Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Case of the Less Crowded Trophy Case

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are as close as two men in a business relationship can be. Like the savants of Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation, they communicate in film study with a series of half-sentences, shrugs and half-words that speak volumes to themselves and eventually to Patriots' opponents. They owe their historic success to each other and they both know it.

Therefore, it seems cruel that Belichick might win his fourth NFL Coach of the Year award at the cost of Brady getting his third NFL MVP award.

That last actually should read MVQ, Most Valuable Quarterback. No other position is seriously considered for the honor. If J. J. Watt couldn't get it for a 2014 season where he dominated as few defensive linemen ever have, no non-QB has a shot for the foreseeable future unless Zeke Elliott runs for 3000 yards one year.

And that's the rub for Brady. He has excelled at his position, setting an NFL record with 28 touchdown passes but only two interceptions in 12 games. As you may have heard, Brady missed the first four games of 2016 due to his suspension for the Deflategate fiasco. But upon his return, the Pats won 11 of those games to finish with the league's best record at 14-2. Surely individual excellence and team success make a strong case that Brady had the most value to his team in 2016.

Maybe they do and maybe they don't. If Brady DOESN'T win the award, it won't because of anything he did or didn't on the field, it'll be due to the Patriots' success in the four games he wasn't allowed inside stadiums, the very success that is likely to propel Belichick to HIS individual award. New England, playing a backup quarterback and a third-string quarterback in Brady's absence, went 3-1. That accomplishment is the element in Belichick's C of the Y resume that separates him from a field of worthy candidates such as Jason Garrett, Adam Gase and believe it or not, Jack Del Rio.

Because his team did so well without him, Brady's superlative 2016 season will carry a nonsensical asterisk among MVP voters.  This has some slight element of fairness if Brady's being compared to Matt Ryan. The Falcons quarterback excelled for 16 games, directing by far the league's highest-scoring offense. But the fallacious logic of this year's MVP voting, and really that of all awards voting in all sports, is revealed by the fact that the third leading contender for the honor is Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers' QB finished strong, as did his team. Green Bay won its last six games to take the NFC North title and Rodgers threw 18 TDs with no picks in that span. Pretty damn valuable, you'd have to say.

Prior to that run, however, Green Bay was 4-6, lost four in a row, and Rodgers was something less than his usual outstanding self. Put bluntly, he was at the Ryan Fitzpatrick-Case Keenum marginal starter for a bad team level. It's terrific Rodgers rallied to the extent he did. Only a fool would ever knock him. But I don't get how Rodgers' actual bad games on the field aren't held against his total 2016 performance while the games Brady missed altogether are somehow a blot on his copybook.

I'm certainly not going to say life is unfair when the life in question is Tom Brady's. Besides, he could still win the MVP anyway. Awards voters are quirky folks. I oughtta know, I was one once.

If Brady doesn't get it, however, his coach and his teammates are the ones responsible. Shame on them for being so good at their jobs.


Post a Comment

<< Home