HOF nominee Ron Wolf reflects on Jets and the (almost) Brett Favre trade

Two weeks after wrapping up a brief stint as a consultant for the New York Jets, Ron Wolf is on the verge of football immortality.

Wolf is nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the contributors category and, if the 46-person selection committee doesn't fumble Saturday during its annual meeting at the Super Bowl, the former longtime general manager will be elected to Canton, Ohio.

Not many people remember this, but Wolf actually spent 17 months as the Jets' personnel director before taking over the Green Bay Packers in December 1991 -- a period that included one of the biggest "what if?" moments in Jets history.

The time they almost drafted Brett Favre.

Wolf fell in love with Favre while working for the Jets' late general manager, Dick Steinberg. He scouted him in the fall of 1990 at Southern Mississippi and was blown away by Favre at the East-West Shrine Game in Palo Alto, California.

"Dick and I were at the East-West game, and Brett was outstanding," Wolf said in a phone interview Thursday. "I remember, we both said, 'This is the best player in the draft.'"

In fact, they made Favre the No. 1 player on their draft board -- much higher than most teams rated him. Thing is, the Jets didn't have a first-round pick, having used it to select Rob Moore in the previous summer's supplemental draft. Much to their surprise, Favre slipped into the second round.

The Jets, picking seventh in Round 2, made a deal to jump up two spots, ahead of the Atlanta Falcons, who were known to covet Favre. The plan was to swap places with the Arizona Cardinals and select Favre with the 33rd overall choice.

"Dick thought he had a deal with Arizona," Wolf said. "Fortunately for me and unfortunately for the Jets, when he called Arizona to finish the deal, they backed out because a player they wanted was still there [defensive end Mike Jones]."

As expected, the Falcons took Favre and the Jets got stuck with quarterback Browning Nagle, an all-time bust known for his erratic arm and hard-partying ways. Then-coach Bruce Coslet lobbied hard for Nagle, who was supposed to play with Favre in the East-West game but didn't play due to a late night. Nevertheless, Steinberg trusted Coslet and, man, did they get burned.

The Jets' misfortune worked out brilliantly for Wolf, who, in his first big move as the Packers' GM, traded a first-round pick to the Falcons for Favre. With three moves, Wolf restored the Packers to glory. He hired Mike Holmgren (who spurned the Jets in 1990), traded for Favre and, a year later, signed Reggie White (who spurned the Jets in free agency).

It was just a blip in a great career that spanned nearly 40 years, but Wolf treasures his time with the Jets.

"I had spent most of my professional life with [late Oakland Raiders owner] Al Davis, and everything I learned was pretty much from him, but that year and a half in New York was great," Wolf said. "I really didn't know Dick, but I was able to take a lot of things he did in his preparation, tweaked them a lot and took them to Green Bay. … It was a wonderful year for me from an educational standpoint. I benefited tremendously from his friendship. It was a good year for Ron Wolf."

For the Jets, not so much.