Six months removed from the end of the NFL season and still two months away from the start of official NFL football and players, fans and coaches alike are feeling “the itch”. Everyone’s “itch”, of course is a little bit different, but none seems to be more interesting or newsworthy than the one that has apparently gotten into Brett Favre. My guess is that if Favre is itching already, than it’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll see him suiting up again this fall. The bigger question, it would seem, is with whom. Or from a Ravens fan’s perspective, would he or should he consider a run with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008?
If I had to lay odds on Favre’s chances of coming back this season, I’d put them at 75% or better. Remember that the ink was barely dry on headlines of his retirement before he opened the door back up saying that he’d be open to returning if Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s heir-apparent, were injured. Now it seems just a matter of deciding whether or not the Packers will be looking to Favre as their QB next season. The Packers it seems have been itching to get the Aaron Rodgers era underway, and I suspect we’ll find out soon to what degree Favre may have felt pressed into retirement by the team.
If that’s the case, and Favre is available than the Ravens could be a logical destination. I have never been a big fan of Favre’s and can think of a number of reasons to hope that he doesn’t come here, but even I can see the possibilities that Favre brings to this team, and can’t help but be somewhat intrigued.
The Ravens have been surprisingly inactive this off-season. A head coaching change seemed to signal an era of sweeping change, yet now that the dust has mostly settled, the changes in personnel have been minimal. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti indicated at the press conference introducing his new head coach that he felt the Ravens had the personnel on the field to compete right away, the Ravens failure to sign any free agents outside of special teams seems to back that up. This was further evidenced by the fact that the Ravens drafted for depth in April, with only Joe Flacco projecting to have a shot at a starting job.
Even though it’s easy to point to injuries as the biggest reason for a disappointing 2007 season, and to blame the overall performance of the offense on the ineptitude of the former head coach, I still believed that the front office would do something to set up John Harbaugh better offensively than the previous coach. With that said, the Ravens look to return 19 of 22 starters from last season, with the only turnover being at the key offensive positions of quarterback, center and left tackle. Those were 3 of the biggest injuries that the Ravens were forced to deal with last season, and all 3 are not coming back.
The turnover, and shuffling of the offensive line is probably the biggest thing standing between the Ravens and a successful 2008. How quickly these guys will be able to gel will be a huge determining factor in the teams success. The relative inexperience of the offensive line will also certainly have a lot of bearing on who should fill the open quarterback position, and how successful they will ultimately be.
Convincing Favre that he’d stand a chance behind the Ravens’ O-line might be the biggest thing standing in the way of luring him here. Remember though that the 2005 Ravens allowed 42 sacks on their way to a 6-10 record. While rebounding to a 13-3 record in 2006, they allowed only 17 sacks. The biggest difference between those two seasons was the veteran presence of Steve McNair behind center, not sweeping changes on the offensive line. McNair it seemed had the veteran savvy to sidestep the pass rush and to hold the ball until the last possible second but not too long. McNair also brought a confidence to the offense that can’t be understated. A confidence that would likely be difficult to have with any of the current QB prospects on the roster.
Favre and the Ravens just may have enough in common to create a mutual interest. Both appear to still have just enough talent to make one last run at a title before beginning a new era in their respective histories. The defense, which looks to return 11 starters, includes players like Trevor Pryce and Samari Rolle who may be looking at their last runs at championship glory. It also includes at least 3 impact veterans in Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs who’ll be playing for contracts, as if those guys needed more reason to turn up the intensity. Without Favre, or some other veteran at QB, the 2008 version of the Ravens will likely be more of the same, an elite defense anchored by an inept offense, too busy trying to get out of their own way to be effective.
The Ravens schedule looks brutal for 2008; I can’t remember a season since the league went to the 8-division format where both wildcards came from the same division. In 2007, it happened in both conferences. The AFC South sent the Colts, Titans and Jags, and the NFC East sent the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins. The Ravens get to play them all in ’08. The good news is that the rest of the division has to face those teams too. Therefore it could be reasonable to believe that 9 wins could take the division in the AFC North this season. With Favre, the Ravens could reasonably expect to win 9 or 10 games in ’08.
On the up side, Favre would bring veteran savvy and presumably confidence to an otherwise forgettable offense, his quick release and shifty elusiveness would be invaluable as this offensive line begins to gel. He’s got something to prove, and much like the Ravens can see his window of opportunity closing quickly. He still has enough arm to make all of the throws, and is coming off of a playoff season, which ended in disappointment. Favre won’t be coming back to simply hang around, he’ll be on a mission for sure. And lastly, and most simply, he’s far better than any of the other options presently on the roster.
On the down side, Favre is a gunslinger who often makes the throws that drive coaches crazy. His high risk, high reward style can leave the defense on the field for inordinate amounts of time even when he’s playing well, far from the game manager role the Ravens have been seeking since the departure of Trent Dilfer. While Favre’s track record is proven, he’s probably still not he guy that you’d want mentoring your rookie, first round QB. For my money, the only difference between Brett Favre and Vinny Testaverde is the results. Both rely more on their natural abilities than fundamentals, both make the exasperating decisions that drive coaches crazy, and both are just as likely to throw a game changing interception as they are a game winning touchdown. But at the end of the day, Favre has a proven track record of success, and Vinny is just Vinny, I still wouldn’t want either charged with teaching my young franchise QB the ropes.
Furthermore, despite his resurgence last season, Favre has been bad more often than good over the last 5 seasons, and if the Packers are ready to turn the page on their golden boy there may be more to the story. He has also been blessed in Green Bay with physical receivers who fight for the ball. If the Ravens could mimic that here, any QB might stand a good chance at success. Favre was also surprisingly bad in cold weather last season. If the Ravens are looking to Favre to spark a playoff run, he’ll surely have to win a couple of big games in the elements.
Bringing in Favre would certainly make the Ravens look like a more attractive destination for any wide receivers that may find themselves out of work in the near future. It may motivate the front office to pull off a big trade to upgrade at WR. Nothing against Mason, Clayton and Williams but they’d sure look a lot more formidable with a true #1 at WR.
First things first I suppose, and Favre is thus far denying rumors of his “itch”, but it’s fun to think about. What else is a Ravens fan supposed to do when the off-season has me “itching” for the start of the regular season? I’m guessing the Favre rumors are just beginning.