Week 14 of the NFL means a few different things.
The Bears are struggling to decide if they want to go 7-9 or 9-7, everyone (usually) knows if their fantasy team is going to the playoffs or not, and people start declaring who they think the NFL MVP should be.
In other words, the quarterback or running back putting up the best numbers for his (relatively) competitive team. Since Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor won the 1986 award (one of two defensive players to ever win), the last 27 MVP’s have gone to either a quarterback or running back.
The 2014 season is Exhibit A of that notion, as its become a two-horse race between the world’s best quarterback — The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers — and the best chance to unseat Taylor in years, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
Rodgers is going for his second MVP after winning the 2011 edition. Watt’s back to back Pro Bowl appearances in 2012 and 2013, plus winning DPOY in ’12, were hints that a breakout season like this was on the way.
The red-hot Packers are 9-3 and the Texans are 6-6, so both dudes will be playing meaningful football for the foreseeable future. The fact it’s essentially become a two-horse race, with players like Peyton Manning, DeMarco Murray and Tom Brady having great seasons, is a testament to the brands of football Rodgers and Watt are playing right now.
But this isn’t baseball, and we can’t have two MVP’s. In the ultimate football matchup — defensive end vs. quarterback — here’s arguments for both sides of the spectrum.
Aaron Rodgers (Peter Hahn)
The other day I wrote that the Green Bay Packers are destined to win this year’s Super Bowl, mostly because their quarterback is named Aaron Rodgers.
While I touched on the Green Bay defense, Eddie Lacy and Rodgers’ wide receiver corps all playing exceptionally well this year for their various standards; only a player like Rodgers can give me irrational confidence to predict that.
Watching him play as a pure football fan, without any Bears fan bias clouding my judgement, you can’t help but feel like you’re watching greatness.
Every ball is on the money. He’ll beat you with his feet or his arm, and sometimes both at the same time. His quick release is an offensive coordinator’s dream. He doesn’t make mistakes.
Similar to LeBron James, (without the drama baggage attached) you feel like Rodgers has to mess up for his team to lose because he’s just too good otherwise. And as I mentioned, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t mess up very often.
As it currently stands, Rodgers’ interception rate this season is .0079, or seven-tenths of one percent. The only full campaign that comes close is Tom Brady’s unbelievable 2010 season, when he finished with a 36 TD’s and just 4 picks en route to his second MVP. A-Rodg is at 32 TD’s and 3 INT with four games to go this year.
Expanding out to his career numbers, this is typical Rodgers. His career interception rate is a paltry 1.6%, or the best of all-time.
It won’t ever get the attention of his beautifully thrown deep touchdowns to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but Rodgers’ disciplined play is what truly separates him from other quarterbacks. It’s also what makes him the NFL’s best player, or a fancy way of saying “MVP.”
By now, everybody understands that quarterback is the most important position in football. They’re the one player with the ball in their hands every play, and they’re the one player that can single-handedly take a team further than they should go.
So not only is Rodgers the most important player on the NFL’s best team, he’s the most important player in the entire league.
What’s the award we’re debating again?
J.J. Watt (Brian Lendino)
The last time the NFL MVP award was handed out to a defensive player the Berlin Wall still stood, our relations with Russia were still cold, and Ronald Reagan was President of the United States.
So when they say a guy like J.J. Watt has no shot of winning it in 2014, you realize that the argument sort of holds water.
The NFL MVP award generally goes to offensive players, mainly quarterbacks. In fact, the Associated Press has handed out the league’s most prestigious award to a quarterback 21 times since Lawrence Taylor was the last defensive player to hold the trophy in 1986.
But J.J. Watt is rewriting history with every passing week.
And as Kevin Durant put it best during his iconic 2013 NBA MVP speech, where he honored his mother and said, “you the real MVP.”
Justin James Watt, you the real MVP. No literally, you really are going to become the NFL MVP.
I get it, they don’t hand this award out to gym rats and they certainly aren’t awarding your work ethic and determination. But you can certainly credit those qualities within Watt as to what’s gotten him to this point.
This past Sunday alone Watt tallied three tackles, one tackle for loss, two sacks, he hit the quarterback six times, forced a fumble, recovered that fumble, and oh yeah, caught a one-yard touchdown pass on offense.
Give me a second to catch my breath.
Now, I don’t have NFL Sunday Ticket. But J.J. Watt is really making me reconsider that decision just so I can watch him play every Sunday. Because let’s not fool ourselves, we’re witnessing greatness.
And it’s not just this week.
Watt became the first defensive player in history to catch three touchdown passes on offense in a single season. Add those to his interception return for a touchdown and sack, strip, scoop and score against the Colts; and that brings Watt’s 2014 touchdown total to five on the season.
For reference, that’s as many touchdowns as Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Matt Forte have this season.
Watt isn’t the flashiest of guys, and he doesn’t command an entire offense flawlessly like Aaron Rodgers is doing in Green Bay. One thing I do know is that we’re watching the greatest defensive player of this generation dominate one side of the ball, almost singlehandedly keeping his team in the playoff picture.
If the Texans ultimately miss the playoffs we may see Watt miss out on the MVP award.
And to me, that’s just wrong.