Resurgent Warner Unlikely MVP Candidate
by Trevor Whenham - 11/18/2008
Can Kurt Warner really win the MVP? Is this really 2008? The answer to both of those questions is a definitive yes. Teams have only played 10 games, so there is a lot of football left, and pretty much anything can still happen in the MVP race. However, for now it's Warner's race to lose. Not convinced? Let's look at what Warner is doing this year, and how he stacks up to four of the closest contenders.
I have always liked Warner, so I may be a little biased, but what he is doing this year is remarkable. There are all sorts of reasons why Warner is the clear MVP, and many of them are obvious - second in the league in yards and touchdowns, tops in quarterback rating, completing 70 percent of his passes, four straight 300-plus yard games, 18 straight games with a passing touchdown, and leading his team to a runaway divisional lead. Here are five more good reasons that are just as compelling:
1. The team believes - The Cards are not perfect, but they are improving every week, and they look significantly different than they have in past years. That's all about Warner.
2. He's elevating his game - Time after time this year he has faced situations where he would have excuses to fail - he has always struggled in Seattle, for example - but he isn't using those excuses. In short, he knows what an MVP plays like, and he is definitely playing like one.
3. He's capitalizing on his receiving corps - It certainly doesn't hurt Warner that he has an exceptional set of receivers. The difference, though, is that Warner is getting top efforts out of those receivers, and making the most out of it. Arizona has been loaded at receiver for a long time, and this is the first time the have looked anywhere close to this good. That's all Warner.
4. Consistency - He has only had two substandard games - ratings in the 80s, and as many interceptions as touchdowns - and the team lost both. Those were in Weeks 3 and 4. The two before than and the six since, though, have been models of consistency. He has completed more than 70 percent of his passes seven times, thrown more TDs than interceptions nine times, only thrown more than one interception once, and generally been reliable. He's not taking risks that aren't worth taking, and he's helping his team win.
5. Imagine the team without him - The definition of an MVP should be that their team wouldn't be nearly the same without him. That's Warner entirely. Matt Leinart is unproven and fragile, and he obviously doesn't have the respect of his coaching staff. This team may still be winning the division with Leinart because it's so weak, but they certainly wouldn't be running away with it like they are.
If there was a first half MVP then it would probably have been Portis. He's just not maintaining his momentum. He gave up a 200+ yard lead in the rushing race, and now sits second behind Adrian Peterson. He hasn't rushed for 100 yards in his last two. He's struggling with injuries that will limit him down the stretch. Most significantly, though, his team isn't impressive enough. They are 6-4, and they have dropped their last two in unimpressive fashion. It takes a lot for a running back to beat a QB in the MVP race, and Portis isn't headed for a spectacular enough season to do so.
Peterson is clearly a freak, and he is again proving it. He is a lock to winning the rushing title if he stays healthy, and he is the best player on his team by a wide margin. The problem is that his team just isn't very good. Sure, they are tied for the lead in their division, but the NFC North just isn't very strong this year. The team has underachieved significantly, and it is hard for a player on an underachieving team to be the MVP. Peterson will get some votes, but he won't have enough on his record to vault him past a quarterback.
I think that Collins' inclusion in MVP discussions is laughable. He's a heck of a story, and I'm happy for him. He has led his team to a 10-0 record that they probably wouldn't have with Vince Young at the helm. Impressive. It's just that the Titans aren't winning because Collins is putting up gaudy numbers. They are winning because they play freakish defense, they run well, and Collins is managing the team well and avoiding mistakes. You can't win MVP with a QB rating of 82, or with eight TDs in 10 games, or with less than 180 yards per game. He deserves all sorts of recognition, but giving him the MVP would make a mockery of the award.
The old standby is moving up the MVP ranks in recent weeks. Three weeks ago it was easy to write the Colts off. Manning has been incredible since then, though - seven touchdowns, no interceptions, and all sorts of clutch plays in three games. The Colts have to be considered a heavy favorite to get a wild card spot now, and that's entirely thanks to Manning. His numbers will have to continue to be strong in the last six games to overcome some weak early performances, and those early performances give Warner an edge, but Manning always has to be considered an MVP contender.