Why wait another month to name a league MVP? Tom Brady wins, and he wins in a landslide.
But I'm not interested in the obvious. I'm more intrigued by who finishes second. Sure, Brady should be a unanimous choice, but if he isn't then who finishes second?
|MVP? No, Brett Favre and Tony Romo will have to settle for hearty handshakes. (US Presswire)|
They're not included, and for good reason: I mean, how can you have two guys on the same team in the running for MVP? You can't. Two MVPs mean you don't have one, so let the balloting begin.
These are my five favorites to serve under Brady:
Brett Favre, quarterback, Green Bay
All I heard this summer is how the guy should retire. Well, thank goodness he listened to himself and not radio talk. All he has done is put the Packers back on the map. They're one of the two best teams in the NFC and one of the top four in football, and it's no coincidence that in the one game he was hurt the Pack lost. Anyway, you can't watch Green Bay this season and not marvel at Favre. It's not just his energy that's so appealing; it's his ability to dial up big plays on command, like that 82-yard bomb on the first play of overtime in Denver. So what's new? He has five touchdown passes of 40 or more yards this season, the third best performance of his career. So Favre is getting older. He's getting better, too. The guy is on schedule to set single-season highs in completions, yards, passer rating and completion percentage. More important, he has the Packers on top of their division and set for a drive deep into the playoffs. Valuable? No. He's invaluable.
Tony Romo, quarterback, Dallas
OK, I confess. I wasn't sold on him coming into the season. I kept looking at that swoon down the stretch last season when the Cowboys lost four of their last five, including a playoff defeat in Seattle, and wondering how good Romo really was. I think we have our answer. He has become not only a poised and effective quarterback, he has become the best Cowboys quarterback since Hall of Famer Troy Aikman and one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons. Question: Any idea who leads the league in yards per completion? You're looking at him. I love Romo's energy, too, but, mostly, I love his ability to produce under duress. Against the Packers, he uncorked four scoring passes -- one of four games this season where he has thrown four TDs. OK, so he flinched against Buffalo early in the season, but he overcame his mistakes to rally the Cowboys to a last-minute victory. He also has the Cowboys off to a franchise best 11-1 start and ranks second to Brady in passing efficiency. Yeah, I know, he has a lot of weapons. But so did Drew Bledsoe, and look where it got the Cowboys. Romo can run. He can pass. He can create. Best of all, he can win. Again. Again. And again.
Jeff Garcia, quarterback, Tampa Bay
|Jeff Garcia's swashbuckling play is well suited for a team called the Buccaneers. (US Presswire)|
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Indianapolis
Yeah, I know, his numbers aren't what you expect. But neither is his offensive line. Or his wide receivers. Manning is having a marvelous season -- one of the best, I believe, of his career -- because he has risen above a mountain of adversity. It's adversity created by the losses of many of his teammates, including wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who hasn't suited up in seven of the past eight games. Yet the Colts are the next-best thing to New England, and Manning is the biggest reason why. He's not only a great quarterback, he's a great leader. He doesn't have his usual assortment of receivers and he has had to absorb more hits than in previous years, yet he continues to push his club to critical victories. In fact, were it not for Adam Vinatieri's misfire in San Diego, the Colts would be 11-1. Too often I think we overlook the value of star players like Manning, but this season it's easy to appreciate him for what he is: The glue that keeps his team together. Tell me where the Colts would be without him, and I'll tell you that's why Peyton Manning is always in the MVP conversation.
Derek Anderson, quarterback, Cleveland
Admit it: You had the Browns ticketed for last in their division. So did I. Now they're one of the most successful reconstruction projects, and there is no way it could've happened without Anderson. Surprised? Count the Browns in there with you. They thought so little of the guy they drafted Brady Quinn, then started the season with Charlie Frye in the huddle and Anderson on the bench. But luckily for Cleveland, that didn't last long. Anderson is 7-4 as a starter and has more touchdown passes (24) than everyone but Brady, Romo and Ben Roethlisberger. It wasn't until he led the Browns to a come-from-behind victory against Baltimore on Nov. 18 that I fully appreciated what he means to the Browns. Yes, Phil Dawson won that game with a couple of critical field goals, but he wouldn't have had a chance to nail the game-tying kick without Anderson fighting off an apparent sack on the preceding play to rifle an 18-yard strike to Braylon Edwards. General manager Phil Savage already has said he will do everything he can to protect his restricted free agent from poaching, and I can see why. Anderson has done something none of his predecessors since 1999 could: He has given the Browns a pulse.
Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle, Tennessee
OK, so he missed three games. But that's the evidence of his value. When he plays the Titans win; when he doesn't they don't. You can look it up. Tennessee is 7-2 with Haynesworth and 0-3 without him. But this is what I like most: With him in the lineup the Titans allow an average of 72 yards rushing and 16 points; when he's missing those numbers jump to 158.7 yards rushing and an average of 32.3 points.