Earlier, we did a blind stat test of the MVP candidates at quarterback. Now, I’m going to present the most similar seasons, once we adjust for era. This is done using the era-adjusting scores at pro-football-reference. Interceptions, for example, have dropped dramatically over the last thirty years, and what used to be a good interception total seems ordinary today. Completion percentage continues to climb rapidly. Yards per attempt has increased as well, and teams simply throw the ball more than they used to, as a result.
Here are the most similar seasons, once we compare and adjust to the changing league averages over time, for each of the MVP candidates, to show what has and has not prevailed in the past.
How many won MVP? Zero.
How were these seasons most like Rodgers? Almost every QB on here won 10 games. Era-adjusted, the completion percentages, sack rates, and adjusted net yards per attempt were almost identical. This group was actually better at yards per attempt than Rodgers.
How were these seasons most different than Rodgers? There simply are no seasons like this with an extremely high touchdown rate and low interception rate, but otherwise average yards per attempt. Rodgers’ TD rate was better than the group as a whole.
Why could he win the MVP? He’s Aaron Rodgers. He just went on an insane 6 game run to make the playoffs after a 4-6 start. He ended up leading the league in total TDs (though Ryan had a better rate, because of fewer attempts), and that nice round 40 number is something voters can point to.
Why could he miss out? The yards per attempt is historically low for a MVP winner. Ten wins is historically low for a MVP winner at the QB position in the modern era. Most MVP’s dominate in several statistical categories and are on teams that have byes. Rodgers is the only one playing wildcard weekend.
How many similar seasons won MVP? Three. Tom Brady in 2010, Joe Theismann in 1983 and Ken Anderson in 1981.
How were these seasons most like Prescott? Overall, a lot like him other than, era-adjusted, he threw slightly fewer passes as a rookie, and had a slightly lower TD rate.
How were these seasons most different than Prescott? The touchdown rate, and overall touchdowns, were the primary difference.
Why could he win the MVP? Dallas surged to the playoffs with Dak performing admirably as a rookie. They went 13-2 in games he started and finished, and had a great record in close games.
Why could he miss out? 23 touchdowns passing would be historically low for a MVP. The three most similar seasons that won the award had 36, 29 and 29 TD passes, and that could be the differentiator.
How many similar seasons won MVP? Two. Steve McNair (co-MVP) in 2003 and Ken Anderson in 1981.
How were these seasons most like Brady? Similar era-adjusted rate stats in yards per attempt, completions, and TD rate. Similar number of wins.
How were these seasons most different than Brady? The QBs on the list include guys who missed parts of seasons, but the average games played was 14. The interceptions for Brady are historically low, though with era adjustment, come in below DeBerg’s 1990 season and similar to Staubach and Anderson (interceptions were far more common then).
Why could he win the MVP? Best team in the league. Went 11-1 upon return. Dominant statistically on a per game basis. He’s Tom Brady.
Why could he miss out? Several of those seasons just barely missed out on the MVP, though there are plenty of notable ones on this list. Voters could likewise ding him for a few missed games as a result of the Deflategate suspension.
How many similar seasons won MVP? Seven. Aaron Rodgers (2011 and 2014), Kurt Warner (1999), Brett Favre (1995), Steve Young (1994), Joe Montana (1989), Boomer Esiason (1988).
How were these seasons most like Ryan? Pretty similar in completion percentage, touchdown rate, interception rate, and sack rate.
How were these seasons most different than Ryan? Ryan actually has the best yards per attempt of any of these historic seasons, with the closest being three that won MVP (Montana, Esiason, Rodgers in 2011). His 11 wins is slightly below average (the group averaged 12).
Why could he win the MVP? Statistically, a season like what Matt Ryan just had wins MVP. He led in yards per attempt. He led in touchdown rate and threw 38 touchdowns. His interception totals are good. The Falcons led the league in scoring, by a wide margin, and surged to a first-round bye in the NFC.
Why could he miss out? Brand name, going up against Rodgers and Brady. The Falcons led in scoring, but were only 4-4 in close games and Ryan didn’t have any defining guarantees like Rodgers, even though Atlanta closed strong with the weakest part of their schedule.