Voting History: Why Peyton Manning Should Run Away With NFL MVP Award

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 04, 2013



By Scott Kacsmar

Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

 

The NFL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award is handed out to the individual who had the best performance that season.

Actually, that is not true. The criteria for selection are not clear, as voters can vote on any merit they want. Is it just about being the most “outstanding” player because of great stats? They do select an Offensive Player of the Year award as well.

Is it really all about value, and how does one define value? It would be hard not to pick the best quarterback in that case, because no position has more value to a team’s success than quarterback.

No matter how one votes, recent history suggests the 2012 selection should be easy: Peyton Manning should run away with the MVP over Adrian Peterson, who should win Offensive Player of the Year. The semantics make the most sense that way.

Since 2004, the winner has often won by a landslide, claiming an average of 82.6 percent of the votes. In that same time period teams have put their fortunes on the dependability of their quarterback more than they have at any other point in NFL history.

But some people still enjoy the old-fashioned style of a running back dominating, and Peterson is a very popular player with years of being tagged as the best running back in the game. His chase at Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record that helped the Minnesota Vikings reach the playoffs seems to have given him the MVP push he needed, but that does not fall in line with the history or intent of the award.

We will look at the argument for Manning vs. Peterson, and exclusively present 26 years of NFL MVP voting results.

 

Peyton Manning vs. Adrian Peterson: Two Historic Seasons, One MVP

While it is possible someone like reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers may get one vote – if Rodgers had a vote he said to go with the quarterback – we are likely going to see Manning and Peterson split up all 50 this year.

First and foremost, both Manning and Peterson share the argument of coming off a significant injury to have the season they did. At worst, this should be a wash when deciding between the two.

Peterson tore his knee ligaments in the 15th game of the 2011 season. Manning had four neck surgeries and missed the entire 2011 season before returning with a new team this season.

We have seen players often return from a torn ACL, as Jamaal Charles did the same thing in Kansas City this year, and he rushed for 1,509 yards on the worst offense in football. No one has really done what Manning has, and he is the older player (36), albeit in a much less physical position.

But you cannot vote for Peterson on the basis of returning from injury and ignore the same for Manning. With that out of the way, let’s look at what they did this year.

 

Peyton Manning: The case for

It would be very easy to just list a ton of statistics from Manning’s season, as he looks to win a fifth MVP award. Manning rewrote the Denver record books for passing in his first season. He had a lot of numbers that were among the best he’s ever had in a career full of elite seasons. We will point out a few of them, but first let’s focus on the main argument for Manning as MVP.

Most value-added impact. No player had a bigger impact on his team, and while part of that is the value of the quarterback position, the fact is no quarterback changes the culture of an entire team more than Manning. He leaves an imprint on his team’s performances, demanding consistent perfection. 

Manning essentially changed the Denver Broncos into the Denver Colts, and the transformation was completed quicker than anyone expected.

Manning won at least 13 games in a season under a fourth head coach (John Fox) in his career. No other quarterback in NFL history has won more than 13 games with more than two coaches.

Denver scored 481 points (second most in the league). Demaryius Thomas (1,434 yards, 10 TD) and Eric Decker (1,064 yards, 13 TD) have stats that look like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne circa 2004-2006. Denver went from 30th in third-down conversions last year to No. 3 this season.

This all comes a year after the Broncos struggled to an 8-8 record and played a prehistoric style of offense with Tim Tebow. Denver went from the most run-heavy offense in football to a high-volume, high-efficiency passing attack that Manning has mastered for years.

At times, he looks as good as ever, just months after some questioned if he could ever play again.

Last season the Broncos were blown out badly by several opponents. This season they fell behind by 20+ points four times early in the season, but still made a game of it behind Manning, who made them believe they could win these games. They even did pull off a 24-point comeback in San Diego on the night Manning broke the record for fourth-quarter comebacks.

Denver’s 3-1 record at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities was the best percentage in the league this season. Manning has not trailed in the fourth quarter in the last eight games.

The end result this regular season is a 13-3 record, the Super Bowl favorite, and an 11-game winning streak. That is quite the improvement after a year in which Denver won the AFC West on a three team tiebreaker, and had the worst scoring differential (-81) for an 8-8 team in NFL history.

This season Denver outscored opponents by 192 points, which is the third biggest improvement in the 16-game era. It also matches the scoring differential for the 1998 Denver Broncos (best team in franchise history) and 2005 Indianapolis Colts (Manning again).

