The Case for Manning as MVP

You may have noticed that we’ve been fairly subdued in our trumpeting of Peyton Manning as the NFL MVP this year.  As we’ve mentioned before, last year the Manning MVP campaign was the emotional highlight of the season.  This year has consistently felt like the best is yet to come, so focusing on a regular season award has seemed unnecessary.

Beyond that, however, I’ve felt like this season was just ‘typical Peyton’ rather than ‘holy crap Peyton’.  Sure, he’s carried the team the way he always does, but 2009 was NOTHING like 2008 where he freaking willed them (along with 98 and 93) to 12 wins with 8 win talent.  Coming off of last year, it’s been hard to get too fired about just another “ho hum, he’s the best in the league” kind of season.

Now, it’s the bye week and there really isn’t anything else to talk about, unless you want to discuss the Jets game again…  no?  Nobody?  Are you sure?  Ok then…

So without further ado, here is the case for Peyton Manning as 2010 NFL MVP:

First we begin by defining the debate.

  • The award is going to be given to a QB or RB unless 1986 Lawrence Taylor happens to emerge from a time machine.
  • The Offensive Player of the Year Award goes to the player with the most outstanding statistics almost every year, so we know there must be a difference between the criteria for MVP and OPY.  The same people are voting on both, and they are often given to different players.  Because almost all MVPs are offensive players, the distinction is more than just OPY is the MVP off offenses, while the MVP can be from defense or special teams.  It doesn’t work like that.
  • The candidates I’ve selected were picked because they are the players most likely to get votes.  If you have a serious suggestion I’ve left off (I mean you honestly believe this guy is the real MVP and should win the award), let me know and I’ll break him down too.
  • This list is my real opinion and real reasoning.  In the past, I’ve tried to read the media’s mind.  This is what I really think.

1.  Peyton Manning

Pros:  2nd in Completion %, yards, and TDs.

Ultimately, this race comes down to 5 quarterbacks all with similar stats.  Each one is a little better or a little worse in this one or that one.  This rate stat is higher or that volume stat is lower.  I don’t think any of the QBs set themselves apart enough to judge the race only on stats.  For me, it comes down to 7 game winning drives in the fourth quarter, and the fact that no team has a bigger drop off from #1 to #2 QB in football than the Colts.  Manning CARRIES the Colts and the city of Indianapolis emotionally in a way that only a few guys in football can match (Brees, Brady, Roethlisberger).  He replaced two of his top receivers from last year on the fly.  He played in the tougher conference and dominated it.  Manning played biggest in the biggest moments and kept his team in every game.  Every time he had the chance to win a game, he pulled it off.  Bill Belichick was so terrified of him that he went for it from his own 28.

At the end of the day, his team never lost when he was in the game in the fourth quarter.

That’s an MVP.

Cons: The ONLY knock on Manning this year was the 16 picks.  He threw some bad ones down the stretch.  His first pick of the year almost cost them the Jacksonville game.  Both picks in NE were bad, he had a bad one in Baltimore. There were ducks in the Denver game.  Even that pick in Buffalo last week was ugly (though Tamme fell down on the play).  16 is the 4th highest total in his career and the most since 2002.  It could also easily be argued that this wasn’t in his top 5 best seasons.  I would put it behind 2008, 2007, 2004 right off the top of my head.  It’s almost identical to 2006.  His defense is way better than people realize.

2.  Drew Brees

Pros:  Best stats in the NFL.  He broke the completion % record, threw the most TD passes, and had the highest rating.  I have zero problem with anyone who voted for Brees.  He was every bit the leader Manning was.

Cons:  That drive at the end of the Dallas game just haunts me.  When it comes to choosing between Manning and Brees this year, we are just splitting hairs after all.  He threw 1 more TD than Manning.  Manning threw for a few more yards.  Brees had a better rating and YPA.  On paper, I cannot argue with Brees as MVP.  The problem is that I keep seeing that final drive against the Cowboys, and I put that up against the fear of Manning in BB’s eyes, and I vote Manning.  He’s an assassin now.  Brees is still something of an unknown quantity.  He doesn’t have that ‘been there before glow’ to him.  It’s an utterly emotional, non-quantitative thing, I know, and I won’t put up a fight with anyone who says Brees was the MVP.

3.  Phil Rivers

Pros: Lead the NFL in the most important stat there is:  Yards Per Attempt.  Never had a rating below 80 in any game.  Took a team more one dimensional than the Colts and made them a serious Super Bowl contender. Had a better rating than Manning and fewer picks than Brees.

Cons:  Volume stats were good, but not quite as good the other guys.  He played in a very easy division.  I don’t think he carries the city of San Diego on his shoulders at all times the way Brees and Manning do.  In all honestly, there isn’t much to say against Rivers.  He had a monster season.  I think he’s a notch below the other two men on the list because of the burden they carry for their teams and communities. I know Rivers is a leader in the San Diego locker room, but he doesn’t quite have the pressure the others do.

4.  Aaron Rodgers

Pros:  Huge numbers, few picks, team finished hot.  He had a lot of pressure on him this year, and played outstanding football.

Cons:  Played very uneven under heavy duress against the Vikings.  The Packers played the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL (according to Footballoutsiders).

5.  Brett Favre

Pros:  2nd in TDs, 2nd in fewest INTs, 2nd in rating, 3rd in completion %.  He had a huge year and played his best against his old team, which helped seal the division for the Vikings.

Cons:  The MVP doesn’t have his coach try to pull him in the 3rd quarter of a meaningful game and then turn the whole thing into a screaming match.  The Vikings also played an easy schedule (4th easiest), and only finished 2 games better with Favre than they did without him last year.

****

I haven’t written this column before because it is unsatisfying.  I hate saying, “The stats don’t tell the whole story”.  It goes against my nature to disbelieve the numbers.  Like I said, Brees has a rock solid case, and Rivers’ is respectable as well.  Last year, I would have battled all day for Manning as MVP.  That team was crap without him.  This team would have been crap with Matt Curtis Painter, but perhaps someone like David Garrard could have gotten 10 wins out of it.  Peyton Manning is going to win his fourth MVP award, and it will be well deserved.  In 10 years, some Saints fan will write an angry blog post about how Brees deserved to have won the award, and he’ll be right.  I wish the NFL used the ‘points voting’ system (like MLB).  They only do first place votes however.  It may look like a landslide in the end, but shouldn’t be.  It’s a close contest.

But the right guy is going to win.

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