In 1992, Ron Wolf, then the Green Bay Packers general manager, took a big gamble and was criticized by many for giving up a first-round draft choice to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for quarterback Brett Favre.
But all these years later, Favre continues to impress, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-0 victory over the Vikings at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Wolf is not surprised by what Favre can get done at age 38.
"You're talking about No. 4," said Wolf, who doesn't believe that Favre has lost a thing from his best days, which include winning three NFL MVP awards in a row from 1995 to '97. "... Goodness gracious, he looks pretty darn good to me."
Wolf took over as Packers GM in November 1991 and retired 10 years later. With Wolf and coach Mike Holmgren in charge and Favre playing quarterback, Green Bay played in back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one.
"I know they want to anoint all these other guys, you know [Tony] Romo and guys like that, but after [Payton] Manning and [Tom] Brady, I think he's still [best in the NFL]."
Wolf spent more than 30 years working in the NFL, but he surprised me by ranking Favre third. I would rate Favre No. 1 because he has been doing it for 16 years. Since Favre's consecutive-starts streak began in 1992, the Vikings have had 14 starting quarterbacks: Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb and now Brooks Bollinger.
Looking back on his decision to give up a first-round draft choice for an unproven product, Wolf said: "He was really good; he was a great college player [at Southern Miss]. I always thought he should have been the first player picked in the draft that year, in 1991. And he's certainly borne that out now, he's just a great football player. What makes him so great is he loves to play. He has a high regard and respect for the game, but I think the big thing is that he loves to play the game. He gets himself ready to play the game. What he's done is incredible."
Favre was a second-round pick by the Falcons in 1991 but was traded to Green Bay the next year. He played in only two games with Atlanta and routinely frustrated then-Falcons coach Jerry Glanville with his lack of discipline.
"We ate a little crap when we made that deal because we gave up a [first-rounder] for a [second-rounder]," Wolf said. "But once you got it going ..."
Wolf said Favre had the advantage of some great coaches at Green Bay; besides Holmgren, he also had Steve Mariucci, Marty Mornhinweg, Andy Reid and Mike McCarthy as quarterbacks coaches. All went on to become NFL head coaches, with McCarthy now leading the Packers. And Jon Gruden was an offensive assistant on the Packers staff in Favre's first three years in Green Bay before going on to be a Super-Bowl winning head coach with Tampa Bay.
Wolf said he attended Packers training camp last summer and was convinced they would be strong defensively.
"You could see that defense was pretty good," Wolf said after the Vikings were held to 247 yards and zero points Sunday.
"[Last year,] they were able to get two really good guys in free agency [cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett], and that's made a little difference I think," Wolf said. "... Getting a draft choice like linebacker A.J. Hawk helped a lot, too."
Told that the Packers have beaten the Vikings four times in a row, Wolf said: "That's nice to hear, because we had such a hard time when I was there even doing that."
The Vikings certainly have a lot of young players at key positions, particularly on offense. But the Packers are the youngest team in the NFL, with few veterans outside of Favre. And now they are 8-1.
A week ago, the Vikings held the great LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers in check, limiting San Diego to 229 yards of offense in an impressive 35-17 victory over a team that went 14-2 last season and entered the Metrodome on a three-game winning streak. There was jubilation in the Vikings locker room, with owner Zygi Wilf calling the victory a turning point in the season and looking for great things in the future.
The Vikings had a great week of practice, and there was nothing but optimism for Sunday's game at Lambeau Field, with the goal to gain revenge for the Packers' 23-16 victory at the Metrodome in Week 4.