AD + 2,000 = MVP?

Six players in NFL history have finished with more than 2,000 rushing yards in a season. With Vikings running back Adrian Peterson knocking on the door only 12 months after tearing his ACL and MCL, discussion is starting about whether he’s capable of winning the NFL MVP award.

The Vikings recently launched a campaign for Peterson’s candidacy, similar to what you might see from colleges and the Heisman Trophy. Running backs haven’t received much love in the hashtag era, however, so #MVPeterson faces an uphill battle.

Voters are wowed by the massively inflated passing numbers in the NFL, and only quarterbacks have received votes the last three seasons.  Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers are most likely to win even though Peterson, Calvin Johnson and a quartet of defenders (J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Aldon Smith and Geno Atkins) have legitimate arguments.

But MVP voters disagree whether Peterson is worthy of the honor.

Pete Prisco thinks Peterson has no chance.

Adrian Peterson: Amazing. He has 212 yards against the Rams and is closing in on the single-season rushing record. Even so, no MVP talk. That has to be Peyton Manning orTom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. It has to be.

Tony Dungy can envision a scenario where Peterson wins.

But the question is, can he lead the Vikings into the playoffs? Two tough games — at Houston, and home against Green Bay. If Adrian Peterson does lead them into the playoffs and breaks the record, I think he has to be the MVP of the league.

That debate won’t be settled for a few weeks, but let’s get some historical perspective by looking at the MVP fates of the running backs who broke the 2,000-yard barrier. (I added Earl Campbell because he’s the only other player to rush for 1,900 yards and did so in 15 games.)

Eric Dickerson, 1984
2,105 rushing yards, 14 TD, 5.6 avg; 139 receiving yards, 0 TD, 6.6 avg
Rams finished 10-6, earned wild-card spot
Second place (18 votes) to Dan Marino (52)

Jamal Lewis, 2003
2,066 rushing yards, 14 TD, 5.3 avg.; 205 receiving yards, 0 TD, 7.9 avg.
Ravens finished 10-6, won division
Fourth place (5 votes) to Peyton Manning/Steve McNair (16 each)

Barry Sanders, 1997
2,053 rushing yards, 11 TD, 6.1 avg.; 305 receiving yards, 3 TD, 9.2 avg.
Lions finished 9-7, earned wild-card spot
T-First place (18 votes) with Brett Favre

Terrell Davis, 1998
2,008 rushing yards, 21 TD, 5.1 avg.; 217 receiving yards, 2 TD, 8.7 avg.
Broncos finished 14-2, won division
First place (25 votes)

Chris Johnson, 2009
2,006 rushing yards, 14 TD, 5.6 avg.; 503 receiving yards, 2 TD, 10.1 avg.
Titans finished 8-8, missed playoffs
T-Seventh place (1 vote) to Peyton Manning (32)

O.J. Simpson, 1973
2,003 rushing yards, 12 TD, 6.0 avg.; 70 receiving yards, 0 TD, 11.7 avg.
Bills finished 9-5, missed playoffs
First place (74 out of 78 votes)

Earl Campbell, 1980
1,934 rushing yards, 13 TD, 5.2 avg.; 47 receiving yards, 0 TD, 4.3 avg.
Oilers finished 11-5, won division
Second place (22 votes) to Brian Sipe (47)

So what have we learned other than that running backs weren’t expected to catch the ball in the 1970s and 1980s? Here’s some quick trivia:

  • Three players were named MVP and two were runner-up. Every player received at least one vote, a trend I expect to continue because it’s an open race this season. Chris Johnson barely kept that streak alive in 2009 when the Titans finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. 
  • O.J. Simpson dominated in a 14-game season and was rewarded with the MVP even though the 9-5 Bills missed the playoffs. He’s one of only two players to accomplish that feat, joining Johnny Unitas and the 11-1-2 Baltimore Colts in 1964. It’s worth noting Buffalo would have qualified for the postseason under the NFL’s current rules.
  • Eric Dickerson had the unfortunate timing to break Simpson’s NFL record the same season that Dan Marino obliterated the league’s passing marks. Dickerson finished second in MVP voting three times without winning.
  • Barry Sanders wouldn’t have had to share his MVP with Brett Favre under current voting rules. Sanders rushed for 184 yards in the regular-season finale to help the Lions sneak into the playoffs at 9-7. But voting then happened before Week 17, an unfortunate quirk that was quickly fixed.

For what it’s worth, Peterson agrees with me that the deck is stacked against him.

The MVP, man, that’s something that I’ve always wanted to grab. I work hard. I want to be the best player to play this game, so with that, MVP awards come. But I know this league and how it is, man. They’re kind of biased to the quarterback, which is unfortunate. They make it hard for other players to win it, but I will.

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December 18, 2012 · 3:50 pm

Voters have plenty of MVP options

With the season officially three-quarters over, it’s time to start looking at the NFL MVP race. And it’s actually a race this year, a welcome change after Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (deservedly) coasted to victory in 2011.

Three of the 50 Associated Press voters recently tweeted some MVP thoughts.

Six names. No overlap. We’re in for a good finish.

I plan to go into more detail on the MVP candidates in upcoming weeks. But if I had to rank just those six names in my order of preference, it would be Watt, Manning, Rodgers, Peterson, Johnson, Luck.

