Are Vikings better off with Favre?

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings is helped off the field by medical staff after getting injured on a play against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

One of the biggest stories of the second week of preseason was the (expected) return of quarterback Brett Favre to the Vikings, just in time for Minnesota’s second preseason game vs. San Francisco on Sunday night.

A lot was made of Favre waiting until the last minute to return to the Minnesota roster. The fact is that the Vikings, even with Favre not at 100 percent, are better off with him in the lineup rather than either Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels.

What did Favre’s presence mean in simple terms to the Vikings in 2009? Take some basic numbers from NFLGSIS, and you can see the difference.

In 2008, Minnesota averaged 146.1 rush yards per game, +30.1 above the NFL average of 116.0. The Vikings threw for 184.8 pass yards per game, -26.5 below the NFL average of 211.3. Overall, Minnesota’s 330.9 yards per game of total offense was +3.6 yards ahead of the league average of 327.3.

In terms of play distribution, the 2008 Vikings ran on 51.1 percent of their total plays (519 of 1014).

In 2009, Minnesota averaged 119.9 rush yards, +3.2 yards over the league average of 116.7. The Vikings threw for an average of 259.8 yards per game, +41.3 yards over the NFL average of 218.5. Minnesota averaged 379.6 total yards per game, +44.5 over the league average of 335.1.

Play distribution? The ’09 Vikings ran the ball just 44.3 percent of the time overall (467 of 1054 plays).

Year-over-year, Minnesota rushed for -26.2 yards less per game and threw for +75.0 yards more per game in 2009. The Vikings also averaged +48.7 yards more of total offense in ’09.

The biggest number over the two years was that the Vikings averaged 23.7 points per game in 2008 and 29.4 last season.

The ’08 Vikings were known as a team that would run the ball as needed with Adrian Peterson, and opponents stacked the box with eight men to stop Peterson and force Minnesota to throw the ball. Quarterback Gus Frerotte was not an overally accurate passer (59.1 percent) with 15 interceptions, and Jackson also threw at a 59.1 percent completion rate.

With Favre under center, the Vikings threw the ball 55.7 of the time, and opponents had to respect both the run and the receivers. Clubs also respected Favre’s veteran knowledge and guile under pressure. Favre completed 68.4 percent of his passes and threw for 33 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Plus, the Vikings were just a few plays short of beating the eventual world champion Saints in the NFC title game.

It’s no wonder that with Jackson and Rosenfels as the option at quarterback in 2010, both Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Favre knew that Minnesota needed the Mississippi gunslinger to return for his 20th NFL season, despite age and injury issues.

It’s that type of leverage that allows Favre to hold out as long as he can to report to the point that the Vikings sent three veteran players to Mississippi to convince him to return for 2010.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf wants the state of Minnesota to build him a new stadium to replace the aging Metrodome. Baseball’s Twins and the University of Minnesota football program each have brand-new facilities, and the Vikings are making noise about what happens without a new stadium when their lease expires after the 2011 season.

Wilf knows that Favre gives him the best chance to hoist a Super Bowl trophy, but more importantly, to break ground on the Vikings’ future in the Twin Cities.

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