MVPoacher - Peyton Manning's MVP Candidacy
Who truly thought Peyton Manning was a more valuable player than Adrian Peterson in 2012? How could the MVP voting have been 30.5 to 19.5 for Peterson over Manning (associated press), or barely a 60-40 split for Peterson? There has to be a logical explanation for looking beyond statistics in a stat-ruled universe, and voting for Manning over Peterson. Lets now analyze how Manning almost stole another MVP.
First, lets compare their numbers to other top-tier players at their respective positions. A straight-up comparison between Manning and Peterson is tough, because they play different positions, so their stats can't be compared fairly. For instance, Mannings total yardage in 2012 more than doubles Peterson's, but Manning didn't even have the most yardage of every quarterback. Peterson, however, had the most yardage of any running back by far. Thats why a peer analysis makes the most sense.
Peterson ran for 2097 yards, and caught passes for another 217 yards, for a combined 13 touchdowns and a whopping 2314 yards from scrimmage. Comparing his numbers to his top competion tells quite a story.
PLAYER RUSHING YARDS % OF AP's PROD. % NEEDED FROM OWN YEAR
Adrian Peterson 2097 100% n/a
Alfred Morris 1613 77% 130%
Marshawn Lynch 1590 76% 132%
All 3 of these running backs were influential in their team's success, and had wonderful 2012 campaigns. Still, a quick glance at the stat lines is all that's needed to show AP was in another world than even his top peers. The second and third most productive runners would have had to produce around 30% more from themselves to meet AP! Demand Lynch or Morris to improve their production by 30 percent. They might not respond so pleasantly (expect many four-letter profanities). AP was on a diffrrent planet this year. But how does Peteron's dominance stack up in history?
How about 1984, when Eric Dickerson set the single-season rushing record?
PLAYER RUSHING YARDS % DICKERSON'S PROD. % NEEDED FROM OWN YR
Eric Dickerson 2105 100% n/a
Walter Payton 1684 80% 125%
You read those stats right. Adrian Peterson's 2012 season was more dominant than Dickerson's record-setting 1984 year. Wow.
Now let's check how Manning stacks up to his competition. We will compare Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers, three of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, using total yardage and passer ratings. These stats are the best way to rate a quarterback's performance; how many yards they can amass while still playing smart (statistically). I have selected Rodgers and Brady because they are similarly valued to Manning, all three having won MVPs, Super Bowl MVPs, and their teams each had around the same records in 2012.
Yardage: Brady-4827, Manning-4659, Rodgers-4295
Passer rating: Rodgers-108, Manning-105.8, Brady-98.7
So what does this tell us about Manning compared to his peers? Manning was no better stat-wise than Brady or Rodgers this year! Therefore, compared to their respective peers, Adrian Peterson was immensely more valuable.
"But Daniel, you didn't discuss the most important stat: wins!" some Manning-lovers may argue. No, I haven't...yet. But I will now!
The Peyton-led Broncos went 13-3 in 2012, best in the AFC. The Vikings, with AP leading the charge, went 10-6, enough for a wild card birth. It would seem that Peyton has an advantage here. But he doesn't. Football is a team sport. One player cannot guarantee success. Luckily for our purposes, neither Peterson nor Manning affected their current teams success last year (Peterson was hurt all year, as was Manning, and Manning was with the Colts). As well, the roster of both teams from 2011 to 2012 did not differ too much (except for the Broncos signing Manning, of course). Therefore, a fair comparison of value would be to look at each team's records from 2011 to 2012, to track the win impact of each superstar.
TEAM 2011 RECORD 2012 RECORD WIN IMPROVEMENT
Broncos 8 - 8 13 - 3 +5 games
Vikings 3-13 10 - 6 +7 games
Both players drastically altered the fortunes of their teams. But again, AP is more impressive. Remember that the Broncos play in probably the worst (and therefore easiest) division in the NFL, the AFC West. Meanwhile, the Vikings play in likely the best division, the NFC North. The Broncos would have had much more difficulty obtaining 13 wins in the NFC North. When wins are discussed, the edge yet again goes to Peterson in drastic fashion. In any fair statistic comparison, Peterson comes out on top.
"But Daniel, you didn't consider the 'intangibles', which are way more important than stats!" Fair. But discussing intangibles creates answers backed by opinions and gut, and not by fact. Its not easy to put one man higher than the other. Even still, my gut says AP yet again.
Discussing whose 'story' is more impressive isn't worth anyones time. They both returned from horrendous injuries to put up outstanding numbers. They both lead their teams to regular season success that neither franchise was familiar with. Manning had to get used to new surroundings in Denver. Peterson had to deal with Curtis Ponder. Both men were true sportsmen this year, battling back and through difficulties the whole time. Anything less from these ultra-competitive athletes would have been surprising.
However, the Broncos without Manning, and with Tim Tebow, were still division winners in 2011, and likely would have again been this year. The Vikings, even with Peterson, were not expected to be a playoff team in 2012. This bodes well for Adrian's claim to most valued.
When discussing who was more clutch, Peterson again seems to have the advantage. In a must-win week 17 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, Peterson had 201 total yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the type of performance the Vikes needed. It was the type of performance that creates legends. It was the type of performance that makes someone the MVP. With 1:54, at the Packers 41, the season on the line, AP got the ball 4 straight times. Most teams would be hesitant to give it once to their running backs in this position. But the Vikings were smart enough to put their fate in their best player's hands. AP delivered, as he had all year. The 4 runs produced 37 yards. AP had 26 yards on his final run, with just 24 seconds on the clock, and out of field goal range. That final run set the Vikings up for a chip-shot field goal to win. They hit the field goal. They won the game. They made the playoffs. The game clinched MVP for AP.
The chances that Peyton would come back from injury and be questionably the greatest quarterback in the league was low. The chance that AP would come within 9 yards of breaking the single-season rushing record was laughable. It was about as unlikely a thing to happen in the NFL for the last decade. The only people that maybe thought he could do it were Adrian and his mother. Adrian Peterson's 2012 season is one of the finest seasons a player has ever had. The MVP should have been unanimously Adrian Peterson.
The stats say Peterson. The intangibles say Peterson. So how could someone vote for Manning? What's the rationale?
The only sensible reason to vote for Peyton over Peterson is much deeper than stats or intangibles. Its something inside all of us. Its our desire to see an athlete be great, and then to call him the greatest. Its our hope to one day tell our children, "You should've seen him! He was the greatest!" This is why people vote for Peyton. He has a certain Manning mystique. We watch him, and believe, no, hope, that he is the greatest ever to throw a pigskin. We know there's a demand for the stats to prove this. And two things prove pro sport greatness like nothing else: championships and MVPs. We can't help with the championships, but we do decide the MVP. So voters do their best to ensure greatness: they vote Peyton Manning for MVP.
But maybe he isn't the greatest. He wasn't this year. That title belongs to Adrian Peterson.