NFC North: Steve McNair
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?
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.
I'm guessing I'm not the only one who got sucked into "There's Something About Mary" on the tube Wednesday night. I've seen it at least 512 times, but it's been a while and I had to laugh when I saw Brett Favre (circa 1998) enter stage left.
It brought to mind a funny, but possibly apocryphal, story that emerged in the wake of Favre's somewhat stiff performance. ("You know I'll always be true to you, Mary.") Responding to some good-natured grief from teammates, Favre eventually said something like, Hey, how many movies have you stunk in?
Indeed. Words to live by.
Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune reports Favre was visited by Minnesota athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on Wednesday. The timing makes sense given Favre's ongoing rehabilitation from surgery to release a partially torn right biceps. But it doesn't really give a clue about the timing of Favre's ultimate decision.
I guess it's possible the Vikings could make an announcement sometime in the next two or three weeks. But I'd be really surprised if Favre makes a public appearance in Minnesota before the start of training camp July 29. I'm not sure he has much incentive to travel north for a press conference and then head back to his home in Mississippi to await training camp. Just my own two bits of speculation.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- As the media battle for Favre tidbits heats up, Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the Vikings have customized 40 percent of their playbook for Favre's arrival. (Wait, I thought Favre knew the Vikings' offense so well he could "teach it"?)
- Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean talks to Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler about his friendship with former Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair. According to Cutler, McNair helped prep him for the 2006 Senior Bowl by teaching him the Titans' offense.
- Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago takes a look at the free-agent safeties still available should the Bears decide their depth is lacking. The list includes Will Demps and Dwight Smith.
- Despite indications that Jason Spitz will be Green Bay's new center, Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin says that veteran Scott Wells will have a chance to win that job. Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette spoke with Philbin.
- Detroit rookie running back Aaron Brown, a sixth-round pick, showed some explosiveness in offseason practices, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
Hopefully some of you caught Cris Carter's appearance during ESPN's weekend coverage of Steve McNair's death. Carter made a nuanced point about McNair's role in the progress of black quarterbacks, one I think bears repeating in this forum.
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|The Houston Oilers selected Steve McNair No. 3 overall in 1995.|
Certainly, the NFL had witnessed successful black quarterbacks long before Houston drafted McNair in 1995. Hall of Famer Warren Moon, for one, left the Canadian Football League in 1984 and actually preceded McNair in Houston. Randall Cunningham spent parts of 10 seasons as Philadelphia's quarterback, and there are a number of other examples. (Tampa Bay drafted Doug Williams No. 17 overall in 1978, but the Buccaneers' refusal to pay him a competitive salary eventually prompted him to leave for the USFL.)
But, Carter said, McNair was the best early example of a black quarterback whose small(er)-college passing success was accepted at face value by an NFL team. Although McNair was also a productive scrambler at Division I-AA Alcorn State, the then-Oilers believed he could develop into an NFL-caliber passer and staked the No. 3 overall pick in the draft on it. (Remember, he was known as "Air McNair" in college.)
McNair played on some run-oriented teams in Houston, Tennessee and Baltimore and thus never threw for more than 3,387 yards in a season. But despite his mobility, McNair was always known as a passing quarterback who could run. And when his failing body began limiting his mobility after the age of 30, McNair extended his career by developing into one of the league's best clutch passers.
McNair's success paved the way for players like Daunte Culpepper, who put up stellar passing numbers at then-I-AA Central Florida in the late 1990s. Like McNair, Culpepper was a big and physical specimen who nonetheless was a passer before anything else. (Culpepper, in fact, set a single-season NCAA record by completing 73.6 percent of his passes in 1998.)
Despite Central Florida's second-tier status at the time, Minnesota jumped on Culpepper with the No. 11 overall pick of the 1999 draft. There was a time, Carter said, when NFL teams were hesitant to invest a high draft pick in a player of Culpepper's background. McNair made that hesitation a non-issue. Viewed through the eyes of Carter, McNair peeled away another layer of quarterback bias: That a black quarterback's college passing success was the result of skill that translated to the NFL rather than simple athleticism.