Cheeseheads are like the kid you run into 10 years after high school, only to discover that he still works at the Pump 'n Save, still wears his varsity wrestling jacket and still wants to talk only about the "glory days" of a decade ago.
They're both stuck in 1996 and have never moved past it.
The truth is that Brett Favre, who returns to the Packers this week five months after "retiring," has never been the same quarterback he was in his "glory days" of 1995-97. Back then, he became the first player in history to win three straight NFL MVP awards. (Though, interestingly, he's never once led the league in passer rating.)
But the track record since then is not so hot. In fact, like the kid still working at the Pump 'n Save, life has kicked the Cheeseheads in the gonads a few times. So instead of dealing with the painful memories, your old buddy still clings to his wrestling jacket and the days when he ruled the school, just like Favre fans cling to the No. 4 jerseys and the single lonely Super Bowl championship he brought to "title" town more than a decade ago.
So here's a little dose of reality for all those Cheeseheads who stood on the tarmac at Austin Straubel International Sunday night, waiting in vain for Favre's plane to arrive from 1996.
Jan. 20, 2002
The reality: The Packers have a shot to reach the conference championship game for first time since the 1997 season if they beat Rams in the divisional round.
The Cheesehead fantasy: The 12-4 Packers were no match for the 14-2 Rams
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Rams edged out the 11-5 Eagles by just five points in the conference title game and lost to the 11-5 Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Packers easily could have beat the Rams if Favre had not thrown 6 picks – tying the single-game NFL record for postseason picks last matched by a passer back in 1955.
Jan. 4, 2003
The reality: The 12-4 Packers were again one of the best teams in football, playing at home against the tepid 9-6-1 Falcons.
The Cheesehead fantasy: Favre walks on water.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Favre sinks like a lead weight, reserving one of his worst performances of the year (20 of 42, 47.6%, 247 yards, 5.9 YPA, 1 TD, 2 INT, 54.4 rating) for when it matters most in a 27-7 loss. It was Green Bay's lowest offensive output of the season and the franchise's first-ever home playoff loss.
Jan. 11, 2004
The reality: The Packers need to produce just one drive in overtime to beat the Eagles and then battle the Panthers for a chance to go to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The Cheesehead fantasy: The Green Bay Favrers defense let Brett down when they surrendered a miracle 4th and 26 completion by Donovan McNabb in the fourth quarter, allowing the Eagles to tie the game.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: On Green Bay's first play of overtime, Favre promptly tossed a bad pass into the hands of Eagles defender Brian Dawkins. McNabb quickly drove the offense into easy field goal range for the victory. The Favrers defense disappointed Brett by sacking McNabb a mere 8 times, while the Favrers ground game failed to hold up its end of the bargain with just 210 yards and a measly average of 5.7 YPA. Favre passed for 180 yards, one of his lowest outputs of the year.
Jan. 9, 2005
The reality: The 10-6 Packers draw a gimme, landing the 8-8 Vikings at home in the wildcard round.
The Cheesehead fantasy: Favre heals lepers.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Favre turns out a gruesomely disfiguring playoff performance (22 of 33, 66.7%, 216 yards, 6.5 YPA, 1 TD, 4 INT, 55.4 rating), as Packers suffer a humiliating 31-17 loss to one of the worst teams ever to reach the playoffs. Had the Seahawks not lost to the Rams just one day earlier, Favre would have been the first quarterback in history to lose a playoff game to a .500 team.
The 2005 season
The reality: The Packers suffer their first losing season in the Favre Era.
The Cheesehead fantasy: The Packers went 4-12 because Favre had no talent around him.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Eight times in the 2005 season, Favre took the field in the fourth quarter with his team in position to tie or take the lead and a chance for him to play the role of hero. In all eight games, he threw crushing interceptions that killed any hopes for victory. Favre's 29 picks that year are the most thrown by any quarterback in the past 20 years.
The 2006 season
The reality: Packers climb back to respectability with an 8-8 record.
The Cheesehead fantasy: Favre helped the blind to see.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Favre had trouble focusing on the field, with a 72.7 passer rating that was among the worst in football that season. The list of quarterbacks with a better rating in 2006 included some of the most widely ridiculed passers in football: David Carr (82.1), Michael Vick (75.7), Alex Smith (74.8) and Rex Grossman (73.9)
Jan. 20, 2008
The reality: Packers were favored at home on one of the coldest nights in Lambeau Field history.
The Cheesehead fantasy: The Packers ran into a buzzsaw and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champs.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Favre, and the Packers offense, suffered one of the most colossal collapses in history. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Favre completed 4 of 10 passes for 32 yards with 2 INTs. Green Bay's final four drives, with a Super Bowl appearance easily within their grasp, went for 0, 7, 0 and 2 yards. Favre's final pick, on the second play of overtime, led directly to the Giants' game-winning field goal.
No wonder Cheeseheads continue to cling to 1996 as if it were yesterday: the memories since then are too painful to bear.
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