In Week 16 of the 2011 season, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees set the record for most passing yards in a single season- surpassing Dan Marino's record that he set in 1984. Through 15 games Brees has thrown for 5,087 yards. Through 16 games in 1984, Marino threw for 5,084.
But let's break this down further.
First, it's a lot easier to throw in today's football than it was 30 years ago. The NFL has changed drastically it's really to make it easier for wide receivers to get separation and it makes it harder for defensive backs (or any defensive player) to touch and cover their intended receiver. What Dan Marino did in 1984 is like what Babe Ruth did in 1927. Ruth hit 60 home runs when the rest of the league was hitting 12. Marino putting up the numbers he did at the time he did it in was that much more incredible.
Second, Drew Brees throws it a lot. I mean A LOT. Drew Brees currently leads the NFL in pass attempts with 622. He averages 1.2 more pass attempts per game than second place (Matthew Stafford- and the Lions have spent a lot of games down big by halftime/the 3rd quarter) and 3.067 more attempts per game than third place (Tom Brady). Brees' 2011 season currently ranks him 10th all time among passing attempts.
Having that many attempts hurts Brees tremendously. Through advanced statistics in all sports, we know now that it is not the absolute numbers you put up, but how you get to your total numbers that's most important. Leading the league in strike outs is not very impressive if you also happen to lead the league in innings pitched as well. What's more important is strikeouts per 9 innings as well as strike out to walk ratio. Keep this analogy in mind as we'll get to it later.
Drew Brees was able to set the single season passing record just because he threw it so damn much. Like K/9, the most important statistic for quarterbacks is not total passing yards but rather yards per attempt. Currently, Drew Brees ranks only SIXTH in YPA behind Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, and Carson Palmer. Ranking outside the top five in a single season for YPA is not very impressive in the least. This statistic alone should take Brees out of MVP discussions.
However, we're going to go further. Like K/BB ratio for pitchers, quarterbacks have TD/INT ratio. Pitchers can get away with not striking a lot of guys out if they also do not walk very many guys (see: most Minnesota Twins pitchers since Johan Santana left). Likewise, it's possible to get away with walking very many guys if you have the ability to strike guys out with batters on base. In baseball, one of the worst things a pitcher can do is walk a batter. We know know that's it's all about on base percentage (and not batting average) for hitters. Likewise for football, one of the worst things a quarterback can do is turn the ball over. Turn overs have been proven to be one of the leading factors to determine which teams wins the ball game. Also, a QB can make up for his turnovers if he's able to score a lot of touchdowns.
Wow! This analogy is perfect *pats himself on the back*
Through 15 games, Drew Brees currently has 13 interceptions and 41 touchdowns. This is good for a 3.15 TD/INT ratio. Anything above 2:1 is impressive so Brees has a fantastic TD/INT ratio. However, Brees currently ranks 4th in this category in 2011 behind Aaron Rodgers (7.5), Tom Brady (3.27), Tony Romo (3.22), and Alex Smith (3.20).
But wait Adam, Brees currently on pace to set the single season mark for most completions? Shouldn't that count for something?
Yes, random naysayer I just made up, yes it does. That completion percentage is another amazing accomplishment. Right now Brees has a completion percentage of 71.2%. Who's in second place? Bress and his 2009 season when he completed 70.6% of his passes (as well as Ken Anderson in 1982 when he also completed 70.6% of his passes).
However, I would be more impressed with that completion percentage if 1) It wasn't painfully obvious the percentage was a result of Sean Payton's system and 2) if New Orleans did not have three out of the top 15 receivers in terms of yards after the catch. Two of which are running backs and the third one being a tight end.
New Orleans running back Darren Sproles currently leads the league in YAC with 649, running back Pierre Thomas is 12th with 443 and tight end Jimmy Graham is 15th with 407.
What this tells me is that Drew Brees gets a lot of completions coming from dink and dumps and easy passes over the middle. While I would rather have my quarterback completing passes than not completing passes, if I'm going to say a quarterback absolutely deserves to win the MVP, he needs to not derive so much of his value from being Chad Pennington-esque.
What's even more telling about Drew Brees and his MVP chances if that he ranks 3rd in terms of DVOA (a metric that measures how valuable a player is per play), 3rd in WPA/game, and 2nd in EPA/game (WPA and EPA are metrics that takes into account not only total yards and such but time in the game, down, and distance. Think about it- a 3 yard gain is more impressive on 4th and 2 late in the 4th quarter than on 1st and 10 early in the first. WPA and EPA takes things like that into consideration).
Despite all my Drew Brees bashing that I have just done, do not get it twisted and think that I hate Drew Brees. I do not. Brees' 2011 season has been stellar and amazing and I would love for Brees and his system to be on the team that I root for. Brees absolutely deserved his Pro Bowl berth and he should get all the kudos in the world for having a great season in 2011. What I am saying is that he does not deserve to be the MVP.
That honor belongs to (ugh, this pains me to say as a Bears fan): Aaron Rodgers. First of all, there has been only two seasons where a quarterback has had a TD/INT ratio of over 6:1- Tom Brady in 2010 (9:1) and Tom Brady in 2007 (6.25:1). As mentioned earlier, Aaron Rodgers has a TD/INT ratio of 7.5:1. ESPN and the shitty hype machine that it is should be making a much bigger deal of Aaron Rodger's TD/INT ratio than of Drew Brees' single season passing record.
Rodgers currently leads the NFL in: TD/INT ratio, passing touchdowns, passer rating, QBR, Yards Per Attempt, DVOA, and EPA. That also doesn't take into account his 257 rushing yards (4.3 YPC) and 3 rushing touchdowns. Rodgers is also 2nd in DYAR (total passing value) and WPA. To add to that, Rodgers has a sub par offensive line. According to Football Outsides, the Green Bay Packers have the 23rd ranked passing O-line (In contrast, the New Orleans Saints have the 3rd best). PLUS, Rodgers passes the eye test with flying colors. Every time I see Rodgers play it looks like every ball he throws should be completed. Every pass looks right on the money and I am baffled to as how Rodgers doesn't have a 100% completion percentage.
There should be no co-MVP in 2011 and Drew Brees should not get any first place votes for MVP. This award is Aaron Rodgers' award and HE should get every single first place vote. I don't care that the Packers lost a game. If you're gonna be that petty then I'll point out Drew Brees and the Saints lost to the St. Louis Rams. THE 2-13 RAMS! (as well as two others- including Aaron Rodger's Packers). You are a very good and talented QB Drew Brees but I'm sorry, 2011 is NOT your year.