NFC North: Shaun Alexander

Welcome to the 30s, Aaron Rodgers

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
11:15
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Brett Favre won all three of his NFL Most Valuable Player awards before the age of 30.

The former Green Bay Packers quarterback was 26 when he won the first one in January of 1996. He won his three MVPs in consecutive years, meaning his last one came at the age of 28.

Aaron Rodgers was 28 he was named the NFL’s MVP on Feb. 4, 2012.

The Packers' current quarterback turned 30 today. So does that mean his best years are behind him?

Probably not.

That Favre’s MVP seasons all came in his 20s has not been the norm for award-winning quarterbacks in recent years.

Dating to the 2001 season, for which St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was the MVP, 10 quarterbacks have won the award. Seven of them, including Warner, were in their 30s.

Rodgers is under contract through the 2019 season thanks to the extension he signed in April. He will be 36 years old when that deal expires.

How many more MVP-type seasons would be it reasonable to expect? This season, even if Rodgers returns this week from his broken collarbone -- which is still a big if -- is lost in terms of his MVP candidacy. However, based on the past winners, the answer to that question would seem to be several.

An NFL scout told me last week he thought Rodgers had four more “great seasons” in him.

Three non-quarterbacks have won the MVP since 2001. All were running backs, and all were in their 20s -- Shaun Alexander (28), LaDainian Tomlinson (27) and Adrian Peterson (27). That’s not surprising considering the shelf life for running backs is much shorter than for quarterbacks.

Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
11:30
AM ET
After the Minnesota Vikings' 33-26 victory over the Washington Redskins, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertFollowing their win against the Redskins, the Vikings take a seat in the examination room.
    I felt a pang of sympathy for this franchise, which is owned, operated and coached by competent people I respect. None of them could have enjoyed the end of a six-game losing streak, not after watching tailback Adrian Peterson suffer a knee injury that could change the course of his career and the direction of the franchise. Peterson is a special athlete, but there isn't a long list of running backs who have returned from multiple torn knee ligaments without losing some of their strength and explosion. The good news is that Peterson has always been a high-effort player, meaning he will be productive -- if not elite -- upon his return. But in the meantime, the Vikings will be forced to take a fundamental look at the makeup of their offense this winter and spring. Fair or otherwise, they can't count on Peterson to be the best player on their team anymore. Peterson finished the season with 970 yards, snapping a four-season streak of compiling at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Only two players in NFL history have had a longer streak: LaDainian Tomlinson (eight) and Shaun Alexander (five).
  2. Peterson's injury leaves receiver Percy Harvin as the Vikings' primary offensive playmaker entering the offseason. Harvin added two more big plays to what has been a career season Saturday, a 31-yard run on a reverse and a 36-yard catch on a jump ball from Webb. You might not realize it, but Harvin's 77 receptions this season is more than all but six wide receivers in the NFL. He's also rushed for 332 yards on 47 carries out of various formations. It's too bad the Vikings' poor record has overshadowed it, but Harvin has emerged as the multi-position threat the team envisioned for him three years ago and should be a cornerstone of the team's plans for 2012.
  3. It's getting more difficult to find reasons why the Vikings shouldn't consider Joe Webb as a legitimate candidate for their starting job in 2012 and beyond. Obviously they have invested a high draft pick on Christian Ponder, and it's hardly time to render final judgment on a rookie after nine starts. But it would be underestimating Webb to say that he has just been a raw athlete making playground plays. His 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph was thrown from the pocket with perfect touch to the back of the end zone. And consider this: Webb has accounted for five touchdowns on seven possessions in relief of Ponder this season, including three touchdown passes and two on the ground. It's hard to overlook that kind of production. Next season, coach Leslie Frazier will enter the second of a three-year contract. My expectation is that he will start the quarterback that gives him the best chance to see Year Three. At the very least, Webb should be in the conversation.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Can Toby Gerhart be an every down replacement for Peterson? The Vikings traded up in the second round of the 2010 draft to select him, but for the most part they haven't found a way to use him except when Peterson has been injured. Gerhart has 786 rushing yards over two seasons, and on Saturday he ripped off a career-long 67-yarder to set up a touchdown. He definitely doesn't have Peterson's breakaway ability, and like the rest of the NFL, Gerhart doesn't run with as much power. But unless the Vikings find a free agent gem or invest another high draft pick on a runner, Gerhart probably is going to get his chance at the start of next season. We'll find out then if he's up to it.

