Is Tom Brady Really The NFL MVP In 2016?

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Let’s start this conversation by admitting this: The NFL MVP Award does not really matter much. More specifically, as it relates to a surefire Hall of Famer whose legacy is already cemented with four Super Bowl wins and three Super Bowl MVPs, the matter of collecting regular-season hardware is not vitally important to his standing and reputation in the football world. He cares much more about the Lombardi Trophy than he does the MVP trophy.

But of course, with the 39-year-old having one of the more remarkable seasons in that Hall of Fame career, there’s been a groundswell of support in the region for Brady to earn his third MVP Award. LeGarrette Blount lobbied for his QB to win the award, and in the local media, Karen Guregian wrote for the Herald that Brady has “proven the most valuable and most worthy of the honor.” ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote that Brady “might have put the MVP race to bed” this past weekend. And it’s not just locally; ESPN’s panel of 13 experts selected Brady as the runaway winner for the award just last week.

It’s all understandable. After being suspended mostly for being a member of the New England Patriots, Brady has been phenomenal since returning to game action in Week 5. He’s completed 66.7 percent of his passes, averaging 8.22 yards per attempt, while throwing 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His 0.5 percent interception rate is tops in the NFL, and most importantly, the team is 10-1 with him as their starting quarterback.

The stats are impressive, and so is the story. For a 39-year-old to put forth those kind of statistics in any circumstance would be impressive, but doing it after missing four weeks and largely without the services of Rob Gronkowski makes it stand out all the more. Just look at the most recent comparison for all-time greats at age 39:

TOM BRADY, 2016

  • 11 Games
  • 266-for-399 (66.7%)
  • 3,278 yards
  • 25 TDs
  • 2 INTs
  • 110.7 passer rating

PEYTON MANNING, 2015

  • 10 Games
  • 198-for-331 (59.8%)
  • 2,249 yards
  • 9 TDs
  • 17 INTs
  • 67.9 passer rating

If one were so inclined, one could make a very, very convincing case for Brady as the MVP. The problem is, it’s just as easy to do that for a number of other players.

If you feel like a quarterback deserves the award (a QB has won the award seven of the past eight years and 40 times since 1957), then you’d have a hard time arguing that Brady’s 2016 season has been better than Matt Ryan’s in Atlanta.

TOM BRADY, 2016

  • 11 Games
  • 266-for-399 (66.7%)
  • 3,278 yards
  • 8.2 yards/attempt
  • 298 yards/game
  • 25 TDs
  • 2 INTs
  • 110.7 passer rating
  • 10-1 record

MATT RYAN, 2016

  • 15 Games
  • 346-for-498 (69.5%)
  • 4,613 yards
  • 9.26 yards/attempt
  • 308 yards/game
  • 34 TDs
  • 7 INTs
  • 115.5 passer rating
  • 10-5 record

Basically, if you think Brady’s season has been MVP-worthy, then you may have to believe that Ryan’s even more deserving of the award. He’s performed with the same excellence, albeit with some more interceptions and losses, but for four weeks longer.

Despite that season-long excellence, Ryan has often been the odd man out in the MVP discussion. The aforementioned ESPN panel had Ryan finishing fourth in the race. It’s left the Falcons to openly wonder what the heck is going on.

Another quarterback who strengthened his case this week was Dak Prescott, who threw for 212 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a Cowboys victory over the Lions on Monday night. The rookie stacks up decently against Brady.

TOM BRADY, 2016

  • 11 Games
  • 266-for-399 (66.7%)
  • 3,278 yards
  • 8.2 yards/attempt
  • 298 yards/game
  • 25 TDs
  • 2 INTs
  • 110.7 passer rating
  • 10-1 record

DAK PRESCOTT, 2016

  • 15 Games
  • 307-for-451 (68.1%)
  • 3,630 yards
  • 8.05 yards/attempt
  • 242 yards/game
  • 23TDs
  • 4 INTs
  • 105.7 passer rating
  • 13-2 record

The volume stats are lacking, but Prescott’s efficiency has been remarkable for anyone, let alone a rookie.

Really, for Brady to win the award, it would be as much for the story of his season as it is for his actual stats. But one could argue that Prescott’s story, as a rookie in a market like Dallas, taking over for someone like Tony Romo, stands up to Brady’s work at age 39 and coming off a suspension.

Also creeping into the MVP race at quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, who’s overcome a mediocre first half of the year to compile some worthy stats.

TOM BRADY, 2016

  • 11 Games
  • 266-for-399 (66.7%)
  • 3,278 yards
  • 8.2 yards/attempt
  • 298 yards/game
  • 25 TDs
  • 2 INTs
  • 110.7 passer rating
  • 10-1 record

AARON RODGERS, 2016

  • 15 Games
  • 374-for-571 (65.5%)
  • 4,128 yards
  • 7.23 yards/attempt
  • 275 yards/game
  • 36 TDs
  • 7 INTs
  • 102.7 passer rating
  • 9-6 record

Rodgers’ 36 TDs has him leading the NFL heading into Week 17, and if he can lead the Packers into the playoffs after a 4-6 start, then he’ll undoubtedly make a push for the award himself.

Outside of the QB position, Prescott’s fellow rookie teammate Ezekiel Elliott has also made his own case as the most valuable player in the league. The running back leads the league with 1,631 yards, which is 363 yards more than anyone else. With 14 rushes of 20 or more yards, he leads the league in that category, just as he does with 91 first downs. That’s 19 more than David Johnson, who’s second in the league with 72 first downs. Elliott’s also first in the NFL with an average of 108.7 yards per game, and he’s one of just two backs who average more than 90 yards per game. His 5.1 yards per rush makes him the league leader among backs with at least 250 carries. And with 15 rushing touchdowns, he’s two behind LeGarrette Blount for the league lead.

A running back winning the award is the second-most common result, with Adrian Peterson winning MVP in 2012 and with Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson winning in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In total, a running back has won the MVP 18 times. If it doesn’t go to a quarterback, it’s almost certainly going to a running back. And Elliott has strongly made his case.

The flip side of both Prescott and Elliott building strong cases is that the 50 media members who will be casting their votes may end up splitting the field, so to speak, and dilute the total vote tally for both players. It’s also worth noting that twice in the past 20 years, the award has been split between two players. In 1997, Brett Favre and Barry Sanders shared the award, and in 2003, it was Peyton Manning and Steve McNair who shared the honor. (Fun fact: Both QBs went to Foxboro that postseason, and both lost, combining for a 56.2 completion percentage, two touchdowns and six interceptions.)

But bringing the discussion back to Brady, the man certainly has a case. He’s been outstanding — almost perfect, in fact — and in another season when other players haven’t been comparably excellent, then it probably would be a slam dunk for Brady. Yet given how well those other candidates have performed, and considering there’s still one more week of football to be played, the race should be considered wide open.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

Comments

One Comment

  1. I’m a Falcons and Matt Ryan fanboy. Obviously I want my guy to win, but it is nice to read an objective article about the MVP award for once. Especially considering this is a Boston write up. If Matt Ryan does not win the award, then I manage I’ll be okay. What I really want is to make some noise in the playoffs, and at least get to the Super Bowl.

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