Thursday, January 05, 2006

The NFL MVP Award, Or Why They Got It Confused With "Who Had The Best Numbers"

WARNING: Explicit NFL Content To Follow

Want to know how many receiving yards Shaun Alexander had this season?

Seventy-eight. Seventy-eight freaking yards.

I guess touchdowns are really important, especially since Jerome Bettis has nine of them in only 110 attempts, putting him on a rate a helluva lot better than Alexander’s 27 touchdowns on 370 carries. It’s great that Alexander had the record, but consider he had eight of those touchdowns in a pair of blowouts over the mighty Texans and Cardinals. The touchdowns are great, but they’re not that telling of a stat. You can plug a guy in at the one-yard line or pull him in short-yardage, and that’ll dictate how many touchdowns he has more than anything else.

Alexander also led the league in rushing yards, but he was sure to run them up against the likes of Houston (32nd ranked rush defense), St. Louis twice (28th), Tennessee (22nd), Atlanta (26th) and Indianapolis’s back-ups. Granted, you have to run against who you play, but in Seattle’s two meaningful losses (we won’t penalize them for dropping a pointless game at the end of the season) and close wins over the Giants and Cowboys, Alexander was under a hundred in three of those four, and had 110 in the game against the Giants.

To put Alexander’s accomplishments in perspective, against the three playoff teams Alexander went against (and we’re not counting Indy’s back-ups), he averaged a little over 93 yards per game. Alexander had his six best games against Atlanta, Arizona, Houston, St. Louis (twice) and Tennessee, who have a combined 25 wins. Alexander accounted for 935 yards, nearly half of his season total, in those six games. His season average was 117.5 yards per game. His average against the worst the league has to offer? 157 yards per. So for the record, he’s twenty-four yards below his average against playoff teams and forty yards above it against teams that couldn’t stop a quality college attack. Is that what you want from your most valuable player?

When you look at rushing yards, Tiki Barber finished with twenty less yards per game. Then again, when you throw in receiving yards, Barber’s 530 really look large against Alexander’s 78. When the two faced off in Week Twelve, Barber’s team lost due to Jay Feely’s meltdown, but it was of no fault of his own. He had 178 yards from scrimmage that game, including a 49-yard run in overtime that set up a 45-yard field goal miss. Alexander had 114 yards from scrimmage that day, and came up big in overtime, but Barber was his equal at worst.

But you know what they say about statistics, something about being worse than lies and damn lies. Do you really feel like that if you replaced Shaun Alexander with any of the other top backs that you’d lose anything? He had an experienced quarterback, the White Guy Receiver of the Year and a great defense. Unlike Barber, who was powering the Giants through one of the best divisions in football while an inconsistent sophomore quarterback led an offense that had an unreliable tight end and primary wide receiver in it.

I’m only comparing Barber and Alexander because the numbers are there. Anyone that watches the sport realizes what Tom Brady means to his team, and I have to wonder who exactly is voting on this that he doesn’t even finish in the top two. If most valuable players are supposed to step up against the good teams in the big games, then Shaun Alexander did the opposite of that. You might say it was a toss up, but I’ll say it’s pretty clear Shaun Alexander was maybe the Offensive Player of the Year, but by no means the MVP. If Shaun Alexander wants to prove his merit, it’s probably going to involve him grinding out yards against the Chicago Bears defense in the NFC Championship game.

If his previous work against playoff teams is any sign, he might want to get Tiki and Tom’s address, because the award will need to be sent to the rightful owners.

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