Credit where Credit is Due
The MVP trophy in any sport always goes to who is considered the best player in the league that year, and on their team. It is a measure of the players great accomplishments in comparison to the rest of the best in their league. The competition is always fierce, but every year a player is voted by the Associated Press and is deemed the best, In the NFL, the league is disgustingly biased towards quarterbacks in their voting, as in the league’s history, exactly one defensive player player won the MVP award, with a few cases of running backs able to win the award as well. The absolute dismissal of the defensive player in recognition is disrespectful, and must end as soon as possible. Without a defense with great players, the quarterback wouldn’t nearly have the same success as he would with a bad defense. A great defensive player creates opportunities for that great quarterback and team, as without those opportunities by that great defensive player, the quarterback cannot make his great plays possible.
The objective of any defense in the NFL is easy in concept. Get the opposing team’s offense off the field so the offense go and put points on the board. The best way to do that is to force a turnover. Whether it is a sack, fumble recovery, interception, or touchdown, the defense forcing turnovers is what provides an offense with the best chance to succeed. According to past history, a majority of MVP quarterbacks are those with defenses that force a good amount of turnovers. For example, in 2010, Tom Brady was the first unanimously voted MVP in NFL history, and had an amazing year leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Brady was undoubtedly great, but his defense gave him plenty of opportunities, as the 2010 New England Patriots were second in turnovers on defense. The 2010 New England Patriots had many great defensive players that season, however as with most great defenses, the defensive got a significant boost from their best player. According to Pro Football Reference, Devin McCourty, a defensive back, on his own forced nine of the 38 turnovers the Patriots forced as a team, as he had seven interceptions, and two forced fumbles. McCourty forced just a hair under a quarter of his team’s turnovers by himself, yet he wasn’t even considered as an MVP candidate as opposed to his quarterback teammate. Another prime example of a quarterback’s great offensive season overshadowing an even better and more valuable performance by a defensive player is the 2011 Green Bay Packers, and their MVP winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The great defensive performance that season was by future hall of fame defensive back Charles Woodson who, in comparison to McCourty mentioned before, had an even better year. In 2011, Woodson led the league in interceptions with seven, had two sacks, forced a fumble, and even scored a touchdown on defense, all at the age of 35. Woodson had an absolutely outstanding season at the very old age of 35 as a defensive back, yet he received no consideration for MVP. Also, due to the performance of the defense and Woodson, the Packers were also third in starting field position as a team, undeniably caused by the defensive contributions of Woodson. Woodson undeniably impacted his team the most that year, and was easily the best and most valuable player on the filed for his team. Yet despite his efforts, was never considered for MVP as his teammate took home the award.
Turnovers are crucial to winning a football game. It is also crucial to win MVP for a quarterback. In fact, for 75% of the teams in which the NFL MVP came from since the 2000 to 2017 seasons, the team was in the upper half of the league for turnovers. The NFL MVP must’ve had a defense providing plenty of opportunities for the offense, further cementing the fact that defenses and its stars deserve more credit, and are more valuable. If the defense provides more opportunities for the offense, the offense succeeds as a whole. Along with turnovers comes the field position that they provide. Usually when defenses give up points, the kickoff sets the offense on the 25 yard-line to start their next drive due to a touchback, unless the returner decides to make a return in which it could be more or less field position. However, if a turnover is made, a majority of the time the offense gets great field position. With great field position, not only can the defense demoralize the opponent after a turnover, the ability to score is so much easier. The less field you have to drive down, the easier it is to score, all caused by a great play made in the defense. Turnovers also negatively impact the opposing team’s defense as well. We’re all humans playing in the NFL, and we only have a certain amount of energy before we need a break to refresh and maintain our abilities. Whenever defenses force a turnover, that break the defense could so desperately need is cut short, and now they’re back on the field to try and stop that offense. With less time for a break however, their chances of stopping that offense diminish further. The quarterback cannot make plays and put up stats if never given enough opportunities. Additionally the quarterback can make more plays and given a better chance to put up numbers if given great field position. Lastly, opposing defenses cannot make plays if the great defenses always bring them back on the field.
However, undoubtedly the most biased and disrespectful case for a defensive player not winning MVP was for J.J Watt of the Houston Texans in 2014. J.J Watt accounted for a majority of the Houston Texan’s production in 2014, and was easily the main cause for their winning record. Watt had an unbelievable season in 2014, as he notched twenty and a half sacks, four forced fumbles, recovered five fumbles, lead the league in tackles for a loss with 29, scored a touchdown with an interception as a defensive lineman, and to top it all off, scored three more touchdowns playing offense. When has a NFL quarterback produced on both sides of the ball, dominating on one, and being quite productive on the other? J.J Watt was easily the most valuable player on any field in 2014, and while he did receive votes for MVP, he still ultimately lost out to Aaron Rodgers in 2014. Watt’s season was greater than Lawrence Taylor’s MVP season, in an era of more productive offenses, yet he still didn’t receive the credit he deserved.
Defensive stars are undoubtedly the best players on the field, and deserve more recognition for MVP. Not only due their defensive efforts cause more opportunities for the offense, defenses have the ability to score and put up points as well. It is time we recognize those truly great defensive seasons for what they are, a representation of the most valuable player on the field that season.
“2010 New England Patriots Statistics & Players.” Pro-Football-Reference.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/nwe/2010.htm.
“2011 Green Bay Packers Statistics & Players.” Pro-Football-Reference.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/gnb/2011.htm.
“J.J. Watt Stats.” Pro-Football-Reference.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/W/WattJ.00.htm.