NFL's Greatest Scoring Differential Increases (1978-2012)

Team

Seasons

Year 1

Year 2

Increase

St. Louis Rams

1998-99

-93

284

377

Chicago Bears

2000-01

-139

135

274

Denver Broncos

2011-12

-81

192

273

Minnesota Vikings

1997-98

-5

260

265

San Diego Chargers

2004-06

-128

133

261

New Orleans Saints

2005-06

-163

91

254

Chicago aside, a lot of great offensive teams here, but none had more of an individual impact than Manning had on the Broncos.

  • St. Louis went to Kurt Warner, but they also traded for Marshall Faulk and drafted Torry Holt to create “The Greatest Show on Turf” offense.
  • Minnesota drafted Randy Moss, who scored 17 touchdowns and won Offensive Rookie of the Year.
  • Drew Brees shows up twice; first for finally having a breakout year in 2004 with San Diego after being benched in 2003 and the team drafted Philip Rivers.
  • Then Brees went to New Orleans in 2006, but the Saints also hired Sean Payton and drafted Marques Colston and Reggie Bush.

The biggest changes to the Broncos’ offense not named Manning? They added Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley; two players that have been most successful with Manning as their quarterback. They ended up being the third and fourth leading receivers on the Broncos.

Manning took a team that, as documented weekly in Captain Comeback last season, had the flukiest six-game winning streak ever just to finish 8-8, and he has turned them into the league’s most consistently great team in 2012. Manning accomplished it by having one of the most consistent seasons any quarterback has ever had, and we know consistency is hard.

Most Consecutive Games with Passer Rating of 90.0+

Quarterback

Year

Games

Season Result

Peyton Manning

2004

15

MVP, Lost AFC-DIV

Aaron Rodgers

2011

13

MVP, Lost NFC-DIV

Peyton Manning

2012

13

TBD

Steve Young

1994

11

MVP, Won Super Bowl (MVP)

Tom Brady

2007

11

MVP, Lost Super Bowl

Tom Brady

2010

10

MVP, Lost AFC-DIV

If the last five seasons with such a streak earned a MVP, why stop now?

  • According to ESPN, Manning’s QBR (84.1) ranks as the second best season by a quarterback since 2008. Only Aaron Rodgers (86.2 in 2011) is higher, and Manning beat out his last two MVP seasons in 2008 (79.8) and 2009 (82.9).
  • Manning set a NFL record with six consecutive games with a completion percentage of 70.0 (min. 20 attempts). He had three touchdown passes in each of the first five games of that streak.
  • Manning’s 10 games with a completion percentage of at least 70.0 percent tie the single-season record (Drew Brees, 2011).
  • Manning passed for at least 200 yards and one touchdown in all 16 games. Only Tom Brady (2012) and Drew Brees (2011) have ever done this.

Manning answered every question this year, whether it was his health, arm strength, playing outdoors, or adjusting to a new team. Perhaps more than any season before in his career, Manning proved why he gets as much credit as he has in his career, as he turned the Broncos into his distinctive brand of a winning machine. 

This was clearly a MVP season.

 

Peyton Manning: The case against

The sum of the arguments against Manning is that Denver had a really good defense, the Broncos played an easy schedule, and the team was 8-8 and won a playoff game with Tim Tebow last season. I think the comparison to last year has already been taken care of, as the 2011 and 2012 Broncos are like night and day.

Denver did play an easy schedule overall. The AFC West was the worst division in football, with the three teams combining for the same 13 wins as Denver had.

But in a season full of inconsistent play, Denver’s consistent domination should be rewarded. The team has been coasting over the competition, winning these 11 straight games by at least seven points. The only other teams in NFL history with such a winning streak are the 1942 Chicago Bears (11 games) and 2005 Indianapolis Colts (13 games). Guess what the latter had in common with the Broncos?

It also did not result in a MVP for Manning (see results below), as voters almost seem to get bored with these winning streaks by Manning. But they are not easy to do, and the “let’s give it to the guy who has never won one” MVP argument should be thrown out in every sport.

