Why not a defensive MVP? Print
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Wednesday, 26 November 2008 13:22
NFL Headline News

 Before the NFL season was halfway done, the bloggers, broadcasters and babblers all decided that the world MUST know who might be the NFL's MVP. They also decided it would be best if it was an ancient quarterback on a surprisingly successful team: Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins or Brett Favre.
Why so early? Why those guys? Why all the talk?
And, in a season where no one player stands out, why not a defensive player for the first time since 1986 and only the third time ever?
Or, to take it to even sillier lengths, why not nine MVPs: the New York Giants' offensive line plus fullback Madison Hedgecock and tight ends Kevin Boss, Mike Matthews and Darcy Johnson? Their blocking for a team that's rushed for more than 200 yards in five different games is probably the main reason New York is 10-1 and clearly the NFL's best team right now.
Haynesworth for the moment because he's the main reason New York's defense totally stymied the Tennessee offense last week, allowing Favre and the Jets to control the ball for more than 40 minutes
The last defensive player to be MVP was Lawrence Taylor in '86. The only other was Alan Page in 1971. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have been 24 MVP quarterbacks and 12 MVP running backs, plus the two defensive guys and one placekicker, Washington's Mark Moseley in 1982, a strike year when the regular season was just nine games.
But talking about Jenkins is inspired by last week's performance. It might change this week, which is why the voting takes place after the season, not two-thirds of the way through.
There's another reason based on a real example.
The Associated Press NFL MVP is chosen by a panel of 50 media members: writers and broadcasters. They include well-known media stars and ex-player/analysts and little known behind-the-scenes people who are equally, if not more, informed.
But the system is not infallible.
Until 1998, voting was completed just before the season ended.
osen Sanders, who then would have been the sole MVP.
So the timing was changed because 1997 made it clear that choosing award winners and All-Pro teams must be based on 16 games; Pro Bowl balloting is usually after 13 games, by the way.
On to the candidates ...
First, let's define MVP.
Is it the best player on the best team? Sorry, the Giants don't have a candidate - they have a bunch of very good players having very good years, but they are a TEAM, not a group of no-names led by one superstar. That's what New England has been for most of this decade until Tom Brady had Randy Moss and Wes Welker added to his receiving corps last season and was a runaway winner.
Even then, some people have legitimately gone past the ``logical'' choice in the past to vote for players who were logical picks in their own way.
One voter last season kept Brady from being unanimous by going for Favre, who at 38 had one of his best seasons for Green Bay and was the primary reason the Packers went 13-3, tied with Dallas for best in the NFC.
In 2004, one voter went for Michael Vick over Peyton Manning in a season Manning set a boatload of records, reasoning that Vick literally carried the Falcons to the NFC South title by himself.
on was worth it when it would have been easier to stay with the herd.
But independence should be lauded.
Right now, the ``leader'' seems to be Warner, a two-time MVP who has surfaced in Arizona to lead the Cardinals to the NFC West title, which when made official this week or next will be the franchise's first division crown since it won the East as the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975.
Nice guy, nice story. But:
-Warner has five straight games of 300-plus yards passing. The Cardinals have lost two of them, including last week to the Giants when he lost a fumble and threw an interception leading to 10 points in an eight-point loss. His passer rating for the game was 79.9, not MVP stuff.
-He has no real running game but he has two of the NFL's best receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, plus two good young ones: Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban. So, of course, the offense is built around the pass.
-The other three teams in his division are a combined 7-26 going into the weekend. Arizona's one quality win is over Dallas, the game in which Tony Romo was hurt on the last play of regulation. There are OK wins over Buffalo and Miami, but losses to the Giants, Jets, Redskins and Panthers that seem to indicate the Cardinals are a rising team not quite up to beating playoff-caliber opponents. Do you win an MVP for beating up on softies?
Let's keep going.
th a wonderful story, taking over from an injured and discombobulated Vince Young. At 35, Collins is guiding a relatively young offense on a 10-1 team. But the Titans' success is due primarily to a defense that includes Haynesworth, linebacker Keith Bulluck and scrappy young cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who is tied for the league lead with five interceptions.
Favre? See Jenkins.
Drew Brees of the Saints? If he throws for a zillion yards, breaks Dan Marino's record by a billion and New Orleans finishes 8-8, what's his value? That New Orleans might have have gone 3-13 without him? So far, the most valuable thing he's done is call out Jeremy Shockey in public. Offensive player, yes. MVP, No.
The best offensive MVP candidate right now is probably Clinton Portis, who leads the league in rushing despite injuries that would keep others out and is the prime reason Washington remains in playoff contention.
If you're thinking defense, go beyond Jenkins and Haynesworth to some others: Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu and James Harrison; and Baltimore's Ray Lewis, back in form after a couple of down seasons. Maybe the Ravens' Ed Reed, but not Miami's Joey Porter, a one-trick pony sackmaster.
Realistically, those are candidates for Defensive Player of the Year.
yards every week and gets the Patriots into the playoffs.
Two different New England QBs in two seasons. Now that would be interesting.
---
DIRTY DOZEN: The top six and bottom six teams based on current level of play:
1. New York Giants (10-1). A team with 53 MVPs.
2. New York Jets (8-3). The odds are still against a New York/New York Super Bowl. Most of the nation is probably glad of that.
3. Tennessee (10-1). Let's consider the loss (for now) as a one-week blip.
4. Pittsburgh (8-3). No 1 in all three defensive categories.
5. Tampa Bay (8-3). Have overcome double-digit deficits three times. But why did they get behind so badly?
6. New England (7-4). With all the injuries, this could be Belichick's best coaching job.

27. San Francisco (3-8). Trying harder doesn't always translate into wins.
28 Seattle (2-9). A historically decent team under Mike Holmgren. What happened?
29. Cincinnati (1-9-1). Reverted to historical form.
30. Kansas City (1-10). Went last week from competitive to truly awful.
31. St. Louis (2-9). Speaking of truly awful.
32. Detroit (0-11). What more can be said?
 

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