John Madden Predicted That Brett Favre’s Stint With the Minnesota Vikings Would End in Failure

Before Tom Brady shocked the world by trading in his New England Patriots jersey for the red and white of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, legendary quarterback Brett Favre broke the hearts of Green Bay Packers fans everywhere by signing with the Minnesota Vikings. Perhaps the only person who wasn’t shocked was legendary NFL coach and commentator John Madden, though. After all, he was a massive fan of the “ole gunslinger.”

Madden knew exactly what the Vikings were trying to accomplish by bringing in Favre. At the time, he also seemed to know No. 4’s time in Minnesota would end in disappointment.

John Madden knew the Minnesota Vikings were going all-in by signing Brett Favre

Bringing in Favre, who at the time was 39-years-old, was a calculated risk for the Vikings. The 2008 season had seen the Vikings win the NFC North and make the playoffs. They only made it as far as the Wild Card round, though, and the quarterback room was anything but inspiring, featuring Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte.

The Vikings needed a major infusion of talent and star power at the quarterback position in order to take the next step. That made courting Favre, who had retired for the second time after a season with the Jets, the smart move. The fact that it irked the Packers, Minnesota’s heated rival to the southeast, was just the cherry on top.

Speaking to Bloomberg ahead of the 2009 season, Madden knew that bringing in an aging Favre was more than just a publicity stunt for the Vikings. He knew that Minnesota was going all-in to try to win the Super Bowl.

“You have the remember; the Minnesota Vikings were in the playoffs last year. They’re not bringing Brett Favre in here to win six, seven, [or] eight games. They’re bringing Brett Favre in here to win a championship,” Madden said. 

Madden predicted Favre might not be able to hold up physically

John Madden
CBS NFL commentator Pat Summerall (L) and NFL analyst John Madden (R) on the air prior during an NFL Football game circa 1986 | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Though Madden was undoubtedly a major fan of Favre and thought highly of his ability, there was one warning that he laid out in the preseason interview with Bloomberg.

Madden was worried that the 39-year-old quarterback, though tough as nails, would have a hard time physically making it through the season. This was in an era in which 39 was a significantly advantaged age for a quarterback, especially one that played with Favre’s physicality. Remember, Brady was still only in his early 30’s in 2009. What he’s done in 2021, playing at an MVP-level at 44-years old, was unheard of at the time. It still is rather shocking.

Favre was basically an older man in NFL years, and Madden justifiably wondered if he could take the beating of another season.

“It’s not necessarily how is he today? How is he next week? How is he a month from now? It’s, how is he going to be when you get into playoff time? How is he going to be in December and January?” Madden explained. “I don’t think he can hold up.”

Madden was, unfortunately, right. Favre couldn’t hold up

Brett Favre couldn't lead the Minnesota Vikings to a Super Bowl win.
New Orleans Saints host the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship at the Louisiana Superdome | Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images

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Favre was undoubtedly special for the Vikings in 2009. Sure, he had a ton of tread on the tires at that point in his career, and he had suffered and played through numerous injuries. 

With that said, he came out and threw 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in his first of two campaigns with the Vikings. It was the fourth-highest touchdown total of his illustrious career and the lowest interception total since his rookie season when he threw only four passes for the Atlanta Falcons, going 0-of-4 with two picks.

Favre led the Vikings to a 10-6 record and a second-straight NFC North title. The Vikings also secured a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Minnesota crushed Dallas in the divisional round beating the Cowboys, 34-3. Favre threw for 234 yards and four touchdowns in that game.

The NFC Championship game saw the Vikings match up with the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. Minnesota lost that game in overtime, 31-28, and Favre looked every bit of his “advanced” age.

The Vikings came after Favre hard all game, hitting him violently on multiple occasions and leaving him hobbled and limping around on the field. 

He completed 28-of-46 passes for one touchdown and two costly interceptions, including one on 3rd-and-15 with 19 seconds to go in the game, and the score tied at 28. The Vikings were at the very least within just a few yards of field goal range, but Favre threw an interception to Tracy Porter, which sent the game into overtime.

Years later, Favre admitted that he was playing that game with a concussion. The Saints also had a bounty out on Favre that reportedly totaled $35,000 if a defender was able to knock him out of the contest.

The physicality in which the Saints went after Favre in the NFC Championship game was the very height of the Bountygate scandal. That bounty system ultimately cost defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his job, and head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season. The Saints were also fined $500,000 and lost a second-round draft pick in two consecutive drafts. Though the Saints did pay the price at a later date, they were ultimately the team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy that season.

Favre, unfortunately, was never the same. He threw 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 2010, which ended up being his last season in the NFL.

Madden was right. Favre ultimately couldn’t hold up. He was right, but he probably didn’t want to be.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference.