I've got three things I want to address. I haven't posted in awhile and want to comment on some stuff I'm seeing out there.
Peterson was injured with one game to go in the 2011 NFL season. There is no doubt that he overcame massive odds after rehabbing from ACL/MCL surgery and has gone on an absolute tear and by all accounts, will probably break Eric Dickerson’s 28 year old rushing record of 2105 rushing yards in a season. I guess it all comes down to how you define comeback. To me, having a comeback entails having one or more bad years and then coming back from that to have a great year. Peterson is "coming back" from a brutal surgery that should have left him in the dust this year, but is having a break-out year stat-wise due to Minnesota’s terrible passing offense. According to the Football Almanac, the Comeback Player of the Year is awarded by the Pro Football Writers of America and Pro Football Weekly to the player who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance. So in this respect Peterson is coming back from a severe injury. Maybe 15 years ago, coming back from ACL surgery would warrant this award, but ACL surgery in the off-season is pretty common now.
Peyton Manning underwent neck surgery in 2011 to battle the neck pain and arm weakness he had suffered for the previous couple of seasons. It took 4 surgeries to correct the problem including a Level One Cervical Fusion and left him barely able to throw the ball. He spent all of 2011 on the sidelines and was released by the Colts rather than pay him bonuses at the end of the season. Some suggested he retire. A lot of folks were unsure of whether he’d be able to play at a high level again. No one has had this kind of neck surgery and ever come back and played at the top level in the NFL.
Peyton has come back this year with a vengeance. Through 14 games, he has passed for 4016 yards (6th in the NFL), a 67.9 completion percentage (the second best percentage of his career behind 2009’s 68.8) 31 TD (3rd in the NFL behind Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers) with only 10 interceptions, and a 103.5 QB rating (3rd in the NFL for QB with 250 attempts or more, behind Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III and the third highest personal seasonal QB rating for Peyton – he had 104.1 and 121.1 in 2005 and 2004 respectively). He is operating at a high level, perhaps at a peak performance for his career. Even though Adrian Peterson should rightly be commended for his efforts and his potentially record-breaking season, I believe the clear winner is Peyton Manning.
Next, the Most Valuable Player award. Again, this seems to be a race between Peterson and Manning. I believe that Adrian does have an argument for the Comeback Award, but how can you win an MVP award on a terrible team that is going to miss the playoffs? Yes, I know that at 8-6 they have an outside chance of a wild card berth, but they play Houston and Green Bay to finish the season and they are just not going to win those two games. They will finish 8-8 and outside wild card contention. So how do you award someone as Most Valuable Player who failed to rouse their team into the playoffs?
I am unaware of any quarterback who went to a league championship with one team and then led a second team to win the Super Bowl. Bobby Layne couldn’t with Pittsburgh, Joe Namath couldn’t with the L.A. Rams, Johnny Unitas in San Diego, and Joe Montana couldn’t with Kansas City. Sonny Jurgenson got to the Super Bowl with the Redskins after winning a championship with the Eagles, but Billy Kilmer started in his place as Jurgenson was injured. So I don't count him.
George Blanda would be the only one who could claim some measure of this as he QB’d the Houston Oilers to AFL league title in 1960 and 1961 and then won the AFL league title with Oakland in 1967 (but as a kicker), but lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II (a bit of a grey area here, he technically led two different teams to league championships, but lost the Super Bowl).
If Peyton Manning were to accomplish this with the Broncos, it would be the first time for a QB to lead two separate teams to Super Bowl victories.
But beyond this, he has led this team, by example, by direction, by instruction on how to play the game, how to win (if there’s anyone here who doesn’t think that’s an important thing, they need to turn in their Mile High badge in right now), where they need to be on a given play, what they did wrong and how to correct it. This guy is unarguably the team MVP, and has to be the front-runner in the MVP stakes. Tom Brady should be in the mix. J.J. Watt is creating havoc over there with the Houston Texans, but Peyton has taken this team and changed its very chemistry (and anyone who doesn’t think that’s important should check Cleveland out). We’re winning. And perhaps more importantly, even when we’re down, our players think they can and will come back and win it. They’re not waiting for Tebow Time (OK, maybe that was a cheap shot). They just know that the defense will hold, that someone will create a turnover and Manning will make the best of what he’s given and our guys will persevere. That’s MVP in my books.
Lastly, I personally don’t understand some of the hand-wringing that I’ve read recently. Not to bash anyone, that isn’t my intent. I just don’t understand it. I could understand being frustrated with the team during the last couple years under Shanahan when our defense was so terrible, or when Hoodie McJunior took over and purged our offense of all our stars because they weren’t his guys, or after Spygate II, or after the terrible 4-12 season. Or even after last year, when we backed into the playoffs and were a long shot in the Pittsburgh game, or after New England destroyed us the next week. I could understand that. I do. I was frustrated too. There were times when I felt like I could put players’ pictures on a board and play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and done a better draft. But we have a plan now. We have a front office that isn’t breaking the bank on high-priced, high-risk free agents (mmmm, ok maybe Peyton seemed high-risk at the time, but you have to admit, it doesn’t seem like much of a risk now), drafting well, and more importantly teaching the game, coaching up the guys they drafted (or inherited from previous regimes) so that when a player goes down (DJ, Kuper, Walton, Mays, Porter) the next guy up does his job, in some cases better than the original starter (Woodyard, Koppen, Brooking, Harris). We are a team. We are the best Broncos team since the Super Bowl winning years and might be the best Broncos defense ever.
What part about that upsets you? I’m in seventh heaven. I’m loving it! This is the best time in a decade to be a Broncos fan. Go Broncos!