Aaron Rodgers still has two Most Valuable Player awards on his shelf, but he was unable to add a third to his collection this year.
At Saturday’s NFL Honors on the eve of Super Bowl LI, the league announced the winner of the Most Valuable Player award, as voted on by the Associated Press. The award went to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who earns his first such honor.
quarterback Tom Brady and Rodgers were thought to be contenders for the award, but ultimately it was Ryan’s availability and dominance for the entire 2016 season that gave him the edge. The Falcons’ offense led the NFL in scoring with a whopping 34 points per game, and Ryan was the driver for that offense.
Rodgers started slowly again this season, before picking up his game around midseason. However, it was his “run the table” comment with six games left in the season that got the narrative and focus shifting somewhat in his direction. Rodgers backed up his comment over those final six games of the regular season; as the Packers did indeed win their final six games, he completed 71% of his passes for 1,667 yards (8.34 yards per attempt) and 15 touchdowns against no interceptions.
However, those rate numbers for that six-game stretch didn’t even quite compare to what Ryan did all season long. He completed 70% of his passes on the year, while maintaining an astounding 9.3 yards per attempt - a number that was even better than Rodgers’ career-high 9.2 in his 2011 MVP season. And even though Rodgers threw two more touchdown passes over the whole season (40 to 38), the two players’ volumes were so different that Ryan had a significant lead in touchdown percentage (7.1% to 6.6%).
The narrative might have been stronger for Rodgers, at least down the stretch in the season, and different definitions of “most valuable” always get debated at this time of year. However, if you subscribe to the “best player” theory, Ryan probably is the right choice.