In an awards night filled with obvious decisions (J.J. Watt as the DPOY, and Bruce Arians as the coach of the year…also, yawn). This was another one.
Plenty of fine folks will disagree with Adrian Peterson being named this year’s most valuable player after he also won the offensive player of the year award earlier in the evening, and those people mostly live in Denver. I’ll explain why Peterson was the only logical decision with more words below.
For now, please enjoy this motivational video.
Look, I get it. Peyton Manning’s story and his recovery from injury is remarkable too, which is why he was given the comeback player of the year award. He deserved serious consideration for the MVP, and he received that too. Of the 50 votes, 19.5 of them were in favor of Manning, while 30.5 went to Peterson (half votes are a thing?).
But if those numbers were reversed and Manning won, it would have only been due to a quarterback bias, and the curmudgeon belief that the NFL’s MVP award is for quarterbacks, and only quarterbacks. Thankfully, sanity prevailed.
By now you’re well aware of Peterson’s absurdity this year, and most notably his 2,097 rushing yards as he came only nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. With his nine games with 100 or more yards on the ground (and incredibly, seven with more than 150), Peterson averaged 131.1 yards per game and 6.0 per carry. The latter number there is especially significant, because he became the first rushing leader to average six or more yards per carry since Barry Sanders in 1997.
Alfred Morris, who finished second in rushing, was 484 yards behind Peterson. Yep, he was that damn good, but the true amazement comes when you realize that Peterson had 1,019 yards after contact.
Really let that number sink in for a second. Again, there’s a massive gap between Peterson and the guy in second place. This time it’s Doug Martin, who had 683 yards after contact. But consider this: if we used only his yards after contact, Peterson would still rank 16th among all NFL running backs in rushing yards, ahead of Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Michael Turner.
But you’re likely still stuck on that vague notion of value. What is value, exactly? We can all define that differently, but when one player scores 38 percent of a team’s touchdowns, that’s pretty valuable. And when one player accounts for nearly 40 percent of a team’s total offensive yardage, that’s pretty valuable.
What truly separated Peterson from Manning, though, was the utter lack of any help whatsoever elsewhere on the Vikings’ offense. Percy Harvin’s season ended in Week 9 due to an ankle injury, and when he left, so did any semblance of a passing game in Minnesota.
There was no vertical threat whatsoever, and the result was an offense that averaged only 171.9 passing yards per game. On the throwing end of those passes was Christian Ponder, who likely would have been replaced if his backup wasn’t named Joe Webb. For much of the early part of this season Ponder was completing 90 percent of his passes behind the line of scrimmage. Seriously.
His play improved in the season’s final weeks, but he still logged five games when his passer rating dipped below 60.0, and 10 when his yards per pass attempt was lower than 6.0. Quite disgustingly, Ponder’s YPA fell to 2.9 in Week 9.
Yet despite his status as the Vikings’ only playermaker, and the opponent’s knowledge that a play would be funneling through his hands during an overwhelming percentage of Minnesota’s offensive snaps, Peterson became one of seven running backs in league history to rush for over 2,000 yards, and he did it after shredding his knee in the final week of the regular season a year ago. The result was a playoff appearance, and renewed optimism in Minnesota.