Promise of big things
Note: This story was published in the Milwaukee Journal on Aug. 6, 1992.
Green Bay - Brett Favre sat in reflection as the names of some of the great quarterbacks of the National Football League - Dan Marino, John Elway, Troy Aikman and Jeff George - were cited for his consideration.
Surely, he was asked, you lack the pure physical talent needed to be included with that crowd, don't you?
"I can be," Favre said, and when his startled interviewer looked up, Favre didn't change his impassive expression. "I can do anything they can do. I just haven't proven it yet."
Meet irrepressible Brett Favre, who wants all of Wisconsin to get to know him, support him and ultimately celebrate with him after he leads the Green Bay Packers back to the Super Bowl.
Sooner rather than later, mind you.
"I was sitting out there today by myself on the field and I said, 'This is going into my second year; I'm still a backup quarterback,' and I was surprised," Favre said.
"I expect to be a starting quarterback. I'm looking to be a starting quarterback here soon if Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf feel I'm ready to play," he said, referring to the Packers' coach and general manager, respectively.
The Packers committed to Favre, 22, in mid-February when they acquired him from Atlanta for a first-round draft choice. Shortly thereafter, Holmgren committed to Don Majkowski, 28, as his No. 1 quarterback.
Outwardly, at least, nothing has changed after two weeks of training camp. But given Majkowski's obvious struggles the past two seasons and Favre's obvious promise, it is a situation that could change overnight.
"I think experience counts for more at quarterback than any other position," Holmgren said Wednesday. "I'm more convinced now than I was when we traded for Brett that he has a bright future in this league, if he continues to work the way he's working. He has really impressed me with his leadership. I think he's having a good camp."
Favre, son of a Mississippi high school coach, imagined what might be going through Holmgren's mind.
"Mike's sitting up there in his office thinking: 'I want my more experienced guy being a starter rather than Brett. Who knows? He might show up with three chicks on his arm or something like that.' Of course that wouldn't happen, I'm just saying that," a smiling Favre said.
There is no reason to suggest that the Packers want to play Favre this season. After all, he spent a wasted rookie season in Atlanta, where the Falcons' run-and-shoot offense doesn't even remotely resemble Holmgren's new system.
But that won't stop the impatient Favre from pushing and competing until he gets his shot. With the designated No. 2, Mike Tomczak, holding out, Favre said he couldn't foresee being any lower than No. 2.
Has Majkowski outperformed him so far?
"Well, I'd say it's close," Favre said. "I think the average person just watching can tell that nobody's really doing anything spectacular, but games is when you make big plays.
"I'm behind Don. He's a great guy. We're totally different - style of play, person - but that doesn't mean I don't like him. Don is a really good quarterback. I still believe that. As a quarterback, I look up to him. Obviously, he goes out some days and doesn't throw, but he's proven himself and he doesn't need to go twice a day and kill himself.
"I can see what Mike's thinking. Don has been successful here, he's been hurt and this is a new era. He's going to give Don an early chance to start over and be like he was that one year. If he can do that, hey, it's hard to beat somebody who went to the Pro Bowl. If he can be like that, then I'll have to be the backup."
Sometimes Majkowski will give Favre a lift after practice for the 15-minute drive to the St. Norbert College training site. Favre said each understood the other's motivation, but the mood was friendly.
They are two great competitors but only one shall play. Favre, supremely confident in a matter-of-fact sort of way, is convinced his chance will come in 1992.
"I really feel I'm going to play a lot this year, and I think everybody else does, too," he said. "The toughest part is becoming a starting quarterback. Once I'm in it's going to be over. I really believe it. Just like college."
Favre became a regular in the second game of his freshman season at Southern Mississippi. He started all four years, becoming almost a legend in Hattiesburg by playing with extreme pain and directing upsets of Alabama and Auburn in 1990.
"You have to look up to one certain guy," Favre said. "Miami's got Dan Marino. San Francisco has [Joe] Montana. In Houston, it's Warren Moon. We're lacking it. We really need a foundation.
"I don't think it's anybody's team. There's a lot of new guys here and still a lot of old guys, but they are all hungry to win. They don't care who it is.
"I feel good about my opportunity. The thing about it, I can see it in the guys. They feel like, 'You're going to be our man some day.'
"I was out there today watching practice and this guy comes up and puts his arm around me. I looked up and it was Tony Mandarich. Never said a word to each other, he just leaned on me. Three or four plays later he just walks off.
"That never happened in Atlanta. Some people would say, "What the hell is that?' But you feel something there. If it's somebody I don't care about, I'm not going to walk over and put my arm around him.
"I will play as hard as anybody on that field, if not harder. Sometimes I might go overboard. Mike was really mad the other day. I juked a guy and turned upfield, and he said, 'Hey, get your butt down! You're no hero here!'
"I was thinking to myself, 'Bull! I can tell you a million times I dived for first downs, got up and said, what the hell did I do that for?' But when you do that, those offensive linemen and the fans just love it."
Yet Favre admitted that he still needed work managing the offense. In a scrimmage Sunday at Lambeau Field, he wound up running around the backfield on about five pass plays. Quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci doesn't want that much helter-skelter, although he acknowledged that Favre made some big gainers from broken plays at Southern Mississippi.
"This is not a Fran Tarkenton deal," Mariucci said. "He completed 42% of his passes during team drills in the minicamps and 75% in training camp. That tells me improvement, but he just needs to continue to make better decisions.
In retrospect, Favre said, he could have made a better decision June 24 and not entered the Hattiesburg nightclub that he hadn't patronized in a few years. Favre wound up charged with public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and using profanity. He strongly denied being at fault and said the incident wouldn't prevent him from socializing in bars. "I'm as nice as they get, but 99% of the people on this team go out and have a beer and I'm going to continue to do it," he said.
Perhaps the more important issue is whether Favre intends to make the necessary commitment to become more of a thinking-man's quarterback. He conceded that his work habits with the Falcons were questionable, but he said he had worked much harder in Green Bay and would continue to do so.
"I'm not a great studier of the game, but talent alone won't get you there anymore," he said. "I live by myself in an apartment, and I have nothing else to do. I've got to be ready.
"Guys like [Steve] DeBerg, instead of loading up with the fellows and going down to the pool hall, he's going home and studying film. I watch a little film, then at practice I go 100%. At 22, you don't want to treat your job as the end of your road. I still want to have some fun, but my reason for being here is to lead them to the Super Bowl."
Feb. 11, 1992: Favre joins the Packers after trade with Falcons
Aug. 6, 2008: Packers trade Favre to the Jets