Friday, December 28, 2018

NFL MVP Mahomes or Brees?

By John Turney
Reading the Internet tea leaves isn't always wise, but it can be interesting. If we are looking at them correctly it seems Drew Brees is gaining some momentum in the MVP race, gaining on Patrick Mahomes.

You can read or watch some of the posts Here, here, or here. And there are certainly more.

We don't have a dog in the fight, but if they do somehow take the MVP award from Mahomes it will really be unprecedented.

Numbers are not everything. Nor are wins. Nor are the "intangibles" or "eye test" if you will. All of those are something.

But in the case of Mahomes, he has the numbers, the wins, and the "eye test: in our view. Certainly, there is room for disagreement but it is rare for a QB to throw for 48 touchdowns. Below is a chart of the most touchdown passes in a season. It' skews recent so most of the entries are in the past two decades or so.

The last player to throw a lot of TDs (let's call it 36 or more) was Brees in 2011. He lost the MVP to Aaron Rodgers and for good reason. Rodgers, in one fewer game, threw one less TD and had one more win (14-1) and the Packers went 15-1.

In 2012 Adrian Peterson was a solid MVP and several QBs with big TDs numbers were passed over. But by and large monster passing seasons coupled with a double-digit win total leads to an MVP.

Here is our chart on the subject:
Highlighted records to the right represent the NFL's best or tied for the best record that year.
It is our view that the only reason Drew Brees is being mentioned as a potential MVP in 2018 is that he's never won it before and there is some sentiment that this is his last chance so it may be turned into, by some voters, a 'Long a Meritorious Service Award'.  Well, again, our view is that is what the Hall of Fame is.

For 2018 there is little choice for MVP than Mahomes, if that is, voters care about history and precedent. Voters for the MVP Awards (AP and PFWA) are not bound by any kind of historical perspective or standard, they may vote for whomever they wish based on any definition of MVP they chose to adopt or create. So, Brees will get some votes. And maybe he should. Maybe Mahomes isn't having a "unanimous" MVP-type year, those are very, very rare.

But, if he loses this out and gets the Offensive Player of the Year as some sort of "consolation prize" it will not be anything but "Let's get this guy an MVP before it's too late" sentiment. 

We think it's pretty clear Mahomes wins the eye test, the stat test. Brees wins the "wins" 13-2 versus 11-4 and Mahomes could go to 12-4. Brees is sitting out the Saints finale. However, two wins is not a definitive enough of a lead to make up for the big deficits in the 48 TD passes versus 32 and all the other numbers, nor the unique skills Mahomes has shown.

Ask yourself if there were some QB, who is, say five years into the NFL and had Brees's record and stats. Would he even be mentioned as MVP? We have some close to that, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, though their wins are not quite that high, they are the "what would the team be without him" equals of Brees, we think, anyway. And they are not serious candidates for MVP.

The same goes for Jared Goff—excellent numbers, 13 wins, but a late-season mini-slump killed his chances. Brees' late-season slump (84.7 passer rating in last four games) was mitigated by a 3-1 record, but in our views of the Saints, it sure appeared that they are 2-3 bad referee calls from two extra losses. So, when looking at wins, and getting into the nitty-gritty, requires looking at ALL of the nitty-gritty, not the esoteric stats that help only Brees.

We will see what happens, we think Mahomes will end up with the AP and PFWA MVP Awards but Brees will get some strong support—support that will come, to some degree, for his career greatness. Not all of if, but enough to be looked at.

Now, if it were 2011 Drew Brees versus 2018 Mahomes for MVP, then you have a case. Not a sure thing, but a case.

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