The NFL Most Valuable Player race is heating up. Many experts have New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the clubhouse with a slight lead over the electrifying Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
It is easy to manufacture a plausible argument in favor of either player. I think it is important to consider more than statistics. It is vital to weigh other factors, such as adversity and expectations, in addition to their team's overall performance.
Here is a case for Brady.
The Patriots have an 11-2 record. They will likely be the No. 1 seed in the AFC, ensuring home field throughout the playoffs.
Brady’s statistics are simply Brady-like. Thus far, he has passed for 3,561 yards and 31 touchdowns against four interceptions. He has a passer rating of 109.9.
Based on Brady’s statistics, it would be easy to suggest he is the best player in football. It is being suggested he is playing at or near a level that’s reminiscent of his record-setting year in 2007, when he smashed the single-season record with 50 touchdowns and led his Patriots to an undefeated regular season.
With regards to expectations, we have grown accustomed to seeing Brady post gaudy statistics and routinely place his team in position to win. He is not being challenged for his job as he is the prohibitive face of the Patriot franchise.
His only adversity was a knee injury he sustained the beginning of 2008. Brady missed the whole season. Backup quarterback Matt Cassel stepped in and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in Brady’s absence.
Cassel was a USC quarterback who never started a game for the Trojans because he played behind the likes of Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.
When he took over for Brady, Cassel had not taken a snap as a starter since high school.
When Brady is at the top of his game, isn’t he supposed to play this way?
Conversely, isn’t it fair to at least question Brady’s past and most recent greatness?
Based on the record Cassel posted in his absence, is it fair to assert Brady’s success is more a product of Bill Belichick’s system than his quarterbacking skills?
The Eagles are currently 10-4. Vicks’ statistics are marvelous, considering he was not expected to be the starter. Thus far, he has passed for 2,755 yards and 20 touchdowns against five interceptions. Vick has rushed for an additional 613 yards and eight touchdowns.
Andy Reid gave current backup quarterback Kevin Kolb a boatload of money in the offseason. Reid then flipped him the keys to the Eagles machine and told him to drive.
Coming into this season, Vick was the prohibitive backup; therefore, there were no high expectations placed on Vick, but once named the starter, he has taken the opportunity and run with it.
Vick is defeating teams with a lethal combination of making excellent decisions, throwing lasers down the field with his arm and manufacturing magic with his legs.
The following statement is predicated on the assumption that Vick continues to play at a high level well into the future: I declare Vick will be the first quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. I believe no other player in NFL history has displayed the unique skill set he has, not only at the quarterback position but at any position in football.
Can you imagine Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans catching over 100 passes for 1,000 yards while also rushing for 1,000 yards in one season?
While Brady’s adversity came in the form of a knee injury, Vick’s came in the form of being incarcerated in prison due to the poor decisions he made off the field.
Furthermore, Vick had to shake off the rust he accumulated from being locked up. Next, he had to find a team willing to take a chance on a convicted felon so he could prove he was a better man and could still play football.
Based on a combination of Vick overcoming adversity, excelling far beyond his perceived expectations and producing the type of magic on the field he’s shown us thus far, he deserves to be the MVP of the league.
I know some will use Vick's well-documented past against him and that he didn’t begin the season as the starter.
While the latter carries a level of credence, in my opinion Vicks’ past serves as an asset. He has taken a negative situation and made himself a better person, which has translated into being a better football player.
Despite his team being pinned against the fence by the Giants, he came out fighting. Once the dust settled, the Eagles left the Meadowlands with the victory.
Vick kept his team in position to win despite being down three touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. The persistence he demonstrated against the Giants is a reflection of his efforts off the field in becoming a better person.
True, Vick has only started 10 games thus far, but where does it say in the MVP rules a player must play in and start all 16 games?
That he did not start the season as the No. 1 quarterback bodes well for his case as being the MVP. Considering how well he’s playing, it would be fairly safe to assume had Vick been the starter from Day 1, he’d have been playing at or near his current level.
As for Brady, he has performed exceptionally well, but is his current play any better or worse than what he’s demonstrated over his career?
How does Brady’s knee injury and missing one season compare to the two Vick missed due to incarceration?
Assuming both players perform at the same level for the remaining two games, one can make a solid case for either player.
But after what I witnessed Vick do against their division archrival New York Giants on the road in the fourth quarter, it is hard to hand the MVP trophy to anyone else.