Friday, January 14, 2022

The MVP Case for Cooper Kupp

 By John Turney 
Cooper Kupp
We have posted this background information before so we will repeat some of it verbatim. 

"AP Only" Line of Thinking Is Errant
We hear from the analytics crowd quite often that the NFL MVP has to be a quarterback because that position has the most "value". As if they invented that concept.

Though it may have been written before Buddy Parker wrote that in his book in 1955 We Play To Win!. He did use the work valuable he said "important'. However, the gist is the same.

That said, over the years plenty of running backs have been voted the MVP or Player of the Year (the nomenclature United Press (later United Press International) chose, though the award was the same). Remember the Associated Press (AP) started with "outstanding Player" then changed to "Player of the Year" then in 1961 Changed to Most Valuable Player (MVP), then changed back to "Player of the Year: in 1962 before permanently going with MVP from 1963 to the present. Understand this: The award was the same regardless of what they called it. The Newspaper Enterprise Association called it 'MVP' two years before the AP started giving out an award. 

The NEA, UPI, and AP were the big three that were recognized by the Offical NFL Record and Fact Book which is the official yearly record book published by NFL. 

Later the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) began choosing an MVP and along with the Sporting News, those are the major awards accepted by the NFLPA and also by Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the NFL. Note the word "official" in the title.  

With that background, the first MVP award will be the PFWA in mid-January but the most publicized is the AP MVP award with the hoopla of the NFL Awards show. Sp, mainly we are speaking of that, though try as it might, it is not an official award. It is just the one that is picked up by the most media outlets and gets the most discussion and the votes are released, unlike the PFWA. It should be noted that since 2004 the AP and PFWA have been sympatico in their selections. 

"QB Only" Line of Thinking is Errant
The last wide receiver to win a major award was Jerry Rice in 1990 when he was the Sporting News Player of the Year. But if you don't like that one he was the PFWA and NEA MVP in 1987. John Elway was the AP winner garnering 36 votes, Rice had 30. 

Jerry Rice the 1987 consensus MVP winning two of the accepted MVP awards that year no matter what the "AP only" crowd thinks.  Rice was the MVP. 
Jerry Rice
There had been some winners before but they were far and few between. Harlon Hill (NEA-1955), Lance Alworth (AFL UPI-1963), Gino Cappelletti, (AP/UPI 1964). Cappelletti doubled as a kicker and led the AFL in scoring that season. The NFL's Official MVP went to Don Hutson in 1941 and 1942 so there is that as well.
Mark Moseley
There are other breaks however, one was in 1982 when kicker Mark Moseley was the AP MVP. But to be fair,. Dan Fouts was the MVP in 1982, winning the PFWA and NEA awards, same as Rice did in 1987 making him the condenses MVP, not Mosely, just as Elway was not the MVP in 1987. Rice was.

So, we have established that a wide receiver can be an MVP, though it is rare. Analytics statheads try to turn football into baseball with WAR that shows a QBs value is higher than other positions. Duh.

As we mentioned Buddy Parker wrote that 65 years ago. We don't need some skewed formula that claims to be math when it is Math™ to tell us that. 

The "valuable" in MVP was not set in stone and people are simply injecting stats into the "V" and interpreting that as the "value",. Stop it. Football did not start in 2006. Or when the Internet began.

Again, the AP MVP had two names before it was "MVP"—Most outstanding player and Player of the Year. Then back-and-forth to POY and MVP. 

Don't be so sacrosanct as if the meaning of value is brought down from high by cultlike characters with new scripture (analytics), false prophets (proponents of them who preach and convert gullible young people), and any disobedience or even partial acceptance is not good enough. If you don't follow the "go for it/don't go for it chart" exactly you are a heretic to this cult. Think it's sometimes? Then still, it's heresy and one gets mocks and scorned. 

The Point? It's easy the AP MVP does not have to be a quarterback. It just does not. To think that is foolish. When someone says on Twitter or wherever that a wide receiver cannot or should not be an MVP we just want to ask, "Who told you that"? 

The definition of the word valuable and how it applies to the MVP is just out of proportion. It's like the old theological debate of "How many angels can stand on the head of a pin"? People should even get dragged into such a debate. If they think the wider receiver had the better year than the quarterback, vote for the wide receiver. If they think the quarterback had the better season, vote for him. Easy.

There is no need for AP voters to just be part of a Borg, "You will comply, resistance is futile" and vote for a quarterback every year from now on, now that the analytics have educated us that the quarterback position is the most valuable and their Math™ proves it. We took Buddy Parker's word for that in the 1970s when we read his book in the school library. It still does not mean a WR is positionally prevented from being the MVP. Jerry Rice and the others prove that.

Cooper Kupp
Kupps achieved the triple crown but not only that he flited with an NFL record. But even MORE than that he was the guy who made the Rams offense go. If you didn't see him play you may not get it. 

he saved the Rams offense's rear end countless times by getting open when it didn't look like he could then hauling in a long pass to continue a drive. He was amazingly clutch. He just looked uncoverable at times. 

He also is a complete player—this post is not all about the "numbers" it's about the player who put up the numbers. He is a tremendous blocker and on short passes few were better at gaining yards after the reception, he just hustled until tackled and even got yards after contact like no one else.

Without him, the Rams would be second-division. He's that good.

So, what about the quarterbacks? Sure in most cases quarterbacks are the top players. we do happen to agree that in general, they are the most valuable but we are not strict or pious about it. There can be years that are exceptions. Usually, that involves a running back and in the history of the NFL there have been many running backs that merited the MVP Award but the majority were signal-callers.

So, the favorite of the mainstream press is Aaron Rodgers. And he is the best quarterback in the NFL this year in our view. But did he have an MVP season—the kind that we are used to seeing in this era? The kind of seasons when you know who the MVP is by week 12 or so? MVPs like Cam newton who got 48 of 50 votes in 2015? Or Lamar Jackson's 50 out of 40 MVP in 2019?

Years like 2018 when Patrick Mahomes there 50 touchdown passes? Or 207 when Tom Brady threw 50? Or when Peyton Manning threw 55? Or last year when Aaron Rodgers threw 48 matched with just  5 picks? Is his 2021 the same level as that? I mean, if we going to go by numbers with feed into the computer and spit out the analytic scripture we're supposed to follow.

Answer? No. And in our view, the same for Tom Brady.

Rodgers and Brady's seasons are not rare for QBs these days (unless you account for Brady's age). They are excellent seasons, worthy of All-Pro but given the standards set by quarterbacks, these are not MVP-type seasons like we saw in the recent past. Sure, they dwarf the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and even early 00s. But not the last ten or so years. The 2021 seasons of TB and AR are behind what very recent MVP quarterbacks do.
Aaron Rodgers

That leaves Cooper Kupp. 

The only thing that will prevent him from being the MVP is anti-WR bias or pro-QB bias. Neither is founded in reason. Neither is fair. 

Kupp had the most unique and rare season—you know the numbers 145 receptions for 1947 yards and 16 touchdowns and 89 of those catches went for first downs plus one more first down rushing. he returned punts (mostly for safety, he didn't fumble all season). He was as valuable to his team as Rodgers was to his. 

And let's be honest that's a judgment call that cannot be measured and is unknowable—meaning if someone say "What happens to the Packers if you take Rodgers away and what happens if you take Kupp away from the Rams". What they want you to say is the Packers suffer worse because quarterbacks have more value. And in truth, it's just words. Both teams would be screwed, I mean, if you watched the games.

Kupp was uncanny. He was a cut above. And we don't even say he's the "best" wide receiver in terms of skill sets. Davante Adams has been at a super-high level. If we had to pick a player for our team we'd take Adams. But the MVP is not a player personnel award. It is for the best player that year. Not who was better before, not the best quarterback, not all those things. 

Kupp had the best season. Give him his fair reward—the MVP.

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