Our NFL Thursday series continues with yet another year that brings us closer to the present day; in fact, by the time the 2021 season starts, we should be done with our MVP analyses and on to another regular feature in this weekly column space. Isn’t that exciting?
However, let us not get ahead of ourselves yet … on with this edition of NFL Thursday!
2011 MVP: Aaron Rodgers (original AP & PFWA, confirmed)
We are going to start with the defense again, because we can: Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was the only player to average more than 10 tackles a game (166 in 16 games), but he didn’t do a lot else: 8 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 1.5 sacks. Oh, and Washington won just five games, anyway.
Four players, however, registered at least a sack a game: Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (22 in 16), Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware (19.5), Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin (18), and New York Giants defensive Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5).
But the Vikings won just 3 games, while Dallas and Philly somehow finished just 8-8 behind the NFC East “champion” 9-7 Giants, who actually got outscored on the season by giving up 400 points. As no player intercepted more than 7 passes, either, it looks like we can safely ignore all defensive players in terms of MVP consideration.
Moving to the quarterbacks, Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers set the all-time QB rating record (122.5, which still stands today), as the Pack went 15-1 to clinch the best record in the NFL. He won both MVP votes at the time, while throwing for 45 touchdowns and just 6 INTs. Even though three other QBs also topped the 100-point mark for QB rating, it’s clear Rodgers put up the best individual season in NFL history here for his position.
That will be tough to beat in an MVP analysis, as Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew was the only player to average more than 100 yards per game (1,606 yards on the ground with 8 TDs and a whopping 6 fumbles). But his team won just 5 games. And while Eagles RB LeSean McCoy (1,309 yards with 17 TDs and 1 TO) had a great season, we know Philly underperformed during the season nonetheless.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had an outstanding season, registering a league-high 1,681 receiving yards, while also catching 16 TD passes. The Lions won 10 games to make the playoffs as well, so Megatron could be worthy of MVP consideration in a different year.
Two New England Patriots players—WR Wes Welker (122 receptions) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (17 TD receptions)—led the NFL in those categories, but we don’t consider any Patriots offensive players here, due to aforementioned/documented cheating scandals.
In scrimmage yards, Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice posted 2,068 total yards as the only player in the league to crack that major barrier. His 15:2 scoring-to-fumble ratio was solid, as well. The Ravens also went 12-4 to make the postseason. Johnson (1,692 total yards) and McCoy (1,624 total yards) factor in here as well, but we know the Eagles’ issues, and Megatron may not have done enough outside the passing game to really make a splash here.
In the end, it’s easy to confirm Rodgers’ MVP voting triumphs, as he set an all-time NFL record that still haven’t been broken. Rice and Johnson had great seasons, but they don’t measure up in any way against what Rodgers did in 2011, period. This is the first time since the 2006 season we have confirmed the voters’ pick, by the way.