September 1, 2009

A Revealing Preseason Penalty

Not being a huge follower of the Minnesota Vikings, I had to wait to see this on the sports blogs today. Check out this play from a preseason game between Minneosta and Texas:

Now, that's an illegal block that Favre threw, no question. Fifteen-yard penalty. Favre also injured the other player, Houston safety Eugene Wilson, by going at the guy's knees that way -- which is why this is an illegal block, of course. Now, seeing as this rule hasn't been changed since 1956 and Favre has been playing NFL football since the creation of the internal combustion engine, I don't think he really has an excuse for doing that.

Brett didn't even look back to see if Wilson was okay. A scuzzy maneuver by a guy who's been around long enough to know the kind of injury that sort of hit can cause, but who has publicly lit every last shred of class he once had on fire by now, so are we really surprised by this? It's sad to see, but the former Sir Lancelot of Football has turned to the dark side as surely as Spider-Man In The Black Suit.

But here's my big question. Seriously, whether the hit was legal or illegal, explain this scenario to me, Minnesota fans:

You manage to pick up Brett-Freaking-Favre two weeks into training camp. A future Hall of Fame quarterback, fabled in legend and lore and the quite serious nominee of many people for "Best Quarterback Ever" is yours -- and apparently he's somehow become spiritually-motivated to help you best your biggest division rival. This is a phenomenal stroke of luck for you; singlehandedly, your anticipated fate as an also-ran fated to begin your season with a controversy brewing between two "C" or at best "C+" quarterbacks suddenly turns in to a season in which you legitimately will contemplate not only the division championship but are mentioned as a serious candidate for the NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Thanks to the stars and planets coming into alignment in just the right way, and your willingness to spend $12 million dollars for a single season of his services,* you get to add #4 to your roster.

That's the setup. Here's the question. In the third quarter of a doesn't-count-for-anything preseason game, you're going to line up the most uniquely skilled player in the league, the game-and-entire-season-changer for your team, as a FLANKER? So he can throw an illegal block and cost your team fifteen yards?

See, that was Percy Harvin, a promising rookie wideout from Florida, taking the snap and handing it off to a rookie running back whose name I don't even I don't know. Now, you might do a snap or two to an emergency QB or you might run a gadget play; the pre-season is a good opportunity to do that sort of thing because if you blow it, hey, the game doesn't count for anything. It's cool that you wanted to put Harvin in that situation and see what might happen. Psych out the other team, at least.

But, dude -- Favre was playing weak-side flanker from the start. And it didn't turn out to be a gadget play at all, not even a flea-flicker. It was an utterly conventional end-around run intended to get three or four rushing yards on the right. The only thing odd about it was where various personnel lined up.

Why, why, why -- in the names of Lambeau, Lombardi, Halas, Landry, and Walsh -- would anyone use as delicate and expensive an asset as a Hall-of-Fame caliber starting quarterback by lining him up as a weak-side flanker in a deadly dull third-quarter rushing play during a preaseason game?

Favre could just as easily have been hurt as the guy he illegally clipped (whose injury is bad enough that the MRI results are still inconclusive a day later). And in fact, Favre's rib is actually at least bruised, and which easily could have been broken while he was pulling this stunt had he caught Wilson at a different point in his stride. Now, Favre is a tough guy, to be sure, and he'll play through even the pain of a broken rib if need be. But how much good does Brett Favre do you if he's on the damned DL, Vikings Fans? What does it profit you to put him there in the preseason?

To make a cooking analogy -- if you are blessed with fresh white truffles, you don't use them on a peanut buter and jelly sandwich.

Minnesota doesn't deserve Brett Favre if they're going to use him like that.

* ...and $13 million more next season if you want him and $6 million if you don't; good use of that salary cap space!

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