A Tale of Two Quarterbacks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

Only a handful of professional football players have been able to transcend their team identity and become as big as the NFL itself. “Broadway” Joe Namath did it in the ྂs and Deion “Primetime” Sanders did it in the ྖs. Two quarterbacks have dominated the press and public eye this decade. Michael Vick and Brett Favre may not have been the two best quarterbacks of the last 10 years in terms of championships, but they are by far the most interesting. While their playing styles are polar opposites, they have both experienced incredible ups and downs as well as tumultuous personal lives and very public scandals. However, as the calendar flips to a new decade of NFL stars, Vick is viewed by the public as a much more agreeable figure.

Two statistics define the 20-year career of Brett Favre: most career touchdown passes and most career interceptions thrown. He will break your heart throughout the game and then win it back on the final drive, or perhaps break it even more. Though this season makes Favre out to be an old man who has had the game pass him by, it wasn't always that way.

There was a time when the term “gunslinger” didn't exact an exasperated groan from America, and when any Favre throw into triple coverage could be forgiven by his boyish grin or playful snowball fight with the offensive line. He is a traditional drop-back passer who has unwavering faith in his arm to fit the ball into windows that aren't there, especially this season.

The tale of Favre's demise begins five years ago, when his retirement waffling began. He gave varying answers about his desire to continue before formally retiring in a misty-eyed press conference in 2008. Favre could have retired as one of the most loved American sports figures ever, but he changed his mind. If Favre hosted an ESPN one-hour special every summer, it would be called “The Indecision,” and Lebron James would probably like his style.

Following the 2008 press conference, Favre wanted to return but his beloved Packers said no, and his rights were traded to the New York Jets for a year of statistical obscurity and a mediocre finish. He would then retire again, only to be coaxed out by the Packers' archrival, the Minnesota Vikings.

This choice has turned out to be worse than all of his playoff game interceptions combined. After a missed shot at glory in 2009, Favre retired again from Minnesota and then, drum roll, please, decided to return for one more season! This season has turned out to be one of the worst of Favre's life. Aside from an abysmal record with the Vikings and a string of injuries (he is an old man, after all), Favre's off-the-field throws are being intercepted just as much as the ones on it.

It was recently revealed that, during his time with the Jets, Favre allegedly sent lewd texts and pictures to sideline reporter Jenn Sterger. This raised questions about his character, and many assumed we had another Tiger Woods situation. Though nothing has been proved, this incident has caused the media and many fans to finally see Favre as the attention-seeking egomaniac that some of us saw in those first “retirement” press conferences.

Inversely, a graph of Michael Vick's career would go straight up, and then come crashing down. Fortunately for him, it seems to be on the rise again. Vick was a highly touted prospect in college, and he came into the league in 2001 as the number-one overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons. While he set passing records at Virginia Tech, most people simply viewed him as an “athlete.”

Vick's style actually translated to the NFL with ease. His quick cuts, smooth stride, and precise spin moves could not be more different from Favre's erratic style, and his playing electrified the Georgia Dome and the city of Atlanta. Vick also possesses a strong, accurate arm with a quick release. However, at that point in his career, he was described as a runner who happened to play quarterback.

Fans who watched Vick excel with the Philadelphia Eagles this season will note that this description is no longer accurate. He has changed his style and now throws the ball more, going through his progression instead of simply looking for a running lane as he did in Atlanta. However, if the play breaks down, he still makes plays with his legs and shows why he remains the most dynamic quarterback outside the pocket. Vick is enjoying his most well-rounded season ever, and he owes it all to events that most assumed would shatter his life beyond repair.

In 2006, Vick was on top of the NFL world. He had just completed his best statistical season to date and was named to his third Pro-Bowl team. However, his success came to a screeching halt before training camp for the 2007 season. That April, police raided Vick's Virginia home and found several neglected pit bulls, as well as evidence of dog fighting. Vick had established an interstate dogfighting ring called “Bad Newz Kennels” that operated from his property.

Vick was charged with conspiring to engage in dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the enterprise across state lines. That December, Vick began serving his 23-month prison sentence. After his release, he applied for NFL reinstatement and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, much to the dismay of animal rights groups in Philly and the rest of the country.

The general opinion of the deal was also negative, with many analysts saying the Eagles had made a terrible decision. Yet Vick has proved everyone wrong with his spectacular playing this year. In a Monday night game against Washington, he became the first quarterback in history to pass for three touchdowns and run for two more during the first half. It may not be right, but an apology and a great year have squared Vick's debt to society in the eyes of many who wanted him locked up for good.

The careers of Brett Favre and Michael Vick are similar although they seemed to have switched positions in the eyes of the public. Favre is no longer loved unconditionally, and Vick is the feel-good story of the year. This couldn't be further from public opinion three years ago. It seems that these players will retain this opinion for their respective careers. Favre might decide to come back one more time and pull a miracle season out of his hat to salvage his legacy. Though that seems physically impossible at this point, if anybody could do it, it would be Brett.

Both these men have experienced success and failure, and they have had them at opposite times, which makes their stories so unique. Brett Favre may end up with the more illustrious career, but right now Michael Vick is on much better terms with the public. After all, America loves a good comeback, not a man who overstays his welcome.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the February 2011 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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peregrinefalcon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 31, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Nice job, and I do agree that Favre has lost some of his biggest fans (me not included). I hope that he can salvage his legacy, as you say, to complete a comeback story.

And just one thing - no football team truly likes another, and the Vikings and the Packers are no exception, but the Bears are the Packers' true archrivals.

 

 
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