by Julian Spivey
I was shocked and disappointed on Wednesday night (Jan. 27) when scrolling through my Twitter feed and seeing video of Brooklyn Nets All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving participating in a jersey giveaway with rapper 2 Chainz, who was in attendance for the Nets game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
I hadn’t realized there were any NBA arenas yet opened to fans amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in this country. State Farm Arena just opened up eight percent capacity this week for fans to attend Hawks home games, which amounts to about 1,300 fans per game.
OK, social distancing with masks at eight percent capacity and a health survey upon contactless entrance is probably better than we’ve seen from many sporting events that have welcomed back fans to this point, but the sight of two of the leagues biggest stars without masks on palling around with those in attendance, sharing jerseys with them and fist bumping them (actual freakin’ contact!) is a horrible sign for the NBA.
Making matters even worse is this comes one day after the death of longtime NBA reporter Sekou Smith, who died at just 48 from COVID-19 on Tuesday (Jan. 26).
Before the game, the Hawks had honored Smith with a moment of silence and then as soon as the final horn sounded on the Nets 132-128 overtime win over Atlanta two of the leagues biggest stars flaunted their disregard for COVID-19 safety protocols.
Also, I’d be remised if I didn’t point out that Irving had just returned to the Nets one week ago after being out since January 5 for violating league COVID-19 protocols by attending an indoor family party without wearing a mask, which resulted in him losing out on almost $1 million after being fined $50,000 by the league for violating that policy and forfeiting his game salary for each game he missed during his mandated quarantine period. Durant had also missed a handful of games earlier this month after exposure to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.
The lack of caring these guys had on Wednesday night should draw some sort of criticism from league officials, though I’d be surprised if anything came of it.
The league, which successfully got through its 2020 playoffs in an isolated bubble in Orlando, Fla., has seen quite a bit of COVID-19 related issues since the 2020-2021 season began in late December with teams no longer competing in a bubble and being back at their home arenas and having to travel.
As of Wednesday, the league has seen 22 games postponed due to teams not being able to play dress the minimum eight players for a game due to positives or players who may have been exposed to positives. Just Wednesday night the Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies game was postponed. It was the sixth Grizzlies game postponed this season. The Washington Wizards have also had six games postponed thus far.
Things are so much up in the air with the NBA that the league didn’t even bother scheduling games for the second half of the season yet because they didn’t know what things would look like and how teams might have to rescheduled postponed games. Some teams are as much as a quarter of the way through their regular season schedules and don’t even know who they’re playing seven weeks from now.
I understand why the league is playing and I understand why a bubble didn’t quite make as much since for a 72-game regular season for each team plus the playoffs, but it’s not outlandish to believe players shouldn’t be fist bumping fans in attendance, no matter how many Grammy Awards they’ve been nominated for.
At the very least, Durant and Irving should act like they give a damn about what’s going on in the world and in their very own community.
by Julian Spivey
As a child it didn’t take long to figure out how great Henry Aaron was. He was the first name I’d find alphabetically in my Baseball Encyclopedia, back before David Aardsma came along. It just felt right that Hank came first. He was first all-time in baseball history in home runs and RBI, after all. And the encyclopedia showed that he played for my team – the Atlanta Braves – for almost the entirety of his career (beginning with the team when they played in Milwaukee). That was enough to interest a young boy into finding out as much as he could about the man, they called The Hammer.
When I was young – probably junior high, maybe early years of high school – I’d wake up early before having to go to school (or maybe it was summer) and flip on the living room television to ESPN Classic, which at that time showed truly remarkable classic sports programming like the 1960 syndicated show “Home Run Derby,” which was hosted by Mark Scott and I find myself dumbfounded now to realize only 26 episodes in 1960. Scott had died of a heart attack at 45 and the producers just decided to end the show.
This was a precursor to the Home Run Derby we know of now during All-Star Week where today’s sluggers see how many homers they can hit in a short amount of time, but it was similar. Taped at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, which was built by the same designer of the iconic Wrigley Field in Chicago and sort of a downsized version of it, the show pitted the sluggers of the day in a nine-inning home run contest to see who could smash the most balls over the fence. “Home Run Derby” featured future hall of famers such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Matthews, Frank Robinson and Duke Snider, as well as many other players of the era. The winner of the game would receive a check for $2000 and be invited back the next week to face a new contestant and could receive $500 bonuses along the way for consecutive homers hit. Nobody was better at the baseball game show than Henry Aaron, who appeared a record seven times (with a 6-1 record) and won a record $13,500 on the show (keep in mind this was back in the day when ballplayers didn’t have multi-million dollar contracts they did today, so they likely pocketed the money).
