With four weeks left in the regular season, the race for most valuable player has become a two man race between Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Russell Wilson has faded completely out of the picture. Kyler Murray hopped in for a week over a month ago and hopped right back out. Ben Roethlisberger‘s main case was an undefeated record, and the Washington Football Team took care of that. And while Josh Allen has had an incredible year, he seems a distant third in the race.
Mahomes and Rodgers have both been brilliant for their respective squads. For Mahomes, it was expected. For Rodgers, while many had assumed the numbers would improve in year two in Matt LaFleur’s offense, I don’t know how many thought he would put together what might be statistically his best year ever. While you can’t go wrong either way, I believe Rodgers should be the MVP as of this very moment.
He has won the MVP twice in his career (2011, 2014). It’s no surprise that those two seasons were his two best in terms of expected points added per play (EPA), they were his two best seasons according to Pro Football Focus in terms of his overall offensive grade (93.0 in 2011, 93.4 in 2014) and, across the board they were some of his best seasons ever in terms of touchdowns and yards. In fact, in 2011 Rodgers threw for what is still the most touchdowns (45) and yards (4,643) he’s had in a season.
So how then are we to explain that Rodgers is on pace to eclipse his touchdown mark in 2011 (sitting at 36 right now), has the best offensive grade he’s ever had in a season according to PFF (94.7) and is inching ever closer to his 2011 mark in EPA (already ahead of his 2014 pace) with four weeks left and might not win the award? Well,
Patrick Mahomes is the reason why.
Mahomes has the Kansas City Chiefs sitting at 11-1, winners of seven in a row. Mahomes EPA/play currently outdoes what he did in his MVP year of 2018 and what he put together in 2019. He’s been a model of consistency and, perhaps most impressively for Mahomes this year, he only has two interceptions. According to PFF player profile, he’s thrown the least amount of “interceptable passes” to this point, one better than Rodgers.
For Mahomes the case can be made simply: He’s on what many believe is the best overall team, and all his core numbers are right there in line with what Rodgers is doing with the Green Bay Packers. Let’s look at those numbers:
- Rodgers: 94.7
- Mahomes: 93.3
EPA / play
- Mahomes: 0.39
- Rodgers: 0.36
- Rodgers: 36 touchdowns, 3,395 yards, 69% completions
- Mahomes: 31 touchdowns, 3,815 yards, 68% completions
So why do I give an edge to Rodgers?
Rodgers took over as the starting quarterback for the Packers in 2008. Since he took over we have been witnesses to one of the best careers a quarterback has ever put together. He’s got the MVPs and a ring to back it up along with a long list of otherworldly throws and jaw-dropping statistics.
By the standards that everyone has put in place for Rodgers, however, 2018 and 2019 were deemed “quiet” years — even though they’d be really good years for most other quarterbacks. Multiple pundits believed this was the start of the decline for the mid- to late-30’s quarterback. Green Bay went out and drafted a quarterback in the first round of this past year’s NFL Draft. And as he sits here at age 37, Rodgers has put together what could be his best season yet in 2020.
It’s hard to be surprised or caught off guard by what Rodgers is capable of, but who saw THIS sort of season in the making for him individually?
For Mahomes it was expected. The thing with Mahomes is we don’t know how much better it can get. He’s been a starter for three years and we are still seeing developments in his game. But we thought we had seen Rodgers best. We thought sure he’d still be a top-tier quarterback but statistically, it has to start declining. The indicators many pointed to were those 2018 and 2019 seasons. And now he’s painting a masterpiece.
Certainly it can’t be ignored the coaching change that occurred in Green Bay two season ago. Rodgers and company have completely bought into LaFleur’s system, and it’s paying off handsomely. This offense has put Rodgers and the rest of the crew in the best situation to succeed, and it has pumped life into what had grown into a stale, conservative scheme under Mike McCarthy.
While I feel crummy for pointing this out, it is part of the story even though it can not be held against Mahomes in any capacity. Mahomes is on a team with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins. His front office went out in the offseason and basically said, “You want more? We got it,” and drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round. In the middle of this season they said why not and added Le’Veon Bell.
The Packers drafted a quarterback in the first round, a running back in the second round that has hardly been used this year and their biggest in season pickup was Tavon Austin who was inactive last week in his first potential opportunity. I’ve heard SO MANY national talk hosts say this year, “Can you imagine if Green Bay had gotten one of these young wide receivers in the draft for Aaron Rodgers? A Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool, Michael Pittman Jr.” It drives me insane at this point because the draft is done and over with and Green Bay’s offense has been top notch. Again, it can’t be held against Mahomes, but it must be nice having a front office be extra aggressive in adding more weapons around you.
The 2020 MVP race is down to two. It’s Mahomes or it’s Rodgers. Again, you can’t go wrong either way. But to see Aaron Rodgers put together what could end up being his best season, at age 37 when it appeared things might start slowing a bit, is nothing short of marvelous. Let’s face the facts, we thought we had seen his best. He’s proved otherwise.