It was a moment, perhaps, best defined as surreal.
While speculation had been prominent over the past several off seasons that iconic Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre would retire from the game he dedicated his every professional fibre to, the day the announcement finally came, March 4, 2008, was met not with universal expectance, but rather collective disbelief.
For 16 grueling seasons, the then 38-year-old Favre, the NFL’s answer to Cal Ripken, Jr., was behind center for the green and gold every Sunday (253 straight regular season outings, to be specific) and served as the catalyst in the franchise’s rise from the league’s doldrums to the apex that is the Super Bowl.
With a litany of league records—headlined by career touchdown passes (442); passing yards (61,655); and wins as a starting quarterback (160), among others—two Super Bowl berths and the author of a seemingly limitless amount of breathtaking moments on the gridiron to his name, Favre sat behind a microphone and—tearfully—called it a career.
“I hope that every penny that [the Packers] have spent on me,” the three-time NFL MVP cited during his press conference two days following the announcement, “they know that it was money well spent.
“I hear people talk about ‘you’re accomplishments’…it was never my accomplishments, it was our accomplishments. The teammates I played with—and I can name so many—it was never about me, it was about everybody else.”
Drafted in the second round of the 1991 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons out of Southern Mississippi, the Ol’ Gunslinger’s maiden season within the professional ranks was nothing short of a colossal thud: four pass attempts, zero completions and two interceptions.
As a result, the Falcons agreed to unload the 22-year-old Favre to the green and gold for a first-round draft pick and, ultimately, set into motion the next great era of Packer football.
Supplanting Don Majkowski in the Green Bay huddle following an injury sustained by the former Virginia Cavalier against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 20, 1992, No. 4 never relinquished the reigns of the Packer offense.
Spanning three presidencies, the Packers, under Favre, accumulated a record of 160-93; endured only one losing campaign (a forgettable 4-12 mark in 2005); seven division crowns; 12 postseason triumphs; and one world championship.
In an idyllic world, the heartfelt goodbye shared by Favre within Lambeau Field on that chilly March afternoon would have been the final scene of a brilliant career. However, in reality, the situation became rather complicated.
With a report coming in early July that the Mississippi native had an “itch” to return to the Packers, the subsequent month produced an uncomfortable back-and-forth between Favre and the organization resulting, ultimately, in the once unthinkable: the Packers trading the quarterback.
Swapping Packer green for the green of the New York Jets, Favre started all 16 contests for Gang Green while tossing 22 touchdowns—overshadowed, though, by a league-high 22 interceptions. Despite boasting an 8-3 record in late November, the Jets would lose four of their final five games and miss the postseason.
Upon announcing to the organization that he would—yet again—be retiring from the NFL in February 2009, the Jets released Favre from his contract three months later.
For the third and (presumably) final act of his career, the 40-year-old Favre joined his third franchise in as many years upon inking a deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
Channeling the powers which made him the first-ever player to claim three consecutive MVPs, Favre put forth arguably the most celebrated season to date. Guiding the Vikings to a 12-4 regular season mark, Favre threw for 4,202 yards; accounted for 31 touchdown passes (compared to a career-low seven interceptions); and a career-best 107.2 passer rating.
Following a gut-wrenching overtime loss to New Orleans in the NFC title game, Favre kept mum on whether he would be returning for his 20th season on an NFL sideline. On Aug. 17, 2010, Favre, as he had done on myriad occasions, advised to a football-adoring nation that he was not yet ready to ride off into the sunset.
The promise of another deep postseason run for the team hailing from the Land of 10,000 Lakes quickly soured, however, as the Vikings dropped three of their first four contests en route to holding a 3-7 mark following a 31-3 loss to Green Bay on Nov. 21.
With Minnesota limping to the finish line, Favre, resulting from injury, made the final start of his career against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 5, 2010. Two weeks after the Vikings put a ribbon on their season, Favre, to the surprise of no one, yet again announced his retirement.
In the ensuing three years, the talk centering around Favre has, primarily, focused on the present and, most importantly, future relationship with the organization in which he established and forged his legacy.
“It will happen someday,” Favre noted in respect to a return to Green Bay in July 2012, as reported by Yahoo! Sports. “That day will come. I haven’t lost any sleep over it, nor have they. They’ve gone on.
“I don’t know what the future holds…but I don’t need to have a day. I don’t need to have a retirement [where they] retire your jersey to solidify my career.”
While indeed no one can be certain as to what the future my hold in respect to the relationship between Favre and Titletown, the brilliance of the past cannot be easily forgotten. And, at least for one day five years ago, Favre, the Packer organization and the loyalists which encompass its fan base were able to share their mutual appreciation.