Brett Favre's Hall of Fame induction begins a run on quarterbacks

By Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange  |  Aug. 4, 2016 at 12:37 PM
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Since we hear so frequently that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, one little sidelight to Brett Favre's induction this weekend into the Pro Football Hall of Fame bears a serious look.

Favre and Ken Stabler will be the first quarterbacks inducted into the Hall of Fame in a decade.

Ten years.

We look around the landscape now and see pretty darn good if not great play from quarterbacks on a dozen or more teams ... from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers to Drew Brees to Ben Roethlisberger to Russell Wilson to Cam Newton to Eli Manning to Philip Rivers, and the list goes on. And, of course, a fellow named Peyton Manning, recently retired, will be a first-ballot automatic Hall of Famer, too.

Maybe things really do run in cycles. Quarterbacking in the NFL is at a high level now, and, while it has been a decade since a QB was honored at Canton, eight quarterbacks were inducted between 2000 and 2006 including Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino and Steve Young.

In a few years, as the current crop of front-liners joins Manning in retirement, there likely will be another run on quarterbacks at Canton.

But for now, Favre will be enshrined, and that's plenty. He deserves special mention, anyway, not just for the enthusiasm with which he played the game, as much fun as that was to watch, but for the effect he had on one of the league's cornerstone franchises.

After all, between Bart Starr in the 1960s and Favre's arrival in the 1990s, the Packers' list of starting quarterbacks included: Scott Hunter, Zeke Bratkowski, Jerry Tagge, Jim Del Gaizo, Jack Concannon, Don Milan, Lynn Dickey, Carlos Brown, Randy Johnson, David Whitehurst, Randy Wright, Don Majkowski, Anthony Dilweg, Blair Kiel and Mike Tomczak.

Between 1973 and 1991, Green Bay won more than eight games in a season exactly once. Between Super Bowl II following the 1967 season and the 1993 playoffs, Green Bay won exactly one playoff game.

Then Favre arrived.

Few other quarterbacks have a legacy so tightly intertwined with the history of their team. John Elway, maybe. Joe Montana? Great as he was, the man atop the 49ers' Mount Rushmore remains Bill Walsh. Roger Staubach? The "man" in Dallas was always Tom Landry.

Thus, Favre, as the most significant man in a team's modern history (since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970), stands virtually alone -- and yet many fans outside Wisconsin may not remember that he became an icon there only through happenstance.

Ken Herock was the Atlanta general manager who drafted Favre in the second round, "stealing" him from his pal, Ron Wolf, then the assistant general manager of the New York Jets, who liked Favre -- liked him a lot -- coming out of college but couldn't draft him because the Jets had no first-round pick and the Falcons picked ahead of them in the second round.

Wolf scouted Favre at a college all-star game and remembered telling the late Dick Steinberg, the Jets' GM and his boss, "This is the best player in the draft." Steinberg agreed.

Less than a year later, Wolf became the Packers' general manager. In his first few weeks on the job, he was at a Packers-Falcons game when Herock, an old pal -- they had worked together with the Oakland Raiders -- pointed out Favre and explained he would have to trade him because he couldn't control Favre off the field and because Jerry Glanville, the Atlanta coach, refused to play him under any circumstances.

Wolf was a kid in a candy store.

"From that point on, I spent four or five days a week talking to Ken Herock trying to somehow massage it ... so first of all, we don't lose (Favre) and secondly, this can be an eventuality."

Once the deal was sealed, Wolf said, "To me, the most important thing in professional football is having a person at (quarterback). I think we've got a future here in this guy."

You think?

That's why Wolf was voted into the Hall of Fame last year and now, Favre joins him. We don't need to belabor the point by stating the obvious, and we won't try to rely on statistics even though Favre attempted and completed more passes than any player in NFL history.

Favre passed the most important test of all: The eye test. Forget records. If you ever saw him play, you knew.

And maybe Herock deserves a bow, too, even though he was on the losing side of that trade, thanks to Glanville. After all, Herock drafted Favre. He also drafted Deion Sanders for the Falcons, and he drafted Steve Young and Doug Williams for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That's a pretty good resume for a guy with one of the great personnel track records that few people are aware of.

What people are aware of, however, is the current crop of quarterbacks, just a few years after the outcry from fans and so-called experts centered on a supposed lack of great quarterbacking.

Granted, the game has changed through the years, with modifications of the rules encouraging passing more and more. That's hardly the only reason there seem to be so many great quarterbacks today, however. College football has become a much more wide-open game than it used to be when teams like Texas or Ohio State or Oklahoma could dominate while throwing fewer than 10 passes a game.

Whatever reason you want to ascribe, seven of the nine all-time leaders in passer rating are active quarterbacks today, led by Rodgers. And lest you think it's all about numbers, five of those seven have won a total of nine Super Bowl titles. Yeah, in a few years they'll be clearing a lot more spots at Canton for quarterbacks. Again.

But first? Brett Favre.

Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

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