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Clamor begins for Rodgers repeat

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the overwhelming favorite to win the MVP.

Dozens of analysts from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! and NFL.com made their annual preseason predictions, including for MVP.  Defending MVP Aaron Rodgers received 20 votes. Everybody else received 24 votes combined.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (20)
Michael Silver, Yahoo!
Andrew Brandt, ESPN
Jeffri Chadiha, ESPN
Dan Graziano, ESPN
KC Joyner, ESPN
Mike Sando, ESPN
Adam Schefter, ESPN
Kevin Seifert, ESPN
Bill Williamson, ESPN
Matt Williamson, ESPN
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
Jim Trotter, Sports Illustrated
Tom Mantzouranis, Sports Illustrated
Adam Schein, NFL.com
Steve Wyche, NFL.com
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
Michael Lombardi, NFL.com
Adam Rank, NFL.com
Jeff Darlington, NFL.com
Dave Dameshek, NFL.com

Saints QB Drew Brees (8)
Jason Cole, Yahoo!
Pat Yasinskas, ESPN
Kerry J. Byrne, Sports Illustrated
Andrew Perloff, Sports Illustrated
Jeff Diamond, Sports Illustrated
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, NFL.com
Marc Sessler, NFL.com

Patriots QB Tom Brady (6)
John Clayton, ESPN
Ashley Fox, ESPN
Jamison Hensley, ESPN
Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated
Gil Brandt, NFL.com
Chad Reuter, NFL.com

Texans RB Arian Foster (3)
James Walker, ESPN
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com
Eddie George, Yahoo!

Giants QB Eli Manning (2)
Paul Kuharsky, ESPN
Dennis Dillon, Sports Illustrated

Falcons QB Matt Ryan (1)
Bill Barnwell, ESPN

Broncos QB Peyton Manning (1)
Peter King, Sports Illustrated

Eagles QB Michael Vick (1)
Ian Rapoport, NFL.com

Bears QB Jay Cutler (1)
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (1)
Dan Hanzus, NFL.com

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Pro Football Weekly picks favorites

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Saints quarterback Drew Brees has never won the NFL MVP. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady captured the 2010 and 2007 awards, and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won in 2011.

Pro Football Weekly didn’t veer off the beaten path when discussing NFL MVP candidates for the 2012 season in a short video. The three quarterbacks that throw for lots of yards and touchdowns got all the publicity. Here’s a peek at what was said about each candidate:

Aaron Rodgers: (4 votes) “It’s his award to lose.”

Drew Brees: (2 votes) “He’s the guy to calm the tide.”

Tom Brady: (1 vote) “He has better weapons at his disposal.”

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Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006 NFL MVP, retires as Charger

LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for an NFL-record 28 touchdowns in 2006.

LaDainian Tomlinson, the last running back to win the NFL MVP after a scintillating 2006 season, retired Monday after signing a one-day contract with the San Diego Chargers. He played his final two seasons with the New York Jets.

Tomlinson received 44 of 50 MVP votes after leading the Chargers to a 14-2 record with a career-high 1,815 rushing yards, 508 receiving yards and 31 combined touchdowns (an NFL-record 28 rushing, three receiving and two passing for good measure). Saints quarterback Drew Brees received four votes and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had two.

Tomlinson sealed his MVP fate by scoring multiple touchdowns for eight consecutive weeks. In 2006, he scored four touchdowns three times and three touchdowns three times. He rushed for more than 170 yards on four occasions, racking up a season-high 199 against the Chiefs.

MVP consideration is becoming considerably scarcer for running backs in the increasingly pass-happy NFL. Quarterbacks have won the last five awards, with only eight of a combined 250 votes going to running backs. Tomlinson, a surefire Hall of Famer, never received another MVP vote in his career.

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Rodgers beats Brees in MVP landslide

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers received 48 of 50 votes to win the 2011 NFL MVP.

Although he got a little competition late in the year, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers handily defeated all challengers in voting for the 2011 NFL MVP. Rodgers received 48 votes from a panel of 50 Associated Press voters, earning his first MVP award by beating New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees (2 votes).

Rodgers compiled 4,643 passing yards, 45 touchdowns and six interceptions and an NFL record 122.5 passer rating in only 15 games (he rested for the playoffs in Week 17). He added 257 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns for the Packers, which finished 15-1 for the first time in franchise history.

It seems fair that Brees received some votes considering his 5,476 passing yards shattered Dan Marino’s single-season record. The Saints finished 13-3 and Brees threw 46 touchdowns against 14 interceptions, but he did attempt 657 passes — 152 more than Rodgers.

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2011 NFL MVP vote breakdown

Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander won the 2005 NFL MVP, but quarterbacks are the top candidates for the 2011 award.

I apologize for posting rarely during the holiday season, but I’ll try to make up for it by tabulating the actual NFL MVP votes. Although the balloting occurred one day after the regular season, the award won’t be announced until the night before the Super Bowl. That means voters have to be quiet for more than a month, which might be difficult in an environment of Twitter and blogs. Contact information for the 50 Associated Press voters can be found here.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (4)
Tom Silverstein
Peter King
Pete Prisco
Cris Collinsworth
John McClain

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