Brett Favre (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
Vikings fans started chanting “MVP!” at the Metrodome on Sunday and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King is starting to consider that possibility as well. With six games to go, Favre has to at least be considered one of the top contenders.
With the Vikings pulling their starters in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win, one thing that was surprising – even in the final minutes – was that so few fans were leaving early to beat the rush of traffic out of the Metrodome area. Where typically there would be fans streaming up the aisles and out into the street, all that could be seen (even with just five minutes to go in a game long-since over) were security guards in yellow slickers walking up and down the steps, not fans.
Perhaps they hung around to join because of a cheer that began with about 10 minutes to play and was heard a couple of times in the fourth quarter. It started small, but gained steam (and volume) pretty quickly, as fans directed a chant at Brett Favre.
This year, Favre has heard plenty of chants from fans, especially Packers fans in their two meetings. But this chant was from his newly adopted home fans in Minnesota. The words resonated through the dome – “MVP! MVP! MVP!”
It’s been 12 years since Favre won the last of his three straight league Most Valuable Player awards, but he has both the numbers and success to vault himself into that category once again. By the nature of the award for Offensive MVP, it invariably goes to either a quarterback or a running back. While Chris Johnson of Tennessee of can make a strong case that he deserves to be the offensive most valuable player, because his team has been wallowing all season that doesn’t seem very likely. Steven Jackson and Adrian Peterson have had strong seasons, but they just don’t have that MVP smell to them.
It would appear that the race for the MVP is going to come down to the three quarterbacks that have combined to post a record of 29-1 through 10 games. You have Peyton Manning, who leads the league in yardage and pulling out nail-biting victories – six of his 10 wins have been by four points or fewer. Drew Brees is leading the league’s highest-scoring offense that has won all but one game by eight points or more. And then there is Favre, the owner of the league’s highest passer rating.
It will be interesting to see how the vote plays out. There are five players that have thrown 20 or more touchdowns and all five of them are among the eight division leaders heading into Thanksgiving – Brees with 22, Manning and Favre with 21 and Tom Brady and Kurt Warner with 20 each. Manning and Brees have been at the top of their respective games for the last several years, but Favre was viewed by many as being too old, too self-centered and too in love with the game to step away with dignity. Many wanted to see him fail with the Vikings to put an end to his NFL odyssey. Instead, he is having the best statistical season of his career.
When asked about the chants from the crowd, Favre said he didn’t know what they were chanting until he was notified by teammates.
“I couldn’t tell what they were saying,” he said. “It was loud. I had some guys come over and congratulate me and I was like, “For what?’ I knew everyone was cheering for something, but I thought they were talking about the completion records or something. If that was what they were chanting, I thank them for that. But my goal – and only goal – is to lead this team to a Super Bowl.”
The fan reaction began when Favre was shown on the big screen in the Metrodome and fans were informed that his 22-for-25 passing performance was the best single-game completion percentage of his long and storied career. They erupted in applause and it was obvious Favre heard them because, with the camera on him, he looked around quizzically before looking at the Jumbotron, seeing himself and the numbers he had posted Sunday. He acknowledged the cheers, which only made them louder.
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe joked that it wasn’t the crowd chanting MVP. Rather, it was the tight end himself.
“His stats and his play pretty much speak for itself, I feel,” Shiancoe said. “I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but he definitely should be in that pool, 100 percent in that pool.”
It’s unknown what criteria will be used to vote for the most valuable player, but the award is voted on by several dozen NFL media types around the country. If one of the two unbeatens runs the table, it will be hard to argue giving the award to that quarterback. But if the award goes to guy who has made the biggest difference from last year to this year, it should be Favre hands down. It seems ironic that the day he set the record, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was on the other sideline. Houshmandzadeh was wined and dined by the Vikings (and stalked by local media), but in the end signed with Seattle. When asked what the difference between the two offers was, he said it wasn’t about money. It came down to the quarterback position and he didn’t have confidence in what the Vikings had working with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. He got what he wanted, but clearly that was the wrong decision.
For the last month, Favre’s name has come up in conversation for Comeback Player of the Year – an award he should win or, at a minimum, share with former Packers teammate Darren Sharper. But his inclusion in the discussion of MVP is not only legitimate, a case can be made that he deserves to be the front-runner until proven differently. He’s earned it.
Adrian Peterson’s chase of back-to-back rushing titles may be put on permanent hold. He finished Sunday’s game with 999 yards, good for third place in the NFL. He is 32 yards behind Steven Jackson of the Rams and 92 yards behind Chris Johnson of Tennessee, who will increase that margin – quite possibly significantly – tonight when the Titans play Houston on Monday Night Football.
Sidney Rice continues to impress. He now has 875 receiving yards, which currently is good enough for third place. He might drop to fourth if Andre Johnson of the Texans has 76 yards or more receiving tonight, but Rice is putting himself among the NFL elite at the position. His 14 catches of 20 yards or more trails only Reggie Wayne (15) and his six catches of 40-plus yards is second on to DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. With all of the Vikings at or near the top of the fan balloting for the Pro Bowl, the one name that is missing is Rice, which may be one of the most deserving.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said that Antoine Winfield (foot) wanted to play on Sunday and was close. Winfield worked out for defensive backs coach Joe Woods before the game and the team made the determination to hold him back for at least another week.