Tice likes Favre??? COOTIES!!! Yuck!!!
His teammates charged onto the Lambeau Field grass like high school kids who'd just captured a state championship, basking in the glory of Ryan Longwell's game-ending 33-yard field goal. Yet the Green Bay Packers player who was most responsible for their 34-31 victory over the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings last Sunday chose a misdirection play at game's end, instead making a beeline for a mountain of a man he barely knows.
"Hey," Brett Favre told Vikings coach Mike Tice, "that was a hell of job."
Tice smiled and, doing his best Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit impression replied, "You're a tough sumbitch."
Favre is a 35-year-old legend who is that rarest of superstars, a transcendent talent who manages to honor the game more than it honors him. Sure, he loves winning, but what Favre relishes even more is the thrill of competition and the men whose fighting spirit matches his own. That's why, even as the Packers were completing a remarkable revival, capturing their fourth consecutive victory to tie the Vikings atop the division at 5-4, Favre was empathic enough to understand the sting of Minnesota's three-game losing streak on the man who is large (6-foot-8) and in charge.
"I've always liked Mike Tice," Favre said, "and I really wanted to share a moment with him after the game, because it was so hard-fought. A lot of these guys probably don't realize that he and his brother played in this league. I do, which I guess makes me old. I've had the opportunity to go up against him for a while now, and I just like the way he handles himself. He says what he feels, and there ain't a lot of bulls--- about him. I know as he flies back on the plane he's going to think, 'What can we do to turn this s--- around?' But they're a team that's never out of it, and I look forward to playing them again."
If I didn't know Favre better, I'd suspect that he was heaping false praise on an opponent in an insidious attempt to butter up the Vikings before the two teams' Christmas Eve rematch in Minnesota. But Favre, for all of his MVPs, Super Bowls and indelible performances on the grand stage, remains as devoid of pretense as Kris Kringle. Talk to him long enough, and he'll blurt out just about every sincere thought that races through his mind. He has become increasingly confessional as he gets older, to the point where telling Packers PR director Jeff Blumb, "I need to ask Brett three questions" is code for, "If Brett is still talking after 25 minutes, I promise not to ask a fourth question."
What Favre didn't say about Tice, but which he must understand on some level, is that the big man has a great deal on the line in 2004. Last year's late-season collapse after a 6-0 start kept the Vikings from reaching the playoffs, and now there is concern in the Twin Cities that Tice's team is running a fade pattern once again. Tice, the league's lowest-paid coach, has a contract that expires at the end of the year, though Vikings owner Red McCombs indicated last month that he planned to pick up a club option for 2005.
A playoff appearance would at least allow Tice to deal from a position of strength; anything less could become problematic. It's interesting to note that earlier this week, radio host Mike Gastineau of Seattle's KJR-AM began talking up Tice, a former Seahawks player who still has a home in the area, as a potential candidate for the University of Washington's coaching vacancy. (Tice, as he did several weeks ago, declined to comment on his coaching future.)
When I e-mailed Tice to inform him of Favre's comments, here's what he wrote back: "Tough, tough loss. I love Favre, too. He is my favorite player in the NFL. He is such a pro. Tough. Passionate. Smart. He is the best I have seen and I have seen some good ones."
One other subject on which Favre and Tice agree: the other quarterback at Lambeau made a major statement in Sunday's game. Without Randy Moss, with his team down by two touchdowns and seemingly headed for a sound defeat, Daunte Culpepper showed just how special he has become this season. If I had to name an MVP of the 2004 season so far, I'd choose Terrell Owens, for the dramatic impact he has had on the Eagles. But if you ask me who the best player has been to this point, Culpepper would most certainly be that guy.
"There are only a few guys in this league who can do what Daunte did today," Favre said after Sunday's game. "I think he could rush for 100 yards a game if he needed to, but he's become such a complete quarterback, and that's scary. Maybe I don't know s---, but the way Daunte was spreading it around today, it made me feel like he's getting even better without Randy [Moss] in there."
Moss undoubtedly will be back come Christmas Eve, when these two teams play a game at the Metrodome that could settle a lot more than a division crown. I'm still not sold on the Eagles as being a slam-dunk Super Bowl participant -- until Philly proves it in the championship game, I remain a skeptic. As with last year, when Favre very nearly guided the Packers to an NFC title game clash with the Panthers in Carolina, a great quarterback might be enough to carry an average team to the top of a weak conference.
Favre has been around long enough to know that Culpepper, and Tice, won't roll over now that the Pack has caught up to them. "Minnesota, they're gonna be disappointed after this game," Favre conceded. "But they're playing their asses off, and the bottom line is that they came in here without Randy Moss, and we had to play damn near perfect, at home, to beat them."
In other words, as with Tice, there's not a lot of b.s. about Favre.
Have you ever seen a race of turtles, and they all go the wrong way instead of towards the finish line?
Welcome to the NFC North.