The Rams' Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk both deserve to be the MVP
It's a cop-out No question. But there is not a Most Valuable Player in the NFL this season. There are two. It's a freaky, unprecedented thing, but they happen to play for the same team. After much tormented consideration, I present the MVPs for 2001.
Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk.
Indistinguishable in value: mammoth, irreplaceable value. When I submitted my vote to the Associated Press on Tuesday morning—50 media members cast ballots—I split my vote between the two St Louis stars. Who was better: Lincoln or Jefferson, Mozart or Bach? Who's the more valuable Ram? I couldn't choose. So I chose to split.
"There won't be many, if any, teams as good on offense ever again, with players as talented as these," St. Louis coach Mike Martz told me last week. "Do people realize they're watching one of the great quarterbacks ever? And a back who will take his place as one of the best ever?"
I was a Warner guy, narrowly, until the Rams' regular-season finale, a 31-13 win over the Falcons that capped a 14-2 season. My reason: Despite throwing the third-most interceptions in the league (22), he had the second-most-prolific passing season ever—4,830 yards, along with 36 touchdown passes—and served as the triggerman for the best offense, and the best team, in the league. I've never seen anyone throw the deep ball more accurately, and no team throws it deep more often than St. Louis. Plus, Warner's 68.7% completion rate was three points higher than that of any other quarterback in the league. "Hands down, this is my best season," Warner, the 1999 MVP, said the day before completing 25 passes in 30 attempts with three touchdowns against Atlanta. Then, in a rare display of bravado he added, "Week in, week out, would the Packers be when they are without Brett Favre? I don't think so. I feel the same way about my value to this team."
The sad thing about selecting an MVP is that you exalt your guy at the expense of other worth candidates. Not this year. The only popular pick I couldn't support was the Steelers' terrific quarter back, Kordell Stewart, who wasn't even the MVP of his own team a midseason. (Running back Jerome Bettis was.) There were four other bona fide candidates. San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia, who has as much impact as predecessors Joe Montana and Steve Young, keyed the Niners' drive to 12-4. Favre, playing like the man who won an unprecedented three straight MVPs in the mid-'90s, threw for 3,921 yards and had 17 more touchdown passes (32) than interceptions. If the Raiders hadn't suffered such a precipitous drop-off in their performance down the stretch, quarterback Rich Gannon would have been right there.
Then there's Faulk. Privately, he thought the two games he missed with a knee bruise would kill his chances for a second straight MVP. But, oh, those 14 games he played! He averaged 153 rushing and receiving yards, just three fewer than he did during his remarkable season in 2000. He's the first NFL player to have 2,000 yards from scrimmage in four consecutive seasons. He'd be a Pro Bowl wideout if he chose that lot. Faulk bolstered his candidacy with a 226-yard day against the Falcons. "I'd vote Faulk," Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking said. "I'll have nightmares all off-season about the cuts he made on me. I've never played against anyone like him."
Spurrier's New Challenge
Former Gator Will Find a Way
Every time Steve Spurrier's name came up in connection with an NFL job in recent years, people around the league would mention his addiction to golf and his reluctance to put in long hours day in and day out. In fact, a source close to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says that when the two spoke about the Washington coaching job last year, Spurrier told him, "I'm not going to be one of those coaches who stays till midnight."