It’s been a summer full of surprises on NFL Thursday as for the last five seasons under review, we have seen 5 different quarterbacks win the MVP vote, while we have selected a different set of 5 quarterbacks for our MVP honors. One player has overlapped in these analyses, and that’s it. We really have no idea where this is going next.
Next week, we will be all caught up, too, to the present day, so enjoy this series while it lasts!
2019 MVP: Lamar Jackson (original AP & PFWA), Russell Wilson (revised)
No defensive player averaged 10 tackles a game, while two guys did average more than a sack per contest: Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones (19 sacks, 8 forced fumbles) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (19.5 sacks and 37 QB hits to lead the league in both, while adding 6 FFs). Those are both pretty good efforts. However, both teams finished under .500 for the year and missed the playoffs.
That’s it for defenders, so we’re on the QBs next, where 9 (!) players surpassed the 100-point QB rating threshold—but only 7 of them played for January-bound franchises: Tennessee Titans veteran Ryan Tannehill (117.5), New Orleans Saints legend Drew Brees (116.3), Baltimore Ravens sensation Lamar Jackson (113.3), Minnesota Vikings star Kirk Cousins (107.4), Seattle Seahawks leader Russell Wilson (106.3), Kansas City Chiefs phenom Patrick Mahomes (105.3), and San Francisco 49ers sparkplug Jimmy Garoppolo (102.0).
Brees won our MVP nod in 2009, while Cousins won our award in 2015. Meanwhile, Wilson won it from us last year by taking it away from Mahomes, who won the 2018 vote. This is a loaded field, even with the three newbies in it. The Titans were a 9-7 team overall, but they went 7-3 in Tannehill’s starts as he only attempted 286 passes on the season. The Chiefs, Ravens, 49ers, and Saints all won division title, as well, with the others clinching wild cards.
Now, on to the running backs: Titans wrecking ball Derrick Henry topped the league with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground, but he also fumbled 5 times. No other ground gainers really stood out from the crowd on their rushing statistics alone, so this group may expand once we get to scrimmage yards (below). But Henry’s dominance on the ground means Tannehill isn’t a real MVP candidate with the rushing champ at his side.
Wide receivers have become interchangeable in the league at this point, but Saints WR Michael Thomas led the NFL in both receptions (149—an all-time record) and receiving yards (1,725), meaning this sort of eliminates Brees as an MVP candidate as well. That drops us to just the 5 QB candidates at this point.
Scrimmage yards tells another story: Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey topped the league by a wide margin here with 2,392 yards, 19 TDs, and just 1 fumble. However, his team finished just 5-11 for the season. McCaffrey was probably the best player in the league, but he carried little value in the end, sadly. Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott was next with 1,777 yards and a 14:3 scoring-to-turnover ratio. But the team’s 8-8 finish meant no postseason action, so again, the value is lost there.
It’s time to examine more closely the remaining QB candidates, then, keeping in mind that Jackson won the MVP votes at the time:
- Jackson: RB Mark Ingram (1,265 total yards with 15 TDs and 2 TOs), TE Mark Andrews (852 yards with 10 TDs and 2 TOs), third-best AFC defense (282 PA)
- Cousins: RB Dalvin Cook (1,654 yards with 13 TDs and 4 TOs), WR Stefon Diggs (1,191 yards with 6 TDs and 4 TOs), second-best NFC defense (303 PA)
- Wilson: RB Chris Carson (1,496 yards with 9 TDs and 7 TOs), WR Tyler Lockett (1,052 yards with 8 TDs and 1 TO), seventh-worst NFC defense (398 PA)
- Mahomes: TE Travis Kelce (1,233 yards with 6 TDs and 1 TO), WR Tyreek Hill (883 yards with 7 TDs and no TOs), RB Damien Williams (711 yards with 7 TDs and 1 TO), fifth-best AFC defense (308 PA)
- Garoppolo: TE George Kittle (1,075 yards with 5 TDs and 1 TO), WR Deebo Samuel (961 yards with 6 TDs and 2 TOs), RB Raheem Mostert (952 yards with 10 TDs and 2 TOs), third-best NFC defense (310 PA)
We have to note here that Jackson himself ran for 1,206 yards and 7 TDs on his own, in addition to his QB statistics (36 TDs, 6 interceptions). His QB rating is the highest one remaining on this list of final candidates. Is there any rationale for taking his MVP vote victory away? Cousins had a lot of support, even if his supporting cast liked to cough up the ball a lot.
Meanwhile, Wilson added 342 yards rushing and 3 TDs on the ground in addition to his 31 TDs passing and 5 INTs. Once again, he was carrying a big load considering the TO issues for his primary RB. Looking at Mahomes, his supporting cast had an injury-plagued year, as he himself missed 2 games, but he did add 218 yards on the ground to his 26 TDs passing and 5 INTs. Garoppolo had a solid group around him, too, for sure.
So what to make of all this? Mahomes did more with less than Garoppolo did, so we put the 49ers QB on the shelf here. Wilson had the worst defense to work with, by far, of any of these contenders, and his supporting cast loved to turn the ball over. He also had less to work with than Mahomes did, so Wilson moves to the top of the list so far.
Cousins’ teammates were just as bad as Wilson’s buddies with the fumbles, but they were better overall, and the Vikings defense was top notch, so this comes down to Jackson and Wilson, really. The Ravens defense certainly helped Jackson, but his own legs were his best friend in Baltimore, in truth. The next-best receiver on the Ravens (Marquise Brown) put just 587 yards. Just who was Jackson throwing to in this run-heavy offense?
RB Gus Edwards added 756 total yards (711 on the ground) for the Baltimore offense, so we have to give Jackson credit for spreading the ball around to a cast of nobodies while also running plenty on his own. Just who did he throw those 36 TDs to? This is a tough analysis to decide between Jackson and Wilson, and we’re not sure where to go with it.
Jackson had one more fumble than Wilson did, which is not that big of a deal. We know Wilson had a tougher load on his shoulders, though, with that terrible defense. What about the next guys in Seattle’s offense? WR D.K. Metcalf (911 yards with 7 TDs and 3 TOs) was another target with fumble issues, and no one else on the roster cleared even 500 total yards.
Let’s add this up: Jackson had a much-better defense behind him with four players (including himself) adding over 4,000 yards of offense to his cause with minimal turnovers, while Wilson had a mediocre defense to compensate for with four players behind him (including himself) adding just 3,801 yards to the cause with a lot more turnovers.
We have to acknowledge the fact Wilson was just more valuable to the 11-5 Seahawks than Jackson was to the 14-2 Ravens. This surprises us on a few levels, but it’s hard to ignore the pressure that Wilson carried on him that Jackson just never felt throughout the season. Wilson gets his second-straight MVP nod from us as a result.
However, there is no issue here with anyone who supports Jackson for this award: He had an amazing season on an amazing team, overall. We just think Wilson did a lot with less in carrying his team to the postseason.
Check in every Thursday for our NFL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!