With a new king of the QB hill, Begel's Favre bromance fades into the sunset
I know that there are millions, or thousands, or hundreds, or at least a few of you out there who have been following this path of argument that has made me look like such a stubborn old fool.
This is for those of you who have paid attention over the last decade or so, those of you who have disagreed with me, pilloried me, accused me of being crazy or senile or both. But before we get to the crux of this matter, a little background is in order.
In my entire life, I have had only three cases of what could accurately be called a bromance.
I loved Duane Eddy, a guitar player who is now 78 and lives in upstate New York. Eddy was the first person I ever heard make a guitar sound the way only he could, and I loved him with all my heart.
I also had a serious bromance with Arthur Miller, the playwright. I was in love with Marilyn Monroe (what teenage boy wasn't?) and Miller married her in 1956, the year I also read "Death of a Salesman" for the first time.
But my most committed bromance came relatively late in life, and the object of my affection was Brett Favre. From the moment I saw him complete his first pass to himself I bought into the whole "gunslinger" thing and was hopelessly in love.
And, like any love affair, logic went the window.
About seven or eight years ago, people began saying that Aaron Rodgers might be a better quarterback than Brett Favre. They tossed out statistics and numbers and other points and, like any good lover, common sense didn't matter to me at all.
"Harrumph," I harrumphed. Forget those numbers. Rodgers holds onto the ball too long, I'd say. He only makes safe throws to avoid the chance of an interception. He plays it careful. He calls out his teammates on the field.
I know about passer ratings and all that stuff. Sure, he's good, but he's not The Gunslinger.
It was kind of like comparing Julie Andrews to Brigitte Bardot. One you wanted to take home to meet your mom, the other one you wanted to do shots of Jagermeister with in an after-hours club on the wrong side of the tracks.
I have been writing professionally about sports for almost 50 years. I have always been bold and colorful and unafraid to take a stance that might prove to be unpopular. I often reveled in stranding myself alone on an island.
And I was perfectly comfortable on this particular island because The Gunslinger stood by my side. I mean, what harm could befall me with Favre guarding my flank.
And then came this past Sunday afternoon in Texas.
I watched Aaron Rodgers transform a football field into a cathedral where he was the vicar, the choir and the whole damn congregation, all rolled into one.
It wasn't just the final pass to Jared Cook that did it, although it was a play that reminded me of the gunslinger.
Instead, it was 60 minutes of the kind of leadership normally saved for places like Iwo Jima or Fallujah, not the Jerry Jones Palace in Dallas.
No matter who in his army fell to the slings and arrows of the enemy. No matter who dropped out of the lineup or missed a tackle or a catch or a pattern. It didn't matter who was blocking or who was missing blocks.
None of it mattered.
This was Leonard Bernstein on the podium, Picasso at his easel, Ike at Normandy. It was a perfect man with the perfect performance at the perfect time in the perfect place.
At the height of my Brett bromance, I steadfastly maintained that his play against the Oakland Raiders the night his father died was the greatest single-game performance I'd ever seen.
Favre told his teammates before the game about his father and how he was going to play, despite a heavy heart.
"I talked to the receivers before the game and told them 'Anything he throws, we catch," said Packers receiver Donald Driver at the time. "I don't care what it is – behind us, over our head, if we have to get on a ladder or jump on a guy's shoulder, we're going to catch the ball."
And they did. It was a game for the ages. Everyone rallied around The Gunslinger on this night. They made him a hero.
But last Sunday in Dallas, Rodgers rallied around everyone else. Whoever showed up on the field, Rodgers made them heroes. And when it was all on the line, when the final movement of this symphony was about to be played, he struck notes that were pure and perfectly pitched.
It was drama at the highest level. It wasn't life or death, but it was as close as a civilized society (or at least sports) gets. It was everything anyone could ask for, and more. Much more.
And it was the last step of my reluctant journey. It was the moment when I finally came to the realization that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback the Green Bay Packers have ever had.
So, for all of you who have been pushing me along this road (specifically, I mean you, Brian Bodendein) you can finally stop the argument.
For real. Take solace in the fact that Rodgers wouldn't be who he is without those years watching Favre. He learned how to improvise, but he also learned not to be too careless. He can do crazy things because he saw Favre do crazy things that worked. But he also knows when to hold it, when to not do those crazy things. He still needs to throw it away more. Too many sacks. So there's still room for improvement. But yeah, this is another level here.
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