If Adrian Peterson doesn't win the 2012 NFL MVP, the award should be renamed the MVQB because players who don't play quarterback need not apply.
The phrases "quarterback-driven league" and "passing league" are thrown around by every talking head and fan who watches the game. Looking at the league as a whole, it's hard to deny the truth of those catchphrases.
Much to the chagrin of old-school fans who just want to see the rough-and-tumble, old-school ground-based game that used to dominate the league, the passing game is here to stay. Elite quarterbacks are going to continue putting up heart-stopping numbers.
Which is what makes Adrian Peterson the clear-cut MVP.
Peterson's season was one for the ages and most likely the most unforgettable we will see from a running back in quite some time. If he doesn't win the MVP award, it would say more about the validity of the award than it does about Peterson's remarkable season.
Fair or unfair, so much of these awards come down to individual stats—regardless of impact on the team.
Even looking at Peterson's stats in a vacuum without attaching any value to what he meant to the team and the offense, his numbers are staggering. Here they are compared to the next best running back statistically, Alfred Morris.
Peterson: 348 carries, 2,097 yards, 12 TD, 6.0 YPC
Morris: 335 carries, 1,613 yards, 13 TD, 4.8 YPC
Morris' season is indicative of the usual leading rusher in the league on an average year. His 1,613 yards is a great mark for any running back, and he averaged over 100 yards per game. However, Peterson's season is measurably better.
Peterson averaged more than a yard more per carry (a big deal when talking averages) and more than 30 more yards per game. All on comparable carries.
Manning: 400/583, 4,659 yards, 37 TD, 11 INT
Brady: 401/637, 4,827 yards, 34 TD, 8 INT
Rodgers: 371/552, 4,259 yards, 39 TD, 8 INT
Manning is a great quarterback. His numbers speak for themselves, but when compared to other quarterbacks who had great seasons, his numbers really don't pop out.
Peterson's numbers pop regardless of whom you compare him to.
The second part of the MVP equation is obviously team success.
To be fair, both players transformed their team this season.
The Broncos are one of the league's top teams this season and have become an offensive juggernaut with Manning at the helm. Their up-tempo spread attack has been a nightmare for defensive coordinators, and Manning has his team in position for a Super Bowl run.
However, Peterson's impact on his team can't be understated.
Peterson's ability to break open games at any time was the only redeeming quality for a Vikings offense that was short on weapons. Even the Vikings' only other explosive option—Percy Harvin—was hobbled with injuries and not a consistent factor.
Looking at the Vikings as a team, there's nothing that jumps out. The defense is not elite—it struggled to stop the pass all season and was in the lower half of the league in the category. The passing game was certainly nothing to brag about, finishing 31st in the league at 171 yards per game.
Peterson basically took a team with nothing other than a great running game and a mediocre defense to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. The fact that the Vikings lost that playoff game is irrelevant.
Without Peterson, they would not have come close to earning a berth.
This is the point where the pro-Manning side would interject that Manning's Broncos are the top seed in the AFC and primed for a Super Bowl run. This is true.
This is probably a good time to mention that this is a Broncos team that won a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback last season. It's not as though Manning transformed a downtrodden franchise into a Super Bowl contender.
The pieces were already there for a competitive team. Manning just completed it.
Manning had a great season. His comeback after sitting out all of last season is remarkable, but we've seen quarterbacks (including Manning) do what he has done nearly every season.
Peterson's season has been truly incredible. His ability to carry his team single-handedly to the playoffs in a "quarterback-driven" league where most teams utilize a running back by committee approach is something that has become exceedingly rare.
If that's not worthy of the Most Valuable Player of the Year award, then the award no longer means what it is supposed to mean.