The best quarterback on the best team is the MVP.
No, wins should not be treated as a quarterback stat, but the voters for the NFL's MVP award have almost made this the criterion for winning the honor. So, go ahead and give it to Drew Brees. He has solid numbers, and the Saints have the league’s best record.
Clean. Simple. Done.
Look, this is an overly simplistic way to look at the award, and it definitely isn’t the sole way we’d decide the winner, but that is how formulaic it has become. Dating to 2006, only four times has the winner of the award not been the quarterback of a team that at least shared part of the best record in the NFL. And each of those seasons came with extenuating circumstances.
One of those times was when Atlanta’s Matt Ryan won the award in 2016. The Patriots finished with the best record that season, but quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for four games to start the season. Easy choice. Give it to the guy with the highest quarterback rating and be done with it.
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In 2012, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson won the award after rushing for 2,097 yards with 12 touchdowns. He just missed breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. Atlanta had the best record that season, but Ryan’s 99.1 quarterback rating would have been the lowest mark among any winner of the award outside of Peyton Manning in 2008.
So, it’s probably no coincidence that 2008 is another outlier year on this list. The Titans set the league on fire that season, posting a league-best 13-3 record, but quarterback Kerry Collins was less than stellar. He finished the season with 2,676 yards on 58.3 percent passing with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That opened the door for the league to celebrate Manning, even though it was by far the weakest of his five MVP seasons.
The last outlier on this list is 2006 when San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson won the award. The Chargers had the best record in the NFL the season, but quarterback Philip Rivers was still settling in as a first-year starter. He finished the year with a 92 passer rating.
It seems like an easy decision based on these criteria. Brees has a 13-2 record heading into the final game of the year. If wins matter that much, then it should give him an edge on Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, who is having a historic season and is running neck-and-neck with the New Orleans quarterback for the award but is sitting on an 11-4 record.
Drew Brees is expecting Teddy Bridgewater to log some snaps on Sunday.
While Brees not having an MVP award while two other quarterbacks in his division have won is a significant oddity, he should not be given a lifetime achievement award.
If someone believes Mahomes deserves the award based on the merits of this season, then he should win it. Mahomes might not ever have another chance to win it. Look how long Brees has waited to get back in the conversation.
Brees getting shut out of the award isn't a major scandal. His best chance came in 2009. His numbers in 2011 were terrific, but Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers had one of the best seasons ever by a quarterback and also posted a 14-1 record. No one else stood a chance.
He should have had more than a chance in 2009. Brees’ 34 touchdowns, 109.6 quarterback rating, and 70.6 completion percentage led the league, while he also threw for 4,388 yards with 11 interceptions. The Saints were 13-2 in his starts.
Yes, the Saints wrapped up the NFC South title two weeks ago.
Manning had a very comparable season. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards with 33 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and a 99.8 quarterback rating. The Colts finished 14-2. Perhaps the most significant difference is that Manning led seven fourth-quarter comebacks and had seven game-winning drives. Brees had two and four, respectively.
So, Brees had better numbers per game, but Manning had more wins and more clutch performance.
The opposite is happening this year. It's almost like Brees is fighting off the younger version of himself, the version that never seemed to do quite enough to win the award.
Mahomes is having an incredible season. He is probably going to finish the year with 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns on 66 percent passing. He has 11 interceptions and a 114 quarterback rating.
Brees cannot compete with Mahomes’ volume, though he did lose about half of game's worth of stats because of blowing out Cincinnati, and possibly more if he doesn't play this week against the Panthers.
If the Saints quarterback wins, it has to be on efficiency and team success. He has 32 touchdowns and 3,992 yards but is going to set the records for competition percentage (74.4). He’s thrown five interceptions and has a 115.7 quarterback rating.
The other difference is Brees has led seven game-winning drives and six fourth-quarter comebacks. Mahomes has two of each. It's like a flashback to 2009.
Really, it comes down to personal preference. There are two very viable candidates.
Our vote, if we had one, would go to Brees. It’s not about wins, and it’s not about stats. It’s about all of it — wins, stats, efficiency, execution. Having a 6-1 record against winning teams while Mahomes is 3-4 is also significant.
The only bad moment of Brees' season came at the end of the game against Dallas. He's stepped up all year and done what's been asked of him, even if it hasn't resulted in massive stats. Having a good team shouldn't be a punishable offense if team wins have been so historically significant for voters.
So, while it isn’t clean, easy or simple, it feels like this should be his year.