Mike Vandermause column: Rodgers' long-haul excellence makes him obvious MVP

Jan. 4, 2012

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Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers celebrates throwing a touchdown pass against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 25 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. / File/Gannett Wisconsin Media


The NFL MVP ballots have been cast, and if voters used common sense, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be declared the winner by a landslide when the results are announced on Feb. 4.

But logic doesn’t always prevail when it comes to handing out NFL hardware.

If voters become mesmerized by gaudy statistics, then New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a chance to win the award. If they step back and put those big numbers into context, Rodgers should easily get the nod.

There is no denying that Brees has phenomenal talent and produced a terrific season. In any other year, Brees would have captured the MVP award hands down after shattering NFL single-season records for passing yards, completions and completion percentage.

But for as well as Brees performed, Rodgers was better. And it wasn’t close.

Yes, Brees had more touchdown passes than Rodgers (46 to 45), a better completion percentage (71.2 to 68.3) and more passing yards (5,476 to 4,643). But Brees also threw more than twice as many interceptions as Rodgers (14 to 6) and wasn’t close in yards per attempt (8.3 to 9.2).

Brees needed 155 extra attempts to rack up his yardage and touchdown totals. Had Rodgers thrown that many times, his projected numbers would have been 6,076 yards, 59 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

But let’s forget about projections, the imbalance of passing attempts and the fact Brees padded his statistics in the fourth quarter of the final two games during blowout victories.

Based on actual numbers, Rodgers was more consistent and effective over the entire year.

Rodgers broke the NFL record for passer rating in a season, one of the best gauges of quarterback efficiency, and was significantly better than Brees (122.5 to 110.6).

But an even more telling set of numbers is the Packers’ 14-1 record with Rodgers as their starting quarterback, compared with the Saints’ 13-3 mark with Brees under center. That includes Rodgers outplaying Brees in a head-to-head matchup in the season opener at Lambeau Field, when the Packers won 42-34.

Rodgers never threw more than one interception in a game this season. His only sub-par performance came in a Week 15 loss at Kansas City when he posted an 80.1 passer rating, even though he threw for one touchdown, ran for another and had no interceptions.

Rodgers’ excellence over the long haul — he posted passer ratings above 106 in 13 of 15 games — is primarily responsible for the Packers earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Brees, meanwhile, has five multiple-interception games and endured two bad losses. In Week 6 he threw three interceptions and had a 70.9 passer rating in a road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished 4-12. Two weeks later Brees threw two interceptions and had a 73.0 passer rating in a road loss to the St. Louis Rams, who finished 2-14.

As a result of those defeats, the Saints could do no better than earn the No. 3 seed in the NFC and must play this weekend in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

Since the start of November Brees has led the Saints to an 8-0 record with 27 touchdown passes and four interceptions, which has swayed some voters. But Rodgers hasn’t been a slacker over his final eight games with 25 touchdown passes and three interceptions and a 7-1 record.

Some voters hinted they considered splitting the MVP between Rodgers and Brees, which makes a mockery of the process. Others said they voted for Rodgers but wouldn’t be bothered if Brees wins, which makes no sense if you believe in getting it right.

One voter reportedly switched his vote to Brees after Rodgers sat out the final regular-season game and backup Matt Flynn threw for a Packers’ team-record 480 yards and six touchdowns. His change of heart was based on the misguided notion that any player could function at a high level in the Packers’ offensive system.

Anyone who has watched Rodgers make plays outside the pocket and keep drives alive with his scrambling ability knows he is not a system quarterback that manages games.

He is intelligent and reads defenses like a book. He possesses a strong arm and can make pinpoint throws, both short and long. He rarely commits turnovers. And he’s a leader who knows how to win.

In other words, Rodgers is the best player in the NFL and deserves the MVP award.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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