In 2010, it was clear well before the Green Bay Packers' unexpected Super Bowl run that quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out of the running for the most valuable player award in the league. Weeks before the end of the season that honor had already been written off to either Tom Brady of the New England Patriots or Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles.
That early narrowing of the field devalued the MVP competition in 2010.
It's easy to understand Tom Brady's inclusion in league MVP talks: He had an amazing season with an average passer rating of 111. Without him, the New England Patriots are a completely different football team.
Michael Vick was a lot harder to understand. In 2010, Vick had an admittedly good year—but so did Rodgers. Statistically, they were very similar, especially taking into account that Vick played almost 100 fewer snaps than Rodgers. Aside from the benefit of comparing Vick’s numbers to Kevin Kolb’s tepid NFL debut, there was nothing on the field that stood out about him that didn’t also stand out about Rodgers.
Taken from another angle, Vick only played in 12 games in 2011, and the Eagles were able to come away with wins in several of the games he missed or couldn’t complete.
Rodgers left two games early—once against Washington and again against Detroit—and missed an entire game against the Patriots. Unlike the Eagles, the Packers were unable to win a game without their starting quarterback under center for the duration of the game.
Isn't that the definition of the most valuable player—the guy your team can't win without?
Perhaps the main difference between Rodgers and Vick in 2010 was media presence. After doing time in federal prison for dog fighting, Vick’s return to the NFL with the Eagles and subsequent success was one of the season’s biggest news stories. Vick’s name was everywhere.
But regardless of what happened in 2010, a new football season is upon us and it is time to look forward.
In the first week of football, Aaron Rodgers demonstrated why he was the MVP of the Super Bowl by picking up right where he left off as an unstoppable passing force. His passer rating for Week 1 was 132.1.
Tom Brady demonstrated why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game by picking apart the Dolphins secondary for over 500 yards. His passer rating for Week 1 was 121.6.
Michael Vick, on the other hand, demonstrated that he continues to have trouble with his pocket presence and that his first instinct is to scramble. Despite being part of the supposed Dream Team of football, his passer rating for Week 1 was 83.7.
There are still 16 more weeks of football to play before the prize can be awarded, so let’s not jump to conclusions about who’s earning what award based on just Week 1 performances. Besides, Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills came away with the week’s best passer rating (133.0).
Beyond first-week performance, there are other factors in play that will make Aaron Rodgers a clear choice for league MVP provided that he continues to play quality games.
The spotlight is no longer focused quite so brightly on Michael Vick; with a Super Bowl MVP under his belt, Aaron Rodgers has seen more media attention over the past several months than he has since Brett Favre’s departure in 2008.
The Super Bowl champions will, by all accounts, have a giant target on their backs. Every week, the Packers opponents will be certain to bring their A-game to the table in a bid to say that they brought down the reigning champs. If Rodgers is able to navigate his team through that minefield with the eyes of all critics upon him, it will be points in his favor to win the award.
Then there’s a matter of statistics. Aaron Rodgers currently holds the NFL record for highest passer rating for any player with at least 1500 attempts. As of Week 1, his career average passer rating is 99.1—four points above Tom Brady’s career average and 19 points above Michael Vick’s.
Consider also that most great quarterbacks have years where they are seemingly untouchable. During those years, performance in all categories is well above that quarterback’s average.
Aaron Rodgers has not actually yet had one of those years to date. He’s been shockingly average in his excellence. The way things look right now, however, this may well be the season when he outperforms his normal numbers. If that is the case, then there is no question that he will walk away with the league MVP award.
In fact, if he elevates his play to another level, don’t be surprised to see him walk away with another Super Bowl MVP award as well.