Before you ask, yes we are in the midst of the NFL playoffs and yes we are heading into – in my opinion – the best football weekend of the year.
However, there is something increasingly important to address and it needs to be spoken of now, before the absolute power of the playoffs corrupts absolutely.
I speak, of course, about the NFL MVP award.
Now is the most appropriate time to broach this subject, as to be quite honest, most of the leading candidates this past weekend were either underwhelming or inactive.
While it may seem counterintuitive to do so, it also allows us to resist the urge to be swept up in the waves of emotion that come with playoff results and individual performances.
The MVP race is well documented, the likely candidates being Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady.
Before all the bleeding-heart defensive gurus out there combat the previous candidates with claims of JJ Watt, Aldon Smith and the like, I did take them into account but decided to not go into detail. This is due to the Texan’s awful stumble in the last month of the season, and Smith’s lack of productivity following the injury to Justin Smith.
Let’s look at the candidates.
Aaron Rodgers: 4295 yards, 39 touchdowns, 8 intercepts, 67.2% completion rate
A-Rod carried his Green Bay packers to yet another NFC North title despite not having his entire receiving corps together since week one, having little to no running game, and a defence that couldn’t get on the field (albeit mostly due to injury).
It was well documented that Rodgers never really got into the groove this year and didn’t display the level of consistency one would expect from an MVP recipient.
Rodgers also has memorable losses at the hands of the (at the time) lowly Indianapolis Colts, erratic New York Giants, and a Vikings team that had no business being in the playoffs.
Peyton Manning: 4659 yards, 37Tds, 11 Int, 68.6% completion rate
Peyton came into Denver to usher in the post-Tebow era and has done so with great success, leading the Broncos to the first seed in the AFC.
In doing this he has also defied critics by returning to his former level despite four neck surgeries, and leads the league in completion percentage along.
Number 18′s passer rating of 105.8 is the second-highest of his career, coming second only to his Superbowl winning season of 49 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
However impressive it may be, Manning’s tally of 37 touchdowns is no anomaly – he has thrown over 30 in a season seven times.
Despite the fact that we all acknowledge how superior Peyton is to Tebow, the fact is that the Broncos were still in this position one year ago, so it’s not as if he has turned around a struggling franchise.
Both Brady and Rodgers have fewer interceptions than Manning, with Rodgers having two more touchdown passes.
Tom Brady: 4827 yards, 34 Tds, 8 Int, 63.0% completion rate
In a year when the Bills were meant to step up with their D-Line, and the Jets were going to unleash Tebow, Brady owned the AFC East yet again and clinched the second seed in the AFC.
Brady once again displayed his prowess through the air, however this was without a healthy tight end corps, as Hernandez and Gronkowski missed 11 games between them and big free agent pickup Brandon Lloyd failed to live up to the hype.
For the first time since 2004 Brady didn’t have to carry the team, due to the emergence of running back Stevan Ridley, who rushed for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The names Brady and Manning go hand in hand, and given the fact that Brady had fewer touchdown passes and a lower playoff seeding, Manning may have the upper hand.
Adrian Peterson – 2097 rushing yards, 12 touchdown’s, 6.0 yards per carry
Peterson came nine yards short of becoming the single-season rushing leader, finishing with 2097 yards on the ground which situates him second on the all-time list.
AP – in as literal a sense as one can – carried his previously 3-13 Vikings to a wildcard playoff berth, despite incompetent quarterback play compounded by receivers unable to catch a cold in a Minnesota winter.
Peterson also finished with 484 more rushing yards than the second-highest rusher Alfred Morris, with only 13 more attempts.
This was all achieved while recovering from reconstructive ACL and MCL surgery, after an injury in the last week of the 2011 season.
AP isn’t a quarterback. It sounds spiteful but in the world we live in these days, quarterbacks win the MVP. The last non-quarterback to win the MVP? LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.
Peterson’s Vikings did not win their division and needed a victory in the last week of the season to assure a playoff berth.
Did I mention that he isn’t a quarterback?
Who should win?
Adrian Peterson should win the award.
If not now, when? If not him, who? If he does not, they might as well rename it the MVQ.
For the purposes of fairness, I would like to keep the entire notion of AP and Manning’s return from injury (although both tremendous stories) separate to the logic of deciding an MVP.
No quarterback this season has distinguished themselves as the best in the league. An argument can be made for Brady, Rodgers and Manning, but their stats are indistinguishable and each stat line could be interchangeable between any of the three in any given year.
What’s more is that Brady, Rodgers, and Manning all have previous accomplishments that comfortably eclipse any of this season’s efforts.
Of their previous personal bests compared to this season, Brady has 16 fewer touchdown passes, Manning has 12 and Rodgers has six.
Adrian Peterson, on the other hand, erased any possible doubts of anyone challenging him as the best at his position.
400 yards more than the second-highest rusher, nine yards from the single-season record, second all-time single season rusher.
The greatest argument for Adrian Peterson however is the Minnesota Vikings record.
The respective teams of the other three candidates all made the playoffs last year, which at least means that the building blocks were there to make another run.
The Vikings, however, were 3-13 and had fourth pick overall in this year’s draft.
Peterson’s 2012 campaign was the single reason that the Minnesota Vikings recorded a 10-6 record and made the playoffs, a prospect that was inconceivable to any Vikings fan at the start of the year.
Who will win?
Sigh. Peyton Manning.
I don’t like it, and any other year and I would accept it. But given the overall dominance of Peterson’s season, it will be remarkably disrespectful to look to a four-time winner who didn’t greatly distinguish himself from his fellow quarterbacks, statistically speaking or in the win-loss column.
Stay tuned later this week as I delve further into the Great Rookie Debate, before previewing the Divisional Playoff Round.
Congrats to Aussie Jesse Williams as well. Roll tidy, baby.