It’s been nearly one year since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers landed Tom Brady in free agency. That amount of time is just long enough to forget that the Bucs were long-shots in the Brady Sweepstakes. Teams such as the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders seemed like much more likely destinations. For seasoned Buccaneers fans, it was deja vu except in reverse. Over a decade ago, their team nearly picked up another record-setting quarterback who was ready to move on from his long-time team — a quarterback named Brett Favre.
Brett Favre moves on from Green Bay
In his 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre accomplished almost all there was for a quarterback to accomplish. He set NFL records for touchdown passes and consecutive starts by a quarterback, among many others. Most importantly of all, he led his Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one, and led the franchise back to respectability in the 1990s after decades of mediocrity.
Unfortunately, the end of his time in Green Bay was bitter. His final pass as a Packer was an interception in overtime of the 2007 NFC Championship, which set up a game-winning field goal for the Giants to defeat the Packers. Thoughts immediately turned to Brett Favre’s future.
While the 2007 season was a successful one for Green Bay, Brett Favre’s window to win a second Super Bowl was closing quickly. The bad throw against the Giants was just the latest in a long string of recent playoff failures for the quarterback. The Packers already had Favre’s successor lined up. They had selected Cal’s Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Just over a month after the game, Favre officially announced his retirement from the NFL. As we all know, this did not last.
Brett Favre flip-flops on retirement
Three months after his retirement, Brett Favre publicly admitted he had made a mistake and that he was ready to return to football. Unfortunately, by then, the Packers were ready to move forward with Rodgers as their quarterback. The NFL’s “iron man” was up for grabs.
Favre received offers immediately. In a bit of foreshadowing, he spoke to someone from the division rival Minnesota Vikings. The Packers struck that deal down when they filed tampering charges against the Vikings. These were later dismissed by commissioner Roger Goodell.
As July became August, only two realistic candidates remained: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets. Both teams’ general managers — Mike Tannenbaum of the Jets and Bruce Allen of the Bucs — worked long into the night of August 6th to seal the deal.
The Buccaneers are stood up at the altar
At some point during that night, it appeared that the Bucs had won the Brett Favre sweepstakes. Even Tannenbaum said years later that the Jets’ deal looked “dead half a dozen times.”
According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, several members of the Buccaneers’ coaching staff, including then-head coach Jon Gruden, were so confident they’d landed Favre that they retreated to a watering hole near Orlando to celebrate. There, they saw the news flash on the TV that Brett Favre had been traded to the New York Jets.
Favre himself had to be convinced to accept the Meadowlands as his new home. Reportedly, he would have preferred to go to either Tampa or Minnesota. Jets owner Woody Johnson even went as far as to personally invite Favre to his 1,000-acre homestead in New Jersey for hunting.
In the end, it made little difference. Neither team made the playoffs in 2008. The Buccaneers, forced to settle with Jeff Garcia as their starter, finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs after losing their last four games. With Brett Favre, the Jets started the season at 8-3 but also fell apart down the stretch and fell short of the postseason.