Fear of the 'Madden Curse'

March, 28, 2011
3/28/11
5:50
PM ET
I've always been the first to admit that I've never paid much attention to "Madden" or any other video game, but I've been surprised at how passionate many of you are about NOT wanting Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson to win ESPN.com's bracket-style competition for the cover of "Madden 12." Both players have advanced to the second round of the event.

"The Curse" is in your head.

Nevertheless, wrote @TeeJayV via Twitter, "Just no reason to chance it. Keep @AaronRodgers12 off of it!"

Rodgers, for his part, tweeted last week that it is "hard not to want" the Madden cover.

I suppose this will become a bigger issue for us if Rodgers and/or Peterson advance to the finals next month. But courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, via NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas, here are the basics of the so-called "Madden Curse."
  • Madden 11: Drew Brees: Threw for 4,620 yards but also set a career high with 22 interceptions. Started 16 games despite persistent reports of a knee injury.
  • Madden 10: Troy Polamalu/Larry Fitzgerald: Polamalu only played five games because of knee injuries, Steelers missed playoffs; Fitzgerald wasn’t affected much (97 receptions, 1,092 yards, 13 TDs, Pro Bowl).
  • Madden 9: Brett Favre: Feuded with Packers, traded to Jets, horrible down the stretch (lost 4 of last 5).
  • Madden 8: Vince Young: Missed 1 game with quad injury; led Titans to first playoff appearance in four years.
  • Madden 7: Shaun Alexander: Fractured foot, missed six games; fewer yards and TDs in '06 AND '07 than in '04 OR '05.
  • Madden 6: Donovan McNabb: Sports hernia in first game, missed seven games; feuded with Terrell Owens all year; had been to five straight Pro Bowls, hasn't been since.
  • Madden 5: Ray Lewis: Broke wrist, missed one game; first season without interception; missed 10 games next year with thigh injury.
  • Madden 4: Michael Vick: Fractured fibula one day after video game was released, missed 11 games; Pro Bowl next 2 seasons; obvious issues since then.
  • Madden 3: Marshall Faulk: Ankle injury, missed two games, never rushed for 1,000 yards.
  • Madden 2: Daunte Culpepper: 4-7 record before season-ending knee injury.
  • Madden 2001: Eddie George: Career season, but fumbled in playoffs as top-seeded Titans lost first game to Ravens.
  • Madden 2000: Barry Sanders: Retired one week before training camp.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

We all knew the Detroit Lions were committed to improving their running game this season. But with all the problems they've had in their first two games, it's a little jarring to see reports of their running back tea party Tuesday at team headquarters.

Two weeks after signing veteran Rudi Johnson, the Lions had former MVP Shaun Alexander and ex-Green Bay runner Vernand Morency work out for them. Disgraced former Chicago tailback Cedric Benson also visited.

None were signed, and reports indicated the Lions were merely building an internal scouting report should they need to add a runner in the future. But as John Niyo of the Detroit News points out, the same thing was said the night Johnson arrived for his visit Labor Day weekend.

As it stands, Johnson is backing up rookie starter Kevin Smith. The No. 3 runner is rookie Marcus Thomas, whom the Lions claimed on waivers from San Diego.

From this vantage point, personnel in the backfield ranks pretty low on the Lions' list of concerns. You can only hope the Lions are attacking the rest of their issues with the same tenacity.

Elsewhere around the NFC North this morning:

  • After losing three of five night games last season, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy commissioned an internal study to compare his team's performance during day and night games. The results, according to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal, were noticeable. They averaged more than four additional penalties at night and had a significantly worse turnover ratio. The Packers play Sunday night against Dallas, the second of four prime-time games this season for a team with an average age of 25.57.
  • Minnesota probably wishes Carolina receiver Steve Smith was suspended for one more game. The last time he played them, Smith caught 11 passes for 201 yards in a 2005 game. On the first play of the 2001 season, Smith returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown at the Metrodome.
  • Talk about the impact of big plays: More than a third of the total yards the Vikings have allowed came on four explosive plays. The exact figures, according to the Star Tribune: 220 of 638 yards.
  • Although the Bears haven't updated the status of kick returner/receiver Devin Hester, the Chicago Tribune reports he should be healthy enough to play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider