I don't like putting five quarterbacks on my final list of the year, but I had to put the five most indispensable guys here ... and if I had to put a sixth, I'd likely put Romo ahead of Darrelle Revis and Chris Johnson.
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. To sum up for those who haven't followed this section this year: Manning wins because he broke in two new receivers (Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon), had the most accurate year of his career, with the second-most yards, despite throwing away much of two games at the end ... and the Colts started 14-0. Not only would this be his fourth MVP award if the actual results match mine -- the most any player has won -- but also it'd be his fourth in one decade.
2. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego. Another triggerman for a team with a double-digit win streak and a just-OK run game. This is the year Rivers joined the elite of NFL quarterbacks -- and it's not going to be for just a little while.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. Brees broke the single-season record for accuracy by a quarterback by sitting Sunday ... even though three decimal places will say he actually tied Ken Anderson's 1982 record of completing 70.6 percent of his passes. The exact numbers give Brees the edge. He completed 70.62 percent his passes (363 of 514) this year, as opposed to 70.55 percent (218-309) for Anderson in 1982. Even though he sat, Brees still played six more games than Anderson in 1982 because of the players' strike that shortened that season to nine games.
4. (tie) Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota. His most accurate season (.682), and tied for his best touchdown-to-interception differential (plus-26). An amazing year for a guy who was convinced Aug. 1 he wasn't playing.
4. (tie) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. Poetic justice, isn't it, that Rodgers pulls even with Favre in the final week of the year. Don't know if anyone else will do it today, but I think it's due: Eighteen months ago, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy got roundly taken to the cleaners in the court of public opinion, but now that Rodgers has turned into a top-flight quarterback, I just think it's time to say those guys knew what they were doing.
Stat of the Week
Aaron Rodgers had Bob Lanier shoes to fill when he took the field for the Packers in September 2008, replacing Favre. Packer Nation either said good riddance to Favre (some), the front office is foolish for dumping Favre (maybe half), we're worried as heck about Rodgers (most), or some combination of those. Worry no more. After two regular seasons, Rodgers is not only a capable replacement, but also bordering on being prolific.
Take a look at the combined numbers for Favre's first two MVP years and Rodgers' first two as a starter:
They're about equally efficient. Favre was more explosive and won more. Rodgers ran better and was slightly more accurate. If you compared apples to apples -- Favre's first two starting seasons (not his first two MVP seasons, but his first two shaky starting seasons) and Rodgers' same two -- the one thing that would stick out is Rodgers' plus-37 TD-to-interception differential and Favre's plus-0.
Bottom line: Rodgers is off to a fabulous start, by any measure. Think of the men who replaced legendary passers of recent vintage like Joe Montana (Steve Young), Dan Marino (Jay Fiedler), John Elway (Brian Griese), Dan Fouts (Stan Humphries, eventually), Troy Aikman (Quincy Carter), and Jim Kelly (Rob Johnson). Young's the only star of the lot.
Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me
My favorite 2010 scheduling notes:
Eli at Peyton. A Manning Bowl for the first time ever in Indianapolis.
The Pats and Colts change venues. First there were five straight New England-Indy games in Foxboro. Now there have been four straight in Indiana. Next year, it shifts back to New England.
Brutal sked for the Pats: Indy, Minnesota, Green Bay, Cincinnati and Baltimore at home; San Diego and Pittsburgh on the road.
Giants at Vikes for the third straight year. Does the NFL dare make it a Week 17 game for the third straight year?
If Bill Cowher coaches the Bucs, he'll face his former team, the Steelers, in Tampa.
There'll be three Favre Bowls, if he returns to the Vikes: Vikes at Pack, Pack at Vikes, Vikes at Jets. Fireman Ed will be hoarse after that third one.
Speaking of reunion games, Albert Haynesworth's Redskins at Tennessee.
Local Drama Dept.: Oakland at San Francisco, Dallas at Houston, Kansas City at St. Louis.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
A cheap travel note. It involves only walking -- 25 minutes on New Year's Day from my apartment in Boston's South End to Fenway Park. But that was the walk each way to the NHL Winter Classic, Bruins versus Flyers, and it was a great day. First, the best thing was standing on the field while the teams walked out for warmups. Everybody smiling. Tim Thomas, the Bruins' goalie, smiling. The Bruins coaches smiling. NHL brass smiling. Jon Miller, the NBC exec whose brainchild this great idea was, pulled out his phone and asked me to take a picture of him, smiling, by the side of the rink.
There's something to be said for a sports event where everyone's happy, even the fans of the losing team. And I must have seen 10 Flyers fans taking photos outside Fenway after the game. Just a cool, feel-good event that was a gas to attend.
Tweet of the Week
"Ted Williams he ain't.''
Williams woke up on Sept. 28, 1941, the final day of the baseball regular season, batting .399955. If he sat out a doubleheader that day against the Philadelphia Athletics, he'd have gone in the books with a .400 batting average. Manager Joe Cronin asked him what he wanted to do -- play or sit. Williams said, of course, he'd play, and in the first game of the doubleheader at Fenway Park, he went four for five, raising his average to .404. Between games, Cronin went to Williams again, asking him if was sure he wanted to play the second game. Williams said he was sure. In game two, Williams went two for three, raising his average to .406. So on the last day of the season, Williams, ensured of hitting .400 if he sat, played and had six hits in eight at-bats. No one has hit .400 since. No one's come within 10 points of Williams. The closest was Tony Gwynn, in 1994, with a .394 average.
Apropos of nothing, Williams didn't win the MVP that year. Joe DiMaggio did, getting 15 of 24 first-place votes by the baseball writers. That was the year DiMaggio had the 56-game hitting streak. The MVP wasn't a rob job, but consider that Williams got eight of 24 first-place votes for batting .406 and leading the league in home runs and having an on-base percentage (.553) more than 100 points higher than anyone in baseball that year.
I'm not equating the accuracy record with batting .400, just making a point about what Williams did. But it is coincidental that the accuracy record is not one of the all-timers people remember. In 1982, kicker Mark Moseley won the MVP (he kicked 20 of 21 field goals) in a pretty bad year for MVP candidates. In 2009, I would expect Brees to finish second or third behind Peyton Manning and perhaps Philip Rivers.
NFL Truth & Rumors