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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Enough already! Aaron Rodgers is the MVP

By Kevin Seifert

Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game this season.
I get it. I understand we live in a free country with free speech and free thought and unlimited bandwidth. Life would be boring if everyone thought the same way and agreed on everything.

With that said, I'm calling on the NFL world to stop with this insanity. Even in America, there are some truths that should be self-evident. One in particular: By every measure imaginable and based on any definition of the award you choose, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been the league's MVP so far this season.

My friend and NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas made a case Monday night for New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is having arguably the best season of his career. ESPN analyst/provocateur Skip Bayless has been questioning Rodgers' credentials for weeks and on Monday suggested New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the award. (Bayless also said he would choose Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow at the end of a game over Rodgers. You'll have to watch the video below to see that for yourself.)

It's quite possible to have this discussion without saying a single bad thing about Brees or noting one derogatory aspect about Brady's season. All we have to do is recite this litany: Rodgers has completed a higher percentage of his passes, thrown for more touchdowns, tossed fewer interceptions and won more games than either of them.

Brees (3,689) and Brady (3,627) both have thrown for more yards than Rodgers (3,475), but there is an easy explanation: They both have more attempts. Brees, in fact, has thrown 98 more passes than Rodgers and Brady has 59 additional attempts. A better way to look at their raw production is scaling it to their average yards per attempt. Rodgers (9.6) is averaging a full yard more per attempt than Brady (8.6) and 1.6 more yards than Brees (8.0).

Observers could note that Rodgers has the benefit of playing with an elite collection of offensive players and a program good enough to have won 17 consecutive games. There is no doubt that Rodgers has a deep and diverse group of weapons, but let's also acknowledge that only three of them -- receiver Greg Jennings, receiver Donald Driver and injured left tackle Chad Clifton -- have ever been voted to a Pro Bowl.

Let's at least consider whether their success is as attributable to Rodgers as his is to them. And let's not hold the Packers' winning streak against Rodgers in the MVP argument, especially when you realize they are 11-0 with a defense that has given up the second-most passing yards of any NFL team. Rodgers and the Packers' offense have averaged 31.5 points per game, not including the team's defensive and special-teams touchdowns, to help mitigate those issues.

It's true that Rodgers hasn't led a classic fourth-quarter comeback victory this season. There's a good reason for that: The Packers have outscored opponents 103-27 in the third quarter this season and have never, not once, trailed in the fourth quarter this season. In fact, the Packers haven't trailed in the fourth quarter at all in their ongoing 17-game winning streak, an NFL record. We're going to hold that against Rodgers?

There is no credible statistical or competitive measure that places Rodgers anywhere but the top of the league's best-performing players this season. The quarterback is the most important position in the game. No one is playing it better than Rodgers, and no team has performed at a higher level than the Packers with him as their quarterback.

You might consider the MVP to be the player who provides the most value to his team, and not necessarily the best-performing player in the league. You could argue that the Packers would be better off with backup Matt Flynn at quarterback than the Saints would be with Chase Daniel or the Patriots with Brian Hoyer. But none of them would be Super Bowl contenders without their starting quarterback, and I'm not sure it's fair to diminish Rodgers' value because he might have a better backup.

I almost feel foolish for taking this argument to such great lengths. There really is no reason to overthink this. A lot could happen between now and the end of the regular season. But let's not spend any more time grasping for ways to be fresh or free-thinking. For 11 weeks, no matter how you look at it, Aaron Rodgers has been the best and most valuable player in the NFL.