This time out on NFL Thursday, we have a very unique situation to sort through, and it reminds us why we do this: To right the wrongs of the past, and this season in professional football history really illustrates what a “wrong” truly is in this case. How can three guys win an MVP Award? They cannot, we say … ever!
So, here is our analysis for the 2003 year of pro football in America.
2003 MVP: Peyton Manning (original AP), Steve McNair (original AP), and Jamal Lewis (original PFWA); Priest Holmes (revised)
How is this for a clusterf**k of an MVP situation? It is why we do what we do, as three different players won a slice of the MVP awards: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair tied in the Associated Press MVP vote, while Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis took home the PFWA MVP.
Let’s start this crazy analysis by looking at the defensive guys first: Four players notched at least 10 tackles a game, which is impressive. Houston Texans linebacker Jamie Sharper recorded 166 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Ravens LB Ray Lewis registered 163 tackles, 14 passes defended, and 6 interceptions. San Diego Chargers LB Donnie Edwards put up 162 tackles and 9 PDs, while Miami Dolphins LB Zach Thomas made 153 tackles in 15 games and added 10 PDs, too.
Lewis’ season is the best one of the bunch, so we will put him on the back burner for now as we move to the QBs in the discussion: McNair topped the league in QB rating (100.4), although Manning was not far behind (99.0). The Colts signal caller did play all 16 games, though, while McNair only played in 14 games. Also, McNair fumbled 12 times, which was twice as much as Manning. They both posted 1.8 INT percentages.
Interestingly, both teams post 12-4 records in the AFC South Division. The Colts won the tiebreaker based on their 2-0 record against the Titans, and McNair did play in both of those games. Between his tendency to turn the ball over less and the head-to-head results, not to mention playing the full season, we have to give Manning the edge here. Plus, Tennessee won its two games without McNair in the lineup, so how valuable could he have been?
Now, the running backs: A whopping six runners gained at least 100 yards a game during the year, which is insane, and four of them scored double-digit touchdowns, too. Here’s the list: Jamal Lewis (2,066 yards and 14 TDs); Denver Broncos RB Clinton Portis (1,591 yards and 14 TDs in 13 games); Green Bay Packers RB Ahman Green (1,883 yards and 15 TDs); and San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson (1,645 yards and 13 TDs).
The Chargers finished just 4-12, while Denver went 10-6 to claim a wild-card spot. Green Bay also won 10 games to win its division, while the Ravens did the same. That puts Tomlinson out of the equation. So we have three RBs in the conversation with Ray Lewis and Manning right now.
How about receivers? Only two stand out: Minnesota Vikings star Randy Moss (111 catches for 1,632 yards and 17 TDs) and St. Louis Rams rocket Torry Holt (117 receptions for 1,696 yards and 12 TDs). We will see how they fare in the scrimmage-yards analysis when put up against the running backs, although the Vikings posted just a 9-7 record while missing the playoffs by one game—while the Rams went 12-4 to win their division.
Five players topped the 2,000-yard mark for total yards: Tomlinson (2,370 total yards and 17 total TDs with 2 fumbles); Jamal Lewis (2,271 total yards and 14 total TDs with 8 fumbles); Green (2,250 total yards and 20 total TDs with 7 fumbles); New Orleans Saints RB Deuce McAllister (2,157 total yards with 8 total TDs and 6 fumbles); and our 2002 MVP choice, Kansas City Chiefs RB Priest Holmes (2,110 total yards with 27 total TDs and 1 fumble).
Lewis, Green, and McAllister were turnover machines, and the Saints missed the playoffs at 8-8, while Holmes once again stands out—as the Chiefs won 13 games this season to win the AFC East Division. The TD total was a new NFL record as well, as they all came on the ground for another record, too.
So, right now, we have Ray Lewis, Manning, Moss, Holt, and Holmes, really. With both Lewises on the roster, the Ravens still only won 10 games, which makes us wonder how four other teams in the AFC won more games than Baltimore did. No one else in the Ravens division finished above .500, so the team wasn’t very good—and that reduces the value of both players.
Time for the “triplets” comparison for the other four guys:
- Manning: RB Edgerrin James (1,551 total yards and 11 TDs) and WR Marvin Harrison (1,275 yards total yards and 10 TDs)
- Moss: QB Daunte Culpepper (96.4 QB rating) and RB Moe Williams (1,389 total yards and 8 TDs)
- Holt: QB Marc Bulger (81.4 QB rating) and RB Marshall Faulk (1,108 total yards and 11 TDs)
- Holmes: QB Trent Green (92.6 QB rating) and tight end Tony Gonzalez (916 total yards and 10 TDs)
This really reduces the field to Holt and Holmes, only, as Manning and Moss had an excellent supporting cast. Holt did a lot with “less” help from his offensive teammates, as Faulk was reduced to just 11 games because of injury, while Bulger was mediocre at best. However, WR Isaac Bruce (998 total yards ad 5 TDs) also factors into this. Meanwhile, Holmes had a great QB, in addition to WR Eddie Kennison (862 total yards and 5 TDs) as well.
We see Holmes as having the slightly better season, with those TDs and the single turnover. But this was a very close decision, in truth, as the Chiefs gave Holmes better support. Setting the two NFL records helps, however. This is Holmes’ second consecutive MVP nod from us as well.