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Thursday Cheese Curds: Stories Win MVPs

Tom Brady is probably going to collect another MVP, but it won’t necessarily be because he had the most valuable season.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We’re headed down the homestretch of the 2021 season, and that means the national media will begin to turn its attention to awards. That means it’s as good a time as any to remind ourselves of one thing: the stories matter most.

Voters don’t pick players for awards based on their accomplishments. Look at the meaninglessness of “value” in the league’s Most Valuable Player discussion for your evidence to that point. “Value” typically just means “the quarterback with the best season,” which is a pretty good starting point. After all, quarterback is the most valuable position, and the quarterback that has the best season is probably the most valuable.

But “best season” is typically only understood to mean “best volume stats,” and that’s where we run into problems. Take Tom Brady, for instance. ESPN (as shown below) already seems to think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll win MVP, citing his league-leading passing yards, completions, and passing touchdown totals and the fact that he’s doing it at an advanced age as their evidence. And some advanced numbers support this position, but it’s also worth noting that Brady throws the ball more than any other QB, and he’s throwing to probably the best receiving corps in the NFL behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. Jameis Winston led the league in passing yards and was second in passing touchdowns and sixth in completions in similar circumstances just two years ago.

The point here is not to denigrate Brady. He’s having a very good season. But if (and probably when) he wins the MVP, remember it’s more likely because of a story people have told themselves is true, and not because he (or anyone else, really) is actually more valuable than anyone else.

NFL MVP watch 2021: Is Tom Brady running away with the race? We ranked the top candidates | ESPN

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