Most, if not all, Vikings fans were thrilled with the outcome of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. Sure, the Vikings lost 17-13 in embarrassing fashion. But the loss locked down the third pick in the 2012 NFL draft, and also provided the added entertainment of seeing superman Jared Allen pursue the Viking’s franchise and NFL’s single-season sack records. While Allen’s 3½ sacks gave him 22 for season—enough to break Chris Doleman’s franchise record—he came up a ½ sack short of the NFL record. All in all, the game was more excitement than we’d seen all year. What’s not to like?
…well, how ‘bout the fact that the last of Allen’s 3½ sacks should have set the NFL record.
The record itself was set by the Giants’ Michael Strahan in the last game of the 2001 season. Strahan entered that game needing just one sack to break Mark Gastineau’s record of 22 sacks. But getting that record-breaking sack proved elusive throughout most of the game, as the Packers kept Strahan sackless deep into the 4th quarter.
And that’s when it happened. The Brett Favre Dive. With the Packers ahead and the outcome of the game firmly decided, there was little left for Green Bay to do besides run the ball and put the game on ice. Up to that point, that’s exactly what the Packers had done, and it looked as if Strahan had missed his opportunity to become the NFL’s all-time sack leader. But then Favre decided to take matters into his own hands, playing NFL demagogue by gift-wrapping an NFL record for Strahan.
Here’s what happened: Packers head coach Mike Sherman called for Favre to run “93-blast,” a run play to the left side. But Favre inexplicably changed the play in the huddle. Instead of the run play, he called for a “keep-pass”—a bootleg roll-out that gave him the option to run it or pass it, depending on what he saw. As the ball was snapped, Packers tight end Bubba Franks—thinking it was still a run play—left Strahan unblocked. As Favre rolled out, he ran right into Strahan, giving him the record-breaking sack he needed. Actually, Favre didn’t run into Strahan. He more or less crumbled at his feet, allowing the big defensive lineman to fall on top of him.
Was the play designed to give Strahan the record? According to Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley, Favre was supposed to communicate to all ten offensive players whenever a “keep-pass” was called. As it turned out, Favre told no one, which is why Strahan went unblocked in his pursuit of Favre. Considering that, and the lackadaisical nature of the roll-out, and the fact that Strahan and Favre were good friends, and the fact that Favre had joked that he might let Strahan set the record early, it is hard to believe that Favre didn’t set the whole thing up.
In other words, Strahan’s record is a fraud. It always has been, always will be. For that fact alone, it has always rubbed me the wrong way. Long-time New York Jet Mark Gastineau worked his tail off en route to the NFL sack record, only to see it fall because of a gift-wrapped sack courtesy of Brett Favre.
But now my disdain for Strahan’s record has been elevated to a whole new level. Had Strahan not gotten his record-breaking sack in 2001, the all-time NFL sack record would have been 22…which means Jared Allen’s final sack of the 2011 season would have tied the record set by Mark Gastineau in 1984. Considering that the Bears double- and triple-teamed Allen throughout the second half of Sunday’s game, the record would have been well deserved—and well-earned, unlike Strahan’s.
It’s just one more reason the 2011 Vikings season should be buried.
Joe Buri is a former high school athletic director who currently works as an attorney in corporate America. In addition to writing for TC Huddle, he also volunteers as an assistant varsity basketball coach at a local Twin Cities high school. Once dubbed “The Human Stump,” he considers holding former NBA forward Devean George to 39 points a highlight of his collegiate basketball experience.