Another year has gone by where we debate numerous other candidates, only to have an obvious choice emerge. While much of the year has been, variously, focusing on Matthew Stafford’s comebacks, Derek Carr’s emergence with the Raiders, or Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott powering the Cowboys, one player is on the cusp of history.
That person is Sam Bradford, who is about to set the completion percentage mark for a single season.
No, just kidding, though Bradford really is about to set that mark, and hopefully show forever that standing alone, completion percentage is pretty worthless, but way overvalued in the passer rating stat.
That person is Matt Ryan, who is averaging 9.3 yards per attempt. A handful of quarterbacks, going back to the really old days, have averaged more than that. Since the league went to a 16-game schedule, though, no one has averaged more than Ryan while throwing at least 350 passes. Kurt Warner averaged 9.9 yards per pass in 2000 while missing 6 games; Chris Chandler averaged 9.6 while missing two games with Atlanta in 1998. Then, you have Ryan, now slightly ahead of Aaron Rodgers’ 2011 MVP numbers.
A list of guys who averaged at least 8.8 yards per attempt while throwing at least 350 passes includes Ryan, six MVPs (Rodgers, Esiason, Manning, Marino, Montana, and Warner), and Lynn Dickey’s crazy 1983 season that really deserves its own book.
And it’s not just the sheer amount of yards. The Falcons are lapping the field in points scored. The difference between Atlanta and Oakland (3rd in league) in scoring is greater than the difference between Oakland and the 23rd highest scoring team. Ryan has only thrown 7 interceptions, leads the league in touchdown rate and passer rating and pretty much everything else.
The last time I looked, Ryan was still slightly behind Tom Brady in my projections, but using the historical statistical indicators of who wins MVP, he is now #1. The only category that has mattered where he is not top 2 is team wins, but Atlanta has climbed to 9-5 and now looks like they should be in the playoffs.
Here are the quarterbacks who rank highest in those categories. I think the voting right now is Ryan, Brady, and Rodgers. But unless Atlanta just stop scoring, I think Ryan locks it up.
That accounts for the quarterback candidates. I know there are Ezekiel Elliott proponents, but I don’t think he has had one of those all-time historic seasons that we’ve seen from the top backs that broke through and won MVP in the last 30 years. I think blowing away the field and challenging records is necessary for a running back to leap a quarterback on the top scoring team, putting up numbers like Ryan. Elliott will win the rushing title, but not with eye-popping numbers challenging 2,000 yards. The touchdowns are not extreme. David Johnson now leads in yards from scrimmage, and Le’Veon Bell in yards per game.
My predictions are:
- Matt Ryan
- Tom Brady
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Aaron Rodgers