Favre Is a Part of New York, But Can He Make It There?

Brett Favre brings relevance to the Jets, but success isn't a given. Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas faltered when they switched teams at the end of their careers.
Brett Favre brings relevance to the Jets, but success isn't a given. Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas faltered when they switched teams at the end of their careers. (By Rob Tringali -- Getty Images)
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 7, 2008

One on-field story line towers above all others as the NFL's first Sunday of regular season games arrives: Will it all work out for Brett Favre and the New York Jets?

It has been a month since a dramatic late-night trade ended the quarterback's feud with the Green Bay Packers. That night, he joined the franchise that usually has been regarded as the pro football junior varsity in New York, overshadowed by the Giants, and as an afterthought around the league. Its biggest claim to fame in recent years was its identity as the opponent the New England Patriots were caught illegally videotaping last season in the Spygate scandal.

The Favre trade immediately made the Jets relevant again, perhaps more relevant than they've been since Joe Namath delivered on his victory guarantee in Super Bowl III.

But did it make them any good? That question will be answered beginning today when they open their season at Miami. The football-watching world that was so entranced by the Favre saga during training camp will start to find out whether the next and, presumably, final act of Favre's NFL career will more closely resemble the final football feats of Joe Montana in Kansas City, or those of Johnny Unitas in San Diego and Namath in Los Angeles.

"Whenever you can bring in a Hall of Fame player, it's always gonna work out," said Jets veteran tight end Bubba Franks, also a teammate of Favre in Green Bay, following a preseason game in Cleveland the day after the trade was completed.

But history says it doesn't always work out for Hall of Fame quarterbacks who move on to new places at the end of their careers. The final acts were brief and unproductive for Unitas, who played five games for the Chargers in 1973 at age 40, and Namath, who lasted only four games for the Rams in 1977 at 34.

By comparison, Montana's two seasons for the Chiefs in 1993 and '94 were otherworldly. He failed to recreate his Super Bowl magic from his San Francisco 49ers glory days. But he totaled more than 5,400 passing yards over the two seasons, at ages 37 and 38, and got the Chiefs to an AFC title game.

"Like everyone else, I wanted to see Joe Montana finish his career in San Francisco," Chiefs President Carl Peterson said. "I felt the same way about Favre in Green Bay."

Peterson, the man who swung the trade for Montana, said during a recent telephone interview that he thinks there are similarities between that situation and this one with Favre and the Jets. Favre turns 39 in October.

"The first question everyone asks is, 'Does he still have it?' " Peterson said. "With Namath and Unitas, it was obvious it was over for those guys. Then it's being able to protect him. We had a very good offensive line."

Favre clearly still has it, or at least he did last season in Green Bay when he was one of the league's most valuable players and guided the Packers to the NFC championship game before his temporary offseason retirement.

"He didn't have to retire," Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said as he stood in front of his locker at Giants Stadium during the preseason. "It's not like he was washed up."

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