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Favre: Inside The Gunslinger's Mind

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by TOPHAT, Sep 8, 2007.


    TOPHAT Cheesehead

    Mar 1, 2007

    Inside the mind of a gunslinger: Favre reveals mental process behind directing the offense

    In Brett Favre's young world, there was no such thing as progression reads, passing trees or spreading the field. "We were a backwoods country high school," Favre said, harkening back to his youth at Hancock North Central in the Mississippi bayou. "Never heard of curl and flat. I could throw it through a damn wall but I was never taught to read the safety and here's your hot." Even at Southern Mississippi, the passing game was far from sophisticated. "It was triangle read to the strong side or triangle read over the ball," he remembered in an interview last month. "It was 1, 2, 3. My first real schooling was when I got traded here."

    Of all the head coaches and position coaches Favre has had in Green Bay, Favre didn't have to even think twice when asked who was his most demanding taskmaster. "I saw Mike Holmgren the other night," he said. "I said, 'There's no way I'd still be here today without you.' I used to hear Mike saying all the time, 'Just run it the way we coach it.' He'd say, 'Run it the way we're doing it. Run it the way we're doing it. Then, if it breaks down, let it happen.' " Favre was thrust kicking and screaming into a precise system of offense predicated on the quarterback's ability to scan the field quickly from one receiver to another. Back then, the West Coast passing game usually incorporated all five receivers, opening up the entire field for attack and reducing pass coverage into a series of one-on-one matchups.

    In his first three seasons, Favre fixated on his all-pro flanker, Sterling Sharpe. As his career unfolded and the team added more weapons, Favre used his near-photographic memory and increasing interest in the finer points of quarterbacking to become much more than just an unbridled gunslinger. Today, the bedrock principles of the Packers' passing game under Mike McCarthy remain much the same as they were under Holmgren and later Mike Sherman. The growing complexity of defenses has doubled the demands on the quarterback before the ball is snapped, according to Favre. After that, the rate of success for most passes comes down to the passer going through his progression, then throwing on target and on time to the most open receiver.

    All the Packers' pass plays break down into three categories:
    1. Pure progression: The quarterback moves from his primary target all the way to his fourth or fifth target, if applicable.
    2. Progression with an option: The quarterback has first, second and third reads. However, he usually has an option to throw to the back-side receiver if coverage permits.
    3. Pre-snap look: The quarterback usually has mirrored routes, meaning the two receivers on the left and the two on the right run almost identical patterns. Assuming it's either Cover 2 (two safeties deep) or Cover 3 (one safety deep), the ball goes to the side best suited to beat the coverage.

    Favre's ability to make something from nothing, perhaps more than anything else, enabled him to reach legendary status. But his impatience with the designed progression also has left him four shy of the all-time record for interceptions. His incredible memory, Favre maintains, has led to more of his poor plays than any other factor. Having thrown just about every route against just about every coverage, in games or in practice, Favre knows that he often is guilty of rushing through his progression for a route that has been open in the past. "If you called Mike Sherman and Mike Holmgren and asked them if most of Brett's bad plays were the result of going to 3 instead of 1 or 2, or whatever, not staying with the framework of the offense . . . ," Favre said, letting his thought dangle. "I think most of my bad plays in the latter part of my years with Mike Holmgren, and I know with Mike Sherman, were the result of seeing it so many times. I get so excited something will be there, I get overanxious and don't let it develop."

    Against Jacksonville in the third exhibition game, Favre directed an 11-play, 76-yard drive in a flawless manner that would have made the modern innovator of the West Coast progression, the late Bill Walsh, swell with pride. Using his amazing recall, Favre talked through his seven straight completions to seven different receivers, providing an unvarnished glimpse at how his mind works:

    Bubba Franks, 25 yards: "First thing when I hear the play is, where's my weak spot? So I go up and see a potential problem. Protect just to make sure. I made a protection change and they came with a strong dog. I studied them all week and I knew by front there's a good tendency of that. We picked it up, which tells me it's going to be zone. On this type of blitz, their weakness is in the middle. I looked there (crossing route) but in my mind I was pretty sure Bubba would be the throw because they're bringing a dog and vacating the middle. I still went through the motions and Bubba comes wide-*** open. He was the second read."

