As we take on another recent season on this edition of NFL Thursday, it is key to remember the 2021 NFL season will bring about much change—including a weird, 17-game regular season, which means individual records will be re-written by the hundreds. Not all change is positive, of course.
Meanwhile, what happened 5 years ago? Time to find out!
2016 MVP: Matt Ryan (original AP & PFWA), Aaron Rodgers (revised)
Defensively, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner was the only player to register at least 10 tackles a game (167), and he also notched 18 quarterback hits, and 4.5 sacks. But that wasn’t a dominant season. No defensive player made a QB sack a game or reached double digits in interceptions, either, so we’re on to the offensive players now.
Five QBs topped 100 points on the rating system: Atlanta Falcons veteran Matt Ryan (117.1), New England Patriots cheater Tom Brady (112.2), Dallas Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott (104.9), Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers (104.2), and New Orleans Saints wizard Drew Brees (101.7). Only the Saints missed the postseason (by two games, thanks to the second-worst NFC defense), and we don’t consider cheaters for MVP awards, as you know.
In the running backs category, two runners topped 100 yards per game: Dallas rookie Ezekiel Elliott (1,631 yards in 15 games) and Pittsburgh Steelers veteran Le’Veon Bell (1,268 yards in 12 games), as the Steelers did make the playoffs, too. Receivers had a down year, as just one player topped 100 yards a game: Falcons wideout Julio Jones (1,409 yards in 14 games). Pittsburgh star Antonio Brown might have had the best overall season: 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. But generally, there were no dominant receivers.
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson easily topped the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,118 yards and 20 TDs, with 5 fumbles), while Elliott was second (1,994 yards and 16 TDs, with 5 fumbles). Bell came in third (1,884 yards and 9 TDs, with 4 fumbles). But the Cardinals missed the postseason, too, with a 7-8-1 record.
Ryan won both MVP awards in the voting process, but Prescott, Rodgers, Elliott, Bell, Brown, and Jones deserve consideration, too. Yet multiple players from the same team usually cancel out candidates in our minds: That drops Ryan and Jones, as well as Prescott and Elliott in addition to Bell and Brown—leaving us with Rodgers, really.
He tossed 40 TDs and just 7 INTs, while throwing for 4,428 yards and winning 10 games to claim the NFC North Division. To wit, Ryan had two teammates in the Top 11 for total scrimmage yards (RB Devonta Freeman put up 1,541 total yards), while Rodgers’ best supporting teammates were WRs Jordy Nelson (ranked 20th) and Davante Adams (ranked 48th). The Packers’ best RB came in at No. 77 (Ty Montgomery) as well. That’s just ugly.
The Green Bay QB carried his team to the postseason, without a lot of help, and that’s why he wins this MVP unexpectedly. We took away Rodgers’ 2014 MVP Award, but we give him this one in a karmic balancing act that really provides us with one of the simpler decision-making processes in recent seasons.