Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Feb 2011

Brady Wins Offensive Player of the Year

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been announced as the AP's Offensive Player of the Year. Hopefully, this news will not require a correction.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 01 Feb 2011

50 comments, Last at 03 Feb 2011, 10:11pm by BaronFoobarstein


by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 02/01/2011 - 9:55pm

will alsolo get league MVP award. Not goigngnt to be one of thosoe years when one offensive guy get MVP and dififenerent one get OPOY like last year whjen C. Johnson w in OPOY and P. Manning was MVP.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 02/01/2011 - 10:10pm

The only cases where is makes sense for the MVP to be anyone other than the offensive or defensive player of the year are when a player excels and plays on multiple units and when a player has just that dominant a special teams season. The former hasn't happened in a long time, and I don't think the latter has ever happened.

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 02/01/2011 - 11:25pm

Voluntarily stepping into the debate over definition of "valuable"? That's mighty brave.

It's perfectly reasonable to give O/DPOY to someone who excels statistically while giving MVP to someone who offers value in ways that aren't always captured in statistics. (Speaking as a Peyton Manning fan, of course.)

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 12:45am

What if you want to use the awards to bring attention to multiple players?

by spatne (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 1:03am

They ought to just vote on MVP first, and then make the winner ineligible for the OPOY /DPOY award. More players recognized. There would potentially be more suspense in the announcements, too, as long as the voters could keep a secret.

An alternative would be to eliminate the POY on the side of the ball from which the MVP is chosen.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 1:23am

I like your first suggestion.

by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 11:11am

I like both suggestions quite a bit actually, but at the same time, I like the first one more. That actually makes sense.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 3:19pm

Weird suggestion. You would be intentionally watering down the value of offensive/defensive POY (in practice, it'd be offensive POY since the MVP is invariably an offensive player).

by dryheat :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 1:26pm

No other major sport disqualifies its MVP from receiving it's other highly regarded hardware. I'm not sure why some feel the NFL should. I have no problem with an MVP winning two awards. In fact, it should probably happen more often than it does.

by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 2:26pm

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to make this my entire argument, or belittle your comment, I'm just making a comment based on what I think is your main point.

So? Just because the NFL is a major sport they have to do it that way?
No other major sport has their all-star game after the season, or has such a crappy one.

Just because the other major sports don't do it doesn't mean nobody should do it. I realize there is a serious argument for not doing it that way, but at the same time, the idea that just because nobody else does it that way doesn't really make sense. I'm not very well versed in the NBA or the NHL, and not nearly as well versed in the MLB as I am in the NFL (not trying to say I know everything about the NFL, just that I know more about it then all the other sports- probably combined), but I can't really think of another league that has a league MVP and an OPOY/DPOY. I'm pretty sure in baseball there are Golden Gloves given to the top defensive players, but its one at each position, and there isn't an announced top GG. And pitchers get the Cy Young award, but that isn't the same as a DPOY, as the GG is still there. And then there is a League MVP, and that can be either a Pitcher or Position player, but that is still different. And I know there is an All-Defense team for the NBA, and being on it doesn't preclude you from winning the MVP of the NBA, but its not like you were deemed THE TOP defender in the league.

The point I'm trying to make is that the NFL is different from the other major sports alone in its awards. They can do whatever they want to.

Disclaimer #2: I know its not the NFL that gives the awards, but rather the AP.

by dryheat :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 3:48pm

That's fine. I agree that "that's how X does it" is not a good justification, but neither is "Player X shouldn't be eligible to win Award Y because he already won Award Z". If said player is the best candidate for both awards, then he should win both awards. I don't see the need nor understand the want to give it to somebody who isn't most deserving because he already won one trophy.

Purely for informational purposes, the NHL has it's MVP and Lester Pearson Trophy (MVP, but voted on by players), as well as the Selke trophy for best defensive forward and the Norris Trophy, for best defensemen. The MVP can win up to three of those.

NBA does actually have a defensive player of the year. I believe Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, and possibly David Robinson, won it their MVP years.

Pitchers can win the Cy Young and the MVP, and the MVP is still eligible for the Silver Slugger (offensive proficiency) and the gold glove (defensive proficiency) .

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 5:48pm

I never said anything about disqualification, I just said the voters may want to recognize multiple great players.

Also, the NBA doesn't have offensive player of the year. They just have MVP and DPOY because the MVP is usually synonymous with OPOY in basketball (really football too).

