No one is easier to hate than the other team's quarterback. Unless, of course, that quarterback is Brett Favre.
As a group, it is easy to see quarterbacks as overpaid and overprotected, as arrogant and aristocratic. They slide. They throw out of bounds. They duck and cover. They are the players of privilege, and as such, it is possible to view the lot of them as spoiled, rich kids.
Then there is Favre, one of those rare players admired by even the fans of his opponents. He is the toughest guy in the league. Once, a while ago, he was the most talented. All of which makes it difficult to point out the obvious.
It is checkout time, Brett.
Time for you to go.
Yes, it is an easy thing to suggest that someone else walk away from the fame and fortune. The Packers are still better off with Favre than without him, not to mention the league. Why not squeeze every moment you can out of a career? Why not find one or two more cuts for his Greatest Hits album?
Sunday is why. The playoffs are why. Favre's legacy is why.
Favre was historically, monumentally awful Sunday. Again. Once a gunslinger, Favre was reduced to a scattergun who couldn't shoot straight. Again. Entering the game as his team's only chance, he ended up giving it no chance at all. Again.
For Favre, this keeps happening. The Packers have won only one of their last five playoff games, and in each loss, Favre has been dreadful. This time, he threw four interceptions, and he badly botched a play near the Vikings goal line when he tossed a weak, underhand pass when he was several yards past the line of scrimmage.
Last year? Against Philadelphia, it was Favre's interception in overtime that allowed the Eagles to win.
The year before? Favre had two interceptions and a fumble as the Packers were upset by the Falcons.
The year before that? Favre had six interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, as the Packers were swarmed by the St. Louis Rams.
For the Packers, the wretched feeling of watching a favorite son suffer a familiar fate is nothing new. For the past four seasons, it has ended the same. Every year, Favre lifts his team into the playoffs, and every year, he collapses from the weight.
No, the fault is not Favre's alone. If the Packers had surrounded him with a good enough team, perhaps he could have won two or three Super Bowls. Instead, he has won as many as Trent Dilfer, as many as Brad Johnson. It was as if the Packers saw so many of Favre's comebacks, they expected one from him every week.
For much of this season, Favre tried. He pulled and dragged the Packers to a decent season. Once again, the playoffs were too much to ask.
Is this how we are to remember Favre? As a series of bad final chapters? In his last four losses, he has thrown six touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Even for a quarterback with a gambler's heart _ and when Favre is bad, double coverage just seems to tick him off _ those are embarrassing numbers.
Most of us would prefer to remember Favre for the set of his jaw and the glare in his eye. He has always been the most tenacious of quarterbacks, unbreakable and darn near unbendable. In a game where opponents would love to separate his head from his neck, Favre is as dependable as gravity.
Counting playoffs, Favre has started 225 straight games. Despite being listed on the injury report 41 different weeks, he hasn't missed a game since 1992, the year Peyton Manning got his driver's license.
Remember the game against Pittsburgh back in '95 when Favre coughed up blood during a timeout, then came back onto the field to clinch a division title? There was the game last season when he threw three touchdown passes against Minnesota with a broken thumb. There was the time he threw for 301 yards against Indianapolis with a sprained foot.
Favre has been more than durable, however. He has been dangerous. He placed opposing defenses on a tightrope, and then he encouraged the wind to blow. There is a commoner's ethic to the way Favre plays quarterback; the only thing you really hated is that he didn't play on the team nearest you.
He won three straight MVPs. He won a Super Bowl. If he doesn't make the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, they should close business. He is the quarterback of his generation and, even with the memories of Bart Starr, the quarterback of his franchise.
On the other hand, the rent is due.
Time for him to go.
For Favre, there are reasons to call it a night. His wife, Deanna, has breast cancer. He can do his family far more good at home than playing in Green Bay.
Then, there is this: If Green Bay had a slugger's chance to make the Super Bowl, this was the year. The NFC is a bunch of teams bumbling around in the dark, and the Packers seemed as likely to find the doorknob as anyone.
Next year? Even though he may lose much of his offensive line, even though tight end Bubba Franks may go, Favre can repeat this year. He can throw up some nice numbers, and he can get the Packers into the tournament. It's hard to imagine the Packers doing a lot of damage once they are there.
Is this enough for Favre? Or is it time for him to hang up his helmet?
The smart guys seem to think Favre will think hard about retirement, but in the end, you can expect one more season out of him. After all, this is a pretty darned good Green Bay offense, and Favre has a long time to spend as a former player.
If you judge by what the playoffs have become, however, it would be better to see Favre walk away toward more important issues.
The music has ended, Brett.
Time to stop dancing.