Are sportswriters aware that teams must also play defense?
Apparently not, given the latest MVP ignominy. If you count the one he split with Steve McNair, quarterback Peyton Manning has just been delivered his third Associated Press NFL MVP award. I guess since Tom Brady was injured, they couldn’t think of any other worthy offensive player.
Though defense wins games, as every athlete from basketball camp to amateur tennis knows, it doesn’t win the glamour awards. Sportswriters fancy themselves glamorous, so they hew to offensive stars.
Of the 73 Heismans awarded, one has gone to a defensive back (ironically, he beat out…you guessed it, Peyton Manning). Of 70 NFL MVPs, a whopping two played defense. The NBA has historically done better: Five league MVPs have also been Defensive Player of the Year at some point...but then came Steve Nash.
Sportswriters inexplicably gifted Steve Nash back-to-back MVPs during years in which Duncan and Shaq guided teams to titles – while Nash’s defensive, uh, liabilities ushered his Suns to two of their infamous playoff exits. For those keeping count, Shaq has five Finals appearances, four titles, and one MVP. Nash, who was within a hair’s breadth of three MVPs, has never even played in the NBA Finals. Yikes.
The lame excuses given for these misinformed MVP choices hinge on the contested definition of a MVP: is it the best athlete or best player, the player most valuable to his team, the player who most improves his team, the player that put up the best numbers, or the player with the most magical story?
But in any case of these cases, why Manning?
He is not the best athlete in the NFL. That would be preternaturally talented Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who keeps losing Heismans and MVPs to media-darling quarterbacks.
And Manning was no more valuable to the Colts than comeback kid Kurt Warner was to Arizona. Indeed, Warner had worse coaching, a worse defense (there goes that forgotten word again), and a worse running game to overcome.
But Warner willed his team to the playoffs—no doubt supplicating Jesus all the way, Warner style – while having better stats (if you’re into stats): more completions, more yards, a higher completion percentage than Manning, more yards per pass, a higher QB rating, and showing more consistency than Manning: Warner ended the season notching a passer rating under 75 in only two games. Manning had five such subpar performances.
Okay, but wasn’t Manning the player most responsible for improving his team by making his teammates better? No, that was Michael Turner of the Falcons. The other Falcons cannot play when Turner is stopped.
He alone opens up the field for the rest of the offense to make plays. When playing well, Turner disrupted playbooks, game plans, and defenses enough to hand his quarterback rookie of the year awards on a silver platter.
Did Peyton Manning or anyone else put up more eye-popping numbers than Drew Brees, the aptly named QB of the 5,000 yard passing season (done only once before, by Dan the Man), 66 completions of 20 or more (Manning had 46), or the 117.8 passer rating on third downs (Manning’s was 98.3)? Methinks not.
And no way was Manning’s story more breathtaking than journeyman Chad Pennington. Displaced by Brett Favre in New York, he landed on the worst team in the league. But by all accounts, Pennington’s play and leadership led the 1-15 Dolphins to an 11-5 turnaround with no 1,000-yard rusher to lean on.
Any of these should have trumped another Manning coronation, but since I believe the award should go to the best player in the current year, I would have voted for Steelers linebacker James Harrison, his team’s most important player—and the league’s most dominant. His stellar play led Manning’s own coach to declare him the league’s best player at one point.
But defensive players don’t win awards, so sayeth the sports Lords. So Manning joins Favre as the only three time AP NFL MVP. If you’re counting, both have as many championships as Peyton’s little brother Eli. Tom Brady, meanwhile, has four Super Bowl appearances, three championships, and only one MVP award. Just sayin’.