NFL: No apparent reason for Brett Favre’s December decline
By Dan Pompei
The news out of Eden Prairie, Minn., is Brad Childress and Brett Favre have kissed and made up. And Childress is not even complaining that Favre’s stubble scratched him.
The focus has been on Favre calling too many audibles for Childress’ liking, but the underlying reason they had a sideline spat Sunday is that Favre’s performance over the last three games was not what it was earlier in the season.
If Favre had been producing the way he did in September, October and November, pulling him from a game never would have been a consideration. But Favre’s production has dropped off in December — again.
This is a trend that goes back five years, to shortly after Favre turned 35. Whether it is related to age or cold weather or lunar phases is uncertain, but the evidence is irrefutable.
In Favre’s first 11 games this season, he lost once. He threw 24 touchdown passes to three interceptions, averaged 8.03 yards per attempt and had a 112.1 passer rating. In Favre’s three December games he has lost twice. He threw three touchdown passes against four interceptions, averaged 6.77 yards per attempt and had a 76.1 passer rating.
Since 2005, Favre has a 62.7 passer rating in the month of December. He has thrown 15 touchdowns against 34 interceptions and lost as many games — 10 — as he has won.
The dropoff was most dramatic last season when Favre was playing for the Jets. In December of 2008, he had a 53.3 passer rating and an average per completion of 5.88.
At the time, the performance was proof in the minds of many that Favre was finished. His late-season play might have even introduced doubt in Favre’s own mind. But what few knew at the time was Favre was playing with a torn biceps tendon. He had an excuse.
If he has one now, we’re all ears, coach Childress.
“As a team we haven’t played well the last two or three weeks,” he said.
Fair enough. Favre’s protection has been streaky. Julius Peppers and the marauding Panthers hit Favre so frequently last week that left tackle Bryant McKinnie was told to take a seat.
That protection unit is not likely to encounter as many difficulties Monday night at Soldier Field against the Bears. And Favre, therefore, might be playing like it’s October again.
The most important thing for the Vikings is Favre has not appeared any different physically as the season has gone on.
“He still has a buggy whip for an arm,” Childress said. “He still can make all the throws he needs to make.”
One NFC pro scout concurred, saying Favre’s arm is “still live,” and that whatever inconsistencies he has been displaying should not be attributed to age.
Favre has not had an arm overload this year. He missed the first three weeks of training camp while hemming and hawing about retirement and had only 22 throws in exhibitions. He has come out of a handful of games early. And during practice this year, the Vikings have limited his throws to keep his arm fresh.
A few weeks back, Favre joked that the rookie wall really should be called “the older guys’ wall” and acknowledged it can be a long season for a 40-year old.
It’s convenient to blame Favre’s December problems on the weather, but he didn’t play too well in Glendale, Ariz., a few weeks ago, and no one was wearing parkas there. During Favre’s career with the Packers, he was 43-6 at Lambeau Field when the game-time temperature was 34 degrees or colder. But on the road in the same conditions, he was 1-6.
“It’s easy to relate it to age, I guess,” Favre said. “We old people don’t really like the cold weather, which is true. Most of us old people don’t have to play in it. I always found it funny that they put that stat up (about success in the cold).
“I was a Mississippi boy. When I first got (to Green Bay) everyone wondered, ’How will this guy adapt to our winters?’ and all that stuff. I hated it. It wasn’t that I was like, ’Man, I’d much rather it be 20 than 65.’ I didn’t particularly like it from day one. I was fortunate enough always to play on teams that found a way to win and playing against teams that really didn’t want to be there.
“Believe me, as a young kid from Southern Mississippi, 50 degrees was cold growing up.”
It should be much colder Monday night in Soldier Field. Then again, the thought of playing the Bears should be enough to make Favre heat up.