Friday, December 13, 2013

Philip Rivers, Not Peyton Manning, Should be 2013 NFL MVP

Philip Rivers and DJ Fluker - Courtesy of San Diego Chargers
Last night, the San Diego Chargers defeated the supposedly Super Bowl-bound Denver Broncos, 27-20, in a nationally televised beat down at
Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. In the one-sided game, Philip Rivers, the Chargers' untiring quarterback, outplayed presumptive league Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, secured a Pro Bowl berth, and kept the Chargers in the playoff hunt. 

Rivers was flawless, again. And after reviewing this game and every game played by Denver and San Diego up to this point in the season, I submit that Rivers is the one who should be named league MVP - despite Manning's gaudy numbers, and especially if the Chargers finish at 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs.

Yeah, I know, Manning has been mostly great this year and Denver has a better record. Manning has 47 touchdown passes. But let's take a closer look at the numbers and other pertinent facts.
While Manning has far more offensive weapons with which to work, Rivers has played at an equally elite level all year without his two starting, towering wide receivers, Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd, both out for the year.

And while Manning has played all year behind an offensive line that ESPN recently said was the best in the NFL, Rivers has played all season with a patchwork offensive line that has suffered one injury after another after another.
While demonstrably improved over last season, the Chargers offensive front is now led by DJ Fluker, a rookie who will be a Pro Bowler. But not this year.

And while Denver has a lot of weapons on defense, including former Chargers pass-rusher Shaun Phillips and sack-master Von Miller, Rivers has played on a team this year that has had a mostly awful and unreliable defense -- though certainly not last night.

Manning has more touchdown passes this year, but Rivers has a higher completion percentage. Manning also has more interceptions than Rivers (10 to 9), and has far more fumbles lost than Rivers (6 to 1). And head-to-head, Rivers wins out. 

Manning has been throwing the ball this year to Demaryius Thomas, one of the league's elite wideouts, Wes Welker, a future Hall-of-Fame slot receiver, and Eric Decker, a proven veteran wideout. Rivers lost his two best wide receivers early and has been throwing all year to Keenan Allen, an overachieving third-round rookie, Eddie Royal, an often-hobbled veteran, and Vincent Brown, a somewhat disappointing second-year receiver. 

Here's the deal: Manning was given the keys this year to a Porsche Carrera GT, while Rivers was forced to drive a sporty economy car. And yet Philip has been every bit Manning's equal. None of the Chargers' seven disappointing losses this year can be hung on the good-natured, widely misunderstood quarterback, who's played one of the best seasons I've ever witnessed by a QB on a team without any superstars.

Well, yes, the Bolts still have Antonio Gates, but even the future Hall-of-Fame tight end has had an uncharacteristic number of key drops and fumbles this year. 

The Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer almost gets it. He suggests that while Manning will get all the awards at the end of the season - if not a Super Bowl ring - in terms of durability, productivity and efficiency, "Rivers has been No. 2 with a bullet in ‘13, and by no means is it a distant second."

In my view, he's not second: he should be MVP. No one means more to his team than Rivers means to the Chargers. Not even Manning, whose team is stacked with talent on both sides of the ball.

There are a few other quarterbacks who've had great years, too, including the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles, who only has one pic. He's been phenomenal since stepping in for Michael Vick, but he’s not played a full season. New Orleans’ Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the former Charger, should also be in the MVP conversation. But like Manning, he enjoys more offensive weapons than Rivers, a better ‘O’ line and a much-improved Saints’ defense.

Of course, the subtext of this rant is the fact that this has been a heartbreaking season for the Chargers, because this team has the potential to beat anyone. Beating the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver on the road are obviously huge accomplishments this year. But there are so many games the Bolts shoulda-coulda-woulda won. 

San Diego will miss the playoffs again this year unless the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins both lose two of their remaining three games and the Chargers win their last two. It's possible. It could happen. But the games San Diego really should have taken, especially the Dolphins game at Miami and the Redskins game at Washington, in which the Chargers had the ball on the one-yard line on first down and could not punch it in for the win, will haunt the team and its fans for a long time. 

Still, there is room for optimism for first-year Chargers head coach Mike McCoy -- largely because of the play of Rivers. And I'm not the only one who thinks he is having an even better year than Peyton. David Marber of Bolts from the Blue wrote a piece this week in which he suggests that football fans should appreciate both Manning and Rivers this season because "they're both elite players having career years simultaneously." 


