As I warned you last month, the saga of Brett Favre has indeed evolved into another final curtain performance with the Minnesota Vikings this year. Now 40 years old, and soon in October 41, Favre is among a small group of warriors that extended their NFL careers into their fifth decade and an even smaller group that continued to change the playing field outcomes with their talent. I certainly wish him well, or at least good health, as he embarks on what he states is his “final” season.
In 1970 another ageless quarterback put together a season that even the gunslinger Favre would have a difficult time emulating. George Blanda managed to play in parts of 4 decades over 26 years in the American and National Football leagues, was an outstanding passer and kicker for the Chicago Bears, Houston Oilers, and Oakland Raiders, and is in the National Football League Hall Of Fame. Nothing, however, competes with the the year of comebacks and drama Blanda put together in 1970. On five consecutive late season games, Blanda at age 43 came off the bench to lead Oakland to 4 wins and a tie, each more scintillating than the last, with improbable last minute 4th quarter touchdowns and field goals , resulting in clutch performance perfection. Before the steroid era, 43 years of age might as well have been 53, and yet Blanda followed his 1970 performance by nearly willing his team to title game victory, scoring all 17 of his team’s points. The ageless one managed amazingly five more quality seasons retiring at 48, just short of 49, and having played in over 340 games and having scored over 2000 points. His coach John Madden remarked of Blanda that men over 40 never really liked him, because their wives would point to Blanda and say, “He’s throwing touchdowns at 45, why can’t you at least cut the grass?”
Brett Favre is likely to be the iron man of his era, starting over 300 games at one of the toughest positions on the field, quarterback, but George Blanda will always be the old warrior who invented “Clutch”. Next time Favre has the title in his sights, he may want to reflect back on the gunslinger who showed how to get it done in the final moments – every time.