Photograph: Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports
The NFL’s MVP award is a proxy for the league’s best quarterback. At least that’s the way it’s evolved over the last 20 years.
The reason for picking a winner typically slots into one of three cliches: validating a young star’s legitimacy; confirming an old guy has still got it; or handing it to a consistent performer having a career year (hooray for Matt Ryan!).
It makes sense. No player is more valuable than the quarterback. They exert an unusual amount of control over the sport. Football is a game of physical real estate acquisition, and among 22 moving pieces, only the quarterback has the ball in his hand on every snap of offense. No player at another position could have more value than that.
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The last time a non-quarterback won the MVP was in 2012, when running back Adrian Peterson rushed for more than 2,000 yards. The last defensive player to win the MVP was Lawrence Taylor back in 1986. It was a different time. Four years earlier, a kicker – A KICKER! – won the award.
But this season should signal a reset. Offensive production is down leaguewide. None of the preseason MVP favorites have lived up to expectations. And those that have, beyond Brock Purdy, fall below the compelling narrative threshold.
If ever there was a season when a non-quarterback should win the award, it is this one.
Rattle through the typical candidates and they all fall short. Patrick Mahomes has been let down by his receiving corps. Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert haven’t quite lived up to preseason expectations, or have been hamstrung by inconsistencies around them. Josh Allen has fallen out of contention after turnover struggles. CJ Stroud is a rookie. Joe Burrow is injured. Dak Prescott, though playing some of the best football of his career, will be dinged by the Cowboys’ record versus the league’s best. Jared Goff,…