A day after after Marber wrote that insightful passage, it proved prophetic: Rivers went out and outplayed Manning. Need we say more?  

If I had an MVP vote - and I don't - I'd give this one to Rivers, with Manning a close second. But because of all the media hype, groupthink mentality and "conventional wisdom" in professional sports, it won't happen. Even if San Diego does beat the odds and makes the playoffs.

26 comments:

  1. I agree Rivers is widely misunderstood and underrated and should be given much credit for what he has accomplished with a patchwork offense. But saying the Broncos have a lot weapons on defense is misleading. The Broncos have allowed 372 points - tied for last in the AFC. When the Broncos win they do it with offense, not defense. I do think Rivers is having an MVP year, but I can't help wondering how much better the Chargers could be if their best receivers were healthy.

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    1. They do have more proven weapons on defense than the Chargers. They have pro bowler Von Miller (now), and Champ Bailey (now injured) and Shaun Phillips, to name a few. Their defense was actually pretty vaunted and hyped at the beginning of the year, but has underachieved somewhat. But still clearly a far better defense than the Chargers have this year. Not even close. But not last night. :)

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    1. Thanks, Jeremy. You must be a Charger fan, yes?

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  3. Jamie:
    I watched the game last night and you are right. As a great football fan and a former QB, I saw Rivers was the dominant QB. He was confident, poised and effective while Manning was unsure, hesitant and very uncomfortable. Without question, Rivers owned the Broncos. Since I'm not a fan of either of these teams, I feel my assessment is objective. I will even go so far as to support your claim that Rivers should be the MVP. He really is that good. Seriously. I will even forgive you not mentioning Tom Brady as a possible candidate for MPV because the truth is, Brady doesn't need another MVP. As a former QB, I tend to focus on this position because I know it best and Rivers, in my opinion, is the second best QB in the NFL, just behind Brady. Great post, my friend.

    John Cook

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    1. Thanks John. And I have to agree. I'm not a Brady fan, as you know, but he has definitely played himself into that MVP conversation after a pretty shaky first half of the season.

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  4. Jamie,
    Well written and on point. I will admit to being biased being a long-time, long-suffering Bolts fan, but you make a very compelling argument that even the most ardent Bronco fan would have to consider. I'll be putting your blog on my "favorites". Great writing!!

    Brian Kitson

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    1. Thanks very much, Brian! Please keep reading.

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  5. Philip rivers Is a beast. Good read :)

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  6. Love this article! Thank you! So happy to see Philip get the recognition he so deserves. Yes, I'm a Charger fan, but also a huge Rivers fan. I've seen him pushing his grocery cart around the store with several of his kids hanging on him, all with huge smiles. I've witnessed the joy on my own son's face after Philip came across my son and his friends at the park playing basketball and asked if he could join them. I've watched one of my other sons expand his thinking after Philip came and talked to a room full of high school juniors making their Catholic confirmation about the virtues of marriage and family. I've watched his passion, season after season. He is a true leader, who his teammates love. They want to play harder for him, because of his leadership and pure joy and thankfulness to get to play this game. He is a tremendous football player, and an even better person. GO CHARGERS!

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    1. Thanks Allison, very well said! Happy New Year!

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  7. Just would like to point out some stats, Manning vs Rivers

    Percentage 68.3 to 69.5
    Yards 5477 to 4478
    TDs 55 to 32
    Int 10 to 11
    Sacked 18 to 30
    Rating 115.5 to 105.5
    Yds/G 342 to 280

    Rivers wins one category, barely. He has a 2% better completion percentage
    Manning is massively better in some (more important) catagories -- 71% more touchdowns 22% more yards.
    By the numbers it’s hard not to pick Manning for MVP, including the W-L column (course whether they win in the postseason is a different question). Whether he has a better or worse team is largely irrelevant—there are a lot of great QBs that got stuck on terrible teams. MVP is determined by the success of the individual, regardless of how much help he gets. If crappyness of team weighs into the MVP matrix I think there's a much better argument for Adrian Peterson or Alfred Morris for MVP than Philip Rivers.

