Tag Archives: Chris Johnson

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

MVP = Most Very Predictable?

Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick was the digital MVP in a simulation for "Madden 12."

The NFL’s MVP race is as predictable as Mel Kiper Jr.’s hairstyle — which quarterback on a playoff team threw for 30-plus touchdowns and 4,000-plus yards while avoiding interceptions? But regardless of the result, it’s definitely a fluid process. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was considered a legitimate candidate most of 2010 before Patriots quarterback Tom Brady became the award’s first unanimous winner.I’ll focus on compiling the mainstream media’s thoughts on MVP candidates this season — ESPN.com’s Mike Sando posted his always insightful preseason MVP Watch today — but other blogs may spark other ideas worth considering.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the top five traditional candidates and top five darkhorse candidates (in alphabetical order) for the 2011 MVP award. Because of Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning’s injury, it’s worth noting Brady is the only potential repeat winner unless Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson discovered the Fountain of Youth during the lockout.

TRADITIONAL CANDIDATES

Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback
MVP votes:
 Won in 2010, 2007; finished third in 2005, 2003

Brady has shown the ability to thrive with star receivers (Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2007), dynamic tight ends (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in 2010) and a motley crew (Deion Branch, David Givens and Troy Brown in 2005). It doesn’t hurt that the Patriots could conceivably win 14 games again.

Drew Brees, Saints quarterback
MVP votes: Finished second in 2009, 2006

Brees is a superb candidate because he throws the ball a lot — breaking the 600-attempt barrier three times — and pretty efficiently, too. He is one of only two quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards (joining Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino) and is tied for the lead in completion percentage (70.6 percent with Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson).

Philip Rivers, Chargers quarterback
MVP votes: Finished third in 2009, sixth in 2008

Since Tomlinson signed with the Jets in free agency, the Chargers’ offense has revolved around the deep passing game — Rivers led the league in pass yards per attempt the past three seasons. But the Chargers’ underwhelming performances in 2010 (9-7) and 2008 (8-8) make it difficult for voters to select Rivers when quarterbacks with comparable statistics are leading dominant teams.

Aaron Rodgers, Packers quarterback
MVP votes: None

Rodgers certainly has compiled the stats worthy of garnering votes, but the Packers haven’t been awe-inspiring (6-10, 11-5, and 10-6 records) during his three seasons as a starter. He’s firmly in the national spotlight, however, after winning Super Bowl XLV and unoficially joining the group of elite quarterbacks.

Michael Vick, Eagles quarterback
MVP votes: Finished second in 2004, fifth in 2002

Vick wins in EA Sports’ annual “Madden 12” simulation, where he is projected to lead the Eagles to the NFC East title while throwing for career-highs in yards (3,876) and touchdowns (29) and making contributions on the ground. That’s where Vick can impress voters — he has unparalleled physical ability to turn negative plays into positive ones that show up on “SportsCenter.”

DARKHORSE CANDIDATES

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals wide receiver
MVP votes: None

Wide receivers rarely receive MVP votes, but Fitzgerald has a quarterback (Kevin Kolb, whom Vick usurped in Philadelphia) talented enough to get him the ball but not dominant enough to attract votes. In his physical prime, Fitzgerald has the potential — he’s averaged 87 receptions for 1,172 yards and nine touchdowns — to pile up head-turning statistics in the miserable NFC West.

Antonio Gates, Chargers tight end
MVP votes: None

Gates would truly be an upset because only three tight ends have received MVP votes — Mark Bavaro in 1986, Kellen Winslow in 1981 and John Mackey in 1968 and 1966 — but he could put up huge numbers. And it would be hard to ignore the leading receiver on the league’s most explosive offense if everything falls into place for Gates, who has scored at least eight touchdowns the past seven seasons.

Chris Johnson, Titans running back
MVP votes: Finished sixth in 2008

Although there are several running backs with MVP potential, Johnson is the most explosive option in the running and passing game (think Marshall Faulk in his prime) and is the centerpiece of his offense. An anemic passing offense forces the Titans to rely on Johnson, who has averaged 5.0 yards per carry in his career and piled up 2,509 yards from scrimmage two seasons ago.

Ndamukong Suh, Lions defensive tackle
MVP votes: None

Suh terrorized offensive lines as a rookie, running away with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award after compiling 48 tackles, 10 sacks and one interception. He could be more dominant with the addition of defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Detroit’s first-round draft pick. And Suh has crashed award voting before, finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a Nebraska senior.

DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys linebacker
MVP votes: None

Ware flirted with Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record (22.5) in 2008 with 20 sacks and would certainly draw attention if he breaks the mark. Even if he only gets close, Ware could sway voters with more highlight-reel plays — he has 25 forced fumbles but only one career interception — for America’s Team, which ties the NFL high with five primetime games this season.

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