Patrick Mahomes is in the midst of a fantastic season. In 11 starts, he’s thrown for 3,628 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. He’s on pace for 5,277 yards and 54 touchdowns, which would be the first and second most in a season in NFL history. When you consider that his Kansas City Chiefs still play the Oakland Raiders twice, he may very well surpass his pacing. That, plus his team’s 9-2 record, should make him a lock for the M.V.P. award, right? Well… Maybe not.
Drew Brees: The Real MVP?
As we’ve discussed here before, Drew Brees has never won the NFL’s most valuable player award. He’s come close before. He’s been in the conversation on multiple occasions, and his place in Canton, Ohio has been guaranteed for several years now, but when award season rolls around, he just hasn’t heard his name called.
That could change in 2018. Scratch that. That will change in 2018.
The Best of The Best of The Best
There are a few teams that have really leapt out as viable contenders in 2018. Mahomes’ Chiefs are one, Todd Gurley‘s Los Angeles Rams are another, and let’s be honest, regardless of how poor they look in the regular season, Tom Brady‘s New England Patriots are always a threat to make a deep run. Antonio Brown‘s Pittsburgh Steelers might be the AFC’s most complete team, but when it comes to the best team in the NFL, there’s no question that the crown belongs to the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints and Rams both have the NFL’s best record at 10-1, and when you consider the Saints beat Los Angeles head to head, it makes naming number one on just about any power rankings pretty easy. Throw in the fact that they haven’t lost a game since week one, and it’s even more impressive.
Since football is a team game, you might think it doesn’t matter. But if you look at the history of the award, it’s quite clear that team success plays a huge part in determining the winner. Only Johnny Unitas (1967) and O.J. Simpson (1973) have won the award without their team making the playoffs, and nobody has won the award on a losing team.
MVP’s Who Have Finished The Regular Season With The NFL’s Best Record Over The Last Ten Years:
2017: Tom Brady
2015: Cam Newton
2014: Aaron Rodgers
2013: Peyton Manning
2011: Aaron Rodgers
2010: Tom Brady
2009: Peyton Manning
2007: Tom Brady
That’s 80% of the MVP’s this decade that finished the season with the best record in football, which it looks like the Saints will have.
While Mahomes’ numbers are gaudy, it’s hard to argue with Brees’ efficiency. He’s been lethal this season, completing 76.4% of his passes, which would break his own record for the highest in a season. In Peyton Manning’s glorious career, he only had 18 games where he completed at least 80% of his passes (20 attemp min). This season alone? Brees already has four. Brees had a relatively bad game against the New York Giants, completing only 18 of 32 passes (56.25%), and he’s still on pace to shatter the record for the most accurate season in NFL history.
I mentioned that he would be breaking his own record for the most accurate season in NFL history. That record was set last year, and it’s 4.4% lower. That’s right, of all the quarterbacks that have come and gone, from Bart Starr to Dan Fouts to John Elway to Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, nobody had completed 72% of his passes before Drew Brees, and now he’s completing 76.4% of his passes. That’s insane.
Having Said That
While Drew Brees has four of the top ten most accurate seasons in NFL history, some of the other names in the top ten are less impressive. Joining Brees are Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Ken Anderson, Derek Carr, and Sammy Baugh. While Baugh set the mark back in 1945, a record that would stand until 1982, four of the top ten seasons are happening… right now. That’s right, Carr (70.4%), Cousins (70.7%), Ryan (71.4%), and Brees are all slicing and dicing this season.
That doesn’t take away from Brees’ achievements, however. Because A. he doesn’t make the rules (rules that are changing the game, read this) and B. he’s also airing the ball out unlike most of the other guys. Because as great as his completion percentage is, it’s his ability to protect the ball that’s been far more impressive.
Through 11 games, Brees has only turned the ball over twice. He threw an interception to Harrison Smith in week eight and Damontae Kazee grabbed one of his passes on Thanksgiving night, and that’s it. Of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks, only Aaron Rodgers has thrown fewer interceptions, but he’s also lost three fumbles. Not to mention, Brees has thrown for nine more touchdowns than Rodgers.
When you consider that in both of Aaron Rodgers seasons, he beat out Brees by having fewer turnovers, Sean Payton‘s quarterback is due for some retribution.
The Hidden Truth
As much as the voters claim the MVP isn’t a lifetime achievement award, it’s impossible to deny that there’s definitely a push for Brees to finally get his MVP. He’s got some real support from fans all over the globe, Saint and non-Saint fans alike. Whether or not this creates some external pressure for the voters, it certainly won’t hurt his chances that a Hall of Fame career has been missing one piece of hardware. Throw in the fact that Brees set the record for most (regular season) passing yards in a career this year, and he has all the political momentum he needs.
M. V. Brees.
Barring an incredible explosion from the already-volatile Pat Mahomes, Brees should run away with the award. Should Mahomes prove to be the real deal, and not a one year wonder, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to win this particular award. There have always been reasons not to give someone the MVP, and in the past, the arguments against Brees have been too strong to overlook. In 2018, this must change.