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End of an era? Brett Favre tells Jets he'll retire after 18 seasons
Brett Favre's time with the New York Jets and his NFL career are over.
Favre's agent, Bus Cook, confirmed in an email to USA TODAY Wednesday morning that his client plans to give up the game after 18 seasons, the best of which were spent with the Green Bay Packers.
"My time with the Jets was short, but I'm honored to be given that chance," Favre said in an e-mail to ESPN, which was the first to report Favre's intent to retire.
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Attempts to reach Favre by telephone were unsuccessful.
The Jets confirmed that Favre has told them of his plans and spoke with team owner Woody Johnson. The team held a conference call at noon ET.
"I had a great conversation with Brett this morning," Johnson said in a statement. "Considering that he came from a totally different environment and joined our team during training camp, his performance last season was extraordinary.
"As I spoke with people throughout the organization, they all told me how much they enjoyed working with him. Brett Favre is a Hall-of-Fame player, but he is also a Hall-of-Fame person. Brett, Deanna and his family will always be a part of the Jets family."
Favre, 39, retired last March. Then, after a change of heart and a short struggle with the Packers over whether he could return to them during training camp, he was traded to the Jets in August.
Favre made the Pro Bowl, his 10th, but led the NFL with 22 interceptions last season. Shoulder and elbow injuries hampered him late in the season after he had suffered a earlier sprained ankle.
The Jets started 8-3, but spiraled to a 9-7 finish and missed the playoffs.
Favre threw two touchdown passes and nine interceptions in the Jets' 1-4 stretch to end the year. Coach Eric Mangini was subsequently fired after his third season and then hired by the Cleveland Browns.
Favre was a three-time Most Valuable Player and three-time All-Pro with the Packers, with whom he played from 1992-2007. The Packers won Super Bowl XXXI by defeating the New England Patriots and were beaten three following year in the title game by the Denver Broncos.
Favre's retirement would save the Jets $13 million against the salary cap, which will be about $123 million for 2009.
Favre has often flirted with retirement before. Barring another change of mind, he retires as the most prolific passer in pro football history. His 169 wins as a starter, 464 touchdown passes, 65,127 passing yards, 5,720 career completions and 9,280 passing attempts are all records. He also started 269 consecutive games at his position (291 including playoffs), never missing one once the Packers installed him as the starter early in the 1992 season after incumbent Don Majikowski was injured.
Ever the gambler, Favre's 310 career interceptions are also the most in league history.
"He truly was as gifted a player as I have ever seen," said Mike Holmgren, who coached Favre in Green Bay.
Favre's divorce from the Packers was nasty. He asked for his release and was denied it by the club, which had committed in the offseason to making Aaron Rodgers the starter. The trade to the Jets was made on Aug. 6 and the Jets then released Chad Pennington, who signed with the Miami Dolphins and led them to the playoffs.
Favre said he was "mentally tired" when he first told the Packers he would not return. "I don't think I've got anything left to give," he said at a news conference last March.
Later, he said he had felt pressured to give the Packers an early decision about whether to not to play another season and then changed his mind. By then the Packers had installed Rodgers, their No. 1 pick in 2005, as their quarterback, though he had not yet started a game.
Favre's season with the Jets had its moments. He threw six touchdown passes in a win against the Arizona Cardinals and seemingly had turned around a team that was 4-12 the previous season. He finished with 22 touchdown passes.
"When Brett Favre walked in the locker room, 52 other guys said, 'We've got a guy now and we can win,' and the whole level of confidence came up," said Jim Fassel, the former New York Giants coach and a radio analyst for Westwood One.
But Favre wore down, talked about feeling his age and his performance declined as the Jets slipped from the AFC East lead in the final month.
"When we acquired Brett, we knew we would get everything he had," said Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
"He took the time to mentor younger players and his competitiveness and enthusiasm at practice and during games was contagious. I spoke with him this morning and told him that he will be a friend of the Jets for years to come and it was an honor to work with him."
Tannenbaum and new Jets coach Rex Ryan must now weigh their options under center. Kellen Clemens, who started eight games in 2007 while splitting time with Pennington, heads into his fourth season and is the most experienced quarterback on the roster. Youngsters Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge are also options.
The Jets, who hold the 17th pick in the first round of the draft, could also consider players like Georgia's Matthew Stafford and Southern California's Mark Sanchez.
The NFL scouting combine to evaluate incoming college players begins next week. The market to sign free agents and broker trades officially opens Feb. 27.
Despite the uncertainty at the quarterback position, Ryan and Co. can now be certain who won't be starting for them in 2009.
"It was an honor to coach against Brett over the years," Ryan said. "If he's not the best quarterback ever, then he's certainly in the conversation. I have great admiration for him as a player and a person.
"I wish him only the best in his life after football."
Contributing: Nate Davis