Vikings

Brett Favre threw a major curveball at the Vikings’ season Tuesday by reportedly deciding to retire instead of returning to the NFL for a 20th season and for a second year in Minnesota.American Football

Coach Brad Childress still calls the situation “fluid,” but if Vikings officials can’t talk Favre out of retiring the team’s path to Super Bowl 45 becomes significantly tougher.

Based on their quiet offseason, the Vikings had conducted business believing Favre would return. Without him, the Vikings are left to scramble at the game’s most important position, leaving the rival Green Bay Packers the new clear favorite in the NFC North.

The Vikings without Favre

Foremost, they will miss Favre’s elite arm strength and big-play prowess.

“Favre gave them a tremendous big-play potential, while at the same time not exposing the offense to turnovers,” said former NFL lineman Brian Baldinger, now an analyst for NFL Network. “That’s a very delicate balance they can’t replicate with Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels.”

With Favre last year, it’s no coincidence that wide receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin enjoyed breakout seasons. Although his NFC championship game loss to New Orleans was marred by an interception, Favre excelled at protecting the ball in ’09—seven interceptions, his fewest since becoming a starter.

Favre didn’t force the action too much, knowing he had reliable underneath targets such as Harvin and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and great red-zone production, including Shiancoe’s 11-touchdown season.

Then there are the intangibles. The reason Favre was so good so quickly in Minnesota was that he still had the fire and desire to play the game, and he benefited greatly from playing in a familiar system.

Because of his comfort in the scheme, it allowed him to concentrate more on being a leader and helping to raise the game of his much younger offensive teammates. Favre’s brand of youthful exuberance rubbed off on them.

“He reminded me of a kid in the candy store,” said former NFL coach Mike Ditka, now an ESPN analyst. “He was a 40-year-old teenager having fun out there, still with the talent to back it up.”

The Vikings with Jackson

Jackson is a good athlete with a good arm, but the dropoff from Favre is dramatic when it comes to decision-making and durability. With Jackson under center, coach Brad Childress would have to change his approach to the ’10 season and again lean heavily on All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson.

Jackson simply isn’t equipped to handle a gun-slinging role. The team must return to pounding Peterson, also mixing in rookie running back Toby Gerhart and getting creative with Harvin as a runner.

The key will be to take as much pressure off Jackson as possible.

Jackson can be effective when everything else is clicking around him, leading the team to the playoffs in ’08. The defense also must be more aggressive and force more takeaways to create shorter fields and easier scoring opportunities for the offense.

Favre was as amazing as one player can be in a team game last year, so the other Vikings must be stronger to compensate. The ’10 Vikings have the talent to return to the playoffs without Favre.

The Packers without Favre

Remember Favre’s team of 16 years? Two years later, they would benefit most from his “real” retirement. Green Bay now has the decided advantage at quarterback and in the division.

“Aaron Rodgers is an emerging superstar, and he is surrounded by high level of talent at the skill positions,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “If they can run the ball a little and protect Rodgers, they’re as good as anybody offensively.”

Packers GM Ted Thompson made the correct decision to move on without Favre in ’08, and it should pay off quite nicely this season.

Obtained by: Vinnie Iyer

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