Manning did have one of the best team scoring defenses (ranked No. 4 with 289 points allowed) in his career, though that is hard to quantify for how much it should hurt his MVP credentials. Eight times in the modern passing era (1978-present) quarterbacks have won MVP with a team scoring defense ranked No. 4 or higher:

  • Tom Brady, 2007, 246 points (No. 2)
  • Kurt Warner, 1999, 242 points (No. 4)
  • Brett Favre, 1996, 210 points (No. 1)
  • Brett Favre, 1995, 314 points (No. 4)
  • Steve Young, 1992, 236 points (No. 3)
  • Joe Montana, 1990, 239 points (No. 2)
  • Joe Montana, 1989, 253 points (No. 3)
  • Terry Bradshaw, 1978, 195 points (No. 1)

The common theme for most teams here is they were still known for their offense first, and Denver is no exception to that.

 

Adrian Peterson: The case for

Peterson’s best argument is that he had one of the greatest rushing seasons in NFL history.

His 2,097 rushing yards came up nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season record, and Peterson averaged 6.03 yards per carry. That average is the sixth highest in NFL history for backs with a minimum 150 carries (third highest with a min. 300 carries).

When Percy Harvin was lost, the Vikings let Peterson carry them. Peterson went on the greatest eight-game rushing streak in NFL history during games 7-14. He rushed for 1,313 yards (164.1 yards per game), which is the most ever in any eight-game run by a player in NFL history.

After a 3-13 season, the Vikings finished 10-6 and made the playoffs in the final day of the regular season. They actually won their last four games to get in, and in Week 17, Peterson carried a career-high 34 times for 199 yards.

Minnesota’s passing attack was often impotent, with Christian Ponder finishing six games with 131 yards passing or less in this pass-happy era (three games under 100 yards).

Maybe the most impressive part of Peterson’s season is his ability to break off long runs in a way we have not seen since maybe Barry Sanders. Peterson had seven runs of 50+ yards in a seven-game stretch during this season. Teams like the Colts and Patriots have seven runs combined of 50+ yards since 2000 (that’s 416 games).

A lot of highlight material for Peterson in 2012, which was clearly his best season yet.

 

Adrian Peterson: The case against

There are many reasons not to vote for Peterson as MVP this year, but instead to vote him as the Offensive Player of the Year.

Peterson was not the Vikings’ MVP, let alone the league, when the team had a surprise 5-2 start. That was Percy Harvin, who led the league in all-purpose yards before suffering a season-ending injury.

During his all-time great eight-game stretch, Minnesota was only 4-4, which just shows how valuable the quarterback position is. Peterson had amazing games against Seattle and Green Bay, but Minnesota still lost mostly because of Ponder.  

The Vikings needed Ponder to come through to make the playoffs, and he did. He actually had good games in wins against playoff competition San Francisco and Houston, which just so happened to be the worst games of the season for Peterson. In both games Peterson finished with exactly 25 carries for 86 yards (3.44 YPC) and no touchdowns.

In the first six weeks, Peterson only finished above 100 yards once, and that was 102 rushing yards in Detroit. Remember, both players had to overcome an injury, but Peterson had a slower start, and his season was just not as consistently great as Manning’s.

In reading Gregg Rosenthal reporting on Aaron Rodgers’ MVP win last season, he had an interesting line. “The last few weeks of the year don’t make the first three months go away,” said Rosenthal.

Yet it sure seems like this December push has put Peterson over the top. Peter King even said Sunday (Week 17 finale) had him change his vote from Manning to Peterson.

Should one game really be the difference in a seasonal award that is supposed to be based on 16 games? Would an extra nine rushing yards make Peterson any more worthy? Would 50 fewer yards make him any less valuable?

People got caught up in the chase for the rushing record, which fell just short, and overlooked the Vikings’ season as a whole. They were not always as reliant on Peterson.

Ponder played better than given credit for. He just had some really atrocious games with few yards. Ponder’s season compares favorably to Joe Flacco’s rookie season (2008), as Ponder finished with 2,935 yards, 18 TD, 12 INT and 81.2 passer rating. He also rushed for 253 yards and two scores.

But at one point this season it was noted that Ponder had a lower passing yards per attempt than Peterson had on the ground. That did not hold true at the end of the season, though it was close. Peterson was 6.03 and Ponder was 6.08 yards per attempt.

Never mentioned in that is Peterson’s poor receiving season. Though he caught 40 out of 48 targets, Peterson had just 217 yards and three dropped passes. The 5.43 yards per reception is tied with Arian Foster (2012) for the fifth worst average in a season in NFL history (min. 40 receptions).