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    1. nice attempt, but wrong. the mvp award is given to the player who is the most valuable to his respective team. it's very simple. rivers is easily more valuable to his team than any other single nfl player this season, including manning, who undeniably had a great year. rivers has had this remarkable year with far, far fewer weapons around him than manning enjoys. the broncos are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball -- especially the offensive line, which espn recently said was the league's best. san diego has no pro bowlers on the O line. and with that best O line, manning still had 10 fumbles, while rivers had three. denver's defense is also better than san diego's. yes, the mvp award should go to a player on a winning team. and i agree that manning had an amazing season. he threw a record numner of TD passes and for a record number of yards, but denver would still be a contender with a backup qb - even tim tebow -- because of their depth and talent. the chargers would definitely not be in the playoffs or be a contender without rivers. capiche? that's what the word "valuable" means.

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    2. You make a very good case for manning to be the Offensive Player of the Year. Most Valuable Player is a completely different award (although most sports writers generally lump the two together). While it can be argued, very easily actually, that the Broncos would not be as good as they are without Peyton Manning, I would argue that any pro QB worth his paycheck would produce a winning record with those receivers and behind that offensive line. On the flip side, can a QB, not named Manning/Brady/Brees/(healthy)Rodgers, be as successful in San Diego? It's highly unlikely. Alas, this is all moot. Peyton will win the MVP, because the voters made up their minds 6-8 weeks ago.

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    3. It is quite unfathomable the argument you present. To suggest that Peyton Manning is less valuable to his team than Phillip Rivers is absurd. Need I remind you that the same receiver core that Manning has is the same receiver core Tim Tebow had (excluding Wes Welker) and they were a wild card team at best. Peyton Manning is a huge reason why the Broncos have won 13 games in each of their last two seasons after finishing 8-8 in 2009 and 4-12 in 2010. The Colts went 2-14 in the one year that Manning did not play because of his injury now are you really going to continue with the argument that Peyton Manning is less important to the success of his team than Philip Rivers? To disregard the NFL records that Peyton has broken this season (Total Yards and Touchdowns), major accomplishments by far and done in the same season, and suggest that River's completion percentage is enough to win him the MVP is not a sustainable argument.The Chargers were 4th in the league in passing yards and 13th in running yards per game and Broncos were 1st and 15th respectively. I think this proves that San Diego has a good O-Line which again punches holes in your argument. In my opinion, Rivers is a top ten QB but not even in the top 5 this season as it relates to possible MVP's. I do think Philip Rivers is one of the better QB's in the league and has been for quite sometime but please give credit where credit is due and cease with the ridiculous arguments. Peyton Manning will be and should be league MVP because he deserves it with one of the greatest performances in NFL history.

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    4. Unfathomable, eh? You actually make my argument for me by suggesting, correctly, that even with the poor-passing Tim Tebow, the Broncos were a playoff team and even won a playoff game. And Denver improved their defense and their offensive line after Manning replaced Tebow a year ago. As I said, Manning had a great year, but Denver would still be a playoff team without him. But if the Chargers lost Rivers and put Tim Tebow in the lineup, they wouldn't have won five games. Point made. Thanks!

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    5. I think you may want to read again what I wrote because it is apparent you misunderstood. In 2009 with Tebow the Broncos were 8-8 and made the playoffs for the first time since John Elway retired, in 2010 they went 4-12. In 2011 the Colts went 2-14 without Peyton and seemingly every year before Peyton got injured made the playoffs and won their division. I am quite certain that my argument shatters your intended point and it definitely does not help to make it...if you were being objective you would recognize this.

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    6. Your argument shatters nothing. You are confused and have cherry picked the facts. As I said, Denver was a playoff team before Manning arrived. Hello? Which part of that do you not understand? Interestingly, you mention the 2010 Bronco season, but not 2011 playoff team. I repeat: Manning went to a Denver team that was already a playoff team. As I said, in his final year with the Broncos, 2011, Tim Tebow's 8-8 Broncos made it to the playoffs, where they upset Pittsburgh. The team made it mostly because of Tebow's supporting cast, though Tim did have some good games. The following year, Manning stepped in and joined a team that was already a solid playoff squad. In addition to signing Manning, Denver also made additional moves to improve the roster for Manning. Capiche?

