Sant-Miller: Kill the MVP award
Aaron Sant-Miller | Sunday, February 1, 2015
When the announcement came down that Aaron Rodgers had been named the NFL’s 2014 Most Valuable Player (MVP), I had a knee jerk reaction. I saw a bias for the quarterback position being lived out once again. Quarterbacks score touchdowns, get the biggest endorsements, are the face of the league and have the biggest names.
This knee jerk reaction led me right to J.J. Watt.
Defensive players get no love for the biggest awards. No player who has lined up exclusively on defense has ever won the Heisman Trophy. Charles Woodson is the only defensive player to win the Heisman, but he also boasted a resume of impressive kick returns and splash plays at wide receiver. In the NFL, claiming the most prestigious honor is marginally less challenging. The only defensive NFL MVPs are Alan Page in 1971 and Lawrence Taylor in 1986.
I have no reservations calling J.J. Watt the best football player in the world. He had 20.5 sacks, while also forcing five turnovers (four fumbles and one interception). He had nearly 80 tackles at the defensive end position, while also producing six scores (one fumble return, one interception return, one safety and three touchdown receptions). The man was targeted on three passes and caught them all. For touchdowns.
He finished the season with eleven pass deflections, the most of any defensive linemen and fourth among non defensive backs. He led the NFL in tackles for loss with 29 and was also best in the NFL in yards lost on sacks.
These numbers, taken as a whole, are unprecedented; all while lining up for the Houston Texans and facing consistent double-teams almost every game. You could not watch a game without feeling his presence, without him dominating the line of scrimmage. He threw linemen around like ragdolls, crashed down the backside on running plays and destroyed plays at the point of attack. Against the pass, he brought a full arsenal of moves as well as sheer athleticism. If you’re wondering, the defensive lineman weighs almost 300 pounds but had under ten percent body fat.
J.J. Watt looks and plays like someone you made in a Madden Player Creator, a 99 overall with freak size. Yet, he had no chance of winning the MVP.
Every year, in almost every sport, we’re reminded that the Most Valuable Player award is not the Best Player award. Who is the most valuable to their team? Who is irreplaceable?
This year, it was Aaron Rodgers. He had an incredible season, throwing 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions, while completing nearly 66 percent of his passes for almost 4,400 yards.
Quarterback is the most valuable position. While a defensive end can be incredibly influential, to some extent, they function within the framework of an 11-man defense. They can make exceptional plays and often have plays designed for them, plays intended for them to make an impact.
Quarterbacks have an almost unfair amount of responsibility. Even before the snap, the man under center is expected to read an entire defense and make adjustments at the line. In the NFL, passing windows are minuscule, and passers are forced to “throw players open.” The margin for error is unbelievable, where mistakes give the other team points and take points away from your offense. Though a receiver can help fight for a badly thrown ball, the quarterback is the end all and be all, for the most part.
Defensive linemen have gap responsibility and are held accountable. If Watt is sealed off, the running back can get an extra five to 10 yards, easy. But, if Watt doesn’t win his one-on-one matchups on passing downs, other players can get after the quarterback. Other players can make the tackle. His mistakes can be covered up. Even defensive backs can defend the ball once it’s in the air.
If Rodgers misses a throw, the team doesn’t gain any yards. If he under throws a receiver, oftentimes the ball is intercepted. If he calls the wrong audible, the running back is blown up behind the line of scrimmage. If a quarterback makes a mistake, everyone sees it because it always makes a tangible impact.
These things are rarely up for debate. Quarterback is recognized as the most challenging position and the most important position. Therefore, MVP is a skewed award and it doesn’t represent the best player, yada yada yada.
So, let’s get rid of the award. Let’s change the Most Valuable Player Award to the Player of the Year Award, going out to the best player.
Anarchy? Maybe. Am I overthrowing an award system that has been in place for years? Yes.
I am suggesting we try to eliminate a natural position bias in the most prestigious NFL award. That can’t be done within the framework of the MVP award, due to the concept of “value.” So let’s explore something entirely new, so a player like J.J. Watt gets the recognition he deserves, as the best football player alive.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.