(Brett Favre photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
(Tom Brady photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)
By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
Brett Favre was 27 and coming off a Super Bowl championship in 1997.
The NFL has long been a quarterback’s game and Favre was the quarterback against whom all others were measured back then. He was the league’s reigning MVP on his way to becoming the first $100-million quarterback, and, by the time he retired after the 2010 season, the most prolific passer in NFL history. Next month, Favre will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But the 1997 season is significant for another reason. It’s the last time the NFL played games without either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady on the field. Manning was a senior at Tennessee that fall and Brady a sophomore at Michigan. This September will mark the first season since then that one, the other or both will not be on an NFL field as an opening-day starter. Manning started his first opener in 1998 and Brady his first in 2002. But Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl last February, and Brady has been suspended by the NFL for four games for his role in Deflategate.
So let’s take a step back and assess the state of NFL quarterbacking that, for the first September since 1991, will not feature a Brady, Favre or Manning. Favre set the bar. Brady and Manning raised it.
Favre won a Super Bowl, Manning two Super Bowls and Brady four. Manning was a five-time NFL MVP, Favre a three-time MVP and Brady a two-time winner. Manning was selected for 14 Pro Bowls and Brady and Favre 11 apiece.
Favre retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer with 71,383 yards, 10,000 more than runner-up Dan Marino. Favre also became the first quarterback to pass for 500 career touchdowns. His 508 such strikes were almost 90 more than runner-up Marino. But Manning has since motored past Favre, passing for 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns to claim both career records.
(Peyton Manning photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)
Brady ranks fifth all-time in passing yards with 58,028 and third all-time with 428 touchdowns. But he turns 39 in August, and his pursuit of Manning and Favre will be slowed by this four-game suspension. He’d have to play four more seasons and average 3,478 yards and 28 touchdowns to catch Manning in the record book. Manning himself was 39 years old when he walked away and Favre 41.
Not only was that threesome productive, they were durable. Favre started an NFL-record 297 consecutive games in his career. Manning ranks second on that list with a streak of 208 consecutive games and Brady fourth with a streak of 111 games.
Brady and Manning were to their era what Graham and Layne were to the 1950s, Unitas and Starr were to the 1960s, Bradshaw and Staubach were to the 1970s, Montana and Marino were to the 1980s and Aikman and Favre to the 1990s.
Now one is gone and soon both will be gone – and the NFL will not be the same without them. Like Favre, they’ll leave a lofty measuring stick behind.