Admit it, you winced. We all did. It was only a matter of time that Brett Favre's name would surface — call it an obvious lockout syndrome, if you will — during a slow news cycle.
And though there is nothing even close to concrete about the idea of a Favre comeback, with former teammate and one-time best chum Ryan Longwell saying the QB is enjoying a life of family and lawn care, we still don't fully buy it.
Folks, I think it's over this time. Really. But Favre has left a legacy that soon won't be forgotten. He'll be remembered as a terrific warrior and game battler, no matter the conditions, but also as a waffler and, most sadly, a didn't-know-when-to-quit hanger-on.
But those qualities are not uniquely Favrian, and it has been unfair to cast them as such. No, many players share his toughness, his vanity and his inability to close the door on a once-brilliant-but-now-fading career.
For every Barry Sanders or Jim Brown, men who stepped aside at their peak and even prior to their twilight, there are dozens of stars who have failed to recognize when enough is enough. This is more the norm.
And there are several stars who share the Favre gene. That DNA exists most strongly in these current players who might one day follow in No. 4's footsteps. And not shockingly, a few of them are quarterbacks.
If there's ever a player who will have to be torn from the field, it's Manning, who might have a number to chase soon: Favre's 297 consecutive-games streak, which ended last season. Manning stands at 208, and assuming there is a full season in 2011 (and every year thereafter), he will be looking to pass Favre's streak sometime around Week 10 or 11 in 2016. Manning is what NFL people semi-mockingly refer to as a "football nerd" of sorts, and perhaps he can quench that thirst with coaching at some point. I think he probably would make a great GM or team president in time, similar to what John Elway is trying to become. But it will take some time before the 35-year-old will be ready to give up on playing, and you can bet that some other team will come calling if the Colts decide to cut him before he's ready to hang up the spikes.
In a recent Funny or Die spoof on the lockout, the 36-year-old Lewis is running around a fake football field in Iowa blindsiding Taylor Lautner (wouldn't we all like a few cracks at that?), and that part really only is funny because it's Lewis. One, because he lives to crush people. Two, because the man probably never will give up a career playing, at least not willingly. (There is a third reason about being scared to find out what Lewis' post-football career might look like, but we'll table that until the time comes.) Book it: He will play beyond when he should. And we will cover it with simultaneously Favre-like enthusiasm and distaste.
The recent knee injury puts a serious dent in the 37-year-old's chances of signing with a team quickly and making a serious impact with a team this season. And that's just it: He needs to find a new team. But Owens will not go quietly into the night. Like him or not, T.O. is a show, and people seem moderately interested in what he is up to. He's also one of the game's best wide receivers ever. That must be said. Desperate teams do strange things. Willing football players who work and train as hard as Owens does cannot be written off quickly. His best years might be well behind him, but the smart money says Owens has at least one last gasp before he walks away.
This is an interesting case study. I easily could have chosen Tom Brady and Drew Brees and argued that these two great quarterbacks, both future Hall of Famers, will face great difficulty when their football mortality stares them in the face. No doubt they will. But I suspect they will be more judicious when it comes to ending things. It has nothing to do with their levels of competitiveness; it has everything to do with how their careers have been painted to this point. Early in his time in the NFL, McNabb played the no-respect thing beautifully. It was his business card and badge for years — "Donovan McNabb, Disrespected Quarterback" — and most media and fans reran this element of his résumé every time they mentioned him. But now it has become a crutch, and a failing one. The 34-year-old has a defiant side to him, which McNabb often holsters by turning the blame on his doubters. But as his play has taken a nosedive, those excuses are turning a bit rancid. Once teams stop calling him, you can expect to hear something out of McNabb, something sad and insipid about how a few bad apples have ruined his rep in the NFL. It's partly his competitive nature, but it's also a sliver of insecurity he always has had, I believe. Just like Favre.
Come on, like I needed to mention this. Part Vaudvillian performer, part annoying pest, Ochocinco fits the holy Favre trio: talented, fading and limelight-loving. But if the patient Marvin Lewis is willing to walk away from his onetime son-like figure, how many other coaches will want to dance with this devil? Ochocinco is a natural for TV, of course, even if he is a bit of a dilettante, and he certainly appears to enjoy playing football. We'll see how many more chances the 33-year-old gets, but you know he'll make some noise until someone gives him that chance.
A few years ago, he might have topped my list, but last season's semi-step-aside for the Jets was semi-admirable. Yes, they wanted him and yes, they catered to his ego plenty, but Tomlinson also saw the wood for the trees: He knew he would not be the top dog anymore in a partnered system with that backfield. But it's also clear that Tomlinson also believes he's the best at what he does, and one of two things is likely to happen. Either Shonn Greene succeeds, and Tomlinson, who turns 32 on June 23, asks the Jets to let him play elsewhere, or Greene struggles and L.T. begs and pleads for a shot at his old glory. He's too much of a gamer not to have that itch again. And though he's incredibly likable, he also carries somewhat of a flinty football demeanor; it's one of the reasons he was so good for so long, but it also could be what gives his career a "King Lear" like finish.