    Donald Lee, 20: "My thought was go on a quick count and maybe catch a corner out of place. They actually played four across. We ran a mirrored route with the tight end (Lee) on a middle read. If the middle of the field is closed, he runs a cross. If it's open, he takes it. If I like my matchups outside, I pick a side based on the tightest corner. If they're both bump-and-run, which one do you think is a better go runner? As I'm dropping back, I could just kind of see the middle of the field open. I just kind of looked off and the backers split and I put it on Donald. He was the third read."

    Greg Jennings, 14: "That's basically a coverage-read play. It was two-deep, and you're reading the middle of the field. If the (middle) backer goes with the tight end, your first crosser either wins or doesn't get the ball. If he gets inside, that's who you throw to. If he doesn't, and the defender runs with him, then the outside guy (Jennings) comes in on a trail-crossing route. If Greg wins, he gets the ball. But I really couldn't see him at first and I drifted to the right just a little. Those big SOB's inside. Sure enough, he cleared. Greg probably was the second read."

    Ruvell Martin, 5: "That was a run. They were coming with zero (all-out) blitz. I saw that. I went over the run without telling anyone and threw it quick. I had one-on-one outside."

    Donald Driver, 4: "He's got a double read. The place where they were at their weakest was if he got inside of (Terry) Cousin. Of course, Cousin played him hard inside knowing that. It's either that side or a look that way. Donald probably could have run a better route. But based on our past history he was going to give me his numbers. I came back to him quick."

    Brandon Miree, 2: "That was progression. If you got the flat (on third and 1), take it. If not, you go 1 to 2."

    Brandon Jackson, 3: "That's a progression. He was No. 4 on that route."

    In Detroit, offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn't allow Jon Kitna to call an audible. When Martz coached in St. Louis, his goal was for Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger to function like machines. It's quite possible that Favre couldn't have played for Martz. He will perform with discipline to a point, but robotic will never be Favre. That's why his chemistry with Driver is so acute. Driver probably was less prepared, coming from Alcorn State with a track background, than Favre was out of Southern Miss. Even now, Favre marvels at Driver's improvisational skill. With pass rushers streaking forward with shocking force, there isn't time for a quarterback to look twice for a wideout if he's getting re-directed initially by press coverage. But Favre does that all the time with Driver, and the second window perhaps has been the secret of their success.

    "I get so mad at (receivers) when they say, 'Well, you told me it was a 12-yard hook,'" said Favre. "Yeah, but if you feel a defender jumping a route you've got to react to it. You can't be too mechanical. Donald's better when the play breaks down." Now, for one of the only times in his career, the Packers appear to be asking Favre to play conservatively. In effect, McCarthy wants the defense to be in position to win the game. The operative question now is simple: should adherence to the progression for Favre be more important than ever before? "Based on how we think our defense will play, maybe there's more of a premium on taking what they give you," said Favre. "Check-downs and punts are OK. I'm well aware of that. "But, I think I have to go in with the mentality of don't be overcautious. Because what's got me here is a certain way. I know I can't put us in jeopardy and all those things, but we don't want to lose a guy who is running right down the middle of the field or something because it's, like, 'Can't make a mistake, can't make a mistake.' "I don't call it a dilemma. That's just the way it is. I think you still play the game." From Kiln, Miss., to Green Bay, Brett Favre always has played the game his way.

  2. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

    Aug 15, 2005
    That was neat
  3. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

    May 31, 2005
    Excellent article. It puts the lie to all of those people out there who think Favre is a dummy.
  4. Popcynical

    Popcynical Cheesehead

    Oct 28, 2005
    Yeah... that was a really cool article. Kind of goes into the science of quarterbacking in this modern age.
  5. ChrisC

    ChrisC Cheesehead

    May 5, 2006
    Yep, the QBs gotta process all that info and not get himself killed! :eek:mg:


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