The NBA also only has 5 starters on a team and rosters of 12-15 players, not 22 starters and rosters of 53. So maybe there are more NFL players to honor?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 8:36pm

In hockey, basketball, baseball, and soccer, the same player must play both defensively and offensively (except for AL pitchers/DH). It makes perfect sense for an MVP graded on average of defensive and offensive value would be different from the top defender and top offender. In football where a player usually only plays on one side of the ball, it doesn't make sense.

by tuluse :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 4:53am

The award is not called "most valuable offensive player."

It is possible to be the best offensive player without producing the most value.

If you accept DYAR as a reasonable proxy for value, 21 QBs produced more DYAR than the top ranked RB (Jamaal Charles).

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 5:41am

That's not what I said - at all.

I said, and still claim that you if you play only on offense or only on defense you cannot in a consistent system be the MVP (best overall player) without also being one of OPOY (best offensive player) or DPOY (best defensive player).*

Therefore the only case where the MVP should ever not also win at least one of OPOY or DPOY is when the MVP either somehow produced the most value while only playing on special teams, or produced the most value by excelling on multiple units. The former is just not going to happen, and in the modern NFL the latter is pretty rare. The only case I can really imagine this coming up would be a player who is very good on offense or defense but not quite the best (and so earns neither OPOY or DPOY) who also is extremely good in the return game (good enough to make him the more "valuable" overall than whomever did beat him for OPOY or DPOY.

In many other sports, however, players must play offense and defense, and so it's much more likely for the best combined player not to be the best offensive or defensive player. It's like a decathlon world champion. He's rarely the best sprinter, or the best shot-putter, or best javelin thrower, etc. in the world, but he's the person who is on average the best at that set of events.

*Okay, fine. A player could conceivably be the best player in the league on defense and so win DPOY. He could also just so happen also to play on offense but play so poorly as to have negative value by whatever standard you are using and then not be the MVP, allowing the second-best defender to be the MVP. But that's just silly.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 9:59am

"I said, and still claim that you if you play only on offense or only on defense you cannot in a consistent system be the MVP (best overall player) without also being one of OPOY (best offensive player) or DPOY (best defensive player)."

At the risk of opening a barrel of worms full of snakes*, MVP is not synonymous with "best overall player". I interpret MVP as meaning exactly what it says on the tin: most valuable player, which in almost every year is going to be the best quarterback, or perhaps the best quarterback on a playoff team. OPOY is something like "offensive player who had the most remarkable (in a positive sense) season", and as such ought to far more frequently go to non-QBs - as indeed it does - or to players on bad teams - as indeed it does.

*H/T The Archer's Playlist by Daniel Burden, my vote for MERBOY (Most Entertainingly Rubbish Book Of the Year). You think Dan Brown's a crappy writer? He's not fit to mix Burden's metaphors.

by MJK :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 1:02pm

No, 21 QB's did not produce more DYAR than the top ranked RB. 21 passing offenses produced more DYAR than the top ranked rushing offense.

Everyone always forgets that saying "Tom Brady had X DYAR" actually means "the Patriots offense, when Tom Brady was playing QB, produced X DYAR". In your example, Jamaal Charles's rushing DYAR was only partly produced by Jamaal Charles (the rest came from the other players on the Chief's offense), and, on the flip side, Jamaal Charles also was responsible for part of Matt Cassel's DYAR.

So while DYAR is probably useful for comparing a player's value to other players at the same position (i.e. "the Chiefs rushing offense produced more value when Jamaal Charles was in at RB than when other backs were in"), it is probably not all that useful for arguing that a player at one position has more value than a player at another position.

All your stat does is point out that having a good passing offense is more valuable than having a good rushing offense. Which is almost certainly true in today's game, but does not directly tell us that Jamaal Charles is less deserving of the MVP than, say, Peyton Manning.

by tuluse :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 2:41pm

I actually forgot to add Charles's receiving DYAR.

However, for you other point, I don't think it's entirely relevant to POY awards.

Also, it's pretty clear quarterbacks produce more value than running backs. It doesn't really matter how you measure it.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 5:31pm

Divide by position average value?

by tuluse :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 6:26pm

The best quarterback has more of an effect on how good his team is than the best running back.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 10:11pm

Probably, but you probably also want to adjust for that some.

value * sqrt(value) / position_average_value ?

by Theo :: Tue, 02/01/2011 - 10:01pm

Now seriously.
I want to know if there's a lockout coming up.
Love what Ward had to say about concussions. The league doesn't care.
Love what who was it... Cromartie said about the CBA. This thing is about money more than business.
Brady. Who cares.
Some players get it, and from what I understand... not many owners care.

