What player could be more key than the MVP? By definition, no one. Unlike the national media seems to think, the most valuable player should always be the player his team could least afford to do without, regardless of what kind of stats they put up. That's partly why I'm glad Adrian Peterson won the league MVP this year. Although Peyton Manning had a good season (though not quite as good as Aaron Rodgers, in my book), Peterson undoubtedly meant more to his team. His stats, of course, were also awesome. But I digress.
There's a very short list of players that the Packers couldn't afford to do without. In my mind, there is just one such player: Aaron Rodgers. He is undoubtedly the engine that makes the Green Bay Packers go.
As I'm sure he's very excited to put this award on his mantle (right between his NFL MVP trophy and his Super Bowl MVP trophy, naturally), I'll summarize his qualifications:
- finished first in the NFL in passer rating for the second consecutive year
- finished second in the NFL in touchdown passes
- completed 67.2% of his passes, his second best single season mark
- threw just eight interceptions, his third single digit interception season in five years as a starter
- led the Packers to a second consecutive NFC North title after a brutal 2-3 start
- secured the fifth playoff win of his career
Though his stats may not have quite measured up to last year (although in reality, how could they have?), Rodgers may have had just as good of a season overall, at least in terms of his leadership and impact on the team. Several times in the early part of the season, we saw Rodgers rally the team from deficits to snatch victory from defeat, and he delivered a prime-time performance for the ages in Week 6 against the Texans.
Rodgers has never had a reputation for being a "tough" quarterback, but he certainly showed it this year, enduring a hellacious 51 sacks. Still, he rarely demonstrated frustration, at least not publicly, choosing instead to keep slinging passes and hoping for the best. Hopefully next year he can do a little bit more than hope for protection from opposing pass rushers.
In short, Aaron Rodgers is undoubtedly the most valuable Green Bay Packer, not that it's any surprise. But surprise or not, it bears repeating, if only because his greatness needs to be appreciated while we have it around.