The 2014 NFL Most Valuable Player race was fierce this season. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning looks like a lock to win the award, but there are a few players that aren’t getting the mainstream notoriety they deserve.
While Manning has been the uncrowned MVP for weeks, unheralded stars like Philadelphia’s Nick Foles and Carolina’s Luke Kuechly deserve to be in the conversation as nominees.
Here is a list of my top 10 MVP candidates and the dark horses that have earned consideration.
|Donald Wood’s Top 10 MVP Candidates|
|1||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos|
|2||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs|
|3||Nick Foles||Philadelphia Eagles|
|4||Philip Rivers||San Diego Chargers|
|5||Tom Brady||New England Patriots|
|6||Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks|
|7||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles|
|8||Luke Kuechly||Carolina Panthers|
|9||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints|
|10||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions|
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick came into 2013 as the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback, but after a dream run to the playoffs in head coach Chip Kelly's first season, it was the backup Foles that proved he had the skill set to become a star at the NFL level.
Foles' performance and Philadelphia's success make him a dark-horse candidate for MVP.
Despite learning a completely new offensive system and starting the season as the No. 2 behind Vick, Foles managed to put up an incredible 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in parts of 13 games.
Add in the league's leading passer rating of 119.2, and there is no doubt Foles was one of the main catalysts behind the success of the Eagles this season. He spoke to Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press about his mindset and plan approaching each game:
I think that when you have success, people’s expectations do grow. When they see you play consistently well every week, then that’s what they expect, and that’s what I expect. I expect nothing different, but I can’t let a game where I feel like I didn’t play well and didn’t help our team as much as I should have affect me to where I can’t play at that level. I’m going to continue to strive every week to play at that level. My goal going into the game is to play a perfect game. In reality, that isn’t really possible, but that’s why you have that short memory throughout the game.
There is no comparison between Manning's numbers in Denver (amassed 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns), but he also had more weapons to utilize and a favorable offensive game plan that helped him break several records.
Manning will win the MVP award, but Foles deserves credit for playing at an elite level consistently throughout the season.
Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
The best defensive player in 2013 was Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Kuechly, and there are some, including ESPN's David Newton, that feel he deserves the honor of being the MVP of the NFL.
While Kuechly won’t win the award, the defensive star has earned the right to be considered.
The MVP award has been won predominantly by quarterbacks over the years, but the second-year linebacker played quarterback for the league’s second-best statistical defense and helped lead the team to a 12-4 record despite inconsistent play from the offense.
Kuechly was still a dominant force in the rushing game, racking up an impressive 156 combined tackles, but he also grew against the pass, using his speed to cover elite tight ends and even running backs out of the backfield.
Lawrence Taylor was the last defensive player to win the MVP award in 1986, and Manning’s performance in 2013 likely sealed his victory, but Kuechly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath after a stellar season.
All stats via NFL.com.