In the final part of our “Matt Ryan deserves the MVP and there’s really not a big debate here” series, we take a look at the other potential candidates, and explain why Ryan should be a clear favorite over each. We’ve already looked at Ryan’s statistics on the year, and examined the criticisms he’s received. Hopefully, this comparison against the most viable candidates will close out this convincing case for the Falcons QB.
There’s little doubt that Dak Prescott, the QB for the Dallas Cowboys, had one of the greatest rookie QB seasons ever. He finished with a 104.9 passer rating, while completing 67.8% of his passes for 3,667 yards, 23 TDs and a meager 4 INTs. By every metric, he had a remarkable season. He also finished 11th on the PFF list with a very respectable 83.3 grade and finished 4th in Football Outsiders DYAR metric and third in DVOA. On ESPN’s Total QBR chart, he was also third on the year. Again, a truly remarkable rookie season from the young signal caller.
If anything, Prescott should be a front-runner for rookie of the year. However, his case for MVP is held back by several significant factors. First, fellow teammate Ezekiel Elliott also had an impressive rookie year, bringing into question how you can separate one from the other in trying to determine value to their team. Second, while Prescott’s numbers are very impressive, he’s not first (or even second) in any major categories. Finally, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Prescott played behind one of the best offensive lines in football. That shouldn’t necessarily be held against Prescott, but it is a large component of his success (and Elliott) that other candidates did not have.
As with his fellow rookie above, Ezekiel Elliott has had a phenomenal season. Elliott is easily an offensive player of the year candidate and offensive rookie of the year candidate.
That said, the case against Elliott is similar to the one against Prescott. Additionally, it is historically very difficult for running backs to get consideration for MVP (right or wrong). Generally, it takes a record breaking season (see: Adrian Peterson in 2012) for a running back to get consideration. As good as Elliott’s season has been, he’s nowhere near the benchmark for consideration.
Of all the candidates, this is the one that I personally believe has the weakest case. The biggest argument I’ve seen in his favor is “the Raiders would definitely not win games without him.” Wouldn’t that be the case for almost any starting QB in the league though (except maybe for Tom brady cough cough)?
Statistically, Carr just doesn’t have a strong case. He was 8th in passer rating (96.7), 8th in TDs (28), 15th in completion percentage (63.8) and 18th in yards per attempt (7.0).
I see why Derek Carr would make sense over Matt Ryan for MVP— secondhand gauravade (@gvedak) December 29, 2016
Advanced stats don’t do him any favors either. He’s 6th on PFF’s list for the year, and ranked 16th in ESPN Total QBR. He was 7th in DYAR and 6th in DVOA.
While Carr had a very nice season and has a great future with the Raiders, his MVP consideration is backed by very little statistically.
Tom Brady may be the most controversial candidate of any on this list. Missing the first four games due to a suspension (justified or not), his team was able to go 3-1 without him. Additionally, Brady played with a defense that allowed the fewest points per game in 2016. Ryan’s defense allowed nearly 10 more points per game on the year.
That’s not to say that Brady’s season was not impressive. He was easily one of the best QBs in the league this year. His 28 TDs and 2 INTs was an incredible ratio and his stats over 12 games were incredible, but they weren’t significantly better than what Ryan and Rodgers were able to do. On the year, Brady finished first in PFF rankings, but was 5th in DYAR and 2nd in DVOA. He was also second in ESPN’s Total QBR, which doesn’t penalize players for missed games.
Some fans don’t want to admit that Brady should be a viable candidate, but he is. He’s had an incredible season. That said, Ryan is still ahead of him in most metrics even on a per game basis. When you consider that Ryan faced a tougher schedule and tougher defensive schedule, Ryan should still come out on top when comparing these two QBs.
Plus, a direct comparison of teams they both played in 2016 really tells the tale:
Of all the candidates on this list, I personally believe Rodgers has the strongest case (other than Ryan of course). His 6 game stretch to finish the season was fantastic, though I do think it was over-stated somewhat. In fact, Ryan was nearly as good in the same time frame.
Sorry Packers fans: the "run the table" stretch was STILL better for Ryan than Rodgers (from Bill Barnwell's excellent article) pic.twitter.com/p2tLvV7T08— DW (@FalcoholicDW) January 2, 2017
Statistically, Rodgers has been very good this year, though. Even with his rough stretch to start the season, he still finished 4th in QB Rating (104.2), 1st in TDs (40) and 4th in yards (4,428). However, his yards/attempt averge of 7.3 put him at 13th on the season.
In advanced stats, Rodgers finished 3rd in PFF rankings, 6th in DYAR, 8th in DVOA and was the number 4 QB in ESPN’s Total QBR.
Yet, many that are arguing for Rodgers do so outside of stats. They claim he’s far more important to his team than Ryan is to his, which is nearly impossible to quantify. Some have argued that Rodgers made more difficult throws all year, which is simply not true.
The average Ryan play gained more than 1 yard in excess of the average Rodgers play. Ryan had fewer short gains and more longer gains. pic.twitter.com/j1MB0G5Bje— Ben B (@guga31bb) January 5, 2017
And if we’re being honest, Ryan has been just as instrumental to his team’s success. Take a look at this for comparison:
Record when team allows 30 points in 2016:— Ben B (@guga31bb) January 4, 2017
Matt Ryan: 4-2
Aaron Rodgers: 0-5
If we’re being honest, a large part of Rodgers recent surge into the MVP talk has to do with recency bias. There were articles written earlier this year wondering if his best years were behind him, or asking “What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers?” Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean Rodgers should be disqualified, as Ryan himself had a rough game or two on the season. What it does mean, though, is that Ryan has been more consistent throughout the season, which is hard to debate.
I have a tremendous regard for Aaron Rodgers. I think he’s easily one of the best QBs to have played. However, in 2016, I think Ryan has been slightly better and has done it for more of the season.
Despite what some fans are saying, most of the names on this list are legitimate MVP candidates. While I do believe Ryan has the most convincing case, he’s going up against some very good competition in the process. However, on a case by case basis, I think Ryan’s season stands out. While many of these players have undoubtedly been incredibly valuable to their respective teams, I believe Ryan has been instrumental in the success of his.