How does Brett Favre’s Decision Affect the Vikings?

 

Okay, let’s see if we can reconstruct the last 24 hours or so.  Yesterday morning Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune wrote a story that Brett Favre had sent messages to teammates and management that he was retiring.  ESPN went to DEFCON-1, and beat that story harder and longer than the Vikings beat Dallas in the playoffs last year.  Yeah, worse than that, which I didn’t think possible.  Yesterday afternoon close friend and teammate Ryan Longwell said he hadn’t heard anything, and he had spoken to Favre, who hadn’t mentioned anything about retirement.  Last night, Favre’s brother, his mom, and close friend Steve Mariucci all doubted that Favre was retiring.  This morning, Zulgad reported that the Vikings were offering up to $20 million, if all incentives are met, to return for 2010.  Then, finally, 24 hours after all this broke, Favre spoke.  He told ESPN’s Ed Werder that he didn’t send any text messages about retiring to anyone, it’s not about the money, and if the ankle is healthy, he’s…wait for it…playing.  Lost in all of this, for the most part, is how would the Vikings fare with Favre, and how would they fare without him?  Let’s look at it, shall we?

In 2008, the Vikings were 10-6 and won the division without Brett Favre, but they were a quick one and done in the playoffs, losing to the Eagles.  Last year, Minnesota went 12-4 and came tantalizingly close to the Super Bowl.  The bottom line is that without Favre, the Vikings were a marginal playoff team, and with him they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.  Without question, he makes this team better.

But without him, is this the same marginal playoff team from 2008?  It’s easy to say yes, because of the perceived drop-off from Favre to Tarvaris Jackson, the presumed starter in Favre’s absence.  But let’s look at it a little closer, using history, reasoned analysis, and some help from AccuScore and ESPN’s NFC North blogger, Kevin Seifert.

In 2008, the Vikings beat the Bears by one game, the Packers were 6-10, and the Lions had their historic 0-16 campaign.  In 2009, with Favre, the Vikings were 12-4, or two games better, while the Bears regressed to 7-9, the Packers dramatically improved, and the Lions…were still the Lions.  Let’s look at the NFC North teams, and see where they are in relation to the Vikings without Favre. 

The Lions are better, but still no threat this year.  I don’t see the Bears being much better than 8-8.  Yes, they have Julius Peppers, but the Mike Martz offense requires a good offensive line to protect their quarterback, because the deep offense is heavy on deep passing routes.  It also requires good receivers, and I don’t see the Bears having either.  Their defense is still one year older, and other than Peppers, they don’t have much.  So that leaves the Packers.  They were 11-5 last year, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t at least match that again.  They have consistency issues in defense, but with another year in the Dom Capers system, they will at a minimum be no worse.  Aaron Rodgers is the real deal, and their offensive line is better with rookie Bryan Bulaga.  The Packers are the team to be most concerned about, but other than the head to head matchups, they are the things that are largely out of the Vikings control.

The Vikings have a tougher schedule than 2008, but they have a better team on offense than that team, even without Favre.  According to Accuscore, via Kevin Seifert, the Vikes are between an 11 and 12 win team, and without him a 9 win team.  BUT…

That is based on historical averages and tendencies, and I find it hard to believe that Tarvaris Jackson will be as average as he was in 2008.  He has another more year in the system, better receivers, and a defense that is returning all eleven starters.  For example, let’s look at the top wide receivers he had to throw to in 2008:

 

Player

Receptions

Yards

TD

YPC

Berrian, B.

48

964

7

20.1

Wade, B.

53

645

2

12.2

 

Bobby Wade was the team leader in receptions.  Bobby…Wade.  There were two legitimate wide receiver options in 2008, and one was Bobby Wade.  Bobby Wade was a good 10 yard out guy, but could not stretch the field or beat press coverage.  There are now three legitimate options, all of who beat coverage and stretch the field, and that’s not including running backs and TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

Now, let’s look at 2009:

Player

Receptions

Yards

TD

YPC

Rice

83

1,312

8

15.8

Harvin

60

790

6

13.2

Berrian

55

618

4

11.2

 

The bottom line is that the best wide receiver from 2008 was the third best in 2009.  Yes, Berrian was injured early, but was healthy by the 8th week, and was a luxury. 

The 2008 team had a -6 turnover differential, mostly due to Gus Frerotte’s 15 interceptions, and still won 10 games.  Jackson’s TD-INT ratio was 9-2, so I don’t think the turnover ratio will be a negative number.  If you can minimize turnovers, you give yourself a great chance of winning the game.  Jackson minimizes turnovers, and I can see them at least duplicating the +6 ratio the 2009 team had.  I don’t think that the safeties will have only 1 interception between them, and there is no way Adrian Peterson puts it on the ground as much as he did last year. 

Granted, Tarvaris Jackson has to prove that he can hit the open receiver on a consistent basis and stay healthy, but even without Favre, this is a legitimate playoff team and division title contender.

 

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