I obviously never got a chance to see Aaron play baseball, as he retired 11 years before my birth, but my parents had the grand experience of seeing him play both on TV and in person growing up as children in Georgia. So, getting to see Aaron’s sweet swing on “Home Run Derby,” was mesmerizing for me, but the thing I remember most all these years later was that gigantic smile he had.
When I read his autobiography, I Had a Hammer, written with Lonnie Wheeler, sometime shortly after that I was fascinated by the man who grew up hitting bottle caps with a broomstick bat in his Deep South segregated hometown of Mobile, Ala. back before Jackie Robinson had integrated Major League Baseball in 1947 and how he had this dream of becoming a major leaguer despite not even being able to afford an actual bat and glove. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it, it’s my all-time favorite sports autobiography. But it’s not all Hank’s gigantic smile and fun. When he kept hitting home run after home run throughout the ‘60s he began to near the greatest record in all of sports – Babe Ruth’s MLB home run record of 714 homers. In ’66 the Braves had moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta, to become the first baseball team in the Deep South and Aaron eight years later Aaron would have a chance to break the record of this white American icon in a land where the Ku Klux Klan would terrorize folks that looked like him. He received more hate mail than anybody in America likely had since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., six years prior. He received letters from people calling him every racial slur known to man and promises of being in the stands with rifles waiting to gun him down on the basepaths if he dared to break this most sacred of records.
Aaron kept these letters the remainder of his life, even after he had given all of his baseball memorabilia to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He published many of these hate letters in I Had a Hammer, and they’re among the vilest things you’ll ever see in your life.
This is when Hank Aaron, the greatest baseball player to ever play the game in my mind, became Hank Aaron, the great American hero and one of the strongest men I’d ever heard about. Was he scared? Sure. I’m sure he was scared to death, especially when told of threats to kidnap his daughter. I’m sure he thought there was a good chance he could be murdered before having the opportunity to break Ruth’s record. But it didn’t stop him from the one thing he dreamed of doing back when he was a kid hitting bottle caps on the muddy streets of Mobile.
On April 8, 1974, Aaron’s Braves were facing the Los Angeles Dodgers and in front of 53,775 people the largest crowd in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium’s history, Aaron hit a fourth-inning pitch from Dodgers hurler Al Downing into the Braves bullpen and broke the record. I’m sure there were gasps around the ballpark and the world with folks watching from home as two young white men jumped onto the field to greet Aaron as he was rounding the bases in congratulations, reminding us that not everybody despised seeing Aaron break the record and it was quite a miracle they weren’t shot on sight by the FBI agent guarding Aaron, who’s hand was on his .38 the entire time.
It should’ve been the greatest moment of Aaron’s career – and I’m sure he would admit it was – but in the moment he was just relieved it was over and he had survived the entire thing. One of those damning moments where White America couldn’t truly let a Black man celebrate the crowning achievement of his career and really of sports history because he was afraid, they’d take his life from him for doing so.
Aaron would finish out the ’74 season with the Braves, before moving back to Milwaukee to finish out his career with two seasons with the Brewers of the American League.
He would go on to serve in high-up positions with the Braves organization for years after his playing career and would always be a shining example of a human being and standing up for the way things ought to be in this country.
He’d never forget the pain of those letters and in 2014 drew more for an honest assessment of the way the world hadn’t changed enough in the 40 years since he broke the record when he told the USA Today: “We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country. The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
Aaron was never afraid to speak his mind. That in addition to the supreme way in which he played my all-time favorite sport have always made him a hero to me. He’s going to be missed, but his achievements are never going to be forgotten.
by Julian Spivey
In an effort to try to build the fan base of the future the NFL partnered with Nickelodeon to broadcast a NFL Playoff Wild Card Round game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears on Sunday, Jan. 10 to rave reviews by both fans and media watching the game.
