By Rich Kurtzman
When the AP votes for NFL MVP, they must go with PFM over AD.
If a team has multiple skilled players at the same position, they say it’s a good problem to have. Well, the NFL has a good problem going, as their league boasts two individuals deserving of the coveted Most Valuable Player award. It’s a good problem because it’s a hot topic everyone is discussing nationally, but also because Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson performed phenomenally this season. What’s even more amazing, is that each is coming off important injuries; a torn ACL for Peterson and multiple neck surgeries for Manning.
Peterson was prodigious in his play; coming a whole nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time record of 2,105 rushing yards in a single season. Still, AD – short for “All Day,” a nickname given to him by his dad many years ago – ran remarkably, with a by far league leading 6.0 yards per carry average, going over the century mark in a game 10 times this year alone. He’s a workhorse that never gives up, even when getting contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage as he pushes through opponents by driving his supremely strong legs. What makes him most exciting to watch are the seven runs of 50-plus yards and Peterson put up 12 touchdowns this season. Simply stated, he’s a once-in-a-generation type running back that makes everything he does on the football field look effortless.
Manning finished the regular season first in completion percentage (68.8), second in passer rating (105.8), third in touchdowns (37) and sixth in yards (4,659), setting single-season Broncos franchise records for yards, completions (400) and touchdowns thrown. Manning also broke numerous NFL records. In the win over Kansas City to end the season, it was the 73rd time he threw for 3 TDs in a game, passing Brett Favre for most all time and his streak of four games with 300 yards and three scores is an NFL best. His 38 fourth quarter comebacks are more than anyone, while he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month of October and December, the sixth time he’s taken home the award. When the regular season was over, he had led a team to 10-plus wins for the 12th time, while being voted into the Pro Bowl – with the most votes of anyone – for a 12th time, too.
But this argument isn’t about which player performed better, it’s about which one is most valuable to their team, taking the unit to a higher level do to his play.
When Peterson went over 100 yards this season, the Vikings only went 6-4 – his personal success didn’t always translate into team success. On the other hand, when Manning passed for 300 yards, the Broncos went 7-2, and 5-1 in games he tossed for three touchdowns as well. For Manning, individual success almost always means success for the team, because as a quarterback, his numbers are a product of connecting with multiple receivers. This season marked only the sixth time in franchise history the Broncos had four players over 500 yards receiving; Manning understands the importance of getting many people involved, making the offense more versatile and difficult to defend.
What sets Manning apart from Peterson is his outward leadership of the team; specifically, the offense. The old gunslinger knows what it takes to attain greatness in the NFL, being named MVP four previous times and winning a Super Bowl, and he’s pushed his teammates new and old to buy in to his system. They’ve done just that, taking on the intricate and sophisticated offense in an incredibly short period of time. When the game goes to commercial, Manning is there huddling his offense up and going over the small details that, when mastered, push a team beyond good and into the realm of greatness. That offense is the second highest scoring group in all of football and the scary thing for opponents is they’re only continuing to improve.
Some will argue that Peterson is nearly the only reason why the Vikings improved from 3-13 last year to 10-6 and into the playoffs this season, and even though Manning’s team went from 8-8 to 13-3, the difference here is this; Minnesota was just good enough to make the playoffs and get booted in the first round, Denver is arguably the best team in football right now, a true contender for the crown.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the top Broncos teams in the history of the franchise and although they may be the most complete team in football, Denver would be nowhere near the team they are today without your NFL MVP, Peyton Manning.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.