Monday, January 2, 2012

Should Matt Flynn's Performance Give Brady the MVP?

I'm not, by any means, going to downplay the statistical freak season Aaron Rodgers put up this year. I'm not going to say that Tom Brady put up better numbers than Drew Brees or Rodgers because, quite simply, the numbers are so close to call that it's remarkable. I will give credit where credit is due. Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to the NFL's best record and for a large portion of the season had them in position for a run at an undefeated season.

However, I don't think that a 400+ yard 6 td performance by the backup quarterback is something to overlook. Listen, I realize that all great teams are great because they have a system that the players buy into. Stalwarts at the top of the NFL (Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Saints) all have two things in common, great head coaches and great quarterbacks. It would be naive to think that the system is greater than the player, or the player is greater than the system. They work in conjunction with one another. Furthermore, no team is traditionally great without an outstanding supporting cast (offensively, defensively, special teams).

Up until this point I thought that (for the argument of MVP's sake because it is a three horse race) the Packers, Saints, and Patriots all had relatively equal weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Sure, the Packers use more WR's than tight ends, the Patriots seemingly use more tight ends than WR's, while the Saints use a compliment of both. However, Matt Flynn's performance raises 2 potential alternatives; is the talent surrounding Aaron Rodgers so good that it makes a backup QB like Matt Flynn look like an All Pro? Have we been giving too much credit to Aaron Rodgers, and not enough to Mike McCarthy and the rest of his playmakers?

Everyone remembers back in 2008 when Tom Brady tore his ACL and in stepped Matt Cassel. Cassel led the team to an 11-5 record and put up very solid numbers. People heralded Cassel as a future star, and teams were phoning the Patriots trying to trade for him. He ultimately went to Kansas City and has been a relative disappointment thus far; unable to mirror the success he had in New England. Cassel has weapons in Kansas City. Some might even argue, overall, he has relatively equal weapons to the Patriots (Jamaal Charles, Jackie Battle, Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, not bad at all). However, the success hasn't been nearly the same.

What then, can you attribute to his shortcomings? You can blame the other areas such as defense and special teams, while you can also blame the system in place by the Kansas City coaches and front office. Regardless, something has not been clicking with Cassel in Kansas City like it seemingly did in New England. If Matt Flynn were to be traded at the end of the year, would you expect results like we witnessed today? Clearly expectations would have to be tailored, but in reality, his performance today was statistically better than any in the HISTORY of the Green Bay Packers.

My ultimate point is this. While MVP front-runners Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have been putting up excellent numbers this year and have done a fantastic job, is there any argument that Tom Brady has done more with less? He is playing alongside, statistically, one of the worst defenses in NFL HISTORY and has clinched AFC home-field throughout the playoffs. The two aforementioned quarterbacks have far superior "team" talent around them, and in the point of Matt Flynn, the backup did something historically, that his starter had never done.

While I'm not telling you to call Aaron Rodgers a system quarterback (because I'm not...he's an all pro and one of the most talented players in the NFL) and devalue his importance to the Packers, I'm asking you to re-evaluate the importance of Tom Brady to the New England Patriots this season, who took a team with one of the worst defenses EVER and won another division with them, along with a #1 overall seed. Yes, Matt Cassel did have success in the Patriots' system, but it's important to note that he was playing alongside a defense that had just went to the Superbowl and had returned almost every starter (similar to what Rodgers did this year). While Brady has weapons offensively, football is a team game. It takes a good offense and defense to be successful. The level of responsibility on Tom Brady to offensively, keep this team in games this season, has been unmatched in the history of the National Football League.

For these reasons, I ultimately believe Tom Brady's season is undoubtedly deserving of the MVP award.

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