Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Breaking down the Brees MVP talk

Posted by on Tue, Oct 28, 2008 at 1:23 AM

click to enlarge brees throwing

Photo by Jonathan Bachman

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There really is no way to hyperbolize the magnificence that is Drew Brees this season. He's unquestionably the NFL's best quarterback at the half-way point of the season. But with people throwing around words like "MVP", it's good time to really look at the case being made for Brees as MVP.

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First, though, I'd be remiss to ignore this amazing tidbit from the Elias Sports Bureau:

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Drew Brees completed 30 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns in the Saints' 37-32 victory over the Chargers. Only four other players in NFL history passed for at least 300 yards and three TDs in a victory in their first game against a former team: Steve McNair against the Titans (2006), Mark Brunell against the Jaguars (2006), Wade Wilson against the Falcons (1993), and Sonny Jurgensen against the Eagles (1964).

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Now on to whether Brees will win the MVP. We know that Drew Brees is on pace to break Dan Marino's record for most passing yards in a single season (5,084), but few people mention that Marino also won the MVP award in that 1984 season. Should Brees break the Marino's mark, does that automatically make him the league MVP?

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Not necissarily. On top of leading the league in passing and winning the league MVP award in 1984, Dan Marino also led the Dolphins to a 14–2 record and a Super Bowl appearance. So far, the Saints have already doubled the number of losses of that Dolphins team and, at 4–4, there are still questions about whether this year's Saints can even make the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.

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On that last point, since NFL-AFL merger in 1970, only one player has won the league MVP award while his team missed the playoffs: O.J. Simpson in 1973. Speaking of O.J., the Washington Redskins' Clinton Portis (another MVP candidate) became first player since Simpson to run for at least 120 yards with an average of at least 5.0 yards per carry in five straight games. The only other running back to accomplish this feat was Jim Brown (1958), who also won the league MVP award that season.

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The double-edged sword for Brees lies in the team that surrounds him. On the one hand, you could argue that there's no way the Saints would even be at .500 if they didn't have Brees taking the snaps. On the other hand, all the passing yards and touchdown passes in the world won't mean a thing if Brees can't lead this team to the playoffs. For all the talk that no quarterback is more important to their team than Tom Brady is to the Patriots, New England is still 5–2 and tied for first in their division. Could you imagine where the Saints would be right now if Mark Brunell or Joey Harrington was at the helm?

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So what does all this tell us? Well, quite simply, Drew Brees won't win the MVP award if he breaks Marino's record without leading the Saints to a winning season and the playoffs. And if you think it's not possible for Brees to throw for more than 5,048 yards this season while the Saints miss the playoffs, think about this: In the Saints' four losses, Brees has still averaged a gaudy 299.5 yards per game. If the Saints lose every game left in the season (and chances are they won't) and Brees maintains that average, he'll end up with 4,959 yards, just 89 yards shy of the record. That means the possibility that the Saints finish 8–8, miss the playoffs and Brees sets a new passing record is very real.

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OK, now I'm going to lay down for a bit.

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