aNewDomain — There are many NFL fans who want to see Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt receive the NFL Most Valuable Player award for the 2014 season. If he were to win it, he would become only the third defensive player ever to win the prestigious award. The last time a defensive player won the MVP award in the NFL was for the 1986 season.
I love the playing of J.J. Watt and I regard him as the best overall defensive player — and one of the very best players, period, in the NFL.
But I’m here to disappoint a lot of people by telling them that he’s not going to win the MVP award. First let’s take a look at why so many people want him to win it (and why I would be all for it, were it possible).
J.J. Watt for MVP
Here are the credentials that Watt brings to the MVP table this year:
- Watt is certainly going to be NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
- He ended the season as the only defensive lineman with double-digit passes defended (10).
- His 20.5 sacks made him the only player in NFL history with multiple 20-or-more sack seasons (he also had 20.5 sacks in 2012).
- As a defensive lineman, he had an 80-yard pick-six, something nearly unheard of — and not bad for a guy weighing 289 pounds.
- He’s often triple-teamed, which draws offensive players away from blocking other defenders.
- He often distracts the QB simply with his presence, inducing the QB to make a bad play.
- His 118 tackles, when added to his sacks and passes defended, demonstrate that Watt is probably the most unblockable defensive player in the NFL.
- He even had three touchdown receptions on offense!
And, let us keep in mind that Watt accomplishes all this in an era when the QB is more protected than ever before, both schematically and by the official rulebook.
Speaking of Quarterbacks …
The main obstacle in the way of J.J. Watt is simply the fact that he’s not a QB. He’s not even an offensive player. These two facts make him unlikely to get the MVP, and that’s in addition to the unlucky reality that he played on a team that didn’t make the playoffs.
People often mistake the Most Valuable Player Award for the Best Player Award. J.J. Watt is most likely the best defensive player in the NFL — the only guy who can challenge him for that, right now, would be Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly. But even the Best Defensive Player is not necessarily The Best Player. And anyway, sometimes The Best Player is not the Most Valuable Player.
The MVP is that player whose absence would be most detrimental to his team — meaning that for all intents and purposes the MVP cannot come from a non-playoff team, since a highly valuable player is even more valuable and more important to a playoff-bound team. In today’s NFL, the Most Valuable Player is nearly guaranteed to be a QB. And if it’s not a QB, it’s going to be some other offensive player — a running back or a wide receiver. Like it or hate it, it’s that simple.
Introducing This Year’s NFL MVP
If I were to name the MVP, it would be QB Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers who finished third in the NFL with 38 TD passes, a mere two behind league leader Andrew Luck and only one behind the legendary Peyton Manning. He finished second in total QB rating by one point. In 520 pass attempts, he threw a mere five interceptions — it’s simply outrageous!
Incidentally, the guy who beat him by one point for best QB rating, Dallas’ Tony Romo, threw nine pick-six passes in 435 pass attempts. And Romo is hardly threatening when it comes to his legs, whereas Rodgers is the best running QB out of all of the best passing QBs, and he’s the best QB in the game at completing passes while on the run.
Rodgers also finished second, by .09 yards, in yards-per-pass-attempt with an average of 8.43. He threw for 4,381 yards (7th in the league) without having an exceptional TE or a “greatest show on turf” to spread the ball around to, all while being on a team that emphasizes the running game. Rodgers is a part of that running game, despite all coaching staff efforts to keep him safe. In 43 attempts in 2014 he gained 269 yards for a 6.9 yards-per-carry average, and with that got 20 first downs.
Reading between the numbers, Rodgers’ leadership on the Packers is unquestionable. Rodgers turned the Packers from a destiny of mediocrity to coming within five minutes of going to the Super Bowl simply by saying “R-E-L-A-X” to fans and players when his team was struggling after the first five weeks of the season. The Packers don’t win games without Rodgers playing, but with him healthy and playing they’re always playoff contenders.
If I’m right and Aaron Rodgers wins the MVP award, this time the Most Valuable Player and the Best Player will be one and the same. Yes, Rodgers is the very best in the NFL, all things considered.
I don’t like the set of modern-day NFL rules that makes the QB’s job easier than it has ever been before — as if the passing game is really all that NFL fans want to see. Nevertheless, that’s the way it currently is. And in any event, it emphasizes the fact that a team’s starting QB is nearly always the team’s most valuable player.