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Graybeard QBs Prepare to Do Battle Again


How is it that Brett Favre and Kerry Collins are seeing so much success nearly 12 years after the two men faced each other in the 1996 NFC Championship Game?

"There's not a lot of good younger quarterbacks out there," Favre joked.

Favre, 39, and Collins, 35, have performed at high levels, helping lead their teams to a combined record of 17-3 this season.

"It's been done before. It's being done now. Kurt Warner is doing it as well," said Favre. "For the most part, I don't think there's any substitute for age and experience. But the bottom line is being productive and winning football games, however that may be."

That idea was reinforced by Jets head coach Eric Mangini at his news conference today.

"You can't underestimate the value of experience," said Mangini. "All the things that the older quarterbacks can bring to the table in terms of game management, keeping the group centered, keeping the group focused, I think those things are excellent things to have. And when you have young quarterbacks on the roster, they're good examples for those guys to see how you can have longevity and how you can be successful regardless of where you are in your career."

Despite an impressive performance last season, even by Favre's standards, some questioned the then-38-year-old's ability to adapt to a new system after arriving with the Jets after the start of this year's training camp, following 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

Collins wasn't one of them. He said on a conference call:

"Brett and the things he's done this year — under really tough circumstances, in my opinion, everything that happened in the summer, coming in and handling things the way he did and what he's doing on the field — isn't a surprise.

"He's a great player, obviously one of the best players to ever play the position. You know he's going to come in here ready to play. We'll have to be ready ourselves, but he's a guy I've admired for a long time and I'm glad to see him doing the things he's doing."

Part of why No. 4 is so beloved is the youthful exuberance he displays on the football field.

"It's not fabricated," Favre said. "I love to play the game. There's nothing like throwing a touchdown pass. There's nothing like going into Foxboro and beating them when no one gave us a chance. There's nothing like going to play the undefeated team in football right now and all eyes will be on us.

"Hey, I hope we win the football game. I'm going to do everything I can, but I'm going to have fun in the process. And I hope that's what guys take from me, that you can still do your job and have fun."

Especially earlier in his career, Favre's playful nature was sometimes construed as having a lack of seriousness about winning.

"That's not true," he said. "No one is as competitive as me and I firmly believe that today. No one has as much fun as me and I've had more people tell me that throughout my career — 'Man, you know, we love to watch you play and your enthusiasm' and stuff like that."

"He's got a great way about him at the games, that poise, that confidence, all those things," Mangini said. "But during the course of the week he's also got a very good personality in the sense that he can be focused, get his work done, but keep the group light, keep practice fun, keep the guys excited about each day. And he's got that passion for football, that love of the game that is very contagious."

"If you find people with passion for it, you can do it for a while," center Nick Mangold said. "Our guy has a ton of passion."

Formerly known for their big arms, both Favre and Collins have embraced the game-manager role, as long as it means winning games. In fact, Favre has the second-best completion percentage in the NFL behind Arizona's Kurt Warner.

"I appreciate every game," said Favre. "If you talk with Kerry, if you talk with Kurt, older guys, I think you realize — I know you realize — that you're playing game to game, and your focus is so much different than it was as a younger player. You just appreciate the moment a lot more because you realize it won't be there forever.

"I can remember playing against Kerry in the championship game in '96, I think, and here we are facing off again. It's rare, but I give him a lot of credit."

Favre came out on top when the two battled in the Packers' 30-13 win over the Panthers in that 1996 title game. As they head to Tennessee for Sunday's game, the Jets would like a similar Favre-led victory to give Collins and his Titans their first loss of the season.

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