EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In his 19th NFL season, and his 40th on this earth, Brett Favre produced the best season of what was already a Hall of Fame career. As the bizarre nature of FavreWatch 2010 fades into history, now is the time to ask a quite reasonable question:
How can he possibly top 2009?
I wonder if that issue wasn't high on Favre's list as he mulled a return. Can he come anywhere close to duplicating a 33-7 touchdown-interception ratio? Will he complete 68.4 percent of his passes again? Will defenses once again be caught off guard by his chemistry with receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, along with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe?
From my vantage point, there is only one way to judge Favre's 2010 season. It won't be whether he throws 35 touchdowns or passes for 4,500 yards or sets an NFL record for passer rating. We saw what he was capable of last season.
There's only one reason for the Vikings to go through the rigmarole it took to get Favre back to Minnesota. I can think of only one way that his 20th season will be judged a success.
For that, I hand it to former Vikings receiver Randy Moss, circa 2000.
"Super Bowl, homeboy."
That was the goal Moss set after signing a record contract extension 10 years ago. Favre and the Vikings must be thinking the same thing.
This year's Super Bowl is the reason you pass on an opportunity to acquire Donovan McNabb.
This year's Super Bowl is why you use your draft on players who can help you in 2010, not a quarterback who might start in 2013.
This year's Super Bowl is why the coach spends the night at Favre's mansion a week before training camp, willingly revealing what has been a transfer of power from coach to player.
This year's Super Bowl is why three prominent players were dispatched in an unprecedented attempt to beg Favre into playing one more year -- for their sakes, if not his.
Anything short of a Super Bowl title would render these unparalleled detours a waste of time. If the Vikings miss the Super Bowl in Favre's second year, they'll be left with an aging team that allowed another season to pass without finding a long-term solution at quarterback.
I'm on record suggesting the Vikings, even with Favre, will have a tough go in the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers are much improved over the team that Minnesota defeated twice last season. And it's certainly fair to wonder if 2009 wasn't a magical, one-time collection of events for the Vikings and Favre, one that landed an overtime loss away from the Super Bowl but is highly unlikely to be repeated.
Count former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, now an ESPN analyst, in that group. Bruschi said Tuesday on ESPN's NFL Live that "I don't think he can do it again" because of weaknesses exposed by the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game.
"I think there's a huge problem there," Bruschi said. "I think the New Orleans Saints' defense provided a blueprint on how to get to Brett Favre. You show blitz packages from the right, from the left, all over the place. You get to him. You hit him when he has the ball. You hit him when he doesn't have the ball.
"I don't think Brett Favre can last this season with that ankle. He's going to be 41 years old. The ankle is bothering him right now, of course."
History tells us Favre is more likely to last the season than not. He hasn't missed a game since 1992. But Bruschi is right about the Vikings' pass protection issues in that game, and don't think for a second that their 2010 opponents haven't watched the video.
And then there is the issue of Favre's clear ambivalence about playing this season. The Vikings were so worried about his frame of mind that they felt compelled to send three of their top veterans to recruit him. You wonder where they thought Favre's mind was before the visit. Bruschi wondered the same thing.
"And if it took begging," Bruschi said. "If it took three of the most respected teammates and members of that Minnesota Vikings team to go down there and beg him to come back, to twist his arm, I've lost respect for this team.
"If you want him so bad and he doesn't want you, and you've got to go down and beg for someone to come back, then you don't have faith in your football team. You only have faith in one person."
For the most part, I think Vikings players breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday. Backup Tarvaris Jackson is a nice guy and has been a professional throughout FavreWatch, but there aren't many people in the organization who believe he could win a Super Bowl.
Favre still can. That's why he arrived Tuesday in Minnesota, and that's the only way to judge his 2010 season.