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Tue, 02/01/2011 - 11:29pm

Well, if you don't care about Brady, but do care about the upcoming CBA, you sure found the right thread to post in.

Oh wait.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 12:30am

Brady is probably the most effective dinker and dunker passer in the history of the game, with the exception of the Moss years. Rarely throws a pick, and rarely loses games. He must be one of the luckiest s.o.b.'s alive.

by seanrenlyb2 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 2:01am

Since it's so easy for any quarterback to dink and dunk his way to a 54 DVOA you'd think every offensive coordinator would run that system.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 4:49am

No, I wrote he is probably the most effective dinker and dunker in the history of the game, with the exception of the Moss years. He rarely throws picks and rarely loses games. All compliments, so relax, I didn't write he had a small penis or anything.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 4:59am

To me he's like Greg Maddux. I never get the feeling "Oh my God, Brady's unstoppable", just like I never got the feeling "Oh my God, Maddux is unhittable", but at the end of the day, Maddux threw 7 innings of 4 hit one run ball, and Brady went 20-30, with 240 yards 1.5 tds and .5 picks.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 12:50am

Good analogy. I concur.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 3:20pm

You also wrote "he must be one of the luckiest s.o.b.'s alive."

That's hardly a compliment.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 12:44am

I would think an internet message board poster writing that you are one of the luckiest s.o.b.'s alive would be the highest of compliments. I can think of few higher compliments.

by MJK :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 12:52am



* Brady is one of the most highly paid athletes in the world, and is far richer than almost anyone could imagine

* He is married to someone who is generally considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world

* Said beautiful wife is even richer than he is

* He has two children, which many people see as an objective in life

* He is considered by many to be exceptionally handsome

* He is famous and is probably a lock for the Hall of Fame

So...rich, famous, talented, good looking, apparently happy family life...yeah, I think the statement "he must be one of the luckiest s.o.b.'s alive" is probably an accurate one.

by Ajit (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 5:51am

I have often wondered it, but then you realize there are a lot of things that makes the pats system so successful. Yes, they need a qb like brady who is very patient and willing to be unselfish enough to just throw short, but it goes beyond brady as matt cassel showed. They surround you with a very good offensive line and grab a ton of in space type of receivers who excel in space and quick cuts. But i think the hardest part to copy in this system is brady but the offensive line that gives him ages to make a decision and throw.

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 6:04am

Tom Brady: 11.6 career yards per completion.
Peyton Manning: 11.7 career yards per completion.

The dude's hardly Joey Harrington (10.3 y/c), here.

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 6:56am

When your teams signature play are quick wide receiver screens and throwing the ball six or seven yards to Welker on a crossing pattern, to me that is a dinker and dunker.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 8:23am

I'd wager a large amount of fictional internet currency that Brady is consistently among the league leaders in YAC.

by galactic_dev :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 10:22am

So why give Brady this award when Peyton Manning is clearly better?

by 3.14159265 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 12:48am

Because Brady clearly had the better year at quarterback.

by Ajit (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 5:48am

This really is more of a tribute to the patriots offense than brady. I don't get the feeling brady compensates for the talent around him the way manning or rivers had to and to a lesser extent, jay cutler. Brady had a great year yes, but their offensive line was spectacular, they had tons of players getting yards after the catch for his short passes and the running game was spectacular as well. This is not to suggest i think brady is bad or anything as I'm sure people will misconstrue this statement.

by MJK :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 1:08am

Ummm...have to disagree here. Excepting 2007, Brady's been compensating for a lack of talent around him his entire career, and this year was no exception. I won't go through the long list of offensive players who excelled when playing with Brady and have flopped when they went elsewhere over the years, but let's just look at this year:

"their offensive line was spectacular": No. Their center is undersized and at best an average center. Their left tackle is good, but not great and struggles against speed rushers. Their left guard, Logan Mankins, is exceptional, but he only played half the season. Before him, they were playing a backup (Connoly) at LG due to a rash of training camp injuries. After he returned, they moved that same backup to RG when they lost their decent but often injured RG (Neal). Their RG is very good, but I think he has a way to go to get to exceptional. On a scale of 1-10, the Pats O-line players this year were probably a 6-5/9-5-6/5-7. Decent, yes, maybe even a little above average, but not "spectacular". Put a QB other than Brady (or Vick, Rodgers, Manning, Roethlisberger, or Brees) back there and I think he has a lousy year. The line looked so good because Brady, a full year removed from his knee injury, finally got his pocket mobility back.

