Favre's NFL record stops at 297 straight starts
The New York Giants made sure his replacement struggled early and often.
Brandon Jacobs ran for a go-ahead touchdown midway through the second quarter, Eli Manning threw a lead-padding TD just before halftime and Ahmad Bradshaw added a 48-yard run to help the Giants beat Minnesota, 21-3, Monday night.
“Seems like I been hurt a lot worse,” Favre said. “I can’t believe something like this hasn’t happened before.”
Favre’s NFL-record streak of 297 straight starts ended because of his banged-up right shoulder and numb hand in a game moved from Minneapolis because the Metrodome roof collapsed under heavy snow early Sunday.
“He was having trouble with the numbness,” Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier said.
Frazier acknowledged that putting the
41-year-old Favre on injured reserve, ending his season and possibly his career, is possible.
“That may be a possibility, but I’m hoping not,” he said.
The Giants sacked Favre replacement Tarvaris Jackson four times, knocking him out of the game late in the third period and again in the final seconds.
New York (9-4) moved back into a first-place tie with Philadelphia in the NFC East. Minnesota, which went to the NFC title game last January, (5-8) was eliminated from the playoff race.
The game was switched from Sunday afternoon when the Giants couldn’t get to Minneapolis because of the severe weather, then was moved to the Detroit Lions’ indoor stadium with a steel roof. The Vikings were technically the home team at Ford Field—which was adorned with their logo at midfield and “VIKINGS” in the end zones — but they didn’t have much of an edge.
“The whole thing is bizarre,” Vikings radio analyst Pete Bercich said.
Nothing, though, was more odd than seeing Favre watch a game.
He stood on the sideline, trying to tutor Jackson at times, and sporting a purple knit hat, short-sleeved black shirt with a long-sleeved white shirt underneath, and black warmup pants.
The game drew an announced crowd of 45,910—there seemed to be at least 10,000 more people in the 65,000-seat stadium late in the first half—and some fans made the trek to see Favre.
Whether Favre, who spent the first 16 seasons of his NFL career in Green Bay, plays again for Minnesota in his 20th NFL season is uncertain. It appears his third return from a brief retirement will be the end—and he might not finish out the schedule.
“I am not going to play again if I can’t feel my hand,” Favre said.
Regardless, the man known as much for his skill as his stubbornness, as much for his greatness as his grit, will always have his special place in history.
He’ll be right alongside Cal Ripken, perhaps the ultimate modern-day sports iron man, who played 2,632 straight games for the Baltimore Orioles, a record that spanned 17 seasons—one fewer than Favre’s. But Ripken, of course, never had a 270-pound opponent stick a helmet in his ribs from the blind side.
Ricky Rudd started 788 straight races in NASCAR. A.C. Green played in a record 1,192 straight NBA games with four teams over 15 seasons. Doug Jarvis played in 964 straight hockey games for the Canadiens, Capitals and Whalers.
Before Favre, the record for most consecutive games started by a quarterback belonged to Ron Jaworski, set in 1984. Favre surpassed that record in 1999 and doubled it seven years later.
“I think about my streak of 116 games, and all the injuries I had to play through,” Jaworski said. “To go to 297, with the players now, bigger and stronger and faster, what he’s had to play through during that streak has been just unfathomable.”
Peyton Manning holds the second-longest streak at 205 games. He would need to keep it going for another 5½ years to surpass Favre.
After Favre and Manning, the next two longest current streaks belong to Manning’s brother Eli (100) and Philip Rivers (77).
Since Favre’s streak began, 239 other quarterbacks have started in the NFL, according to STATS LLC. That’s an average of 7.4 per team.
His longevity, to say nothing of his skill, has put him at the top of the NFL record book for almost all of the most highly regarded passing stats: 71,775 yards, 507 touchdowns, 6,295 completions. He also threw 335 interceptions during the regular season, the most of any quarterback.
Still, his consecutive starts are what stand out.
“It may be the most impressive streak in all of team sports in terms of durability and making it to game day,” said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who was playing linebacker for the Vikings when Favre’s streak began.
“This game, the physical toll it can take on you, and to do that over time is something else.”
Indeed, almost every great quarterback — from Unitas to Elway to Marino to Montana — has come down with the flu, or taken a big hit, or broken a bone, or dinged a thumb or sprained a knee and had to sit out a game. Or more. John Elway missed four starts in his final season, 1998, when the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl and sent the old QB out on a winning note.
He didn’t want to retire, he said, because he still loved Sundays. But it was the Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays he couldn’t deal with anymore. His body simply didn’t recover fast enough and the three-hour high of playing was no longer worth the week-long agony of recovering and getting ready all over again.
Favre is well past that point, too, which could very well explain his dramatic, repetitive and, yes, annoying late-career habit of retiring and unretiring, switching teams, dragging out his offseasons of indecision to the point of distraction for everyone involved.
But he kept coming back.
It would take more than two hands to count the number of times he should have sat but didn’t.
In his Green Bay days alone, there were no fewer than nine times when he was hurt so badly one week that his availability for the next game was in question. But he played, and on almost all occasions, he did more than merely show up.
He threw for 402 yards in a 1993 game against Chicago with a severely bruised left thigh.
He threw five touchdowns in a 1995 game against Chicago with an ankle taped so heavily he could barely move.
He threw for 288 yards in a 1999 game against Detroit with a lacerated right thumb.
After his first “unretirement,” Favre played every game of the 2008 season for the New York Jets, then revealed he had played the last several weeks with a torn biceps.
Just last month in beating the Cardinals, Favre threw for a career-best 446 yards in rallying the Vikings from a 14-point deficit with less than five minutes left in regulation.
His signature game might have come in 2003, when he threw for 399 yards and four TDs in a Monday night win at Oakland — the day after his father died of a heart attack.
“I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play,” Favre explained that night.
Ripken can relate to that work ethic.
“My dad always taught me that as a ballplayer, you have a responsibility to come to the ballpark every day prepared to play,” he said, “and if the manager decides you can help him win that day you will be in the lineup.”
For more than 18 years, Favre was in that lineup.
His streak ends short of the NFL record of consecutive games played — 336, by Jeff Feagles, a punter.
“I look at what I did, and it was pretty remarkable in its own right, just to play as long as I did and never miss a game,” Feagles said. “But for him, at the quarterback position, we all know he gets hit a lot.”