We “finished” our first NFL Thursday miniseries a long time ago, and now that the 2022 season has ended, we can do our NFL MVP assessment of the 20212 season—and the timing couldn’t be more appropriate as the season just wound down with another Super Bowl. That means we won’t see another entry in this sequence for another year, so enjoy this one while you can. Surprise!

2022 MVP: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City (original); Geno Smith, QB, Seattle (revised)

The vote went to Patrick Mahomes, the stellar quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished the regular season with a 14-3 record and the No. 1 postseason seed in the AFC playoffs. He previously won the MVP vote in 2018 and the Super Bowl MVP nod in 2019, but we stripped him of both those awards as explained elsewhere. Mahomes is a great player, and we like him a lot, but facts are facts. We don’t know if he will keep this award, but we always try to do things fairly, even if we surprise ourselves.

So, let’s start with the QB candidates, of which there are a whopping five guys: Mahomes, Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa, Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, Seattle’s Geno Smith, and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. Yes, even Burrow makes our list, because we are fair and honest. Anyway, these five guys played something resembling a full season and finished with triple-digit QB ratings. Tagovailoa led the league with a 105.5 rating, and Burrow was the lowest of our candidates here (100.8).

How do we reduce this group? All these teams made the postseason, although Miami and Seattle snuck in with 9-8 records. What stands out to us is that the Eagles went 0-2 without Hurts in the lineup, and the fact he also added 760 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns to his passing totals (3,701 yards and 22 TDs). A sidebar, too, is that he led the NFL in Approximate Value (AV), which we have avoided when possible in these analyses because of our distrust of the consistency in the number(s).

But there is also something to be said for Smith, who topped the NFL in completion percentage and made the difference between playoffs and no playoffs for a team like the Seahawks, who were flawed from top to bottom. We also cannot discount Mahomes, even though he was surrounded by a lot of talent (as is Hurts, in truth). He topped the league in passing yards, passing TDs, and ESPN’s QBR measurement. We do feel these are the three top guys, due to situational realities with Tagovailoa and Burrows.

Hurts also led his team to the top seed in the NFC, while Tagovailoa was streaky, and Burrow may not be the most valuable player on his own team. Miami lost Tua’s last four starts, and he struggled with concussion issues all season, which hurt his candidacy. He may have been the MVP of the first half of the season, but he wasn’t able to finish the season, and in the end, it was the Dolphins’ third-string QB who won the final game of the season to clinch the playoff berth.

As for Burrow, he tossed three interceptions in the four games without star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, and he completed a lower percentage of his passes in those four games than he did as a whole on the year. We see Chase as being more valuable to the Bengals offense than Burrow, in truth. The team needs both to thrive, and when Burrow’s numbers dip (he threw 9 INTs in the other 13 games) without Chase, that tells us a lot. Burrow is better than he has been, but he still needs Chase to succeed so much.

We advance Mahomes, Hurts, and Smith to the final debate below, as we now move on to running backs. The top three rushers didn’t play for playoff teams, so that’s odd. In terms of scrimmage yards, San Francisco 49ers trade acquisition Christian McCaffrey finished third (1,880 yards and 13 TDs) and really made an impact on an offense that was beleaguered with injuries at the quarterback and RB positions. He’s our only back to advance to the final debate.

In the receivers group, we’d isolate Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson (1,833 scrimmage yards and 9 TDs), Miami’s Tyreek Hill (1,742 yards and 8 TDs), and Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown (1,496 yards and 11 TDs) as our top candidates. Hill and Brown also had WR teammates who were stellar, too, so they’re off the list—another reason to downgrade Tagovailoa (and possibly Hurts, as well). Jefferson is really the only strong candidate here, leading the NFL in receptions (128). But he didn’t score enough in our minds.

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler topped the league in TDs (18), and he did compile 1,637 scrimmage yards for a playoff team that had a lot of injuries, but he also fumbled 5 times, and that’s a bit too much for us—considering someone like McCaffrey fumbled just once. That leaves our offensive finalists with just four players, adding C-Mac to our QB trio. We can now move on to defensive players, and there are a few specialists to consider.

49ers defensive end Nick Bosa topped the NFL in sacks (18.5 with 2 FFs) on the top defense in the league, but his presence on the defense basically counters McCaffrey’s presence on the S.F. offense, in terms of teammates’ value. They’re both worthy players, but in this case, they will cancel each other out. Bosa won the DPOY vote, too, so we’re not wrong to consider him here in the MVP conversation. We actually like Eagles linebacker Haasan Reddick (16 sacks, 5 FFs) just as much as Bosa, though.

In fact, Reddick was actually a more versatile defender than Bosa, adding more fumble recoveries and passes defended than the S.F. lineman. Yet contextualizing those statistics for each player, neither was a true MVP-level impact player. They may have been the best players on the best defenses, but that doesn’t automatically guarantee consideration here. So, we will not consider any defensive players this time out, after picking a defensive MVP in 2021. In the end, we have the four finalists above, then.

We have to look at the supporting casts, as usual. This is what we see:

  • Kansas City: Four players between 803 and 1,343 scrimmage yards
  • Philadelphia: Three players between 1,196 and 1,496 scrimmage yards
  • San Francisco: 102.3 combined QB rating, three other players between 765 and 1,038 scrimmage yards
  • Seattle: Three players between 1,033 and 1,215 scrimmage yards

We have to remember that McCaffrey played only 11 games with the 49ers, and they posted a 10-1 record in those games—losing only his first content with S.F. against the Chiefs, actually, when McCaffrey had barely practiced with the team. Also, Hurts was fourth on his own team in scrimmage yards (760), and he fumbled nine times! We don’t like that at all, even if the Philly defense was able to bail out the offense on those occasions. Both these guys had stellar defenses behind them (1st and 8th, respectively).

In contrast, K.C. (16th) and Seattle (25th) weren’t giving much defensive help to their QBs. When we look at offensive supporting casts, too, it’s not a contest at all. The Seahawks had less to work with than the Chiefs did, and Seattle’s fourth-best guy finished more than 300 yards below the Chiefs’ fourth guy. We realize Mahomes is a better player than Smith, of course, and Mahomes is what makes the K.C. offense work. But Smith orchestrated a postseason berth out of a lesser roster and a lesser defense, as well.

This marks the third time in five seasons we have given the MVP to a Seahawks QB then: our hardware went to Russell Wilson in both 2018 and 2019. The decline of the Seattle defense after the stunning Super Bowl loss in 2014 was swift, putting a lot more pressure on the offense to get the team to the postseason. Much credit here has to go to Head Coach Pete Carroll for getting a lot out of quarterbacks when he couldn’t rely on a stout defense anymore. Clearly, the guy can coach … most of the time.

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