Most of you have already seen the debate that Ted had with the folks over at Mile High Report, SB Nation's blog devoted to the Denver Broncos, about the race for the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award in 2012. I wanted to take an opportunity to look at the debate myself here.
Now, just to get ahead of everything. . .yeah, I'm significantly biased. Adrian Peterson is the Most Valuable Player in the National Football League. I don't think there's much of a "debate" at all, quite frankly. I can sort of understand the thought process for other players, but they simply don't hold a whole lot of water when compared to that of Adrian Peterson.
There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to Most Valuable Player awards in professional sports. There's the camp that says that said award should simply go to the best player, and there's the camp that says the award should go to the player that means the most to their team. While these roads might appear to be divergent at first blush, in this case. . .in my opinion. . .they lead to exactly the same destination. Let's take a look at both cases.
The "MVP should be the best player" case
If you feel that the award for the Most Valuable Player should go to the best player in the league. . .well, honestly, who had a better season than Adrian Peterson did? His 2,097 yards was the second-highest total in the history of the National Football League, and he accomplished this feat after being on what amounted to a "pitch count" for the first six weeks of the season.
In his final ten games, Adrian Peterson rushed for 1,598 yards. The NFL's second-leading rusher, Washington Redskins rookie Alfred Morris, rushed for 1,613 yards. . .in sixteen games. In fact, Morris was the only runner to accomplish in 16 games what Peterson accomplished in 10. (The NFL's third-leading rusher, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, had a 16-game rushing total of 1,590 yards.)
You also can't ignore the fact that Adrian Peterson did all of these things after coming off of a devastating knee injury just one year previous. Many a star running back in the National Football League has been felled by an ACL tear over the course of the league's history. In 1998, former Denver Broncos star running back Terrell Davis rushed for 2,008 yards. In 1999, he suffered the same injury as Adrian Peterson did, tearing his ACL and MCL while making a tackle on an interception return. In the 2000 and 2001 seasons combined, Davis played in just 13 games and carried the ball just 245 times before being forced to retire before the 2002 season.
Terrell Davis was on track to being one of the all-time NFL greats at the running back position until he had his knee shredded. Adrian Peterson got his knee shredded and not only came back, but it appears that he's managed to come back better. Anyone who thinks that what Adrian Peterson has come back from should be discounted when looking at a potential Most Valuable Player award needs to have their head examined.
Peterson also stepped up the biggest when his team needed him the most. As the Vikings went into the month of December with a record of 6-5 and one of the NFL's toughest schedules staring them in the face, Adrian Peterson managed to step up even more. How much? This much.
Adrian Peterson set an NFL record for the most rushing yards in any month with 861 yards in December.— Judd Zulgad (@1500ESPNJudd) December 31, 2012
Yes, knowing that even one loss could doom his team's playoff chances, Adrian Peterson went out and rushed for more yards than any running back had ever rushed for in any month in the history of the National Football League. And, largely because of his exploits, the Vikings find themselves in the post-season for the first time since 2009.
The "MVP should be the guy that means the most to his team" case
This one's going to be significantly easier.
I like Toby Gerhart. I do. I think there are about half a dozen teams in the National Football League that he'd start at running back for tomorrow. I think he's more than capable of being a #1 back in the National Football League. Having said that. . .
How many games do you suppose the 2012 Minnesota Vikings win with Toby Gerhart starting 16 games at running back?
I'll tell you what. . .I bet that number isn't ten. I bet that number isn't half of ten. That number might not be as lofty as the three that Minnesota put in the W column in 2011.
The NFC North this year was supposed to be a three-team tussle, with the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions fighting it out for supremacy and all three possibly going to the post-season. . .and the Minnesota Vikings just sort of off in the corner, waiting to get the bejeezus beaten out of them by the other three teams. There was no pundit in America that had the Vikings winning any more than six games going into the season, and the more frequent numbers connected to their win total were three and four.
Adrian Peterson, for the most part, carried the Vikings to a ten-win season in 2012. He did this against defenses that were geared almost exclusively to stop him.
He did this against a schedule that included seven games against teams that find themselves going to the 2012 NFL playoffs (and two more against a ten-win Chicago team that was only eliminated from the post-season after the Vikings' Week 17 thriller over Green Bay).
He did it while playing in the toughest division in the National Football League (the only division to produce three teams with double-digit victories in 2012).
He did this while playing ten games against teams that were in the top half of the league in rush defense (and two more against a Green Bay team that was 17th in that category), with seven of those games being against teams in the top ten. The four teams that don't fall under that heading were teams that Peterson faced during the early portion of the season, when he was still being limited, and resulted in some of his lowest rushing outputs of the season.
And, did I mention that every defense he faced throughout the course of the season was geared almost exclusively to stop him? I did mention that? Well, it bears mentioning twice.
Adrian Peterson was the best football player on the planet in 2012, bar none. He was the most important football player on the planet in 2012, bar none. By any definition, he's the Most Valuable Player in the National Football League in 2012.
As Deion Sanders said after Week 17's games concluded this past Sunday. . .if Adrian Peterson can't win the MVP award this year, then they should just change the name of the award to the MVQB. Because if Peterson can't win it after the season he's just had, then there's really no case for any running back winning the award.
By the way, if you want to see the man that should be the NFL's MVP for this year, you'll need to make the pilgrimage to Green Bay this weekend. . .and for that, you'll need Minnesota Vikings tickets, which you can get at the link there.