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'Muhammad Ali of football' gave it his all

Brett Favre’s greatness remains indisputable

Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre
Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre

Brett Favre

  • Inducted: 2015
  • Quarterback: 1992-2007
  • Height: 6-2; Weight: 222
  • College: Southern Mississippi, 1987-90


  • Inducted Pro Football Hall of Fame: 2016
  • NFL All-Centennial Team: 2019
  • NFL All-Decade Team: 1990s
  • Associated Press NFL MVP: 1995, '96, '97
  • Associated Press All-Pro Team (chosen since 1940): 1995, '96, '97
  • Pro Bowl Selection (played from 1950-2022): 1992, '93, '95, '96, '97, 2001, '02, '03, '07

During his 16 seasons with the Packers, Brett Favre might have been lauded by other legends of the game like no other player in team history. Whether it was current and future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, teammates, opposing coaches and players – you name it – accolades poured down on him in cascades and continued to do so into the early years of his retirement.

Here, for example, was what Hall of Fame teammate LeRoy Butler and his head coach, Mike Holmgren, had to say about Favre's leadership.

"He was the best teammate, in my opinion, ever and probably in all of sports because nothing bothered him, especially not color, especially not a guy's religion or sexuality or anything like that," said Butler.

In a similar vein, Holmgren, who coached Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young as an assistant in San Francisco, said: "There are a lot of fabulous quarterbacks, but not everyone has the locker room like (Favre) did. All his teammates loved him. Now, he was a knucklehead sometimes with me, but they loved him and they played hard for him and he had so much fun playing."

Two-time Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan and Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy couldn't have been more effusive in their praise of Favre for maybe his two most impressive records: most wins by a starting quarterback with 160 and most consecutive games played by a quarterback or any offensive or defensive player for that matter.

"You're judged by winning and he's won more games than any other quarterback who has ever played," Shanahan said after Favre's final season in Green Bay. In turn, Dungy said of Favre's 299, NFL-record consecutive games played streak: "I think it's the most impressive streak in sports history."

Super Bowl-winning coach and former Packers assistant Andy Reid credited Favre with getting him his first head coaching job in Philadelphia and also doing the same for the seven other Packers offensive assistants from 1992 to 2007 who followed the same path. "None of that would have happened without No. 4," Reid said, referencing one of just six numbers retired by the franchise. "You can say or think whatever you want, but all of us who got jobs got them because of No. 4."
As for Favre's place in Packers history, Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf said in 2012, two years after Favre retired as a player: "I think everybody will tell you now, the greatest player ever to play for the Packers is Brett Favre. That's his legacy." Bart Starr, who guided the Packers to five NFL championships in the 1960s, said after Favre's final game in Green Bay that there was no comparison between the two of them. "Brett's talent was just multiple levels above mine," said Starr.

Pre-Tom Brady and for much of Favre's career, Montana was regarded by many as the game's greatest quarterback ever.

Yet Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Bobby Beathard said before Favre's career was even over that maybe he was the best. "This is an awful thing to say because (Joe) Montana is a legend," said Beathard, who was GM when Washington won two Super Bowls in the 1980s. "But I don't know that Montana would have been as successful as he was had he been in a traditional pro system. However, I think Favre would be as successful in any system. He would be this good in any era."
This was how Pro Football Hall of Famer and the artistic genius of NFL Films Steve Sabol painted Favre's place in NFL history: "Mondrian, Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir."

Favre was acquired by Wolf in a 1992 trade that may rank as the biggest steal in NFL history. In return, Wolf gave Atlanta what was the 17th overall pick in that year's draft.

Favre began the 1992 season as the No. 2 quarterback but replaced an injured Don Majkowski in the first quarter of the third game and climaxed a dramatic 24-23 victory over Cincinnati with a 35-yard touchdown pass to backup receiver Kitrick Taylor with 13 seconds remaining. Favre started his first pro game the next week against Pittsburgh and held the job for 16 years and 253 consecutive games.

Following the 2007 season, Favre's last in Green Bay, he held NFL career records for passes attempted, passes completed, most yards gained passing with 61,655, most touchdowns passes with 442 and most passes had intercepted.

A short list of the lasting memories Favre left with coaches, teammates and Packers fans included his debut against the Bengals; his 40-yard desperation heave to Sterling Sharpe in the final minute at Detroit that gave the Packers their first playoff win in 12 years; his inspiring bounce-back from injury and five-touchdown game against Chicago in 1995; his touchdown bombs of 54 yards to Andre Rison and a record-setting 81-yarder to Antonio Freeman in Super Bowl XXXI; his last-minute heroics in the first three home games of the 1999 season; his overtime touchdown pass to Freeman in a Monday night thriller against Minnesota; throwing for 399 yards and four touchdowns in what seemed like an out-of-body performance at Oakland following the death of his dad; his 82-yard strike to Greg Jennings on the first play of an overtime win over Denver; and his Winter Wonderland performance in a playoff victory against Seattle in what also was his final win as a Packer.

Favre was the first NFL player to win three consecutive Associated Press MVP awards. He led the Packers to 40 game-winning comebacks. And he also led them to the best regular-season winning percentage in the NFL from 1992-2007.

After tearfully announcing his retirement on March 6, 2008, Favre changed his mind about playing again and was traded to the New York Jets. He played one year with the Jets and his final two seasons with Minnesota.

Favre was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He was one of only 10 quarterbacks in NFL history to be named to the All-Centennial team in 2019.

Favre wasn't the most conventional quarterback. "Brett Favre is the Muhammad Ali of football. He has his own unique style that probably wouldn't work for anyone else," St. Louis Rams general manager Charley Armey said in 2002. And Bill Polian, Indianapolis general manager, echoed those words in 2008: "That's the way he played – he was a swashbuckler, gave you everything he had on every play." That's why his greatness remains indisputable.

Born Oct. 10, 1969. Given name Brett Lorenzo Favre.