As the Vikings wait to see if quarterback Brett Favre will end his retirement and play for them this coming season, the greatest quarterback in franchise history lashed out at Favre’s handling of the situation.
Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, appearing on 790 The Zone in Atlanta, said “it’s all about” Favre when discussing the subject and also had some interesting comments about NFL owners in general. Tarkenton, a resident of the Atlanta area, didn’t need any encouragement to go after Favre and was especially critical of how the future Hall of Fame QB has treated the Packers after playing 16 seasons in Green Bay.
“I think it’s despicable. What he put the Packers through last year was not good,” said Tarkenton, who played for the Vikings from 1961-66 and again from 1972-78. ”Here’s an organization that was loyal to him for 17, 18 years, provided stability of organization, provided players. It just wasn’t about Brett Favre. In this day and time, we have glorified the Brett Favre’s of the world so much, they think it’s about them. He goes to New York and bombs. He’s 39 years old. How would you like Ray Nitschke in his last year [playing for] the Vikings, or I retire, and go play for the Packers? I kind of hope it happens, so he can fail.”
Tarkenton might have been a little strong in his assessment of Favre’s play with the New York Jets last season. The Jets, who acquired Favre’s rights from the Packers during training camp, were 8-3 at one point but finished by losing four of their last five games and missed the playoffs. Favre retired for a second time after the season in part because of a partially torn biceps in his throwing arm that continues to bother him.
It’s interesting that Tarkenton feels so strongly about how Favre dealt with the Packers because when the Vikings traded Tarkenton to the New York Giants after the 1966 season he wasn’t on exactly good terms with the franchise. Clearly he sees this as a completely different situation.
“He told the Packers [after 2008 that], ‘I’m retiring,’” Tarkenton said. “They’ve got to move on. They’ve got to go through their offseason plan, their workouts, they go with the other quarterback [Aaron Rodgers], who is a good player, and then [Favre] comes back and says, ‘I think I want to play.’ … You build your team in the offseason. Everybody knows that. It’s about team. It’s not about Brett Favre. So he goes and runs up to the Jets, doesn’t even dress in the locker room with the players. Has a separate facility. Playing quarterback is about the relationships you have with your coaches, with your players, with your trainers, with your managers. How can you do that if you show up on gameday and you haven’t put the time in. And now he’s trying to do it again in Minnesota. And if Minnesota bites, God bless them.”
Asked what more the Packers could have done last year, Tarkenton said: “They did everything, but you get into a position, and I understand he’s been glorified so much. He’s been a great player, there’s no question about it, but it’s all about him. It is supposed to be all about your team. If you’re going to be the quarterback of your team, you need to be there in the offseason workouts in March and April. Peyton Manning’s there. Tom Brady’s there.”
Tarkenton was known for his scrambling when he played the game and Favre always has been considered a gunslinger.
“I think he has been a great flamboyant quarterback, but he has made more stupid plays than any great quarterback that I’ve ever seen,” Tarkenton said. “Look at his final game in a Packers uniform [the NFC title game in the 2007 season]. He blew that game against the Giants. He’s playing against Eli Manning, I love Eli Manning, but he’s still not a great quarterback. He’s not Peyton yet, or Tom Brady. He’s just a guy. And [the Packers] are playing at home, and they’re in a tight situation, they went to overtime and [Favre] throws the interception that allows [the Giants] to come back and win the game.
” … He has done that and driven his coaches crazy all of his career. But it’s team, is it not? I know [one of the hosts] is talking about, ‘I’d give him a shot,’ I think it would be terrible. [The Vikings are] trying to put together a team all spring. They’ve been there, they’ve been bonding, they’ve getting together. He hasn’t met the team, he hasn’t been there bonding, he hasn’t been part of that organization.”
Tarkenton went on to say that the role of the quarterback, “is to make your teammates better,” and “if you make your teammates better you’re [going] to have a chance to win.”
“Your whole focus is on making your teammates better,” he said. “When you step in that huddle they’ve got to want to play. … You work with each one of them in the week. I coached the running backs, the linemen, the wide receivers, I took them to dinner, I bonded with them. I had no other life but them. That was my life. In the offseason, training camp, that was my life. I bonded with them. Ahmad Rashad today, he’s one of my best friends. That makes it happen for you.
“What Brett Favre had going for him and what Tom Brady has going for him and what Peyton Manning has going for him, is that they came into an organization that was stable. Great general managers, great ownership, great coaching. You need that to be a quarterback. Brett Favre should be grateful to Green Bay. Stable, all-time great organization and he just treated them horribly last year and now he wants to get revenge. Isn’t that fun? What is this about?”
One of the hosts pointed out that Tarkenton knows Zygi Wilf and wondered why he didn’t give the Vikings owner a call to discuss the subject. ”No,” Tarkenton said. “The people that own these teams, they don’t ask anybody’s opinion except some of the junkies that are inside the league that are going to try to manipulate them anyway. They don’t go and ask somebody else that maybe has a little knowledge of it because that would be deprecating to them because they are guys that either they made millions or their daddy’s made millions and they own these teams now and, ‘I’ve got to be smarter than everybody else in the world. I bring all my kids and all my friends into the locker room.’ My owners never went in the locker room.”
Tarkenton never directly named Wilf or any other member of the Vikings ownership group when he made the above comment but the Vikings do have members of ownership in the locker room after games. Tarkenton did meet Wilf in October 2005 when the Vikings played in Atlanta.
Asked what would have happened if the Vikings ownership group had tried to bring friends and family into the locker room when Bud Grant was the coach, Tarkenton said: “He wouldn’t have them in the locker room. He kicked out Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell. Our owners didn’t come in the locker room and they shouldn’t come in the locker room. You’re going to war.”
Update: Also want to give credit to www.sportsradiointerviews.com for providing the heads up on this interview.