Throwing to Peterson actually brought Ponder’s YPA down from 6.25 to 6.07 this season, but no one acknowledges Peterson’s lack of receiving. It was all about his rushing yards. It could not have been about his touchdowns for obvious reasons.

Quarterbacks have won nine of the last 11 MVP awards, and the last three running back winners all broke the single-season touchdown record. That started at 26 touchdowns from Marshall Faulk back in 2000, and LaDainian Tomlinson scored 31 in 2006. Peterson only had 13 touchdowns this season. It is good for a running back in general, but not for this award.

NFL MVP - Running Backs (Super Bowl Era)

Running Back

Year

YFS

Rank

Total TD

Rank

Adrian Peterson

2012

2,314

1

13

3T

LaDainian Tomlinson

2006

2,323

2

31

1

Shaun Alexander

2005

1,958

3

28

1

Marshall Faulk

2000

2,189

2

26

1

Terrell Davis

1998

2,225

2

23

1

Barry Sanders

1997

2,358

1

14

3

Emmitt Smith

1993

1,900

1

10

6T

Thurman Thomas

1991

2,038

1

12

4T

Marcus Allen

1985

2,314

1

14

3

Earl Campbell

1979

1,791

4

19

1

Walter Payton

1977

2,121

1

16

1

O.J. Simpson

1973

2,073

1

12

5

Larry Brown

1972

1,689

1

12

4T

 

Peterson has the rushing yards, but his touchdowns do not fit the modern standard for a MVP season. He would rank 11th out of 13 in this list in terms of touchdowns per game.

Just rushing for 2,000 yards is no longer a guarantee of anything. Jamal Lewis did it in 2003 for a 10-6 playoff team, had more right to “his offense is all him” than Peterson, and he received five votes. Chris Johnson rushed for 2,009 yards and had a record 2,509 yards from scrimmage in 2009, and he received zero votes (8-8 and missed the playoffs has something to do with it).

If you had a MVP for the second half of the season, Peterson would be most worthy, but for a 16-game award, he did not have that season-long type of impact this award should be about. It was an incredible second-half finish that chased a record and did get his team into the postseason, but how they started matters too, and Peterson was not in the conversation yet. 

 

NFL MVP Voting Results for 1986-2011

Providing a resource for more insight into MVP voting, here is a list of voting results I have collected over the years. These are based on the AP voting results only. The 1986 season is the final season in which I have complete, accurate data. If anyone has any older voting data to share, please contact me.

 

NFL MVP Voting Results (1986-89)

Year

Player

Votes

Pct.

1986 (80 votes)

Lawrence Taylor

41

51.3%

Eric Dickerson

17

21.3%

Dan Marino

9

11.3%

Joe Morris

5

6.3%

John Elway

3

3.8%

Jerry Rice

1

1.3%

Joe Montana

1

1.3%

Tony Eason

1

1.3%

Mark Bavaro

1

1.3%

Walter Payton

1

1.3%

1987 (84 votes)

John Elway

36

42.9%

Jerry Rice

30

35.7%

Joe Montana

18

21.4%

1988 (78 votes)

Boomer Esiason

31

39.7%

Randall Cunningham

21

26.9%

Roger Craig

17

21.8%

Mike Singletary

6

7.7%

Warren Moon

1

1.3%

Keith Millard

1

1.3%

Herschel Walker

1

1.3%

1989 (70 votes)

Joe Montana

62

88.6%

Don Majkowski

6

8.6%

Keith Millard

2

2.9%

There used to be more voters back in the day. The 1986 season is the last time a defensive player won, and Lawrence Taylor’s 41 votes are six more than the total number of defensive votes since (35).

The 1987 race is interesting, as Montana likely took votes away from Rice, who scored 23 touchdowns in 12 games but lost to a quarterback.

NFL MVP Voting Results (1990-99)

Year

Player

Votes

Pct.

