MVP talk should include New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees

Posted by Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune December 22, 2008 10:54PM

Saints quarterback Drew Brees will complete one of the greatest seasons by any player in NFL history Sunday and likely will have nothing to show for it.

No division title.

No playoff berth.

Not even an individual honor, other than a run-of-the-mill backup spot in the Pro Bowl.

How unjust.

Not since Eric Dickerson ran for an NFL single-season record 2,105 yards in 1984 and was snubbed for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors has an individual player accomplished more and been rewarded less.

And that year, Dickerson had the misfortune of breaking the rushing record the same year Dan Marino set the single-season mark for passing yards in a season with 5,084 yards.

But there’s no one close to having a Dickerson- or Marino-like season this year. Yet Brees still is being dismissed.

Heck, Brees wasn’t even selected to start for the NFC in the Pro Bowl. That honor went to the Arizona Cardinals’ Kurt Warner. Has anyone seen Warner play the past month?

Even more amazing, Brees isn’t even being mentioned in the discussion about finalists for the award. Has the entire media corps who covers the league lost its collective mind?

The only quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for more than 4,800 yards in a season are Marino (5,084 yards in 1984), Warner (4,830 in 2001) and Tom Brady (4,806 in 2007) and Dan Fouts (4,802 in 1981). All but Fouts were chosen MVP.

With 4,683 yards, Brees might not catch Marino’s hallowed record against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at the Superdome, but he almost certainly will pass the other three for second. He has a decent chance to reach 5,000 yards, which would be a significant milestone in itself.

Yet, thanks to some squandered games earlier this season, the Saints’ failure to make the playoffs will cost him the award that rightfully should be his.

And that’s flat-out wrong.

The voters should be ashamed.

Journalists pride themselves on mining for facts and researching subjects in-depth, but when the major awards come along these days — seemingly regardless of sport — the process follows an almost mindless process.

The voters scan the league standings for the teams with the best records, then pick the players on those teams with the best stats. The last MVP to play for a non-playoff team was Boomer Esiason in 1987. The last Offensive Player of the Year from a non-playoff team was Priest Holmes in 2002.

I understand the thought process. The best players lift their teams to victory and championships.


But if anyone has followed Brees even remotely this season, they would know he has almost single-handedly — single-armedly? — lifted an injury-riddled, fair-to-middling outfit to within one win of the playoffs.

Take him off the Saints, and they win, what, three or four games, maybe?

The Saints do not have a Pro Bowler at any other position and have 17 players on the injured reserve list.

Brees’ two projected main receiving targets — Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey — missed five games each because of injury. His main check-down receiver Reggie Bush will have missed essentially seven games after next week. Deuce McAllister, who is coming back from double knee surgery, and fullback Mike Karney also have missed games because of injuries.

The lone phase of the team that is primarily responsible for passing is ranked No.¤1 in the league. The Saints’ offense is ranked No.¤1 in scoring and yardage.

No other phase of the team is ranked in the top half of the league except for the return games.

Yet, Brees hasn’t missed a beat — or an open receiver. He’s completed 65 percent of his passes and thrown for at least 216 yards in every game this season. He’s passed for 300 or more yards nine times; 400 or more yards twice. He has been sacked a league-low 11 times and thrown a club-record 30 touchdown passes.

And he has done it all while competing in the toughest division in the NFL. If the Saints defeat the Panthers on Sunday, the NFC South will become the first division to finish with four teams with winning records since the league went to the 16-game schedule in 1978.

His detractors might point to Brees’ high interception total (16) or sub-par fourth quarter efficiency rating (82.4 with six interceptions). But other than that awful fourth quarter against the Buccaneers, he has been a model of consistency all season. It’s the body of work that counts.

But Brees’ season has been about more than just numbers.

His leadership has been one of the key reasons the Saints have avoided the locker dramas that have beset other similarly disappointing teams (See: Dallas, San Diego). The sheer force of Brees’ personality in the locker room will not let it happen. Brees is the best kind of leader. He talks the talk then walks the walk — Monday through Sunday.

Clearly, his spectacular season deserves to be recognized, if not with the MVP then at the very least with the Offensive Player of the Year award.

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