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Viking Funeral

Will Brett Favre be a hero or villain in Minnesota? It will depend on whether the wins come.

By 8.21.09

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Brett Favre must enjoy retiring. He's already done it twice. There will one day be a third; Favre signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday. It's probably the right decision for him. The Vikings, not so much.

Favre has always been a creature of emotion. It shows in his wild, unpredictable playing style, his eventful personal life, and his annual retirement dance. And he loves playing football. Loves it. The quiet life in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is pleasant enough. But it's not the same as being an NFL quarterback. No one really believed Favre three weeks ago when he said he was done with football.

Vikings coach Brad Childress called him on Monday, knowing he was attainable. That he wants to be wanted. Childress was right. The next day, Favre was under contract and practicing with the team. The smile on Brett's face was genuine at his introductory press conference. It feels great to be back, that smile said. There's nowhere I want to be right now but here, playing the game I love.

Love is not the only emotion driving Favre's comeback. He is said to loathe Packers GM Ted Thompson for getting rid of him. Brett can deny the revenge motive all he wants, but there is a reason he picked the Vikings. The Packers-Vikings rivalry is one of the game's bitterest. To beat his old team while wearing the hated enemy's purple uniform would taste sweeter than anything.

But enough about Brett. Football is a team game. How will Favre impact the Vikings? On the surface, it looks like a great match. Childress uses a Mike Holmgren-esque West Coast offense very similar to the one Favre expertly ran for 16 years in Green Bay.

The Vikings have a top-notch defense, a star running back in Adrian Peterson, and a solid offensive line. But incumbent quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels were not exactly inspiring fear in opposing defenses. Favre gives the Vikings a star at the only position where they didn't have one. Minnesota fans are already talking Super Bowl.

They shouldn't. Favre could hurt the team more than he will help it. The timing of his appearance is not a coincidence. By showing up now, Favre skipped all of training camp, along with its two-a-day practices, grueling workouts, and endless hours of playbook and film study.

None of the other players got to skip camp. Why does Brett get a free pass, along with the starting job handed to him on a platter? This will not endear him to his teammates. They have emotions, too. Favre's prima donna treatment and the unending media circus -- which included a helicopter -- means most of those emotions are probably not positive.

Then there are the other Viking quarterbacks. The fact that Childress pressed so hard to recruit Favre tells Jackson and Rosenfels that their coach doesn't believe in them. That they're not good enough to win. This is not good for morale.

Childress may need their services yet, so alienating them is not a good idea. Favre will turn 40 during the season, and recently had surgery on his throwing shoulder. His rotator cuff remains partially torn. He may or may not be able to add 16 more games to his legendary consecutive starts streak. A backup plan is essential in the NFL, and Minnesota's just got weaker. Quarterbacks who resent their coaches tend not to work as hard or play as well.

While Favre is on a two-year contract, his Viking tenure is probably intended to be a one-year experiment. If he disappoints, he's gone. The second year on the contract is insurance. It means that the Vikings can trade him away after the season and get something in return, whether draft picks or veteran players. With a one-year deal, the Vikings would get nothing if Favre suits up elsewhere in 2010.

Of course, Brett had a two-year deal with Jets, too. When he retired after the season, the Jets lost control over him. They got nothing when he went to Minnesota. The Vikings face a similar fate if history repeats itself. They've made a risky move. The upside is high, but so is the downside.

Regardless of what everyone else thinks, Brett Favre is happy to be playing football again. How the Vikings do this season will determine whether his teammates and fans share his emotions or resent them.

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About the Author

Ryan Young is Fellow in Regulatory Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.