1990 (80 votes)

Joe Montana

26

32.5%

Randall Cunningham

18

22.5%

Warren Moon

16

20.0%

Bruce Smith

11

13.8%

Jim Kelly

5

6.3%

Steve DeBerg

3

3.8%

Jerry Rice

1

1.3%

1991 (82 votes)

Thurman Thomas

39

47.6%

Jim Kelly

18

22.0%

Barry Sanders

16

19.5%

Mark Rypien

8

9.8%

Seth Joyner

1

1.2%

1992 (80 votes)

Steve Young

56

70.0%

Barry Foster

11

13.8%

Emmitt Smith

10

12.5%

Sterling Sharpe

2

2.5%

Cortez Kennedy

1

1.3%

1993 (81 votes)

Emmitt Smith

26

32.1%

Steve Young

21

25.9%

Jerry Rice

15

18.5%

John Elway

10

12.3%

Troy Aikman

3

3.7%

Marcus Allen

2

2.5%

Warren Moon

2

2.5%

Sterling Sharpe

1

1.2%

Phil Simms

1

1.2%

1994 (98 votes)

Steve Young

74

75.5%

Barry Sanders

22

22.4%

Jerry Rice

1

1.0%

Deion Sanders

1

1.0%

1995 (88 votes)

Brett Favre

69

78.4%

Jerry Rice

10

11.4%

Emmitt Smith

7

8.0%

Jim Harbaugh

2

2.3%

1996 (93 votes)

Brett Favre

52

55.9%

John Elway

33.5

36.0%

Terrell Davis

5.5

5.9%

Jerome Bettis

2

2.2%

1997 (48 votes)

Brett Favre

18

19.4%

Barry Sanders

18

19.4%

Terrell Davis

4

4.3%

Steve Young

3

3.2%

Dana Stubblefield

2

2.2%

Jerome Bettis

2

2.2%

Carnell Lake

1

1.1%

1998 (47 total)

Terrell Davis

25

53.2%

Randall Cunningham

14

29.8%

Randy Moss

4

8.5%

Jamal Anderson

4

8.5%

1999 (50 total)

Kurt Warner

33

66.0%

Peyton Manning

8

16.0%

Marshall Faulk

8

16.0%

Edgerrin James

1

2.0%

It was in 1997 they started using fewer voters, which was bad timing as we had a tie between Brett Favre and Barry Sanders. Maybe a few more voters would have given a clear winner. It remains the toughest vote in terms of winner percentage since at least 1983.

NFL MVP Voting Results (2000-11)

Year

Player

Votes

Pct.

2000 (50 votes)

Marshall Faulk

24

48.0%

Donovan McNabb

11

22.0%

Eddie George

8

16.0%

Rich Gannon

5

10.0%

Peyton Manning

1

2.0%

Ray Lewis

1

2.0%

2001 (50 votes)

Kurt Warner

21.5

43.0%

Marshall Faulk

17.5

35.0%

Brett Favre

5

10.0%

Kordell Stewart

4

8.0%

Brian Urlacher

2

4.0%

2002 (48 votes)

Rich Gannon

19

39.6%

Brett Favre

15

31.3%

Steve McNair

11

22.9%

Priest Holmes

1

2.1%

Derrick Brooks

1

2.1%

Michael Vick

1

2.1%

2003 (50 votes)

Peyton Manning

16

32.0%

Steve McNair

16

32.0%

Tom Brady

8

16.0%

Jamal Lewis

5

10.0%

Priest Holmes

3

6.0%

Ray Lewis

2

4.0%

2004 (50 votes)

Peyton Manning

49

98.0%

Michael Vick

1

2.0%

2005 (50 votes)

Shaun Alexander

19

38.0%

Peyton Manning

13

26.0%

Tom Brady

10

20.0%

Tiki Barber

6

12.0%

Carson Palmer

2

4.0%

2006 (50 votes)

LaDainian Tomlinson

44

88.0%

Drew Brees

4

8.0%

Peyton Manning

2

4.0%

2007 (50 votes)

Tom Brady

49

98.0%

Brett Favre

1

2.0%

2008 (50 votes)

Peyton Manning

32

64.0%

Chad Pennington

4

8.0%

Michael Turner

4

8.0%

Adrian Peterson

3

6.0%

James Harrison

3

6.0%

Philip Rivers

2

4.0%

Chris Johnson

1

2.0%

Kurt Warner

1

2.0%

2009 (50 votes)

Peyton Manning

39.5

79.0%

Drew Brees

7.5

15.0%

Philip Rivers

2

4.0%

Brett Favre

1

2.0%

2010 (50 votes)

Tom Brady

50

100.0%

2011 (50 votes)

Aaron Rodgers

48

96.0%

Drew Brees

2

4.0%

Tom Brady became the first unanimous selection in 2010, and he arguably has had a better case the next two seasons, for which he may receive zero votes. Funny how this works sometimes.

Here is a “career” summary (since 1986) of MVP votes for the 70 different players to receive at least one with the winners in bold.

