While reading the post from Freeman this morning anointing Ed Reed as the place the MVP candidate conversation should start and stop, I began to ponder in my mind what classifies the league MVP. I've mulled over the concept of stats vs. spiritual leader vs. W-L record vs. supporting cast.....etc. ad nauseum. I've thought about historical significance. I've thought about intangibles. Truthfully when it all comes down to it, I think the league MVP needs to be the following:
A Spiritual Leader - I really think that when things go south, teams need someone to rally the troops and get them refocused. I guess that leaves you out T.O.
A Statistical Leader - There's really no getting around the fact that the MVP needs to be a top performer in the league. Yards, TD's INT's etc. Sorry Eli, the Jints may be winning, but it's B-Jac and the D-Fence that's leading the charge.
Mr. Irreplaceable - Can the team survive without him? Is there such a drop off to the backup that can't be ignored. See Brady -> Cassel.
Captain Winner - I guess this is where the rubber meets the road. Great numbers in a losing effort make you a TEAM MVP, not the LEAGUE MVP. Would Mr. Calvin Johnson please report to the TEAM MVP podium.......maybe if Detroit wins 7 or 8 your numbers will become more relevant
When I try to churn all this information through my head, there are a few names that just continue to fall out. Namely; Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Michael Turner, Brian Westbrook, and Albert Haynesworth. I don't mean to slight any other players, but in my minds eye, these guys are the central cog that runs the machine.
Drew Brees - Statistically the best this year. He's on a good pace to break the 5k mark and set a new mark. Poor Marino....first Favre takes a ton of his "lifetime" stats and now the yardage mark is looking poised to go down.......but I digress. I've seen Drew leading the "pump up" sessions before the games. I've seen him get on players responsible for bad plays (including himself). I know the Saints aren't locked into the playoffs by a long shot, but if they were, this contest would be over. Finally, he is the straw that stirrs the drink. Anyone know who would take the reigns in the Big Easy if Brees hits the deck? Yah, I didn't either. I'll give you a hint.....it rhymes with Dark Frunell
Kurt Warner - Well the old man's still got it. He wasn't even the starter going into camp and he walked in and took the bull by the horns and became the starter. The Boldin/Fitzgerald combination is the Holt/Bruce connection in the new "Greatest Show on Turf.......well, Grass". Captain GreyBeard is already over 4,000 yards and as of this weekend, he's lead the Cards to a division title. Could Matt Leinart have done the same.......maybe, but I doubt it. I have two knocks on Warner to address. First, the reputation for making bad decisions under pressure is still there. He's lost 6 fumbles so far. Secondly, this is the NFC West. Perhaps the only division weaker than the AFC West. Would they be having this success in the south, my money says no.
Michael Turner - The human bowling ball has answered all the questions laid at his feet as LT's backup. This guy is legit and given the relatively few carries he had in San Diego, he's still got a lot of tread left on those tires. Couple that with the astonishing turn around Atlanta has made and a league leading (tied with LenDale White) 14 TD's and 1,200+ yards makes him the biggest key in Atlanta. Sure Matt Ryan has the R.O.Y. all but sewn up and deserves a mention in the Pro-Bowl contention, but it's Turner that makes that offense work. He's get's guys in the box and frees up Roddy White and Norwood to exploit the single coverage. That and just look at the division they play in. Pretty stout from top to bottom.
Brian Westbrook - Okay maybe I'm partial to him for singlehandedly winning a number of my fantasy games, but trying (and man am I trying) to be impartial, when he's on, the Eagles are a whole different beast. I know McNabb is a key player here too, but the Eagles just walked into the odds on NFC Divisional Champs house and spanked them......and why? Westbrook, that's why. They've got 3 games left against beatable opponents and mark my words, if Andy Reid just keeps feeding the rock to Westbrook, they'll take a wildcard spot in the NFC. I can't say how they'll perform after that, but their key to success is Mr. Brian Westbrook.
Albert Haynesworth - Selecting a defensive member in my opinion is the most difficult. Pittsburgh is the #1 ranked "D" in almost all categories.....but who is the one player that makes everyone else around him great. Troy P? The James backers? How about Baltimore? Do I hear Ray Lewis? Do I hear Suggs, or Ed Reed? The vote has to be split amongst these player"S". And that's the key. There is one guy you can point to in Tennesee.....all due respect Mr. Bullock, and that guy is Albert Haynesworth. This guy is superhuman and throws around 300lb O-Linemen like rag dolls. You can't single him. Heck, doubles aren't a guarantee. This guy is THE point of impact player that all other players on the defense of the Titans feed off of. KVB, Kearse, Bullock, all these guys benefit enormously from the play of Albert Haynesworth.
Looking at all these guys and all the aspects that I decided to consider above, I really can't get around the play of Drew Brees. He is ALL of the things an MVP should be. Watching him get knee deep into Shockey for missing an assignment tells me all I need to know about his leadership qualities. This may be one of those seasons statisticaly we look back on with awe. He does have a good supportive cast around him, but they still found ways to win games sans Reggie Bush, and Marques Colston.....and Shockey......and 2/3 of the starting defenders. We've all seen Ray Lewis pumping up his defense, but when have we seen such a display from a play caller. Maybe the Saints make the playoffs, maybe they don't, but given the division they play in, I'll give him a little slack on that one. Would the Saints be any better than 4-9 or 5-8 if not for the play of Brees??? I think they'd be lucky to be 4-9. The offense all revolves around the play of Mr. Brees and if they can win out, they have a shot at the post season. For all these reasons, my vote (if it actually mattered more than some random blog) would have to favor Brees.