Photograph: Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports
What was set up to be a rollicking MVP race has descended into a mess.
Heading into Week 13, no one has an unassailable case. Toss the league’s top quarterbacks up and they could fall down in any order over the next month: Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers or Kyler Murray. If you want to tack on a running back as a candidate, then feel free to add in Jonathan Taylor. But the MVP is almost exclusively a quarterback award at this point – the last non-QB to win it was Adrian Peterson in 2012. The four criteria are: Who had the best season; which team won the most games; who was the most fun to watch; who has the best story. This season, it’s hard to find anyone who ticks all the boxes.
Quarterback play across the league is in a down year. The advanced metric site RBSDM tracks a figure known as Expected Points Added, which measures the value (compared to historical records) for each and every play. The number for great quarterback play is anything above 0.25. Last season, five quarterbacks were well beyond that figure.
This season: Zero. Zilch. Nada.
The MVP conversation this year – or argument, depending on your zealousness – is less about which quarterback has excelled and more about who hasn’t stunk at one point or another. Which quarterback will struggle the least down the stretch and therefore outlast his peers?
Early in the season, Kyler Murray was the clear favorite. He marshaled the league’s best and last undefeated team. His play was electric. He had taken a clear, obvious leap. A coronation for the mobile, cannon-armed Murray felt in keeping with the evolution of the sport, and would follow the trend of the game’s best and brightest young quarterbacks winning an MVP early in their career.
Then Murray got injured. He has missed three games so far this season. Can a player who’s missed 17% of the available games be eligible for the award? What’s more valuable: Scorching the earth for 14…