NFL: MVP: Brees or Rodgers?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 1, 2012

By Mark Craig
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees?
It’s the MVP choice with no wrong answer. A two-headed coin. Loaded dice locked on a Lucky Seven in the hands of either shooter.
Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers?
Might as well be pepperoni or sausage. Tap or bottle.
Rodgers throws for five touchdowns as the Packers improve to 14-1 one night. Brees breaks Dan Marino’s 27-year-old record for passing yards in a season while the Saints win their seventh game in a row and clinch the NFC South the next night.
Both nights, the entire football world watched in prime time. Both times, anyone without a quarterback would have taken either one and not complained that they didn’t get what was behind Door No. 2.
Or, as Vikings coach Leslie Frazier put it: “Boy, they both play extremely well. I don’t know if one has the edge over the other.”
Frazier should know. In three games against Rodgers and Brees, the Vikings gave up 997 yards and 12 touchdowns with no interceptions on 79-for-100 passing. The worst completion percentage in those games: 76.7
Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees?
It’s something that 50 of us who vote for the Associated Press NFL MVP award have to decide this coming week. Unfortunately, it’s frowned upon to select based on “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe …”
Two months ago, this was the slam-dunk selection. Rodgers was the front-runner and everyone else was a mile back running barefoot through a field of thumbtacks. Then Brees started knocking down NFL records as if they were a row of mailboxes on an ice-covered side street.
Rich Gannon won the MVP in 2002 when he notched 10 300-yard passing games. Brees now has 12 of them this season.
Ken Anderson broke a 28-year-old league record when he completed 70.55 percent of his passes in 1982, a year after winning the MVP. Brees broke that mark in 2008 (70.6) and is threatening to do it again only three years later (70.7).
Marino won the MVP in 1984 when he passed for a record 5,084 yards. Brees hit 5,087 on his last throw — a touchdown, naturally — on Monday night.
Brees also has the most 350-yard games in NFL history (seven) and needs 12 more completions to break the record for completions in a single season (451).
“I think you got to go with Drew Brees right now as the guy who’s playing at a higher level,” Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said. “Aaron Rodgers has been playing well all year. But Brees, man, he’s on fire.”
The thing is both are five-alarm infernos. Rodgers has more touchdown passes (45-41), fewer interceptions (6-13), a better record, a head-to-head victory in Week 1 and a better passer rating (122.5-108.4). The single-season record for passer rating is 121.1 set by Peyton Manning when he won MVP in 2004.
When Manning won the MVP in 2004, Daunte Culpepper had more completions (379-336), more passing yards (4,717-4,557) and a higher completion percentage (69.2-67.6). Manning had the edge in touchdown passes (49-39), fewer interceptions (10-11) and passer rating (121.1-110.9). In football’s modern era, only three quarterbacks have had a passer rating of 107 or higher and not won MVP: Culpepper, Brees in 2009 (109.6) and the Vikings’ Brett Favre in 2009 (107.2).
Based on a New Orleans Times-Picayune survey of the 50 voters, Rodgers is the favorite, followed closely by Brees. The dark horse is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Personally, until that lever needs to be pulled, this voter is going to sit back and enjoy. After all, there’s no wrong answer because we’ve never seen two quarterbacks play at this high a level on teams this good in the same season.