NFL MVP? Time To Pick O-Lineman

Uden FranklinContributor INovember 20, 2009

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Guard Steve Hutchinson #76 of the Minnesota Vikings watches play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 16, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Since 1957, the Associated Press has chosen either a running back or quarterback as the NFL MVP every year with the exception of two defensive players (Alan Page and Lawrence Taylor) and, ironically, one kicker (Mark Moseley).  

The emphasis on Quarterbacks and Running Backs has been so prevalent—not even one of the best football players of all time, Jerry Rice, was deemed worthy of NFL MVP.  Although there have been subtle arguments for a defensive player like Darren Sharper to win the 2009 MVP award, most NFL writers consistently mention Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Brett Favre, in no particular order.

What constitutes an NFL MVP?  Is it measured by a players worth to their team or a players worth to the league as a whole?  Although the “player’s worth to their team” is the said reason 99.9 percent of the time, the votes instead often reflect a player's worth to the league as a whole—which is wrong.

I for one believe that an MVP should only be considered on teams that are legitimate Super Bowl contenders because winning in the NFL reflects the ultimate measure of success in business, war, and life.  Perhaps the Associated Press should also come up with a “Best Player on a Sorry Team” award which would be more suitable for great players who are not necessarily successful.  By success I mean winning.

In most cases, a team will not make it to the Super Bowl unless they have a dominating offensive line. Vince Lombardi knew this. Tom Landry, Don Shula, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, Bill Cowher, and Bill Belichick also knew/know this.  During the Denver Broncos glory days, Mike Shanahan was able to literally pull a running back off the street to be a 1,000 yard rusher simply because he had the best offensive line in football. 

Mike Martz created the “Greatest Show on Turf” with Kurt Warner at the helm, an immobile Quarterback who had a slow release, because he had a great offensive line.  Look what happened to both coaches (throw in Gibbs) when they lose their great offensive linemen.

This brings us to the 2009 NFL MVP arguments. 

Although many argue that Brett Favre became disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers when General Manager Ted Thompson decided not to pursue Randy Moss in free agency, many players and friends of Favre hint that it was Thompson’s decision to let All-Pro offensive guard Marco Rivera and Pro-Bowl guard Mike Whale leave via free agency in 2004 that made Favre turn sour on the organization.

Thompson’s theory was that Favre’s amazing pocket presence compensated for mediocre linemen and the money could be spent elsewhere.  Unfortunately for Thompson, he clearly underestimated Favre’s football intelligence. 

Most NFL coaches don’t even come close to Favre in understanding NFL offensives as well as defenses, and Favre knew that his chances to win a Super Bowl quickly disappeared when he lost Rivera and Whale despite the 2007 season success.

Torn between his love for the Green Bay Packers and the writing on the wall with Thompson’s undervaluing of offensive linemen philosophy, Favre retired despite knowing he could still be one of the top NFL Quarterbacks in the league if he just had a decent offensive line.

Fortunately for Favre, in 2006 the Minnesota Vikings were so adamant about winning that they were willing to test the boundaries of NFL rules to acquire/steel the best offensive lineman in football, Steve Hutchinson.  Known as the “Poison Pill Provision,” the Vikings were willing to do whatever it takes to win immediately knowing that their stadium lease would expire in 2011. 

They chose an offensive lineman despite the availability of big time skilled position free agents.  They risked scrutiny by the NFL to get an offensive lineman who would guarantee enough success to hopefully keep the Vikings in Minnesota beyond 2011.

This set a precedent that inspired Favre to start scheming, not to mention his admiration of an organization willing to do whatever it takes to win the Super Bowl.  Although the NFL didn’t find the Vikings guilty of tampering with Favre during his retirement,  we know that being the “all-mighty” of any sport often grants a superstar forgiveness because players like Favre are money shakers and sport leagues are essentially businesses. 

All one has to do for proof is look at Michael Jordan and the NBA decision to not seriously investigate allegations of gambling and point shaving.  The steroid fueled Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa homerun chase came a few years after the 1994 baseball strike and MLB was desperate to have fans interested again.

Adrian Peterson was then drafted in 2007.  Although I support arguments that Peterson is the best running back in football, how successful would he be running for the Green Bay Packers this year?  It is Hutchinson that allows Peterson’s skills to shine.  It was also Hutchinson, not Peterson, that was Favre’s main focus when he began discussing opportunities to play for the Vikings with Offensive Coach and friend Darrel Bevell and Coach Brad Childress in 2008.

 Not to say Peterson and the Viking defense weren’t important to Favre, but defense and a running back are only as good as the ability of the offense to control the line of scrimmage.  For the Vikings, that begins and ends with Hutchinson.

I disagree with NFL players like Jeremy Shockey and Shaun Rogers who recently argued that Lebron James couldn’t play in the NFL. He could if he ran behind Steve Hutchinson. 

See, the Vikings would still be Super Bowl contenders if Peterson got hurt and was replaced by Chester Taylor and had Favre at Quarterback and Hutchinson at guard.  The Vikings were successful minus Favre last year with Adriane Peterson running behind Hutchinson. 

Take away Hutchinson last year and they don’t make it to 8-8. Take away Hutchinson this year, and the Vikings begin losing those close games and Brett Favre starts throwing interceptions because of pressure and because of the Vikings inability to keep defenses honest via the run – which starts with Hutchinson, not Peterson.

Which is why this year, the Associated Press Sports Writers should honor the value of all NFL offensive linemen who are mixing it up in the trenches every Sunday, by voting Hutchinson MVP.  Barring any major injuries, the Vikings are serious Super Bowl contenders only because skill players like Favre, Peterson, and Rice have holes to run through and protection. 

Hutchinson was able to lead the Seattle Seahawks to their first Super Bowl in 2006.  Since his departure they have been mediocre at best despite playing in football’s weakest division.  With Hutchinson, the Vikings have improved each season. Without Hutchinson, even with Favre, Allen, and Peterson, they would struggle to be 8-8 this year.

Steve Hutchinson should be the NFL MVP—Period!