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    7. Whoever commented above actually does have a better argument than you Jamie Reno. Not only is your article completely biased (Mr. San Diego man) but the idea would be an insult to the NFL and the MVP award. The 2011 Broncos made the playoffs in the very last week of the regular season and went on to upset the Steelers, but then lose in the next round. Sound familiar? That is exactly what happened to San Diego. In fact the broncos were considered the worst team in the playoffs from either conference in that year. They were a young team and the star receivers you speak of were very new to the league, not the same star players they have become now. The Broncos had 5066 yards of offense total in 2011, and manning had 5477 yards passing. Also Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas had 600 and 500 yards receiving that in 2011, now Thomas has almost 3 times that and Decker twice as many yards, because of the quality player Peyton is, he made them better, and that is a trait that the MVP stands for.
      In terms of Passing to running yards the Broncos got 75% of their yards from passing, and they had an increase of 3.16 times the passing yards from 2011. That was all Peyton Manning, it wasnt the receivers who magically just played better, Peyton got them those numbers by being the most valuable Player on his team and in the league. To say that the Broncos would have broken the 600 point mark without Peyton is absolutely absurd. If Rivers had the same caliber team he would not have come even close to the numbers Manning put up this year.

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    8. You are kinda nonsensical and you're bordering on delusional. Everything I said above is true. Denver was a playoff team before Manning arrived. Period. That is the simple point that you can't dispute despite your empty protestations and futile attempts at spinning that facts into the ground. Your suggestion that Denver was allegedly the "worst" playoff team in 2011 is both completely beside the point and clearly not the case given the fact that they did beat the Steelers. I never said Manning did not have a great year this year. He did. Absolutely he did, with a bunch of A list receivers. I simply said Rivers is more valuable to his team than Peyton is to his. Denver would still be a playoff team this year without Manning, but the Chargers would not be even close to a playoff team this year without Rivers. That is the bottom line. Denver did make the playoffs with Tebow, and they are a far better team now than they were then, and not just because of Peyton, Does Peyton make their receivers even better? Of course. Peyton is a great quarterback. But Denver as a TEAM has proven how good they are now, especially on defense, where they have played above expectations in the playoffs.If Rivers hadn't played for San Diego this year, the Chargers would have been fortunate to win five games. By the way, the MVP award is for the regular season, where san diego and denver split their head-to-head meetings. Point made. Checkmate. Maybe you should stick to checkers? :)

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  8. This is possibly the stupidest argument for MVP that's ever been made. Good job, you've done something no one else has ever done.

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    1. Thanks. Nice try, moron. While my take on Rivers as MVP is admittedly subjective, it is a smart and well-drafted argument. Your response, on the other hand, effectively shows who the real idiot is.

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  9. Andrew Luck had better numbers than Philip Rivers with even less in the way of recognized talent to receive, especially after the season-ending injury to Reggie Wayne and the awful Darius "hands of clay" Heyward-Bey, in addition to which he led the Colts to soundly beat the Broncos in "the house that Peyton built"

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    1. Nice try. now here are the real facts. You might want to take some notes. First of all, in their October head-to-head matchup on Monday NIght Football, Philip Rivers outplayed Andrew Luck and the Chargers beat the Colts 19-9. In that game, Philip had a TD pass and no interceptions, while Luck had zero touchdowns and one interception. The Chargers also beat Denver this year in "the house that Peyton built." And for the season, Rivers numbers were better than Luck's. Luck had a very respectable 23 TD passes this year and 9 pics, with a completion percentage of 60. Rivers had 32 touchdown passes and 11 pics, with a completion percentage of almost 70. Rivers was a no-brainer Pro Bowl pick, whereas Luck was the second alternate and only got in because Peyton and Wilson are in the Super Bowl. More importantly, in the Colts' two playoff games this year, Luck was ugly, throwing seven interceptions, while in the Chargers' two playoff games this season, Rivers had zero interceptions. And Rivers lost both of his starting wide receivers (Alexander and Floyd) before this season even started, and relied on a rookie third-round pick all year. but rivers' leadership helped turn that rookie, keenan allen, into the afc offensive player of the year.

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  10. This article is the most ridiculous argument I've ever read. You should not go around saying Philip Rivers should get the MVP.

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  11. Just as Brett Favre should've been the 2009 MVP for morphing the Vikings into Superbowl contenders with a 33 touchdowns and a career low 7 interception season, Manning will steal it AGAIN. Look at the vikings before and after Brett Favre, he was obviously a game changer. Not sure if I agree that Rivers should get it this year, but I know Manning will steal it from a deserved individual

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