SAN FRANCISCO – Forty-six members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee at least tried to drink only iced tea and go straight to bed after dinner Friday night.
Because we’re on the West Coast and all the TV money is geared to the East Coast, the opening bell on this year’s selection meeting was 6:30 a.m. As a selector, I can tell you we’ve been told to keep the discussions on the 18 finalists moving quickly so we can wrap things up by 2:30 p.m.
Ironically, Brett Favre, who never met a question he couldn’t spend 20 minutes answering, should help speed things up considerably.
Even among Hall of Famers, there are players who stand out. When Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were selected in the same class in 2010, basically the first presentation went, “Um, Jerry Rice” and later someone spoke up and said, “Ah, Emmitt Smith.”
We were free to debate, but despite popular opinion, we aren’t blithering idiots. At least not blithering.
Favre is one of three first-year eligible finalists. The record-breaking ironman who played 20 seasons is joined in that group by offensive lineman Alan Faneca and receiver Terrell Owens. Faneca, with nine Pro Bowls and six first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections, is the next closest thing to a lock. As for T.O., I’m convinced there are no wide receiver locks not named Jerry Rice.
Favre spent last season patching things up with the Packers in advance of Tuesday’s selection. So they will cuddle their way into the Canton, Ohio, shrine in August.
But the Vikings always will have 2009. Six seasons later, Favre is still the last Vikings quarterback to win a playoff game, a 34-3 rout of the Cowboys in the final playoff game at the Metrodome.
Like the rest of us, Mark Wilf was anticipating a smooth ride for Favre’s candidacy when the Vikings owner and president spoke with reporters at the Super Bowl 50 media center on Friday.
“Certainly, flying down there [to Hattiesburg, Miss.] and meeting him and bringing him up to Minnesota was a great experience,” Wilf said. “And, of course, his two games against the Packers were special moments for him, I know.
“That whole season, the whole 2009 season was a special ride and we’re always going to be very grateful to Brett for his services and what he meant to our franchise that year. We wish him all the best. We know he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback and deserves all the accolades he’s going to get.”
Favre won three league MVPs and a Super Bowl with the Packers. But arguably his best season came in 2009, at least up to the point when Bad Brett threw the interception in New Orleans that turned a potential game-winning field goal attempt into an overtime sucker-punch loss in the NFC title game.
With a career-high 107.2 passer rating and only seven interceptions — a career-low as a starter — Favre led the Vikings to a 12-4 record, two wins over the Packers, a last-second throw for the ages to beat the 49ers, the NFC North title and a first-round playoff bye.
Determined to stick it to the Packers for not taking him back in 2008, Favre had arm surgery after retiring — again — from the Jets after one season. The Vikings were loaded with talent, except at quarterback.
“There was a series of [key] moments before we got him,” Wilf said. “But I think he also got a sense that we were a team at that point that had a lot of good pieces together. He wanted to go to an organization [like that]. I think he knew our division well enough, so it was a host of things. … It came together and we’re happy it did for that year.”
Favre did play another season that was as disastrous as 2009 was magical. But come Saturday morning, there are really only two words a selector needs to hear: