EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. | Yes, he was sacked. Yes, he threw an incomplete pass. Yes, the Jets offense did have to punt.
But when Brett Favre connected with tight end Dustin Keller for a 4-yard touchdown pass during the first quarter of the Redskins’ 13-10 preseason win over to the Jets on Saturday night, the future Hall of Fame quarterback helped legitimize the hopes of a franchise - and a fan base - that wholeheartedly has placed its faith in him.
Just 10 days after the Jets surprisingly dealt for the 38-year-old gunslinger, Favre made his debut as the team’s starting quarterback at Giants Stadium, bringing uncharacteristic relevancy to a preseason game.
“I feel like I’m a Jet. I do,” said Favre, who completed five of six passes for 48 yards and one touchdown. “Does that sound a little bit awkward or funny? Maybe a little bit … But I feel like I’m here for a reason.”
Though he lobbied to stay in longer, Jets coach Eric Mangini kept Favre in the game for 14 plays, just long enough to complete a touchdown drive on the offense’s second series to put the Jets ahead 7-0.
When backup quarterback Kellen Clemens jogged onto the field, he ended Favre’s unveiling almost as quickly as it started. For the rest of the first half, the unretired star watched intently from the sidelines, admittedly with a lot of catching up to do after playing in the same offense for 16 years.
Since he arrived at Jets camp a week ago, Favre’s every move has been carefully traced.
For his first practice a week ago, 10,500 fans flocked to the campus of Hofstra University on Long Island. When he fumbled a snap last Sunday and had to run a penalty lap with center Nick Mangold, a YouTube video was posted within the hour. Last night, of course, the fervor continued.
Favre was the last Jets player to run onto the field last night and was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd.
Fittingly, the Jets won the toss and elected to receive, ending the suspense. On his first play from scrimmage, Favre hit wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery in stride with a classic 11-yard slant.
“Same old Brett,” said tight end Bubba Franks, who played with Favre for eight seasons in Green Bay, “but just a different atmosphere.”
Favre completed two more passes in the first drive, a 10-yard throw over the middle to tight end Chris Baker and a 4-yard completion. But after the coaches decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 - and converted - the Jets’ first offensive drive stalled.
Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and linebacker Marcus Washington got to Favre on second-and-6, sacking him for a loss of 10 yards. On third-and-16, Favre threw his first incomplete pass of the night.
Favre could have been done for the night. But to rousing applause, he stepped back on the field for a second series with 9:08 left in the first quarter. After two running plays, he threw his longest pass of the night, a deep, 19-yard crossing route to Cotchery on third-and-3.
Three plays later, Keller got past Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh, and Favre found him in the end zone. As Favre threw both hands in the air, signaling the touchdown, his offensive linemen mobbed him.
After the game, Favre autographed the ball for Keller, a rookie, and wrote on it: “Congratulations on your first touchdown.”
Said Keller: “My first touchdown pass was from a living legend. It’s overwhelming, to be honest.”