When the Atlanta Falcons signed Michael Turner to a six-year, $34.5 million contract last March, fans and pundits were skeptical. Why give that large of a contract to a player who hasn't been a starter since college and remains largely untested on the pro field?
I know that I wasn't expecting much more than your standard 1,000-yard, five touchdown season that an average running back can provide, and during a 5-11 season at that.
I was wrong, and you probably were, too.
The Falcons, at this writing, have a reasonable shot at winning 10 games and making the playoffs. While other players have made outstanding contributions to the turnaround (Matt Ryan certainly, Roddy White), there can be no mistake that Turner's play has been the single greatest factor in the Falcon's surprising 9-5 record.
Because of this, I believe that Michael Turner has earned the distinction as the NFL's Most Valuable Player (assuming the Falcons end the season in the playoffs).
Statistically, Turner is the league's best back. His 1,421 yards rank second in the league, his 15 rushing touchdowns rank first. He picks up an average of 101.5 yards per game.
Of course, in football, full-season numbers never tell the whole story. As far as the MVP debate goes, the main question voters should ask themselves is: What player has single-handedly helped his team win the most games? Obviously, it's Turner.
Week 12, a crucial, must-win game versus the Panthers. Turner played brilliantly, racking up 117 yards on the ground and scoring four touchdowns to lead the Falcons to a 45-28 upset. Last week in the Falcon's stunning win against Tampa Bay, another must-win situation, Turner ran for 152 yards and scored a touchdown to guide his Falcons to a 13-10 victory.
Michael Turner has, more so than any other player in the league, taken a team that seemed destined for mediocrity and kept it in competition. Without Turner, the Falcon's would be well on their way to that 5-11 season.
There is no one player in the league more directly tied to his team's success than Turner, and for that he deserves the honor of the 2008 NFL MVP.