The game was also being broadcast in its regular capacity on CBS with regular broadcasters Jim Nantz and Tony Romo (and I’m sure Nielsen ratings for that broadcast will prove it was watched much more than the one on Nickelodeon), but the CBS Sports executives were blown away by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Nickelodeon broadcast on social media, according to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic.
The Nickelodeon broadcast was announced by play-by-play man Noah Eagle (the radio voice of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers and son of veteran broadcaster Ian Eagle), former NFL wide receiver and current CBS studio analyst Nate Burleson and 15-year old Nickelodeon star of “All That” Gabrielle Nevaeh Green serving as analysts. Green’s “All That” co-star Lex Lumpkin served as sideline reporter for the event.
I thought that Eagle and Burleson both did a terrific job explaining the game of football to any children tuning into the broadcast (though potentially the Nick NFL telecast drew more adult eyes than anything, which I’ll get to in a bit) and that Green’s appearance served as a familiar face to Nick’s core audience helping move things along and, despite being just 15-years old she asked terrific questions of the former NFL star Burleson, like, “what does it feel like to be tackled?” Burleson was particularly great at explaining the game in a playground manner.
One aspect of the broadcast that I would’ve particularly enjoyed as a child was getting to learn certain things about today’s NFL stars, for instance what their favorite Nickelodeon shows were growing up.
The broadcast was certainly Nick’ed up with numerous references to Nickelodeon shows and special videos from the Bikini Bottom gang on “SpongeBob SquarePants” and the particularly nice touch of the end zone being referred to as the “slime zone” and seeing slime graphics cover the end zone upon touchdowns. The use of “Young Sheldon” (the show is a CBS original that’s airing re-runs on Nick at Nite) star Iain Armitage in character explaining rules and penalty flags to the audience was truly a nice touch, as well. I got a kick out of seeing the young “All That” cast do impressions of former President Barack Obama and Cardi B, as well.
The only true negative about the broadcast was the fact that of the six Wild Card Round playoff games over the weekend the game turned out to be the biggest dud of them all, which there isn’t much the network and league could’ve done about that and hopefully won’t deter any young fans tuning in from future NFL games.
It seems highly likely you’ll see future NFL games broadcast on Nickelodeon and many media figures within other sports were exclaiming on social media on Sunday that they’d love to see similar broadcasts done for the sports they cover.
My only question is, I wonder how many young viewers actually tuned in for the game? There are so many things and so many media these days for young kids to focus on that I can’t help but wonder if they were focused on their iPads or gaming systems or just other sources of television (be it streaming or cable) and didn’t even know the game was happening, or perhaps were perturbed a sporting event was on their network instead of their favorite shows. Also, so many parents of younger children these days have cut the cord and the option of watching this broadcast wouldn’t have even existed (sports have to find a way to get to these young parents too!).
My hope is though that parents, who typically would’ve been watching the regular telecast of the game on CBS realized what was being broadcast on Nickelodeon and switched over in hopes of sparking enjoyment of the game in their children.
It was a valiant effort on the part of the league to get new eyes in front of their game and I would like to see attempts like this made again in the future.
by Julian Spivey
Note: Before getting into these rankings of NFL playoff teams I believe are most likely to least likely win Super Bowl LIV it’s important to note that I didn’t put a whole lot of research into these rankings, but merely this is me going with my gut.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
Even though repeat Super Bowl winners seems to be a thing of the past in today’s NFL I’ve never felt for one second this season that the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs weren’t the team to beat, even when the Pittsburgh Steelers were undefeated for the majority of the season. The Chiefs finished the season with a league best 14-2 record, and the team’s second loss came in the final weekend of the season when it was resting players. It’s just one of those examples of I need to see them get beat before doubting them.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have been the class of the NFC for much of the season and that’s why they’ll represent the conference in the Super Bowl this year. It helps that they’ll have home-field advantage in the potentially freezing tundra of Green Bay throughout the NFC playoffs and they have one-less game to play, as there is now just one bye in the first round of the playoffs with the league adding two teams to the postseason. It also helps that star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Vegas favorite to win MVP, is the hottest player in the NFL at the moment and seemingly throwing touchdown passes left and right.
3. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills haven’t won a playoff game in more than 25 years, the fourth longest playoff win drought in the NFL (if you count the Cleveland Browns not winning since 1994, even though the franchise was defunct for some of the time since then), but I believe they’re going to win at least one game this postseason and I’m predicting they’ll win two games and lose to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. I do think their Wild Card Round matchup against the 11-5 Indianapolis Colts (every one of the AFC playoff teams this year won at least 11 games) is incredibly tough and the Colts have veteran leadership in QB Phillip Rivers, but I do think Buffalo has the most talent all-around and should pull that out.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a couple of things going for them. 1) the greatest postseason winner of all-time at quarterback in Tom Brady, who knows how to win big games and has a lot of fire power on his offense (even if coach Bruce Arians tried to get star receiver Mike Evans knocked out of the postseason in a game, he didn’t have to play him in) 2) They have the easiest matchup of any of the first round matchups getting to face the Washington Football Team because somebody had to win the NFC East. Honestly, I could’ve easily placed the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints here, as well, but I’ll give the Buccaneers, who haven’t won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl 18 years ago, the edge to face the Packers in the NFC title game.
5. Seattle Seahawks
OK, so the Seattle Seahawks could easily be in the No. 4 slot on this list instead of the Buccaneers, but here’s my thinking of why I placed them fifth. I think the Seahawks have a more likely chance of losing in the first round than the Buccaneers do. The Buccs really have the good fortune of playing a losing Washington team, while the Seahawks are matching up against the Los Angeles Rams, who are division rivals they faced twice this year. I don’t expect the Seahawks to lose, but the chances are greater than Tampa Bay at least in the first weekend of the postseason.
6. Tennessee Titans
I think there’s good reason to believe the closest game of the first weekend of the NFL playoffs could be the Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens. Vegas has the fifth seeded Ravens as the favorites, but I’m going to give my prediction to the fourth-seeded Titans, mostly because I really just think Derrick Henry is an unstoppable force right now. That might not be a good enough reason to have the Titans at sixth most likely to win the Super Bowl, but I do have some questions about the two teams behind them and the other six teams I’m predicting to lose this weekend.
7. New Orleans Saints
I seemingly have the New Orleans Saints lower on my rankings than many do and I understand that. The Saints went 12-4 this year and did so with star QB and team leader Drew Brees missing four games due to injury. But I have a few questions about this team: 1) Is Drew Brees healthy enough to get far into the playoffs? He’s thrown as many interceptions in his three games since coming back from injury as he did in his first 10 games prior to that injury. His passer ratings and completion percentages have also been lower since returning. 2) Saints receiver Michael Thomas, one of the best receivers in the league, is out for the playoffs with injury. 3) Star running back Alvin Kamara missed the final game of the season due to COVID-19 protocol and is reportedly not going to be able to practice this week as a result. For the Saints to do much in the playoffs they’d have to overcome a lot.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers won the first 11 games of their season and were the last undefeated team remaining in the league and then they seemingly forgot how to win games, especially how to catch the football. Pittsburgh lost four of its last five games (and the win in Week 16 over the Indianapolis Colts was close) and were outscored by 29 points in their four loses, two of which games to bad Cincinnati Bengals and Washington (I know they made the playoffs, but they’re still a bad team!). I have them eighth because I think they’re going to beat the Cleveland Browns this weekend (yes, they lost to them last week, but they rested Ben Roethlisberger and others and just barely lost), but I don’t see them going much further than that.
9. Baltimore Ravens
I also have the Baltimore Ravens a bit lower on my rankings than I’ve seen on other sports predictions, but it’s because I’m predicting them to lose this upcoming weekend in the Wild Card Round to the Tennessee Titans. I do believe they are the best team of the six I’m predicting to lose this weekend, but even if they get past the Titans, they probably don’t go further than the next round.
10. Cleveland Browns
The way the Pittsburgh Steelers have finished out the season I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cleveland Browns beat them this weekend, but I’m not predicting it. I feel bad the fans of the Browns because this is the team’s first playoff appearance since 2002 and the franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since 1994 before the team moved to Baltimore, became the Ravens and then later came back into the league and they have to play this weekend without their coach Kevin Stefanski due to COVID-19. If any franchise deserves to win a playoff game after so much pain it’s the Cleveland Browns, I just don’t believe they’re going to.
11. Indianapolis Colts
Even though I have the Buffalo Bills making the AFC Championship Game in a few weeks it wouldn’t be too surprising for me if they fell this weekend to the Indianapolis Colts who have veteran QB Phillip Rivers, who probably won’t be the least bit frazzled about playing in the postseason. Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about this Colts team and predict they lose to Buffalo and that’s why they’re this low.
12. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have already played the Seattle Seahawks twice this season as inter-division rivals and split the season series with them. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Rams goes to Seattle and upset the Seahawks. It should be one of the closest games, in fact, of Wild Card weekend. I’m just predicting a Seattle win and if the Rams do make it to next week don’t think they go any further.
13. Chicago Bears
I feel a bit bad for the 10-6 Miami Dolphins having to sit at home this weekend watching the playoffs when the 8-8 Chicago Bears and 7-9 Washington Football Team are playing, but that’s how conferences and divisions work. The Bears probably aren’t going to beat the New Orleans Saints this weekend but remember I did have all those questions about how far the Saints could go this postseason.
14. Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team is not deserving of the NFL Playoffs. No losing team ever is deserving of making any playoffs in any sport, but when you have divisions (and I don’t really dislike divisions) somebody has to win it, even if all four teams are bad. Washington was that team this year. They are not going to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round, even if they do have home-field advantage (without the fans albeit) due to winning that division.
by Eric Fulton
The 2020 college football season has been one most people would like to forget. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rescheduling or cancellation of a lot of games, including many big showdowns like the annual after Thanksgiving showdown between the Michigan Wolverines and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
However, many major college football programs were able to get at least six games in, which gave voters of college football’s most prestigious individual prize a chance to determine who was the best player in a very unique year. This year’s finalist for the Heisman Trophy represent two of the best conferences in college football, the SEC and ACC. The final four candidates are Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and two Alabama players, quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
For Alabama, having Jones and Smith together as finalist is rare air in the race of Heisman. The last time a team had two players as finalist for the Heisman Trophy were the USC duo of running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Matt Leinart. Though Bush won the Heisman, he would later have the trophy vacated due to improper benefits late in the 2004 season prompting USC to vacate their final two wins of the 2004 seasons and all their wins from the 2005 season. Alabama also made history as running back Najee Harris finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy campaign marking the first time since 1946 that three players on the same team finished in the top five of the Heisman standings. Army’s trio of Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard and Arnie Tucker went first, fourth, and fifth respectively that year.
This year’s final four contenders of the Heisman Trophy will have their college football legacy etched forever. I will rank the four players from least deserving to who is most deserving.
4. Trevor Lawrence, QB – Clemson
2020 statistics: 2,753 yards passing, 29 total TDs (22 passing, 7 rushing), 4 INTs.
Going into the season, every expert would tell you that Lawrence is clearly the best player in college football. If it was not for the pandemic and Lawrence missing a couple of games, the likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft would have sealed the Heisman in November. But because he missed two games due to COVID-19, including the first matchup between Clemson and Notre Dame in which the Irish won 47-40 in double overtime, he did not have the statistics that would wow voters in 2020. Great college players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady did not win the Heisman and if Lawrence doesn’t win the Heisman in 2020, it would not mess him up in the NFL. He is expected to go number one overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. So even without the Heisman, the future still looks bright for Lawrence.
3. Kyle Trask, QB – Florida
2020 statistics: 4,125 yards passing, 43 TDs, 5 INTs
While most college football programs did not have double digit games played, Florida was one of a handful of programs that were able to play 11 games. The Gators were picked by most experts to finish just behind Georgia in the SEC East. Thanks to the stellar play of Trask, the Gators won eight games and the SEC East. Many of Trask’s touchdown passes were caught by Kyle Pitts, who will be drafted in the first round in the upcoming NFL draft. Based off the season he’s had, Trask’s draft stock has risen to where he could be a top 10 draft pick in the spring. Trask is looking to become Florida’s fourth Heisman trophy winner joining Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerffel (1996) and Tim Tebow (2007) and all three previous winners played quarterback for the Gators.
2. Mac Jones, QB-Alabama
2020 statistics: 3,739 yards passing, 76.5% completion, 32 TDs, 4 INTs
I went back and forth as for the two Heisman contenders from Alabama. Mac Jones waited three years behind a great quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa to get his opportunity at being the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide. He took the opportunity in 2020 leading Alabama to another SEC championship and another spot in the College Football Playoff. Throughout its storied history, Alabama has won 17 national championships, but has only produced two Heisman Trophy winners, both of which have come during the Nick Saban era and were running backs (Mark Ingram in 2009 and Derrick Henry in 2015). If Mac Jones were to win the Heisman, he would become Alabama’s first starting quarterback to win the Heisman. Regardless of how well he plays in the playoff, Jones has good chance to not win the Heisman, but also land a pretty good spot in the NFL Draft.
