít tossed that interception last January in what was supposed to be his final game as one of the most overrated players in the history of the NFL, we wouldnít have to endure any 2008 reflections topped with the image of David Tyree somehow hanging onto Houdini Manningís pass.
You could say Favre hijacked a potentially perfect 19-0 season for the New England Patriots with that one toss.
Of course, he also went on to hijack our entire summer with the ridiculous, ďWill he/wonít he?Ē return saga, one that eventually landed him with the easily duped New York Jets, who shipped Chad Pennington off to greener pastures, which turned out to be a division title for the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are in. The Pats are out.
You can thank Favre for that too.
Depend on Brett Favre? Pats fans should have known it was over before it began. The Jets' quarterback was not-so-surprising 20 of 40 with three interceptions on a day when a New York win meant everything for the Patriotsí playoff hopes. He led the league with 22 interceptions in 2008, which isnít even a career high for Favre, who tossed 29 picks in 2005.
Today, New England, 11-5 during a thoroughly enjoyable season, sits home while a jaw-dropping seven of the 12 NFL playoff entrants move on with records equal to or inferior to the Patriots'.
No 11-5 team since the 1985 Broncos has missed the playoffs -- which, coincidentally, was the last year an 8-8 team won a division (Cleveland) as the San Diego Chargers did last night with a 52-21 pasting of Denver.
Football season in New England, nearly 11 months after the quest for perfection ended with a choke job in the desert, came to a halt yesterday with an 2008 campaign nothing short of valiant. Still, there will be no Wild Card Weekend traffic on Rt. 1.
You could blame Bill Belichick for his game management in Indy for this; perhaps the Patriots defense for not picking up on Miamiís Wildcat formation the 54th time it was run in Week 3. Maybe your disappointment is directed at the team not going for two against the Jets instead of playing for overtime. Perhaps you side with the reality of injuries depleting the foundation of the team, and toss your hands up to football fate.
But on day like this, itís too easy not to get riled over the ďlegendĒ that is Favre.
Iíll never quite understand the national fervor over a guy like Favre, a player at the top of his game a decade ago, with one flash of his former brilliance in 2007. Yet his presence hovers over the NFL with a reverence normally reserved for deity. With the Cowboys and Favre now both out of the playoffs, I can only assume ESPN will go off the air for a few days with nothing to talk about.
The worst thing that could have happened for Favreís legacy was his rebound season of a year ago, one that prompted him to retire, un-retire, and probably will repeat the same process once again. If Favre had a season similar to 2006, no way we would have had the soap opera of last summer. He would have gone away quietly we assume. Either that or heíd return with few teams interested in taking him on.
By the way, of the teams that put themselves into the Favre sweepstakes, itís interesting to note that only the Vikings, they of possible tampering charges, are bound for the postseason. Even with their quarterback issues this season, how badly would he have messed them up? Adrian Peterson, the star running back for the Vikings would be the NFC answer to Thomas Jones, the best back the league had to offer the second half of the season, yet one who inexplicably disappeared from the Jetsí game plan the last month of the season.
Thatís also when Favre became Favre, the stuff of legend. Choking in big-game situations.
If thatís one of the gameís greats, then forgive me if I donít hop on board the Canton bandwagon. True, all-pro ďgunslingersĒ like Favre, Marino, Bledsoe are going to throw their share of interceptions from time to time. But itís the managers of the game behind the line that impress me. Brady, Elway, Montana. Thereís a reason those guys have multiple Lombardis.
Even Favre has to thank Desmond Howard for his trophy.
And so now, we sit and wait for this unwelcome story line to continue. If Favre announces his retirement, it will only be a matter of time before the rumors begin to swirl that heís dipping back into the pool. If Favre sticks around another year, weíll have to sit and wait to see what sort of changes he deems necessary in New York. Because heís more than a QB, heís an overwhelming presence that seems to take a choke hold on everything around him. The world stops for Brett Favre, and so too do the chances of those around him.
Last year, that was the Packers. This year, itís the Jets. Both times, the Patriots suffered collateral damage.
Imagine, the lasting image of 2008 could have been Favre tossing his final pass in the NFL, an interception to Asante Samuel (who holds on this time), sealing a 19-0 Super Bowl season. Instead, Favreís final play might just be the illegal forward pass he threw during last nightís desperate attempt to drive the field in the final minute.
Somehow, that is fitting. For all his admitted greatness, his career has been one highlighted by pivotal blunders. Today, he sits home while the Dolphins prepare for the playoffs.
And for the Pats, what-ifs galore fill the room.