There might not be a slamdunk, unanimous MVP from this NFL season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a deserving one.
Week 17 still remains to pad resumes, but with the candidates not on equal footing in terms of playing time and stakes, much isn’t going to change.
Conceivably, you could easily make the argument for at least six names: Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, in no particular order.
That’s three quarterbacks and three running backs – all of whom have a case. Rodgers leads the league in touchdown passes with 36 and has been magnificent from Week 13 onwards to right what was a sinking Green Bay ship.
Elliott is having one of the best rookie seasons of not just any running back, but any offensive skill player. He’ll easily win the rushing title and has been a touchdown monster for the NFC’s top team.
David Johnson is the only one of the six players mentioned to not be on a team either already in the playoffs or on the verge, but he’s carried Arizona’s attack all year as a total yardage beast, and like Elliott, has been a regular end-zone visitor.
Bell, similarly, has horded touches and yards as both a runner and receiver for Pittsburgh and just by virtue of his range of skills, might be the best player in the NFL.
That said, all four have their warts: Rodgers struggled for parts of the year, Elliott’s numbers could be attributed more to his dominant offensive line, Johnson isn’t on a winning team and Bell missed three games to suspension at the start.
Not to mention, quarterbacks usually win the award for a reason – the position is just invariably more important.
So it should come down to Ryan and Brady, with the Atlanta quarterback edging the two-time MVPwinning veteran.
But rather than discounting Brady for not playing the full season or for being suspended as a result of ‘Deflategate’, voters should lean in Ryan’s direction for the statistically-superior year he’s amassed.
Ryan is either at the top or near the top in practically every noteworthy passing category, which is why he has a league-best 115.5 passer rating.
Aside from Nick Foles’ fluky 2013 in which he had a 119.2 rating (in only nine starts), no quarterback with as high of a rating or better hasn’t earned MVP.
Then there’s Ryan’s bloated 9.26 yards per attempt average, which is sixth-best in the Super Bowl era and the highest since Kurt Warner had 9.9 in 2000.
On top of that, Ryan’s been needed to be this great much more than Brady has, with the Falcons’ defence ranking 23rd in average yards allowed and 25th in points per game, while New England ranks eighth and first, respectively.
It’s a close call, but Ryan warrants his first MVP.
Harden notched his 24th double-double with 32 points and 12 assists in the Rockets’ second victory over the Suns in less than a week.
This one was decisive. The Rockets scored 39 points in the first quarter and led by as many as 34 in the second half, making 15 three-pointers along the way.
Harden’s performance was his ninth game of the season with at least 30 points and 10 assists. Forward Ryan Anderson added 15 points – 10 of them in the first quarter when the Rockets took the game by the throat.
It’s supposed to be the Season of Goodwill to all men. Unfortunately, DeMarcus Cousins and Richard Sherman didn’t get the memo. Rather than being engulfed by festive cheer, both were left enraged by reporters and pathetically unable to bite their tongues.
Sherman threatened to end a radio man’s career. Cousins, resembling the Incredible Hulk’s older brother, almost ripped a poor old columnists’ head off. Sherman is certainly one the more intriguing NFL characters and is never short of an opinion.
Yet clearly the nightmare of losing Super Bowl XLIX two years ago in such dramatic fashion right at the death continues to rankle. And feeding off an ego as big as his mouth, the corner-back turned press officer with a risible attempt to take away a local reporter’s credentials before threatening to “ruin his career” following a critical line of questioning about coach Pete Carroll’s questionable decision making.
He apologised soon after but the unseemly incident afforded us a window into the warped mind of holier than thou superstars dishing out feeble threats for laughs and giggles.
Sherman, undoubtedly nudged in the back by members of the media department, took to Twitter to plead remorse. Was it too late though?
Reacting to radio presenter Jim Moore’s probing of the public blasting given out to Seahawks coaching staff following the win over the LA Rams, the 28 year-old lost it. Moore, of 710 ESPN Seattle, merely wondered if Sherman was better placed to make such a strategic call.
I appreciate the role the media plays and they have a tough job. I let it get personal today and I regret that. Next one should be fun— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) December 21, 2016
“No, I just had a, we had a prior experience [during the Super Bowl], so we talked about that,’’ Sherman said. “But let me guess — you have a better play to call. Let me guess, you have a better experience.’’
Moore said “no” to which Sherman replied: “Then you should probably kind of stop.’’ As Sherman walked away, he snapped again: “You don’t want to go there. You do not. I’ll ruin your career.”
Sherman is supposed to be a professional. A role model to millions.Petty squabbles should be above him. “The part that bothered me the most is feeling that he’s so high and mighty and powerful that he can do whatever he wants, and that includes telling the offensive coordinator what plays to run and telling me he can have a credential removed,” Moore added.
The same goes for Cousins, whose previous includes being pulled off the team plane for fighting, sent home for demanding a trade and clashing with ex-pros who’ve dared to criticise him. Perhaps being the superstar in a Sacramento team who’ve stunk out the NBA for the last few years is taking its toll.
Or maybe being back in the news pages following a bar brawl in New York recently rubbed him up the wrong way. Certainly the manner in which he laid into Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee newspaper pointed firmly to the latter.
Enraged by Furillo’s attempts to find out more about an incident which now has him and team-mate Matt Barnes the subject of a lawsuit – an intervening couple has accused the pair of assault – Cousins lost the plot.
Furious that Furillo reported on another bar brawl which saw the seven-foot star and his younger brother, who plays in the NBA development league, get into in trouble in Tampa earlier this year, the dressing-room contretemps was ugly and very one-sided.
“We’re going to have some real ***** issues. ****** coward. You say whatever you want to say about me, but don’t mention my ***** family,” he blasted.
Poor old Furillo stood there motionless. In a parallel universe, a more mild-mannered Kings centre would have taken him to one side, explained the grievances calmly while being well aware of the danger of making a story out of nothing. That, unfortunately, isn’t the Cousins way.
“There is a time, place and manner to say everything, and I chose the wrong ones,” Cousins said in a statement soon after, proving a $50,000 fine and a serious ticking off from the front office really can do wonderful things.
Both players showed PR driven remorse but will they learn from this or plough on wildly regardless?