Sunday, February 5, 2012

Aaron Rodgers named 2011 NFL MVP

This year the NFL had their inaugural "NFL Honors" awards show hosted by Alec Baldwin. Usually the regular season NFL awards are presented in a much more low key way but since the NFL realized that they can get ratings for just about anything they aired a tape delayed presentation of the regular season awards.

Cam Newton won offensive rookie of the year, Von Miller won defensive rookie of the year, Matthew Stafford won comeback player of the year, Jim Harbaugh won coach of the year, Terrell Suggs won defensive player of the year, and Drew Brees won offensive player of the year. Last but certainly not least, Aaron Rodgers was named MVP of the entire league by a wide margin: 48 (Rodgers) to 2 (Brees).

Let's compare the numbers that Rodgers and Brees put up in 2011:

Rodgers completed 68.3% of his passes, threw for 4,643 yards, 45 TDs, and six INTs for a 122.5 passer rating (NFL record).

Brees completed 71.2% of his passes (NFL record), threw for 5,476 yards (NFL record), 46 TDs, and 14 INTs for a 110.6 passer rating.

Rodgers was much more of a threat with his feet than Brees. Rodgers ran for 257 yards and three touchdowns while Brees ran for just 81 yards and one touchdown.

Brees broke at least five NFL single season records. The one that got the most attention was Brees breaking Dan Marino's passing yardage record set 27 years ago. Brees also broke Peyton Manning's record for number of completed passes in a season, Brees completed 468 passes in 2011 while Manning completed 450 passes in 2010. Finally Brees broke three of his own records: completion percentage (71.6% in 2011, 70.6% in 2009), threw for 300 yards in seven straight games, and threw for 300 yards in 13 games in 2011.

Thanks to Brees' brilliance in 2011, the Saints set several single-season offensive records including offensive yards (7,474) and first downs (416). Yes, Brees threw for 833 yards more than Rodgers but Rodgers played in one less game so that gap would have been much smaller. Furthermore, Brees only averaged 8.3 yards per attempt while Rodgers averaged 9.2 yards per attempt.

As the numbers above show, Rodgers was no slouch in 2011. In fact, Rodgers became the only player in NFL history to complete at least 68% of his passes while averaging at least nine yards per attempt. Also the six INTs thrown by Rodgers was the fewest in NFL history for a QB that threw for at least 4,000 yards.

Various pundits argued that Brees should have been the MVP since he broke Dan Marino's single season passing yardage record but let's not forget that two other quarterbacks (Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady) threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011 as well so let's take the sheer yardage numbers with a grain of salt.

We can all agree both Rodgers and Brees had great seasons. Brees put up more raw statistics but Rodgers was much more efficient given the number of opportunities he had, which is ultimately why Rodgers won in a landslide.

Winning the league MVP award put Rodgers is very rarefied air even for a storied franchise like the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers became only the fifth Green Bay Packer to ever be named league MVP joining Brett Favre (1995, 1996, & 1997), Paul Hornung (1961), Bart Starr (1966), and Jim Taylor (1962).

Rodgers accepted the MVP award from Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and said something to the effect of "excited to see you back on the field next year" to which Manning looked like he just got caught looking at porn by his Mom. Nice gesture by Rodgers but all around awkward.

Rodgers took a shot at his favorite team growing up (San Francisco 49ers) for taking Alex Smith #1 overall instead of taking him. There are a million things that impress me about Rodgers but comments like that one about the 49ers show me that even winning the MVP award will not go straight to his head because he will always have some chip on his shoulder.

The Favre v. Rodgers can be left for another day but the one thing Rodgers knows is that if he wins another Super Bowl, he will always have bragging rights over Brett Favre.

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