According to unbelievably incredibly reliable sources, Brett Favre will lace 'em back up in 2012 to take snaps behind center for whichever team needs him the most. It sure is gonna be great. We sure did miss him this year, though, and so did plenty of NFL teams who could have used his help.
The league was rife with quarterback injuries this season, and yet time after time, teams with issues behind center would be quick to categorically deny that they had any interest in Favre -- despite the statement issued by Favre on his own website.
"In spite of reports about playing with various teams, I'm enjoying retirement with my family and have no plans to play football. I haven't contacted nor have been contacted by any teams and all reports are inaccurate."
All reports are inaccurate! All of them, including the reports that claim he's retired for good! But teams across the NFL were too proud or stupid to hire a proven NFL legend who not only knows how to win, but who knows how to just go out there and really just get it done.
So while we wait for the ol' Gunslinger to return, we may as well take a look back and see what teams missed out on. How well would Favre had played as a 42-year-old in 2011?
First step: I looked at a stable of quarterbacks whose careers, according to Pro-Football-Reference, most closely resembled Favre's. From that list, I chose three quarterbacks who played as close to Favre's era as possible: Warren Moon, John Elway, and Dan Marino.
A quarterback's passer rating, of course, is a function of all sorts of things: his team's play calling, running game, offensive line's abilities to protect him, et cetera. But we're going to have to rip numbers out of their contexts one way or another, so we may as well do so here.
Between them, Elway, Moon and Marino put up passer ratings in their final seasons that were 93.6 percent as strong as those of their four preceding seasons. If we apply the same trend to Favre's numbers, his 2011 passer rating stands at 82.78. This formula is an attempt on my part to emphasize these quarterbacks' performances late in their careers.
Of those three, only Moon played at age 42 -- Favre's age in 2011. No other 42-year-old quarterback started over half his team's games since at least the 1980s. But while comparing 42-year-old Favre with 38-year-old Elway and Marino might seem a little off, Favre has ably demonstrated his ability to play well after his 40th birthday, and I'm a little more comfortable with the comparison than I would otherwise be.
Next question: which 2011 teams would have benefited from a quarterback with a passer rating of 82.8? Well, I rounded up the eight teams I reckoned to have experienced quarterback troubles in 2011:
- Jaguars. Blaine Gabbert was bad. Luke McCown was worse.
- Colts. Dan Orlovsky was actually okay, but the majority of the starts were made by Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter, who were not.
- Chiefs. Matt Cassel was lost for the season in Week 9, after which the subpar Tyler Palko made four starts.
- Redskins. Rex Grossman and John Beck were profoundly mediocre.
- Bears. After Jay Cutler went down in Week 10, Caleb Hanie made four starts and was pretty terrible most of the time.
In addition, the Raiders, Texans and Dolphins saw their starting quarterbacks go down with injury, but I'm not including them in this study, since their replacements actually stepped up and performed decently. Also, I'm not including the Broncos, because to combine Gunslingers is to be unclean.
So! Let's stack these teams' 2011 passer ratings against Favre's imagined 82.8 mark.
The Blaine Gabbert/Luke McCown Jaguars
Points scored: 243
Passer rating, across all quarterbacks used: 62.2
Points-to-passer-rating ratio: 3.91
Projected points scored with Favre as quarterback, using above ratio: 324
Allow me to be the first to admit that directly correlating passer rating and points scored is a big leap, but I think it's a solid enough indicator. As it stands, the Jaguars project to have scored 81 more points in 2011 if Brett Favre were their quarterback. Our question now becomes: when would those points have happened?
Man, I don't know. This is where we play with the numbers.
As it stands, the 2011 Jaguars finished 5-11, with five of those losses coming by one-score margins. Now, you can't sit there and tell me that Big Game Brett (which is what everyone always calls him) couldn't have worked his fourth-quarter magic and turned at least a couple of those losses into wins.
Remember, we have 81 extra points to play with. That's over 11 touchdowns. Give them two more wins and they're 7-9. Three, and they pull an even 8-8. That still wouldn't have been enough to get the Jags into the playoffs, but it's still a good place to be.
The Kerry Collins/Curtis Painter Colts (11 games)
Points scored: 150
Passer rating, across all quarterbacks used: 66.4
Points-to-passer-rating ratio: 2.26
Projected points scored with Favre as quarterback, using above ratio: 187
Since Dan Orlovsky was actually pretty okay, I'm restricting this study to the 11-week-long Collins/Painter regime. According to the above projections, the Colts would have scored 37 more points under Favre during that period.
Look at that: four of the Colts' first five games were lost by single-score margins. They wouldn't have made the playoffs no matter who their quarterback was, but if they could have headed into Week 6 at 1-5 or 2-4, perhaps they ...
