By the time the 2021 professional football season begins in two months, we will have caught up to the present day on NFL Thursday. Today, we move another step closer with a look at a season that featured yet another quarterback winning both the MVP awards. Will that player get to keep his hardware?
Read below to find out …
2015 MVP: Cam Newton (original AP & PFWA), Kirk Cousins (revised)
The only defensive players worth noting this time around are Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, who led the NFL in interceptions (8) and passes defensed (26) while also notching 60 tackles and scoring two defensive touchdowns, and Houston Texas defensive end J.J. Watt, who put up 17.5 sacks and not much else (although his 50 QB hits did lead the league, too).
Both teams made the AFC playoffs, so we’ll put them on the back burner for now as we take on the QBs: Six different players registered 100-plus ratings, although MVP vote winner Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers was not one of them (99.4). He did, however, add 646 rushing yards and 10 rushing TDs to his statistical ledger, as the Panthers topped the NFL with a 15-1 regular season.
Other QBs to consider? Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson (110.1), Cincinnati Bengals veteran Andy Dalton (106.2), Arizona Cardinals juggernaut Carson Palmer (104.6), and Washington Redskins youngster Kirk Cousins (101.6). They all led their teams to playoff spots. We won’t consider New England Patriots disgrace Tom Brady (102.2) or New Orleans legend Drew Brees (101.0), as the Saints finished with just 7 victories.
We will have a hard time sorting through these candidates below, as we move on to running backs: Not a single one of them averaged more than 100 yards a game, and while Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson—and the 2012 MVP—did lead the league in yards (1,485) and TDs (11), he also fumbled 7 times! That’s not MVP quality.
Two receivers stood out among the crowd: Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown (1,834 yards) and Atlanta Falcons phenom Julio Jones (1,871 yards). They tied for the league lead with 136 receptions each, and they also finished 1-2 in total yards from scrimmage. The Falcons missed the postseason, but the Steelers made it, without a QB candidate for MVP.
How do we sort through two defensive guys, five quarterbacks, and one wideout for the MVP Award? None of them come from the same team, so we have a huge comparative analysis to work with below:
- Watt: QB Brian Hoyer (91.4), WR DeAndre Hopkins (1,511 yards and 11 TDs), RB Alfred Blue (807 yards and 3 TDs)
- Peters: QB Alex Smith (95.4), WR Jeremy Maclin (1,102 yards and 8 TDs), RB Charcandrick West (848 yards and 5 TDs), plus tight end Travis Kelce (875 yards and 5 TDs)
- Newton: TE Greg Olsen (1,104 yards and 7 TDs), RB Jonathan Stewart (1,088 yards and 7 TDs), 3rd-best NFC defense (308 PA)
- Wilson: WR Doug Baldwin (1,069 yards and 14 TDs), RB Thomas Rawls (906 yards and 5 TDs), top NFC defense (277 PA)
- Palmer: WR Larry Fitzgerald (1,215 yards and 9 TDs), RB David Johnson (1,038 yards and 12 TDs), 4th-best NFC defense (313 PA)
- Cousins: TE Jordan Reed (952 yards and 11 TDs), RB Alfred Morris (806 yards and 1 TD), average NFC defense (377 PA)
- Dalton: WR A.J. Green (1,297 yards and 10 TDs), Giovani Bernard (1,202 yards and 2 TDs), top AFC defense (279 PA)
- Brown: QB Ben Roethlisberger (94.5), RB DeAngelo Williams (1,274 yards and 11 TDs), 7th-best AFC defense (319 PA)
Okay, to begin, we see that Dalton and Palmer probably had the most support on a team-wide basis, so we can remove them from the equation. Brown and Peters are next on the list of pretty good teammates backing them up, so they, too, can quietly move along from this discussion.
That leaves us with Watt, Newton, Wilson, and Cousins. Which one of these guys had the most “help”? Probably Newton and Wilson, in truth, even if Newton was part of his own help. Between defensive support and offensive diversity around them, both of these guys didn’t carry the same weights Watt and Cousins had to haul.
The latter had absolutely no help in Washington to get the 9-7 Redskins into the postseason, and he threw 12 TDs and zero INTs in the final three games of the season to win the NFC East. The Texans had a decent QB, a star WR, and a mediocre RB. Perhaps Hopkins could be an MVP candidate on his own, and his mere presence on the Houston roster means Watt had more support than Cousins.
So, that’s where we end up today, surprisingly: the Redskins QB did lead the league in completion percentage (69.8), and with minimal team quality around him, he all but carried Washington to a division title and a playoff spot. It’s the best when we never see our final choice coming, and this exemplifies why we do this whole exercise.
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