1. DeVonta Smith, WR-Alabama
2020 Statistics: 98 Receptions, 1,511 yards, 17 TDs
Only three wide receivers have ever won the Heisman (Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska in 1972, Tim Brown, Notre Dame in 1987 and Desmond Howard, Michigan in 1991). In most years, the Heisman is won by players who came on strong, especially in key games later in the season. Alabama’s receiver DeVonta Smith has come up huge for the Crimson Tide after fellow wide receiver Jaylon Waddle was injured against Tennessee with a serious ankle injury. Since then, Smith has carried Alabama in the receiving game as well as the return game. The Crimson Tide has produced a lot of great wide receivers in recent memory from Julio Jones to Amari Cooper, but Smith is soon leaving as statistically their best wide receiver ever. He is also the first wide receiver to be a Heisman finalist since Cooper in 2014. It would be nice to see someone who plays a position other than quarterback or running back win a Heisman. Very rarely does it ever happen. (Only six times to be exact).
The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 5 on ESPN.
by Julian Spivey
Basically, every week during the second half of the NFL season I’ve seen a post on ESPN’s social media pages asking, “who’s the NFL’s MVP” and for the most part the two players featured have been Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (MVP in 2011 and 2014) and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (MVP in 2018). Then in the comments section on the posts have been seemingly the entirety of the Buffalo Bills fan-base asking about the Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
All three are very much deserving of being in the MVP conversation.
Mahomes would’ve led the league in passing had he played in a meaningless Week 17 game and was only surpassed by Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson by 83 yards. Allen was fifth in passing yards and Rodgers was seventh.
Rodgers led the league in touchdown passes with 48 (eight more than the second place Russell Wilson and Tom Brady). Mahomes was fourth in the league and Allen fifth. Rodgers was also first in the league in QB Rating at 121.5, almost 10 points higher than Watson in second place. Mahomes was third and Allen was fourth.
You could make the argument that Allen was the all-around best QB of the three leading the three with 421 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
But my thought when seeing all this MVP talk (that now has Rodgers as the Vegas favorite) has been, “what about Derrick Henry?”
Henry led the NFL in rushing this season with 2,027 yards becoming just the eighth player in NFL history to top 2,000 yards and his total makes for the fifth highest single-season total in league history. He ran for almost 500 more yards than Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook in second place. Henry also led the league in touchdown runs with 17, one more than Cook and Alvin Kamara for the New Orleans Saints.
The fact that Henry seemingly isn’t even in the conversation for NFL MVP is dumbfounding to me. The fact that he’s easily the best in the game at his position (this is his second straight season leading the league in rushing) and might very well finish fourth in the MVP voting is asinine to me.
What does it take for a running back to win MVP in the NFL these days?
Does Derrick Henry have to kill Thanos and cure cancer in addition to leading the league in rushing by a mile to even be considered as good as Rodgers or Mahomes or Allen?
The NFL hasn’t seen a running back win MVP since Adrian Peterson ran for more than 2,000 yards for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. The seven MVPs awarded since that season have all been quarterbacks. In fact, the MVP has gone to a quarterback every season since 2006 other than that Peterson win in 2012. Henry had five more touchdowns runs this season than Peterson had when he won MVP and Henry only had 70 fewer yards rushing.
It kind of makes sense that running backs don’t win the MVP more or feature much in the conversation around the award because the league has become such a passing dominated league over the last two decades … but doesn’t that kind of make Henry’s dominance in the rushing game and the numbers he’s putting up that much more impressive. Shouldn’t that help his MVP case?
When did the MVP voters and us as a society decide that you have to be a quarterback to win the MVP award in the NFL? Doesn’t that make the award a bit less important than it should be?
Rodgers, Mahomes and Allen are all worthy of being MVP this season. If I had a vote it would go to Henry though. Partially because I do believe he’s worthy, but also partially as a means of protest because I think the league and award are clearly biased toward quarterbacks. If Henry isn’t even in the competition this year, how could anyone else who doesn’t play quarterback ever be again?