Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Final MVP Word: Barber vs. Alexander

WARNING: Explicit Football Content to Follow. I swear, the explicit football content will slow down. Honest.

Considering there are still some people who can feel comfortable with Shaun Alexander winning the MVP over Tiki Barber and Tom Brady, I’m going to pitch this one last case out for why you have to at least consider Barber more valuable to his team than Alexander is to his. We’ll break it down into a series of categories, giving the advantage to whichever back wins that specific section.

Remember, MVP doesn’t necessarily mean the best numbers, but the numbers that your team would be lost without. When you’re thinking about this, say to yourself “So if I replaced Running Back A with Edgerrin James, or Cadillac Williams, or Larry Johnson, or got rid of them altogether, how much would I lose?”. Think about the Seahawks without Shaun Alexander, and then think about the Giants without Tiki Barber. Got that in your head? Let’s go.


Obviously, this category is won by Alexander, who set NFL records with 27 rushing touchdowns and 28 total touchdowns. Barber, on the other hand, only had eleven touchdowns total, partially due to the fact Tom Coughlin experimented with Brandon Jacobs as the short-yardage back, and the rookie got seven touchdowns on only 38 carries. Nobody else on the Seahawks had more than one rushing touchdown.

But just like Peyton Manning throwing for twenty touchdowns against the NFC North superstars of the Bears, Packers, Vikings and Lions last year, there’s a certain amount of skepticism that needs to be lent to records, especially when you consider when the majority of damage is done. Alexander had 11 of his 27 touchdown – over a third, nearly one half – in three games against the Texans, Cardinals and Rams, who had 13 combined wins. This category goes to Alexander, but it’s not as important or telling of a stat as you might think.

ADVANTAGE: Alexander

Total Yards

Alexander finished with twenty more rushing yards than Barber did, but when you consider that Barber had 530 receiving yards to Alexander’s 78, that small difference isn’t too big of a deal. When you look at yards from scrimmage, Barber clocks in with 27 more per game than Alexander, who is actually third behind Larry Johnson.

But just like Alexander racked up his touchdowns against inferior competition, he also racked up the yardage. While the MVP’s numbers got worse as the quality of teams he played went up, Barber’s numbers stayed the same and actually increased in regards to yard-per-carry and his season average. Just check out the chart below for the startling breakdown of how little Alexander does against the top teams in the league:

Shaun Alexander

Tiki Barber

Teams With 1-4 Wins

5.4 ypc, 152.3 per game

3.6 ypc, 77 yards per game

Teams With 5-8 Wins

5.3 ypc, 131.7 per game

5.3 ypc, 125.8 per game

Teams with 9+ Wins

4.0 ypc, 85.5 per game*

5.5 ypc, 119.7 per game

Season Average

5.1 ypc, 117.5 per game

5.2 ypc, 116.3 per game

*Does not count the game against the JV Colts in Week Sixteen. If you’d like to, they bounce up to 4.5 yards per carry and 96.2 yards per game


In the NFL, you make your legacy in the playoffs and in the big games against the elite teams. When Barber went up against the best the league had to offer, he stepped up his game, while Alexander wilted. Of course, you might say that perhaps the teams loaded the box to stop Alexander, thus his poor numbers against the quality teams, but that doesn’t really make sense when you look at the….

Supporting Cast

Throughout the entire season, Matt Hasselbeck, the NFC Pro Bowl starting quarterback, threw for only nine interceptions. Eli Manning, the second-year quarterback handing the ball off to Barber and running the Giants offense had twelve interceptions in a seven-game span running from Weeks Ten to Sixteen, or the time frame you’d call the critical, stretch run of the season. He ended up with seventeen interceptions on the season and a passer rating of 75.9, good for 23rd in the NFL. (To put that in perspective for you, David Carr, Kerry Collins and Trent Dilfer all had higher QB ratings.) In comparison, Hasselbeck’s rating was 98.2, the highest in the NFC and 4th-best in the league.

Alexander’s fullback is Mack Strong, the starting fullback on the NFC Pro Bowl team and generally regarded as one of the top blocking backs in the league, along with Lorenzo Neal and Tony Richardson. For receivers, Seattle had the resurgent Joe Jurevicius, along with Bobby Engram, Jerramy Stevens and Darrel Jackson, all who had 482 yards receiving or more. For the Giants, they have the eclectic Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey as their prime targets, so they’re just as unreliable as they are talented. Amani Toomer is a solid second receiver, but after those three, it’s Tiki Barber and then a huge drop to the rest of the team. Considering he had an inconsistent sophomore quarterback whose two best targets are known more for their eccentric behavior than leadership skills, Tiki’s place in the offense can be seen as much more vital.

As far as the defenses go, Seattle’s was ranked 16th overall, but 7th in scoring. The Giants? 24th overall, 14th in scoring. Again, Alexander had a better team around him than Barber did, and when you factor in injuries, the onus shifted more and more towards Tiki.



The Seahawks played in the NFC West, regarded as one of the worst divisions in football. The AFC division the Seahawks had to play was the South, meaning they got to play the Texans and Titans (combined 5 wins), the Jaguars (who they lost to in the season opener) and the Colts, who they played so late in the season they saw the JV squad. The Giants, on the other hand, played in one of the best divisions in football, which fielded two playoff teams, nearly had a third (Dallas was the 7th seed) and whose worst team was the defending NFC Champion. Their assigned AFC division? The West, one of the other top divisions in football that fielded three top-notch teams.

Heck, throughout the whole season, the Seahawks only had to play four teams with winning records, not counting the JV Colts. The Giants? Nine. Nine teams with winning records, in a top division, with a second-year quarterback, and not only did they make the playoffs, but they won said division.


The reason?

Atiim Kiambu Barber, or the guy who should be your NFL MVP.

Or at least a strong second behind Tom Brady.

(Still feel like Shaun Alexander deserves the MVP award over Barber? Here’s some material to start making your case.)

Alexander’s Game Log
Barber’s Game Log
Seahawks Schedule
Giants Schedule
Passer Rankings
Rusher Rankings
Yards for Scrimmage

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