The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

MIP: Most Important Player

Peyton Manning was the (near) unanimous choice for NFL MVP this year, and with good reason. He had perhaps the greatest offensive season in the history of the NFL. Everything required for the production of massive stats (and wins) fell into place for Manning this year. He had three excellent receivers (Harrison, Wayne, and 3rd WR extraordinaire Brandon Stokely), a rejuvenated Edge, a great offensive line, and a defense that was good enough to win games, but just soft enough to make it reasonable to run up scores. Practically perfect. It remains to be seen if Manning can translate his marvelous regular season into playoff success, but if the Colts should falter against the Patriots, Steelers, or Jets, it will likely be their defense that betrays them.

The concept of "MVP" is an elusive one. What does "valuable" mean? Is it producing big stats, drawing in fans, simply winning, or some combination? Is it being the most important player on your team, or the best player on a great team? Pundits passionately argue about this whenever an MVP trophy of any kind is given (especially for the Heisman). This idiot actually voted for Michael Vick this year (the lone dissenter), despite the fact that all evidence points to the Falcons winning in spite of, and not because of, their inaccurate speedster. (According to the Outsiders' DVOA statistic, he was actually slightly worse than Mark Brunell, Ken Dorsey, and AJ Feeley this year, the 36th best QB in the league.)

Whatever MVP means, I have no problem with the award (excellence should be rewarded) and Manning clearly deserved it. That being said, I decided to go on a search for the Most Important Player of the year. While this is probably Manning as well, that's too boring. I went looking for a guy who affected the NFL more than anyone else. And to be honest, I tried to find someone under the radar. After analyzing many, many game logs, I've determined that the NFL's Most Important Player is Mike Vick's cousin, New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks.

Sound crazy? The Saints, week to week, were always in a position to influence the NFC playoff picture, and the NFL looks very different without him.

In Week One, Seattle, which barely won the west and made the playoffs, scored a 21-7 win over the Saints. In the loss, Brooks was under 50% for the day and threw a costly interception. Shaun Alexander ran for 3 scores (in true Shaun style) against their porous run defense, but ultimately it was the offense which disappointed, putting up a single touchdown.

In Week Three the Saints barely knocked off the St. Louis Rams, 28-25. Brooks was efficient despite the absence of Deuce McAllister. If the Rams win this game they catch Seattle for the NFC west crown, and win it based on tiebreakers. The first round playoff game is in St. Louis instead of Seattle, and Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson are unable to patronize their favorite pot dealers just before gametime, as they apparently did last weekend.

Weeks four and five saw back-to-back losses to Arizona and Tampa Bay. Brooks failed to throw a TD against the Cardinals while fumbling twice (losing one). The Bucs held him to 106 yards passing.

Now it gets really spooky.

In Week 6, the Vikings, who backed into the playoffs at 8-8 and have now advanced to the second round defeated the Saints in a shootout. Daunte Culpepper threw for 5 touchdowns in the 38-31 victory, but the turning point of the game came at the end of the first quarter. Brooks dropped back to pass at the Viking's 8 yard line and fired a pass to Boo Williams which was intercepted by Antoine Winfield and run back to the New Orleans 38. From there it took the Vikings three plays to score as Culpepper hit Moss for a game changing touchdown. If that pick never happens, the Saints probably make the playoffs, and the Vikings are looking for a new head coach.

After providing Denver with what would become a playoff clinching victory, and rolling over for San Diego, the Saints took on the Atlanta Falcons in week 12. In the narrow 24-21 loss, Brooks throws 2 interceptions to Mike Vick's 1. The win catapults the Falcons (eventually) to 11-5, a game ahead of the Packers and into the #2 seed in the NFC.

In Week 13 Brooks tossed 2 more picks as the Saints became the latest victim of the Panthers late season surge (a surge which the Saints would eventually put a stop to, but we'll get to that later).

It was at this point that Brooks and the Saints went on a tear, winning their last four games. Along the way they ended the playoff hopes of Dallas (5-7 coming in. Remember, that made you a contender at the time), and Tampa Bay (5-8 at the time). They avenged their earlier loss to the Falcons (ensuring the Falcons the #2 spot) and they finished off the year by knocking off the Panthers, ending their playoff hopes. The Panthers may have been the best team in the NFC going into the playoffs, and the Saints kept them out. Moreover, the win didn't even get New Orleans in (although at the time it was still a remote possibility).

It is worth noting that Brooks didn't actually play that much better in wins than he did in losses (in fact, according to the Outsider's "variance" stat, the Saints were the most consistent team in the league. See here.) The point is not that Brooks played well or played poorly, simply that his play was the determining factor in the seasons of many teams. If the Saints variance had been higher (say Brooks had a 4 td performance, it's happened before, or a Krenzel-like 5 interception day) the playoff picture would have looked very different indeed.

Aaron Brooks may be a below average QB, he had a large influence on the 2004 season, including his hilarious backward pass for which he won the Drew Bledsoe award for best backward pass to nobody in particular.

For that, Aaron Brooks is your 2004 MIP.

2 Comments:

  • What if the MIP is really a butterfly flapping it's wings onthe other side of the world that.....

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 3:01 PM  

  • In that case it would be Ashton Kutcher.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 3:28 PM  

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