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The Case for Brett Favre as 2009 NFL MVP

Yes, I know that we've only played ten games this season, and I know that this might come off as being a bit premature.  And I know that this is going to be met with cries of my bias towards players on my favorite team and all that other fun stuff.

But if the 2009 NFL season were to end today, I find it hard to believe that anybody but Brett Favre would be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player.  (I'll take "Things that I never thought would cross my keyboard" for $400, Alex.)  After all the drama, the hand-wringing and the whole "will he or won't he" saga that played out over the weeks leading up to the season, it's possible that Favre is having the best season of his career in a season where he reached 40 years of age.

Thus far, all discussions of the MVP award have focused on three main names. . .Favre, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.  Yes, Brees and Manning have been having great seasons thus far, obviously, and as of now both of their teams are still undefeated in 2009.  But look at the numbers.  There's no way that you can definitively say that either of those guys has been better than #4 through the first ten games of the year.

ATT COMP PCT YDS TD INT QBR Sacks Fumbles (Lost)
Drew Brees 320 218 68.1 2,746 22 9 105.8 13 8 (4)
Brett Favre 310 216 69.7 2,482 21 3 112.1 21 1 (1)
Peyton Manning 388 271 69.8 3,171 21 9 102.7 8 2 (0)

Despite the slow start that Favre got off to, he has significantly picked up his game as the season has progressed.  He has as many touchdown passes as Manning in 78 fewer attempts, and only one less than Brees in ten fewer attempts.  His interception percentage thus far (less than 1%) is significantly better than that of Brees (2.8%) or Manning (2.3%).  In addition, Favre has played ten games this season, and has played turnover-free ball in seven of those ten contests.  Conversely, Brees has turned the ball over at least once in seven of the ten games New Orleans has played so far, as has Manning for Indianapolis.  Obviously, since their teams are undefeated, they were able to overcome those turnovers and lead their teams to victory, but Favre's turnover total has been absolutely ridiculous thus far.

Even in the three years he was named NFL Most Valuable Player, Favre threw 13, 13, and 16 interceptions.  This year, he's on pace to throw. . .five.  The record for the fewest interceptions thrown by a QB that started all 16 games in a season is four by Steve DeBerg of the 1990 Kansas City Chiefs.  I'm not sure if Favre can maintain the level he's currently at. . .after all, it could easily be argued that two of his three interceptions thus far came on passes that should have been caught (by Bernard Berrian against the 49ers and by Chester Taylor against Pittsburgh). . .but it's something to keep an eye on the rest of the way.

"But Favre has Adrian Peterson," the naysayers will tell you.  My response to that objection is simply "so what?"  Six other teams had the chance to draft Adrian Peterson. . .it's not Minnesota's fault that they figured out that, sometimes, the obvious decision really IS the best one.  Besides, judging by the way teams have been defending the Vikings thus far in 2009, it appears as though they're still under the impression that the Vikings are starting Gus Frerotte at quarterback.  Despite the fact that Favre has been tearing apart defenses this year, Viking opponents have still insisted on stacking the line of scrimmage instead of devoting men to coverage, because they're scared to death of the best running back in the NFL (as well they should be).  The difference is that this year, Favre is taking advantage of those coverages and finding open targets all over the field.  After the first eleven weeks of the season, the Vikings are the only team in the NFL with six different players with more than 25 receptions. . .Sidney Rice (50), Percy Harvin (36), Visanthe Shiancoe (33), Bernard Berrian (32), Chester Taylor (27), and Peterson (25).

(By the way, off the subject of Favre. . .how great is it that Peterson is averaging 100 yards rushing and more than one TD per game, and everyone seems to be asking "What's wrong with Peterson?"  The kid has set the bar so high, it's damn near ridiculous.)

"Oh, but Favre has been so lucky this year," the naysayers will tell you.  Sure, the pass to Greg Lewis against the Niners was something that Favre pulled completely out of his posterior, we know that.  The only problem with this argument is that, over the course of a season, lots of teams get lucky along the way. . .look no further to a little more than a week ago, when Manning's Colts were the beneficiaries of one of the dumbest coaching decisions I've ever seen.  That dumb decision gave them a chance to win.  Back in Week 7, the Saints found themselves trailing the Dolphins by 21 points down in Miami.  But Brees rallied his team in the second half and, even though his stats that game were pretty bad (three interceptions and a lost fumble), he led a bunch of scoring drives and led his team to victory.  Heck, you could make the case that the Vikings' lone loss this year came as the result of bad luck (garbage tripping penalty on Jeff Dugan, screen pass bouncing off of Taylor's hands, and so forth).

Winning a championship in the NFL is like winning a big poker tournament. . .as anyone that's ever won a big poker tournament will tell you, you don't win without coming back from the dead a few times.  The Vikings have done that this season, sure, but so have the Saints and the Colts, and they did it on the strength of the guys behind center.

"But Favre has all that talent around him," the naysayers will tell you.  Seriously, are you going to tell me that the Saints and/or Colts are that devoid of talent compared to Minnesota?  Of course not, because such an assertion would be ridiculous.  Yes, the Vikings are a highly talented team, but this brings me to one of the things that Brees, Manning, and Favre all have in common. . .they make the people around them better.  Before this year, nobody outside of Viking fans and South Carolina alumni knew who Sidney Rice was.  Now, under Brett Favre, he's a household name.  And remember all the junk about Percy Harvin when the Vikings drafted him, about how his hands weren't that great and that he couldn't run routes?  Yeah. . .don't hear a whole lot of that any more, do you?  Brees has played portions of his time in New Orleans without Marques Colston, without Reggie Bush, without Deuce McAlister, and with a spate of other injuries.  For crying out loud, Manning is putting together the season he's currently having with two of his main targets being a couple of guys named Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.  Did YOU know who either of those guys were six or eight weeks ago?  I won't lie to you. . .I didn't.

There are quarterbacks that elevate the game of those around them, and those that need to have their game elevated BY those around them.  Favre, Brees, and Manning are examples of the former. . .we'll see a shining example of the latter when we the Vikings host the Bears on Sunday afternoon.

Obviously, Brees, Manning, and Favre are all having outstanding seasons this year.  They quarterback three of the top teams in the league, and are all definitely going to be factors in the post-season.  While the numbers are the same, there's one thing that, in my opinion, separates Favre from the other two quarterbacks in this debate.

Manning and Brees were supposed to be this good.  Favre, on the other hand, was supposed to be done for.  After all, even the most twitterpated of Favre lovers couldn't possibly have imagined him putting together a season like this, especially after missing all of camp and all the other things that the media massively overhyped going into the season.  The reports of a "schism" in the locker room because of the Favre signing turned out to be a bunch of garbage, as #4 has been roundly embraced by his teammates and, by and large, by the Minnesota community.  Sure, most people thought he was an improvement over Tarvaris Jackson. . .and I say that as a guy that still thinks Jackson has a future in this league. . .but there was nobody out there that could have predicted the heights that he could potentially take the Vikings to on the NFL stage.

Again, there are still six games left to be played in the 2009 NFL regular season, and this talk might be premature.  But if you weigh everything and look at the league MVP race, I honestly thing Brett Favre is in line to win an unprecedented fourth trophy.  Whether it's because of overall performance or the impact that they've had on their team, Favre is the MVP in either sense.

Whether you agree or disagree, it's certainly something that makes for a good debate at this point.