Brett Favre made his comeback worthwhile. He stared "late-season slide" talk straight in the face, and proceeded to throw six touchdowns and over 600 yards in his last five quarters.
Drew Brees and Peyton Manning faded (along with their teams), as they spent their final weeks on the bench of playing like shells of themselves.
Chris Johnson met his 2,000-yard quota. It took 36 carries against a weak Seattle Seahawks run defense, but he did it.
It's been a long year of guessing when the Saints and/or Colts would lose their first game, when Favre would finally cave, and whether or not Chris Johnson would ever again run for less than 100 yards.
Favre rebounded from a few sour-apple performances to close the season on a high note in a 44-7 romp at home over the New York Giants.
And Johnson, well, he did what he set out to do.
The question is no longer whether or not these guys deserve to be mentioned in the MVP debate. The true question is, who deserves to be named the Most Valuable Player of the entire league, and is there even an honest, sensible way to come to a conclusion on who deserves it?
For months, people rained on Favre and the Vikings' parade. They said he'd slide eventually, that their schedule was too easy, and that "we'd all see" come December.
In Favre's defense, December has come and gone. We saw Favre play a magical half in cold weather on the road, nearly come out of it with a win, and proved to us that he could still hack it, even at 40 years old.
The four-touchdown and 300+ yard outing against the Giants in Week 17 was just the icing on the cake. Throw in Favre's 4,200+ yards, 33 passing touchdowns, mere seven interceptions, and 107 passer rating, and you've got yourself a bonafide MVP candidate, and dare I say, front-runner.
Enter Manning and Brees, the star-studded duo who worked their magic with their respective teams all season long only to see their run at perfection ended by fate, and in Manning's case, his own coach.
Both quarterbacks led their teams to better records than Favre did (13-3 and 14-2, while Favre went 12-4), while also securing a first-round bye and home-field advantage.
Both quarterbacks also matched Favre's 33 touchdown passes (Brees threw one more), while also topping 4,000 yards, as well as finishing with passer ratings above 100.
So, with all three quarterbacks on a completely leveled playing field, where do you go from there?
There's a few options.
First, you could simply hammer out all the stats, and figure out what literally separates these three elite quarterbacks from each other for this season, and whether or not it makes one of them better than the other.
Considering they are all on the same playing field for touchdowns, yards, passer rating, and completion percentage*, the only real difference that separates these quarterbacks is their amount of turnovers and their clutch performances.
Peyton Manning led the Colts back and out of the jaws of defeat countless times, while Drew Brees did so as well. Favre also had his fair share of clutch performances, with his game-winner against the San Francisco 49ers earlier in the year quite possibly going down as the play of the season.
So, if it's not their clutch ability, then how about their turnovers?
Manning and Brees, while arguably more clutch so far this season than Favre, both threw for more interceptions than Favre. Brees ended with 11, Manning with 16, and Favre an impressive, albeit uncharacteristic total of seven.
As nice as it would be to boil it down to interceptions, game-winning touchdowns, or highest passer rating, it just shouldn't be that easy.
Option two: You could stray from those particular three altogether and pitch a vote for Phillip Rivers, Matt Schaub, or Aaron Rodgers.
It'd be cute, fun, and heartwarming. But it's not sexy, and it's not realistic.
Manning, Brees, and Favre all have better overall numbers and have all led their teams to at least the playoffs.
So, now that we can agree that we're set on the quarterback candidates for the award, we're safe to move forward.
Option three: Chris Johnson.
Write it down, folks. Eleven consecutive 100+ rushing yard outings, 12 rushing scores (17 overall), 2,006 rushing yards, and a new record for total yards from scrimmage (2,509), which broke Marshall Faulk's old record of 2,429.
Johnson became just the sixth running back in NFL history to top the 2,000-yard mark, established an NFL record, and put the Tennessee Titans on his back after an 0-6 start, helping them go on an impressive 8-2 run to finishing the season at 8-8.
While the quarterbacks get all the face-time due to the gaudy numbers, making the playoffs, and getting all the credit for their team's success, it's time the league shoots some respect where it's due.
Johnson accomplished an extraordinary feat, especially considering his passing offense isn't scary, defenses knew what he was trying to do, and the staggering consistency he played at, while maintaining an extremely elite level of play.
Factor in that Johnson lost just three fumbles out of 408 total touches in 2009, and he's statistically the right guy for this award.
Even if there is some compelling argument for Favre, Brees, Manning, or even another player, there's no doubt that Johnson has at least earned Co-MVP consideration.
*Drew Brees broke the NFL record with a 70.6 completion percentage, but this record may appear a bit cheap as he sat out the Saints' final game in Week 17.
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