When Brett Favre returns to the Meadowlands to play his former team on Monday night, the Jets say they will treat it like any other game. In fact, he might be Favre and away from their main focus.
Favre was supposed to turn the Jets into Super Bowl contenders when New York traded for him from Green Bay in 2008. Instead, the Jets were a mediocre 9-7 and missed the playoffs. When Favre retired after the season and subsequently unretired to sign with Minnesota, many Jets fans were left feeling used and abused.
But the Jets say they’ve moved on.
“As soon as Rex [Ryan] came in here as coach, we put it behind us,” said defensive end Vernon Gholston. “We stopped thinking about it. It was a new chance, a clean slate for us.”
Gholston was a rookie when New York acquired Favre and he has a different outlook on the team’s former quarterback than most Jets fans, who are expected to boo Favre heartily on Monday night. The two sat together when traveling to away games and Gholston recalls Favre offering the first-year player career advice and simply wanting to be a part of the team. Gholston never felt betrayed by Favre’s retirement, even if it only lasted a handful of months.
“He made a personal decision and I never felt it was directed toward us,” Gholston said.
The decision has worked out for the Jets in both the immediate future and potentially, well down the road. First-round pick Mark Sanchez inherited the starting position from Favre and he led the Jets into the postseason in his rookie season, ironically with a 9-7 record. Sanchez went on to win two playoff games before falling just a half short of the Super Bowl and this season, the Jets quarterback has one of the highest passer ratings in the NFL.
Right now, Favre is enduring the worst start to a season in his professional career with the Vikings at 1-2 and his personal stats appalling by his Canton-esque standards. Favre has thrown six interceptions this year and just two touchdowns through three games. The success of Sanchez in leading the team through the playoffs last year and now turning into a playmaker this season has certainly helped soften the blow of Favre skipping town.
“If you look at it, it really has turned out well for us, for our team,” said safety James Ihedigbo. “We have Mark here now, who is doing everything right and everything for us. It isn’t sour grapes at all, we’ve moved on.”
The shift in attention away from feeling jilted is the result of success. Since Favre left the team high and dry, the Jets have become a playoff caliber team in their own right and the franchise that players want to join. Though he was signed last week and wasn’t with the Jets during the Favre episode, Trevor Pryce was fully aware of the bad feelings between Jets fans and their former quarterback.
But he said it isn’t a sentiment among the team, let alone a talking point in the locker room or in team meetings. The focus, he says, “is getting this team to 4-1.”
“We don’t talk about it and we don’t focus on it. I haven’t heard it mentioned once around here,” Pryce said. “We want to just go out there and focus on us, and focus on playing a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Brett Favre. Our focus every week is trying to go after the quarterback and get to him. That doesn’t change at all this week.”