- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008

It almost was obligatory to dump on Brett Favre in the offseason when he reneged on his retirement plans and then he and the Packers went through their bitter breakup.

It was argued that Favre had been waffling on retirement the last few summers, acting the diva, and that he owed it to the organization to be clear in his intentions.

Both sides played the he-said, they-said public relations game in the final weeks of their relationship, which encouraged the media and fans to take sides.

What was sometimes overlooked or trivialized in the drama was the elementary question of Favre’s value to a team, even if he was destined to turn 39 years old during the season.

It should not have been about how many seasons Favre has left in his body. It should have been about what he could do for a team this season because that is all that should matter in the NFL.

Both the Jets and Packers took a gamble on Favre, although the Jets had considerably less to lose than the Packers.

It is not difficult to see how the gamble is evolving after Favre picked apart the Patriots and led the Jets to a scintillating 34-31 victory in overtime that left them in first place in the AFC East.

This is what Favre does. He rescues teams from the abyss with his cannon of a right arm. He stares down defeat by making a play on third-and-15 that jump-starts the game-winning drive. He orchestrates a favorable outcome after the Patriots had delivered a devastating punch to the gut of the Jets with one second left in regulation.

The Jets are 7-3 now and in playoff contention because of Favre. He is not the only reason the Jets have been able to reverse their fortunes. But he is the most compelling reason. He has that infectious swagger that says, “We can do this. We can get this done.”

And that empowers his teammates. It gives them reason to believe in each game, even if he is still prone to throwing an interception that leaves everyone wondering, “What was he thinking?”

Just as Favre has reshaped the Jets, his departure from Green Bay has altered the Packers.

The playoff aspirations of the Packers are limited to winning the mediocre NFC North, a genuine possibility after they defeated the Bears on Sunday to raise their record to 5-5.

Yet these are the Packers who were coming off a 13-3 record last season and lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship game. Now these Packers have slid back to the middle of the pack and must win an unimpressive division or miss the postseason.

It is not a coincidence that one player has had so much impact on the direction of two franchises, with one trending upward and the other downward.

The verdict, of course, is not complete yet. Each team has six games left, which is time enough to cast the trade in a different light.

But from the evidence so far, Favre has made the Jets relevant again and given them a certain confidence that comes from defeating a longtime nemesis. Yet it would not be accurate to think that the Jets somehow have passed the Patriots.

The playoff window of opportunity before Favre and the Jets came about in part because of the season-ending injury to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Week 1.

Not that Brady would have fashioned any better numbers than Matt Cassel against the Jets.

But it is doubtful the Patriots would be saddled with a 6-4 record if Brady were playing this season.

It is to the credit of Favre and the Jets that they are exploiting the opportunity.

As for the bosses of the Packers, if they could do it all over again with Favre, would they make the same decision?

Not if they were committed to winning now.

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