- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brett Favre should have quit while he was ahead. It’s easy to see that now, but still hard to believe it would be confirmed by a few racy text messages instead of a 300-pound defender.

Favre’s season was off to a rocky start even before reports of his alleged hobby began making the rounds. He showed up late nursing a bum ankle and the tendinitis in his right elbow flared up soon afterward. Then the losses started piling up.

Counting Monday’s night’s beating by the Jets at the Meadowlands, Favre was lugging around a quarterback rating that is lower than any he’s posted for a full season in his 20-year career, and he’s already thrown as many interceptions _ seven _ as he did all of last season.

But it’s a measure of how much worse things have gone for Favre away from the field that he was only entertaining questions about his struggles on it.

“If you want to talk about what happened in the football game I would love to,” Favre said.

It was telling, too, that in the same game that he broke both the 70,000 passing yards and 500-touchdown barriers that Favre also became the all-time leader in fumbles with 162, one better than Warren Moon. That one spoke volumes about his durability, but unlike all the other marks Favre holds, it wasn’t one he set out in pursuit of at the start of his career.

Now Favre has managed to jeopardize the record he probably cares most about _ starting 288 consecutive regular season games, almost 100 more than his closest pursuer, Peyton Manning _ and if that streak is broken, it won’t be because he wasn’t tough or skilled enough to keep his place, but simply because he was too careless.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is investigating allegations that Favre sexually harassed former Jets game hostess Jenn Sterger in 2008, while both worked for the team, with voicemails and several graphic photos sent via cell phone.

“We’re trying to find out all the facts around it and then once we determine those facts,” Goodell said Monday from an owners meeting in Chicago, “then we’ll determine what the next step is from there, if any.”

Sterger has been largely silent about the episode, though her manager, Phil Reese, said, “We don’t want a quick resolution, but the proper resolution,” suggesting she’s keeping all her options open. For his part, Goodell hasn’t hesitated to suspend players for off-field incidents, even in the absence of criminal charges. And it’s just bad luck for Favre to be heading to the principal’s office not long after Ben Roethlisberger walked out with a four-game suspension.

Speaking of Roethlisberger, or Tiger Woods, or even Rick Pitino for that matter, Favre’s reputation and marketability may have already suffered a major hit because of the brewing sex scandal.

According to Forbes, he made roughly $7 million last year endorsing jeans, lawnmowers and hunting rifles, and he’s done a string of commercials in the past for blue chip athletic apparel and credit-card companies, all of them based on a persona that suddenly looks more sordid than solid. And unlike Big Ben, Tiger and Pitino, Favre won’t be commanding much face time after this season to rehabilitate his image.

As if that wasn’t trouble enough, Favre’s immediate problem is not losing his teammates. His support in the locker room has been unquestioned up to now, but the same team that planned on going to the Super Bowl _ and finished one Favre interception from going to the big game last year _ is 1-3 and going nowhere fast.

So even if Favre finds his groove and Minnesota roars back into contention, what happens if the commissioner decides in December to sit him down for several weeks for violating the league’s conduct policy? All those pledges of loyalty are likely to ring hollow by then.

“He took a chance on us,” guard Steve Hutchinson, one of three Vikings who flew down to Mississippi to talk Favre into returning, told Yahoo! Sports after the Monday night loss. “Everyone remembers him for that. There is genuine affection for him in here.”

Like more than a few things complicating Favre’s life at the moment, the question is for how much longer.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org