When Jon Gruden sat down with Brett Favre last month to film “SportsCenter Special: Gruden’s QB Camp — Brett Favre,” he first pulled out some old Green Bay Packers practice film from the early 1990s.
Gruden saved the film from when he was a young offensive assistant for the Packers and Favre was in his pre-MVP days.
“I showed him throwing passes in practice in Green Bay 25 years ago, and he almost fell out of his chair,” Gruden said in a phone interview this week. “He loved it. He remembered every single player. He didn’t ask, ‘Who’s 75? Or who’s 66? Or who’s that left corner?’ He could remember all the plays that we put in. It was awesome.”
To Gruden, it spoke to the sharpness of Favre’s football mind then and now, and also the time he dedicated to honing his craft.
“There was no CBA like there was today where they send you home after a one-hour meeting,” Gruden said. “Favre would get in there at 9 o’clock in the morning and stay til 9 o’clock at night. And we’d be showing him cutting ups and plays and walking through things so that when minicamp rolled around he was a little bit better and when training camp rolled around he was a lot better and then when he got his shot, he played 300 straight games. The repetition that he got, I think, had a lot to do with him grasping it and taking off.”
The show, which makes its debut on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, will detail that in addition to celebrating Favre’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month. Former Packers receiver Antonio Freeman makes a cameo in one part of the show, when Gruden takes Favre into a gym to recreate some of the plays he ran during his career.
“It’s amazing how those guys remember almost every single play like it was yesterday,” Gruden said. “He was walking into the huddle at the gym calling, ‘Red left switch, Z right, sprint right, G.U. corner, halfback flat.’ He remembered all of them. It was awesome.
“I was his signal guy for three years, so I would signal the play and he had to memorize the formation. So I was signaling from the sideline in gym, and he was calling the plays in the huddle with a bunch of guys he never met, and it looked like 1995 vintage Favre.”
Gruden, who was on the Packers’ coaching staff from 1992-94, said one of the biggest questions about Favre when he came to Green Bay was whether he would be able to comprehend and execute the complicated system that coach Mike Holmgren brought with him from San Francisco.
“The big question had nothing to do with his arm strength or his instincts,” Gruden said. “It was all, ‘Can he master the West coast offense that Joe Montana was running in San Francisco?’ Because it was very wordy, a lot of formations and lot of different things going on. Some of the formations, he had to memorize, and he still has them memorized.
“His football mind was incredible. A lot of the plays — I don’t know what actually is going to make the show –but a lot of the ideas that we called and we ran and plays that worked in his career under Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman, Mike McCarthy were plays that he had suggested during the week. He has a vast football mind. Couple that with his talent and toughness, and what you have is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”