Player

MVP Votes

Brett Favre

161

Peyton Manning

160.5

Steve Young

154

Tom Brady

117

Joe Montana

107

John Elway

82.5

Jerry Rice

58

Barry Sanders

56

Kurt Warner

55.5

Randall Cunningham

53

Marshall Faulk

49.5

Aaron Rodgers

48

LaDainian Tomlinson

44

Emmitt Smith

43

Lawrence Taylor

41

Thurman Thomas

39

Terrell Davis

34.5

Boomer Esiason

31

Steve McNair

27

Rich Gannon

24

Jim Kelly

23

Shaun Alexander

19

Warren Moon

19

Eric Dickerson

17

Roger Craig

17

Drew Brees

13.5

Barry Foster

11

Bruce Smith

11

Donovan McNabb

11

Dan Marino

9

Eddie George

8

Mark Rypien

8

Don Majkowski

6

Mike Singletary

6

Tiki Barber

6

Jamal Lewis

5

Joe Morris

5

Chad Pennington

4

Jamal Anderson

4

Jerome Bettis

4

Kordell Stewart

4

Michael Turner

4

Philip Rivers

4

Priest Holmes

4

Randy Moss

4

Adrian Peterson

3

James Harrison

3

Keith Millard

3

Ray Lewis

3

Sterling Sharpe

3

Steve DeBerg

3

Troy Aikman

3

Brian Urlacher

2

Carson Palmer

2

Dana Stubblefield

2

Jim Harbaugh

2

Marcus Allen

2

Michael Vick

2

Carnell Lake

1

Chris Johnson

1

Cortez Kennedy

1

Deion Sanders

1

Derrick Brooks

1

Edgerrin James

1

Herschel Walker

1

Mark Bavaro

1

Phil Simms

1

Seth Joyner

1

Tony Eason

1

Walter Payton

1

There have been a total of 1,657 MVP votes cast since 1986. Finally, presented without comment, here is the breakdown by position.

NFL MVP Voting Breakdown by Position (1986-2011)

Position

No. of players

Total Votes

Pct.

Quarterback

30

1140

68.80%

Running Back

23

375

22.63%

Wide Receiver

3

65

3.92%

Linebacker

7

57

3.44%

Defensive End

1

11

0.66%

Defensive Tackle

3

6

0.36%

Tight End

1

1

0.06%

Safety

1

1

0.06%

Cornerback

1

1

0.06%

Offense

57

1581

95.41%

Defense

13

76

4.59%

 

Conclusion: Closest example to Manning vs. Peterson

Generally speaking, quarterbacks usually clean up against running backs in MVP voting, and for good reason. Peterson’s season compares in many ways to what Barry Sanders did in 1997, and as we have seen, Sanders just barely got a co-MVP by tying Brett Favre with 18 votes each.

We do not have voting results for 1963, but that may be the best historical example of a Manning vs. Peterson race. That year it was Jim Brown vs. Y.A. Tittle.

In 14 games, Cleveland’s most beloved Brown set the rushing record with 1,863 yards. He averaged 6.40 yards per carry, which is still the NFL record today. He also scored a league-best 15 touchdowns, and led the league in yards from scrimmage (2,131 yards). Cleveland finished 10-4, but did not qualify for the postseason.

It was still arguably the greatest season ever by a running back, but Brown did not win the AP MVP. He won the MVP from other sources, and the Bert Bell Award for player of the year, but not the AP’s MVP.

That MVP went to old man Tittle, who at age 37 led the Giants to an 11-2 record in 13 starts, threw 36 touchdowns, and led the league in completion percentage (60.2) and passer rating (104.8). It was Tittle’s third season in New York, but it was the best of his career.

Manning actually just passed Tittle for most touchdown passes (37) in a season by a quarterback age 35 or older.

Was Manning’s season better than Tittle’s when adjusted for era? Almost certainly not, but like Tittle, Manning just had a historic season. When you do that at quarterback, it means a bit more than doing it at running back.

Ask Jim Brown, or ask Eric Dickerson about 1984 when Dan Marino beat him 52 to 18 in the MVP vote. In an era where the quarterback dominates the most, there is little argument for another position to lay claim to being the most valuable player. It is especially true when the era’s quarterback who makes the biggest impact puts in one of his best seasons ever.

Getting close enough to where nine more rushing yards would have broke a record certainly should not have made a difference over a season of impact.

 

Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


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