- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

“We don’t celebrate football records like they do in baseball,” Phil Simms said Sunday during the Chargers-Packers telecast. And Simms, as usual, has a point. How many football fans, for instance, know what the number 208 signifies … or the number 2,429 … or the number 14?

(Answers: The first is Jerry Rice’s career touchdown total, the second is Marshall Faulk’s yards from scrimmage in 1999 — 1,381 rushing, 1,048 receiving — and the third is Night Train Lane’s interceptions in 1952, a mark that still stands. Feel free to spike a football if you came up with even one correct response.)

So let’s celebrate this record Brett Favre is about to break, Dan Marino’s record of 420 touchdown passes. Let’s celebrate the record, a truly remarkable feat, and also celebrate the quarterback, who’s even more singular. After all, another QB will likely outdo Favre one day, but will that QB go 15 years without missing a start — 260 games and counting, including the playoffs? Will that QB, in his 16th season, still be whooping it up after a TD by hoisting a teammate, as Brett did Sunday to Donald Driver?

Favre will be 38 next month when the Redskins go to Lambeau Field. That’s an interesting number, too. Joe Montana was 38 when he played his last season. So were John Elway, Fran Tarkenton and, yes, Marino. Johnny Unitas should have retired at 38, when he threw three times as many INTs (nine) as touchdown passes (three). Sonny Jurgensen ruptured his Achilles tendon at 38. Steve Young suffered his last concussion — in his last NFL game — just two weeks before he turned 38.

Most quarterbacks don’t even last that long. The wear and tear on body and soul is simply too great. But Favre is still standing, still rejoicing — and still excelling. His stats against San Diego, one of the league’s more ornery defenses, were 45 attempts, 28 completions, 369 yards and three touchdowns. That’s right, folks, he threw as many TD passes Sunday — and the Sunday before that in Philadelphia — as Johnny U. did the entire season he was 38.

Touchdown No. 420 was definitely one for the memory bank. Just before the two-minute warning — and just after Green Bay had been turned away at the San Diego 1-yard line, a potentially crushing blow — Favre faded back and fired a 57-yarder to Greg Jennings that put Green Bay ahead to stay. Better still, the 31-24 victory kept the Packers’ record perfect at 3-0; by the close of the day, they were two games up on the Bears, the reigning conference champs, in the NFC North.

Chargers coach Norv Turner, who has been around some pretty fair quarterbacks in his time (Dan Fouts at Oregon, Troy Aikman, Brad Johnson), was duly impressed — if somewhat shell-shocked. “Brett Favre,” he said, “is an amazing guy. He’s playing like he’s 25 years old.”

That, of course, has always been part of Favre’s appeal — the ageless, “Little Rascals,” kid-from-the-neighborhood quality about him. He won his first college game at Southern Mississippi despite the handicap of a hangover, overcame a much-publicized addiction to painkillers in the mid-‘90s and still, after all these years, has an affinity for sandlot ball, for throwing passes in places he shouldn’t, for the sheer adventure of it. Which is why, in addition to Marino’s record, he’s also closing in on George Blanda’s mark for interceptions (277). He’s just two misguided missiles away.

Another part of his attraction, particularly for older fans, is that he could play in any era. His background in the wishbone, the offense used by his Mississippi high school team, would undoubtedly make him a terrific single-wing tailback. Had Favre come along in the ‘30s, he might have been Ace Parker or Sammy Baugh. (And let’s not forget, Southern Miss recruited him as a defensive back, so you know he could have gone both ways.)

It’s hard to think about Favre without thinking about that M. Night Shyamalan film, “Unbreakable.” Are you familiar with it? A security guard is the sole survivor of a train crash that kills over 100 people — he walks away with nary a scratch — and another character, one whose bones are exceedingly brittle, tries to convince him he’s a real-life superhero.

Why am I reminded of this movie? Because in July 1990, just before his senior year in college, Favre was driving around a bend and flipped his car — once, twice, three times. His brother had to smash a window with a golf club to free him from the wreckage. Eight weeks and one hospital stay later, Favre rallied Southern Miss to a season-opening win at Alabama. Seventeen years later, he’s getting ready to start in his 261st straight NFL game.

The touchdown record he sets, whatever it winds up being, probably won’t be unbreakable, not as long as Peyton Manning walks the earth. But there’s ample evidence to suggest Brett Favre might be.

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