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Packer Fans Betting On Long Shots

by Mark Quarderer
On the Packer fan boards these days, people have mostly stopped talking about what went wrong last season and have begun to focus on what might go right next season. This is a good sign. Man is an organism that must have hope to survive.
A lot of that hope is centered on the draft. The general consensus seems to be to concentrate on defense, with names like Derrick Strait and Will Poole being mentioned. One poll asked whether the Packers should concentrate on the secondary or the defensive line, and the results split right down the middle. And of course, people talk about getting the quarterback of the future, or at least a credible backup to Brett Favre. Again, the consensus is that Favre has a couple of good years left in him, and that the Packers should do what they can to win while he's still here, since they see an inevitable decline after Favre hangs them up. A few want to spend a first found draft pick on a guy like Losman or Rivers; others would wait until later rounds for a Navarre, or a Pickett, or a Smoker.
But it is an article of faith among the Packer brethren that Brett Favre can lead this team back to the Super Bowl, if only the team around him is strong enough.

In 1996, Brett Favre had the best season of his career, throwing 39 TD passes (a career best) and only 13 interceptions (also a career best). Not coincidentally, the Packers won the Super Bowl. The next year, 1997, Favre again had an outstanding MVP season and the Packers returned to the Super Bowl only to lose to Elway's Broncos. Little did the Packer faithful realize that they had witnessed the high-water mark of Brett Favre's career.

Since the loss to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII, the Packers have gone 2-4 in playoff games, never advancing past the second week of the playoffs, never making it to the NFC Championship game. This isn't to say that they've been unsuccessful----quite the contrary---they've actually won more regular season games during this period than any other team. But by the measuring stick of playoff success, the Packers haven't been a dominant team.

People hope to change that this year. Strengthen the defense..improve the pass rush.get better guys in the secondary.find a better punter..and on and on the suggestions flow like a river. And never once does anyone question the central premise: Can Brett Favre win another Super Bowl?

Here are a few facts that might make people question that premise.

Since 1987, no team has won the Super Bowl when their QB threw more than 14 interceptions in the regular season.

The Packers won in 1996 when their starting QB, Favre, threw only 13 interceptions. Since 1998, Favre has never had a season of less than 16 interceptions.

Since 1996, the Packers have had more turnovers during the season than the eventual Super Bowl winner in every case.

Year Super Bowl Champion Turnovers that season Packer turnovers
1997 Broncos 21 32
1998 Broncos 18 33
1999 Rams 31 35
2000 Ravens 26 33
2001 Patriots 28 28
2002 Buccaneers 21 29
2003 Patriots 24 32

In 1996, when the Packers won the Super Bowl, they had only 24 turnovers which was second best in the league. Although sometimes a team can commit numerous turnovers and still win the Super Bowl, as the Rams did in 1999, for the most part Super Bowl champions do not beat themselves with turnovers.

So clearly, a BIG reason that the Packers have not been a Super Bowl Champion caliber team during this time is that they do beat themselves with turnovers on a consistent basis.

And how does Brett Favre figure into all of this? What responsibility does he bear for these turnover numbers? First, not every interception is the quarterback's fault-----receivers do run the wrong pattern at times. Additionally, if you are saddled with a poor offensive line or a weak running game it is going to put more pressure on the quarterback to make plays.

Below is a chart comparing many of the league's established quarterbacks during the time period of 1998 through 2003. Listed are total turnovers, seasons where he was a full-time starter for his team, and the average number of turnovers per season by the quarterback (interceptions and lost fumbles).

Player Total Turnovers Seasons as Starter Turnovers/ Season Avg.

  • Favre 135 6 22.5
  • Culpepper 87 4 21.75
  • Manning 122 6 20.33
  • Collins 111 6 18.5
  • Brooks 52 3 17.3
  • Brad Johnson 81 5 16.2
  • McNabb 57 4 14.25
  • McNair 85 6 14.1
  • Hasselbeck 39 3 13
  • Brunell 63 6 10.5

Since 1998, no quarterback has been more generous in giving away the ball than Brett Favre.

So the Packer fans that are betting on Brett Favre to win another Super Bowl are betting a long shot. The facts of the matter are that the Packers turn the ball over too much to win a Super Bowl, and that Brett Favre turns the ball over too much to win a Super Bowl.

But this is not the only long shot that the Packers are betting. Since 1988, the list of quarterbacks who have won a Super Bowl after their 35th birthday is a very short one:

John Elway (1997 and 1998) Phil Simms (36 in 1990)

Elway at 37 was the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl since the very early days of the event. The vast majority of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have been 33 or younger.

So the Packers are betting two very long shots this season when they bet that Brett Favre can lead this team to a Super Bowl victory. Favre has had a wonderful career in Green Bay, and still remains one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but the combination of age and his own proclivity for turning the ball over may be more than he can overcome.

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