Just a handful of seasons left on NFL Thursday to analyze the league MVP awards over the years, and when we’re done with this miniseries, we will find a different historical angle to re-assess in this space. Exciting times, as summer training camps for the 2021 season will start soon.

In the meantime, we flashback 7 years to look at another MVP Award process …

2014 MVP: Aaron Rodgers (original AP & PFWA), Tony Romo (revised)

Let’s get the defense out of the way first, like we often do: One player—Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David—registered 10-plus tackles a game (146 in 14 games), and he didn’t do much else. Plus, the Bucs won just 2 games, so that was merely volume mandated by necessity. Meanwhile, Kansas City Chiefs LB Justin Houston notched 22 sacks, and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt put up 20.5 sacks himself.

Houston didn’t do much else, and the Chiefs won just 9 times to miss the postseason by a win. Meanwhile, Watt tallied a safety, an interception return for a touchdown, 10 passes defended, 5 recovered fumbles, and 4 forced fumbles on his way to a dynamic season for a team that also won 9 times in the AFC to just miss the playoffs. He totaled 51 QB hits, which was 23 more than the next-best mark in the NFL. Great season, but …

We will come back to Watt if needs be. But now, onto those QBs he kept hitting all year: Four passers topped 100 points on the rating system, and they were Dallas Cowboys sparkplug Tony Romo (113.2); Green Bay Packers rock star Aaron Rodgers (112.2); Pittsburgh Steelers veteran Ben Roethlisberger (103.3); and Denver Broncos legend Peyton Manning (101.5). Rodgers won both MVP voting processes by tossing just 5 INTs in 520 passing attempts.

While the Steelers won just 11 games to claim their division crown, the other three teams all posted 12 victories to win their respective divisions titles. This makes all four QBs potential MVPs in our eyes right now, depending on how the rest shakes out below. Romo played just 15 games, though, while the other three QBs all played 16 times.

Only one running back really separated himself from his peers, and that was Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray. His 1,845 rushing yards cleared the field by almost 500 yards, and his 13 rushing TDs were tied for the best in the league. However, he did fumble a whopping 6 times, which is pretty bad, actually.

Five different wide receivers caught over 100 passes, while four different WRs topped 100 yards per game: The three players who did both were Steelers WR Antonio Brown (129 catches for 1,698 yards and 13 TDs), Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas (111-1,619-11), and Atlanta Falcons standout Julio Jones (104-1,593-6). The Falcons won just 6 games, so Jones won’t make the cut here.

Moving to scrimmage yards overall, we see a new picture forming: Murray topped the NFL with 2,261 total yards, but those 6 fumbles really stand out. Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell was right behind him with 2,215 total yards and 11 TDs (without a single fumble!). Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte (1,846 yards with 10 TDs and 2 fumbles) was a distant third for the 5-win Bears. Bell basically moves to the top of the RB/WR list here with that season.

Overall, we have the four QBs (Romo, Rodgers, Big Ben, Peyton), plus two WRs (Brown and Thomas) and two RBs (Murray and Bell). But with three Steelers on this list, clearly none of them were exclusively valuable or historic in their production levels. They all get dropped from our list as a result. Murray fumbled too much, so he’s out. Yet that keeps Romo in—while we nudge the two Broncos off to the side as well.

This really comes down to Romo and Rodgers to us, since Watt couldn’t get his team into the postseason, although he did come close. Now, here is our traditional finalist comparison:

  • Rodgers: RB Eddie Lacy (1,566-13-3), WR Jordy Nelson (1,519-13-0), WR Randall Cobb (1,324-12-4)
  • Romo: RB Murray (2,261-13-6), WR Dez Bryant (1,320-16-1), tight end Jason Witten (703-5-0)

Rodgers was surrounded by better players on the whole than Romo was, although both QBs had a fumbling supporting cast, for sure. But there’s a big drop off from Cobb to Witten for the Dallas offense, and that meant Romo had to be better—and remember, he did post the higher QB rating.

So, in a surprise, we’re taking away the MVP Award from the best QB in history and giving it to Romo. Who would have predicted that?! Not us, that’s for sure.

Check in every Thursday for our NFL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!