... okay, still doesn't really matter. I just really wanted to see Brett Favre as a Colt. I wanted to commission a painting of Favre in the pocket, rearing back to throw, and the translucent ghost of Peyton Manning hovering behind him, guiding his throw, with the caption "I'll be with you always" at the bottom. Gee whiz. Can't you just imagine?
The Tyler Palko/Kyle Orton Chiefs (seven games)
Points scored: 71
Passer rating, across all quarterbacks used: 68.7
Points-to-passer-rating ratio: 1.03
Projected points scored with Favre as quarterback, using above ratio: 85
The Chiefs may have been 2011's strangest team. After opening their season with two profound, blowout losses, they lost their marquee running back, Jamaal Charles, and their best defensive player in Eric Berry. Then their quarterback, Matt Cassel, was lost for the year. Before the season was over, head coach Todd Haley was fired. And yet, somehow, Kansas City managed to tack together a 7-9 record -- only one game out of the division lead.
Also weird: look at that points-to-passer-rating ratio. It's almost 1:1. Down the stretch, the Chiefs usually played very conservatively on offense (again, 71 points over seven games), and relied on their surprisingly effective defense to keep things close.
Because this is a shamefully biased study, and because a conservative approach certainly ain't the way of the Gunslinger, let's revert to a simpler statistic -- fourth-quarter comebacks -- of which Favre has 30 over the course of his career. If he were able to flip those two close losses into wins (and beat the Packers in Week 15, as the real-life Chiefs did), the Chiefs would have finished at 9-7 and stood as the improbable AFC West champion.
The John Beck/Rex Grossman Redskins
Points scored: 288
Passer rating, across all quarterbacks used: 73.3
Points-to-passer-rating ratio: 3.92
Projected points scored with Favre as quarterback, using above ratio: 325
I should probably note that neither John Beck nor Rex Grossman were complete disasters at quarterback. They were just "kind of bad," and statistically, neither was more or less "kind of bad" than the other.
Our projected 2011 Brett Favre gives the Redskins 37 more points to spread out over the course of the season.
Even in the soft NFC East, it's doubtful that Favre could have turned the Redskins into a division champion. I would guess, however, that a healthy Favre could have flipped a couple of results and brought Washington to 7-9 or so.
Also, Jason Campbell was a young, solid, and steadily improving quarterback, and it's worth reminding ourselves once in a while that shipping him out of town for a fourth-round pick was a really bad idea.
The Caleb Hanie/Josh McCown Bears (six weeks)
Points scored: 85
Passer rating, across all quarterbacks used: 51.1
Points-to-passer-rating ratio: 1.66
Projected points scored with Favre as quarterback, using above ratio: 137
Before quarterback Jay Cutler was injured and declared out for the season, the Bears were 7-3 and had won five straight. Chicago started Caleb Hanie, and later Josh McCown, in his stead, and immediately lost five in a row.
Hanie, bless his heart, was a disaster through four starts. Painfully enough, three of the four games in which he started were lost by single-score margins.
Brett Favre projects to have scored 52 more points over that span. That's nearly nine more points per game. I'll concede that some of the studies in this piece are more pie-in-the-sky than others, but seriously: the Bears would have been significantly better under Favre.
Suppose Favre could have pulled out wins in two of those close games. The Bears would have finished at 10-6, and by virtue of their win over the Falcons in Week 1, they would have beaten out Atlanta for the final wild card slot.
Sure would have been something to see Favre play on another NFC North team. Boy. Sure would have been something.
There are a few other teams that could have benefited from Brett Favre's leadership, hustle, determination, grit, grittermination, leadergrit, hustleship, determinatorship, gritship, poise, confidence, gritpoise, confidetermination, determigrit, confhustlepoise, poisetermination, and ability to just go out there and just stack 'em up and knock 'em down and really take it to 'em and show 'em what's what and show us all a little more of that fourth-quarter magic one last time and show all these young kids a thing or two and really just go out there and dust it up and take it out and chop it up and just just head out there and lace 'em up and prove all the doubters wrong and remind us all what made him a living legend, one last time, and give the rest of the NFL the what-for one last time and provide leadership to a team in need and throw on those pads for old time's sake and perform with that do-or-die attitude that made him a winner and winning games for his team any which way he knows how, and maybe getting knocked down, but always getting back up, and showing all those so-called "pundits" what's what and shoot for just one more playoff run and take his team to the Super Bowl, which would serve as the perfect bookend for what has literally been a legendary career in the making and just heading out there and getting it done and finishing what he started and scrambling in the pocket and runnin' wild and heavin' bombs and dumpin' it off and really just mixing it up there behind the pocket and reminding America why we loved him so much and hey, win or lose, love him or hate him, just giving his all, day in and day out, having that killer instinct and knowing how to win.
Any team could, really. See you next season, Brett!