Peak football season is upon us. Teams like the Jets and the Jags haven’t played in weeks, conference championships will be played this weekend, the Super Bowl is fast approaching and so are the NFL’s annual awards. Most notably, the league’s Most Valuable Player award is up for grabs. While guys like Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp are probably deserving of the award, only one non-quarterback has been named MVP in the last 14 years. This really is a two-horse race between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but who will emerge triumphant? Writers Jonathan Synott and Ajeeth Vellore talk it out in this week’s point/counterpoint:
Jonathan Synott: All right, let’s look at the stats. Rodgers has been the better quarterback mainly because of his efficiency. Not only did he lead the league in touchdown percentage and interception percentage, but he was third in the league to Joe Burrow and Kyler Murray in completion percentage. Whenever you put the ball in Rodgers’ hands, great things happened. Look at his record with the Packers this year. In games he started, the team went 13-3, one fewer loss than Brady. How about passer rating and QBR? Rodgers has the edge over not only Brady, but the entire league with 111.9 and 68.9, respectively. Brady may be the greatest of all time, but Rodgers was the most valuable player this season. Look at the AP All-Pro voting. There’s a reason why the State Farm legend took home 34 out of 50 votes for the All-Pro First Team quarterback spot.
Ajeeth Vellore: It’s true. Aaron Rodgers did in fact have the more efficient season. But I still have a hard time conceding this trophy to the cheesehead. Why? Because Tom Brady was a much more integral part of this offense than in the previous season. Matter of fact, Tampa Bay forced Brady to make 188 more pass attempts than Green Bay did Rodgers, largely the result of a weaker running game than they had during their Super Bowl LV run. Despite that, Brady still held a 68.1 QBR and a 102.1 passer rating. So, even though he wasn’t perfect, he still managed to rack up 43 touchdowns and 5,316 passing yards (both bests in the league) with only 12 interceptions. It’s like Brady gave the Bucs the best of both worlds: a high-volume, relatively high-efficiency season. At the end of the day, being the buccaneer in shining armor is exactly what Tampa needed from Tom.
Jonathan Synott: Sure, Tom Brady did have a great season. Leading the league in touchdowns and passing yards is no easy feat. However, we should look at the teams surrounding both quarterbacks. According to PFF’s offensive line rankings for this past season, the Bucs ranked 2nd in the league, while the Packers finished a mediocre 14th, riddled by injuries to key guys like David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. Rodgers didn’t have the luxury of being the only quarterback in the NFL to be pressured on less than 20% of his dropbacks like Brady did this year. Let’s look at the receiving corps as well. Rodgers threw to an all-world talent in Davante Adams, but the list drops off after that with Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling being the number two and number three options. Meanwhile, Brady was throwing to guys like Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown. All four of those players are Pro Bowlers. Brady had an awesome season, but it was made easier by his complete roster. Rodgers was more valuable to his team because he was able to have such a successful season despite not having all of the weapons that Brady had.
Ajeeth Vellore: So you’re right. You do make some great points that Brady’s had a better offense around him, and a point that I will even make on your behalf is that the Bucs’ defense is better than the Packers’. But I will raise to you my own point. First, let’s define what it means to be the “Most Valuable Player.” I think it’s some combination of having an impressive stat sheet and being a player that if injured or otherwise absent, his team would have no shot at success because of his overall importance. If there was a scenario where Jordan Love and Blaine Gabbert are starting instead of Rodgers and Brady, I would pick the Packers in a heartbeat, because Tampa has no options at QB other than Tom. Brady has this edge that makes the Buccaneers deadly with his mere presence. He has proven time and again that he is a killer on the field with a determination that seems unparalleled by any other QB, shown by how this team has rallied around him during the past two years.