The logic behind naming the award Most Valuable Player deeply constrains the criteria for picking which of the NFL elite deserves the award. In this fashion, overall impact on winning the game has more value than just playing great. This is why Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning deserves the MVP award over Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
In the NFL, value is judged in the form of wins, which ultimately lead to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Players talk about the value of each game only in wins, not in personal stats. Individual achievements may serve as bargaining chips in players’ contract negotiations, but a Super Bowl ring is the biggest incentive for teams to add a player to its roster. Peterson said as much after his team advanced to the playoffs with Sunday’s win over the Green Bay Packers. The running back did not even know that he was just nine yards away from setting the NFL record for most yards rushing in a season.
In the modern NFL, there is no doubt the player who affects the outcome of the game the most is the quarterback. With the rule changes opening up the passing game and the need for a great quarterback to compete for the Super Bowl, the position is hands down the most valuable on the football field. A quarterback has won the award for the last five years.
Peterson was the best player in the NFL. He basically carried the Minnesota into the playoffs and recovered from a horrible ACL injury last season. No one saw Peterson’s season coming and there’s no way that Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder makes the playoffs without Peterson’s running yards.
Manning did not carry the Broncos on his back into the playoffs. However, he instilled a confidence that allowed his teammates to figure things out for themselves. He was more valuable to the Broncos because he made the entire team better, while Peterson just had to take the Vikings with him. This key difference gives Manning the nod for the MVP award, for which ballots are due today.
The Broncos saw improvements across the board with Manning at the helm. The defense went from one of the worst in the league, scraping along with Tim Tebow, to one of the best. Manning’s ability set up good field position for the defense consistently, which helped transform the unit into one of the league’s best. It also opened up more opportunity for the feared pass rush of Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller and company to terrorize its opponents. On special teams, Manning made opponents risk big plays, which led to Trindon Holliday becoming one of the league’s best returners after being cut by the Houston Texans in week 5. On the offense side, Manning had four wide receivers gain over five hundred yards and he saved running back Knowshon Moreno’s spot on the team, by opening up the running game.
While Manning’s numbers coming off four neck surgeries are MVP worthy on their own, the AFC-topping Broncos season would not have happened without their most valuable player. Eleven-game win streaks do not fall on the shoulders of one player to carry the load and Manning did his best to put everyone on the Broncos in the best situations. Peterson’s performance was one of the best rushing seasons of all time, but the Broncos’ transformation under Manning was more valuable.