There was a sideline shot of Brett Favre midway through the Chicago Bears brutal 40-14 pounding of the Minnesota Vikings Monday night that said it all.
The legendary quarterback had been knocked out of the game moments earlier when Bears defensive end Corey Wootton slammed him to the frozen turf of the University of Minnesota's outdoor stadium.
Now Favre was in front of the Vikings bench nursing a head injury, a ski cap pulled low over his ears, a parka over his uniform, his bristly gray beard glistening with whatever was falling from the leaden Minneapolis sky. Snow, sleet, rain — this game had it all.
"He looks old and cold," a guy in the broadcast booth said, and he wasn't kidding. At that moment, woozy from the hit that had banged his helmet against the ground and with the pain-numbing injections they'd given him for his sprained right shoulder probably wearing off, Favre looked far older than his 41 years.
What a horror show this season has been for him.
The Vikings are 5-9. Favre has thrown 19 interceptions — only two other NFL quarterbacks have thrown more. His long streak of starting games, the one he took so much pride in, ended at 297, an NFL record.
And he's still the subject of a league investigation — and investigation that shows no signs of ever ending — into whether he sent inappropriate messages and photos to a young woman who worked for the New York Jets.
But even as he stood forlornly on the sidelines — his season may or not be over; he hasn't ruled out playing in the Vikings' final two games — you had to admire the guy's guts.
Wanting to play one last game before the home fans, he had sucked it up, took a needle in the shoulder and led the Vikings to a score on their opening drive, a 23-yard touchdown pass to Percy Harvin.
Then you saw that wonderful shot of Favre, looking 31 now instead of 41, pumping his fist and shouting for joy and leaping on the back of one of his teammates in the end zone.
I have a feeling that's how most football fans would like to remember him: with a radiant smile on his face and his arms thrust upward in celebration after another touchdown. Not weary-looking and disoriented on the sidelines, with a season that started with such promise going down the drain.
"My last pass was just as much fun as my first one," Favre told reporters after the game, perhaps foreshadowing that his season — and his NFL career — is officially over, and he's made peace with that fact.
I hope so. He was a great quarterback, one of the best that's ever played. But now it's time to say good-bye.
Everyone in the game knows he's done. Now, maybe Brett Favre does, too.