For much of this season, the Jets–Brett Favre matchup has felt like a rebound relationship. When Favre decided over the summer that he wanted to return to the NFL, he seemed shocked to learn that his beloved Packers no longer desired him and, upon his trade to New York, bewildered by where he’d found himself. “I really don’t know what I’m getting into,” he said on his first day of practice. “I was wondering if I made the right move.” When he made news by allegedly giving the Lions tips on how to beat Green Bay, the Jets had to feel like their new boyfriend would never stop talking about his ex.
Then the Jets started winning. The wins were unimpressive, over weak teams, with Favre playing poorly. Success came in spite of him. New York had football’s biggest star, but he didn’t feel like ours. He felt extraneous. He felt like a relic.
Until Thursday night, against the hated Patriots. The recent Jets hot streak, and the Patriots’ rash of injuries, inflated the game’s importance. Finally, Favre’s story and the Jets’ intersected: Whatever they had to prove, they’d have to prove it together. When the Patriots sent the game into overtime, the fear was palpable.
And then Favre took over, effortlessly leading the game-winning drive that ended in Jay Feely’s chip-shot field goal, which sent a freezing Foxboro crowd home depressed, defeated, and with a vague understanding that this is not their year. It was a revelation to watch Favre morph from Brett Favre the Hall of Fame Gunslinger into just Brett Favre, the guy who plays for the Jets. Afterward, the quarterback—looking older than I’ve ever seen him—said, “This is what I came back for,” and began to tear up. When Favre retires for good, this game will be part of the highlight reel.
The season is far from over. But the Jets have a breakthrough victory. They also finally have Favre. No longer are they his rebound relationship. He is now a Jet.