Let's look at their pass catchers. For the first few games they had Moss, who was, this year, a total dud. Welker, I'll give you, is pretty talented. Then they had Deion Branch, who has looked terrible for the last few seasons in Seattle and only looked good once Brady was throwing him the ball again, Brandon Tate who couldn't hold onto the ball if it was covered in Velcro, and Edelman who never saw the field. At TE they had an aging veteran who no longer really catches passes and two rookies (yes, talented rookies, but rookies nonetheless). And two former street free agents at RB.

As for players getting tons of yards after the catch, that is partially due to good play design, true. It's also due to excellent timing and rapport between the QB and the WR, and very good accuracy by the QB so that he can hit the receiver in stride. There's often a perception that receiver YAC is somehow due only to the receiver and the play design; that the QB has nothing to do with it. It's not true. Oh, and part of the reason why those short passes gain so many yards is that when defenses tighten up on them, Brady does frequently hit the medium to medium-long passes and punish them.

The running game was better than expected this season, but I suspect that a significant portion of its success came on draws and playaction. And running success there is always because the defense respects and fears the pass...so it reflects well on the QB. My impression was that when the Pats lined up in an obvious run scenario and tried to power the ball, they were at best average.

I will admit that Brady has one critical weakness in his game that makes people think he has succeeded only by dinking and dunking and YAC...his deep ball is pretty lousy. On the Colts, when Wayne get's open 50 yards down the field, that a TD 90% of the time. Similarly for some other teams with QB's that throw a good deep ball (Eagles, Steelers). With Brady, when a WR gets open downfield, it seems to work only about 30% of the time. That's because Brady under or overthrows his guy.

But dont' make the mistake that that means he's just carried by his teammates.

by tuluse :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 4:55am

I think you are underrated the Patriot's offensive line.

I think you transplant them to the Bears this year, the Bears are in the Superbowl.

by the cat in the box is dead (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 8:15am

I think there's a valid case for MVP being more like 'most irreplaceable,' but that bogs you down into hopeless subjectivity and what-ifs. Also, how much can you elevate the best player on a bad team? To go to an extreme example, should Barry Sanders have been league MVP a few times?Should someone like Fitzgerald get consideration this year as the one truly great player on a sucky offense, even though it didn't translate to results?

At the end of the day, it's based on actual success. I would agree about announcing the MVP first, then OPOY and DPOY after, though. That would make more sense, and spread the love a little.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 8:40am

Without several ways to read MVP, where would the suspense be?

It seems that OPOY and DPOY awards often account for performance over multiple years. Polamalu is certainly a worthy choice for DPOY, but I believe he was helped by his other years of excellent play. I think James Harrison could have had more votes, if he hadn't already won it; and Clay Matthews, if he has similar standout years, will get more support for DPOY on account of not making it this year.

In other misreadings/ambiguities, Antonio Cromartie went above and beyond in lobbying for Brady as offensive player of the year.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 2:33pm

What suspense? Thay give it to a QB every year, did anyone not think Brady would win it?

by RickD :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 3:26pm

If by "every year" you mean "4 times in the past 15 years", I'd agree.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 1:08pm

Brady deserved the award. You could make a case for Manning (virtually every year, just because its so unimaginable how bad that offense would be without him), or maybe Rivers. It's hard not to pick a QB because the position is the most important to a team's success, hence "most valuable".

OPOY, DPOY I think of as more "standard deviations" awards; who had a year that made everyone else look silly relative to normal performance. That's Brady this year too, but last year it was Chris Johnson.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 5:51pm

I would have given OPOY to Jamaal Charles this year.

by CoachDave :: Wed, 02/02/2011 - 7:25pm

If you give Brady the MVP and are of the thinking that 3 people should win the "big 3" awards, I can't disagree with you at all.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 9:48am

I certainly wouldn't have objected to that, but I also don't have a problem with Brady winning it, wouldn't have had a problem with Roddy White winning it, and would have actively supported Gates over any of the above had he played a full season at the level of his performance through ten games.

by tuluse :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 2:38pm

I don't have a problem with it per say, I just feel in a league of over 1500 players they should really try to honor as many as possible each year.

Giving two awards to one player is kind of boring.

by Ajit (not verified) :: Thu, 02/03/2011 - 6:04am

DId people not pay attention to when FO linked the article that showed the pats give their qb the most time of any other qb in the league? The reason brady can dink and dunk and be effective is largely the product of that offensive line. Also, brady's wide receivers are good at what they do as are their running backs...all are in space type of players. And btw, pats led the league in yards after the catch.