To acquire wisdom, one must observe

A running back wins MVP?

The Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the National Football League (NFL) is like other sports. In many cases, the MVP is obvious. The 2020 season was the most recent example. Quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens had a season that easily made him the MVP that year. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Jackson led his team to a 14-2 record and first place in their division. Additionally, he led the league in passing touchdowns and total quarterback rating. However, what placed him above the rest of the league was that he also had 1206 rushing yards in the season. So, he not only impacted the passing game, but also the running game. His ability to do both caused the Ravens to have one of the best offenses in the entire league. The decision to give him the MVP award was obvious. Other years the MVP was less clear, however there has been a quality of the MVP award winners since the awards creation. Often, the winner of the award has been a quarterback. According to Pro-Football-Reference, the award has been given out 65 times and a quarterback has won 44 out of those 65 times. In the last 10 years, the award has been given to a quarterback every year but one. That one non-quarterback winner was running back Adrian Peterson. In that year he rushed for over two thousand yards and averaged well over one hundred yards per game. It took an incredible season from Peterson to snatch the MVP award away from quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. 

So, what is happening this year? Is there a clear frontrunner to win the award? According to DraftKings, there are favorites, but there is not any clear MVP yet. As of Nov. 29, the favorite to win the award is Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As of now the favorite is still a quarterback but should he win the award? Brady is having a great year on the Buccaneers. He is second in the league in passing yards and first in the league in passing touchdowns. The Buccaneers are currently first in their division with an 8-3 record. However, it may be time to change the narrative and look at a player who needs to be in the conversation to win the award. That player is running back Johnathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts. Taylor is currently one of the best running backs in the NFL while being just one full season removed from college. According to NFL.com, Taylor leads all players in rushing yards with 1205. This is three hundred yards ahead of the next closest player. He also leads all players in rushing touchdowns with 14. So, for the season, he averages over 100 rushing yards per game and a rushing touchdown a game. Taylor has scored a touchdown in nine straight games. In week 11 against the Buffalo Bills, he rushed for four touchdowns in the game and had one receiving touchdown. His last game without a touchdown was against the Tennessee Titans in week three of the season. The Colts are close to the middle in the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns, so their passing attack may not seem elite, however when combined with Taylor in the backfield, the offense is one of the best in the league. Teams know that they must stop the run, which makes passing the ball easier. Their quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, however he is doing well playing off the teams running game. If Taylor is having an incredibly impactful season, what stops him from winning the MVP award? The first issue is that his team is 6-6. Oftentimes, the award goes to a player on a top team in the league. The Colts are still close to making the playoffs, but they are not a sure team to make the playoffs. Also, the key factor is that he is a running back. Voters have swayed towards quarterbacks for a good reason. Quarterbacks control the game. They can run and pass and lead their teams to wins more than any other position. A team without a good quarterback is likely not a very good team. The worst teams in the NFL are currently the Detroit Lions, New York Jets, and Jacksonville Jaguars. According to NFL.com, these teams are at the bottom end of the league in passer rating. They overall have quarterbacks that cannot consistently lead their team to wins. However, when you look at the best teams in the league, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dallas Cowboys, they all have quarterbacks with high passer ratings. So, most of the time the teams that win have good quarterbacks because quarterbacks’ control so many aspects of the game. A running back may not have as much impact. Quarterbacks play almost every snap in a game, while a running back does not. For a running back to win the MVP award, they would have to be almost their team’s entire offense. While Taylor is impacting his team’s offense in a big way, the Colts could still function without him. 

Overall, is a quarterback going to win the MVP award this year? The answer is probably. While Johnathan Taylor has brought up some discussion about how he should win with his five-touchdown game that led to a win against a top NFL team, the impact of the running back position is too frequently overruled by a good quarterback. Taylor may have a chance to win the award if he breaks records or if the Colts become the best team in the NFL. According to Pro-Football-Focus, the record for most rushing yards in a season is 2,105 yards and it was set by running back Eric Dickerson. Even in that season, a quarterback won the MVP award. The record for the most rushing touchdowns in a season was set by LaDainian Tomlinson when he had 28 rushing touchdowns in 2006. The Colts have five more games this season. For Taylor to break a record and give him a good chance to win the MVP award, he would likely need 14 more touchdowns and/or nine hundred rushing yards. That is roughly three rushing touchdowns per game and 180 rushing yards per game. This seems very unlikely, however crazier things have happened in the NFL. 

Get Our Stories Sent To Your Inbox

Skip to content