Why the NFL MVP discussion is always flawed
You heard it here last
This Saturday, Feb. 3, the Associated Press will decide the winners of its annual NFL awards. The most prestigious of these is the league’s MVP.
The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan seems to be the consensus MVP, and his numbers are deserving of the award.
He’s the only quarterback this year to finish in the top three in yards, completion percentage and touchdowns. Not to mention his league leading QBR of 117.1 (the 5th best single season of all time).
More importantly though, his team is winning. They're headed to the Super Bowl. Their offense seems impossible to stop.
However, he hasn’t done what several other players have. He hasn't carried his team.
His offensive line has been terrific (and completely healthy) all season. His receivers (specifically league-leading Julio Jones) have made countless plays.
His running backs have been solid, and his offensive coordinator has been so good that several teams will look to hire him once the season is over.
That isn’t to say Ryan hasn’t been terrific; he has. But others have not been as fortunate in terms of their supporting roles.
Aaron Rodgers (though he didn't quite run the table) carried Green Bay to eight straight wins before losing to Atlanta in the championship game. He almost rivals Ryan in terms of statistical performance, and has done so without the system or the stars surrounding Ryan.
Derek Carr had an MVP level season, until a minor finger injury slowed him down and a broken fibula sent his season—and his team—packing.
Additional arguments could be made for running backs Ezekiel Elliot (who had a fantastic rookie season and led the NFL in rushing yards despite sitting for most of Week 17) and David Johnson (who posted over 2000 yards from scrimmage behind one of the worst offensive lines in football).
Furthermore, Tom Brady (who even with a four game suspension managed to throw 28 touchdowns against just two interceptions) could be brought into the conversation along with Drew Brees (who posted his fifth 5000 yard passing season, more than all quarterbacks in history combined).
In my opinion, Ryan does deserve the award. But the others equally deserve to be a part of the conversation.
However, certain variables often play into the conversation far more than they should.
If a team isn’t winning, anything a player does for that team is essentially discredited in the MVP discussion. Of all the years the award his been around (even before the Super Bowl era), only twice has it gone to a player whose team didn’t make the playoffs.
The award is for the most valuable player. Not the most valuable player on a good team.
Additionally, the award doesn’t see much diversity as far as position goes. Since 1987, 23 MVPs have gone to quarterbacks with the remaining eight going to running backs.
While these positions are certainly the most key positions in football (which is partly why all of the players previously mentioned are one or the other), in seasons past the league has had players at other positions deserving of the award.
My point is, the award has become predictable. It almost always goes to the best quarterback on a playoff team.
While winning is important, it isn’t the best measure of individual success, and therefore should be given less weight in MVP conversations. Nonetheless, the ultimate goal in the NFL is to win, and understandably it will always work its way into the decision.
Matt Ryan will almost certainly be crowned the MVP, and might manage to beat the Patriots a day later. We’ll then all turn our attention to next season. Perhaps, for a change, we’ll even get the pleasure of a non-QB MVP.
Tyler Dean is a junior studying business administration.