Starting on February 14th, 2014, Sam Quinn and The Sports Post have decided to run down the 52 Greatest What Ifs in NFL History, one per week, for the next year. For a list of published What Ifs, as well as the introductory piece, click here.
First of all, we're all good with erasing three years of the Brett Favre "will he, won't he" drama, right? Good.
But, in case you’re actually one of the few remaining Favre fans out there, let’s recap. After his MVP-runner up season in 2007, Brett Favre decided to retire knowing that he could still play. Eventually, Favre changed his mind and asked the Packers to let him play. They refused, they argued, he was traded to the Jets, and we were all forced into three years of Favre-induced misery. But, what if Favre had actually stayed retired?
Not much changes for the Packers without Favre in the league. They win an extra game due to the lack of drama in training camp in the 2008 season, but they eventually develop into the dominant offense with Aaron Rodgers that they were always supposed to have.
In New York, the Jets go forward with Kellen Clemens as their starting quarterback and only manage to win six games. However, without an epic collapse, the Jets feel no immediate need to fire Eric Mangini. Without Mangini in Cleveland, the Jets can't trade their backups for Mark Sanchez, who ends up in San Francisco, and they decide to wait a year to draft a quarterback. Instead, Sanchez ends up with his college coach Pete Carroll in Seattle, where the pair is exactly as mediocre as you’d expect.
After another year of mediocrity, the Jets fire Mangini and hire Rex Ryan. Since they aren't bad enough to land Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in the draft, they wait until the third round to select Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. McCoy's accuracy and ability to limit mistakes makes him the perfect quarterback for Ryan's ground and pound offense. After losing in the Divisional round in 2010, McCoy's Jets make it all the way to Super Bowl XLVI in 2011 after stunning rival New England, setting up the first ever "subway Super Bowl" against the New York Giants.
McCoy doesn't have quite enough to beat the cross-town Giants, but the success of his first two years make Jets fans finally believe they have a quarterback for the future. Even if McCoy doesn’t put up gaudy numbers, he does enough to win games, and, as long as Rex Ryan is around, there’s no real need for a stat-stuffer anyway.
Without Favre to save their 2009 season, the Vikings turn to Donovan McNabb (through a trade with Philadelphia) a year early. McNabb can't capture Favre's magic, and the Vikings miss the playoffs with an 8-8 record. McNabb sticks around for another year to try to salvage what’s left of his career, but he’s eventually benched in favor of rookie Jimmy Clausen and quietly retires.
But, more importantly? Without Favre and the Vikings in the NFC Championship game, Jonathan Vilma sees no need to place a $10,000 bounty on the head of his opponent's quarterback, Tony Romo (as he realizes that taking Tony Romo out of a big game would only help the Cowboys). The Saints win the game and the Super Bowl.
Most importantly, Roger Goodell has nothing to rally his bounty-gate case around, and the Saints get off with only a warning. Gregg Williams is still in the NFL as St. Louis' defensive coordinator, and the Saints might actually have a chance to host a Super Bowl in their own stadium.