MVP (Most Valuable Patriot): Which Came First, the Gronk or the Brady?

Posted: December 17, 2011 by mzyohai in NFL, Opinion, Patriots
Tags: , , , , , ,

After a seemingly casual reference to Rob Gronkowski’s record-setting season in our NFL MVP debate, we could not help ourselves from launching into a tirade on who deserves to be the team MVP for the New England Patriots: the freakishly ginormous second-year tight end or the reigning league MVP (and full-time pretty boy douchebag, I would argue), Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. (See? He even has two middle names. The first sign of a d-bag.)

What follows is the usual stubbornness and smack talk you have come to know and love from us…

Mike: So let me take a quick look at the Patriots’ weekly game plan: score enough points through Brady’s unbelievable accuracy to overcome the inevitable 20-someodd points the defense will allow. OK, I made that sound a little more subversive than it had to – but I happen to hate your team. Whoops! But tell me: would this plan work without Gronkowski?

To borrow a phrase, “that mountain of man,” has a record-setting 15 touchdowns — that accounts for almost half of Brady’s 33 total passing touchdowns. That pornstar-plowing machine has accumulated 1,088 yards, accounting for about a quarter of Tom Brady’s 4,273 yards. And that’s just Gronkowski’s affect on Brady’s game. When it comes to Gronk helping his team, you need only look at his average yards per reception: 15.3. HE AVERAGES A FIRST-DOWN AND THEN SOME!

So am I arguing that the Patriots’ all-star tight end deserves an MVP nod? No. But I’d give it to him before I gave it to Brady again.

Nick: Are you actually saying what I think you’re saying? Or am I misunderstanding you because your misshapen head is shoved so far up your own ass? You’re basically saying that Gronk is what gives Brady the MVP, and that any quarterback with such a target would basically get the same numbers out of the superhuman tight end. Come on.

Mike: Yes. Scratch that, I mean: YES, I am most certainly saying that any QB with such a target would be putting up amazing numbers. He is exactly what you said: superhuman.

Nick: What you’re telling me is the offense would suffer more if you replaced Gronkowski with a back-up tight end (his completely mediocre brother, Dan Gronkowski, let’s say), than if Brady sat out in favor of second-stringer Brian Hoyer. Really? You think he would have connected with Gronk for 15 TDs and over 1,000 yards? Brian Hoyer?!

Mike: Pull Gronkowski out of the Pats and look at what is left. If wins above replacement were a sabermetric for football, Gronkowski would be off the charts.

Look at what that man has done this year. He even scored a touchdown on his only career rushing attempt this year. He has four 100-yard games this year.

Nick: You can’t seriously claim that you would give Gronk the MVP ahead of Brady. That’s ridiculous. You can’t just play the game where you see how successful a player would be if you remove one of their crucial players. It’s a fruitless exercise that proves absolutely nothing, and I hate it. You could say the same thing about how important Matt Light or someone else in the offensive line is to Brady’s success, but that doesn’t undermine his case for MVP.

Mike: Did you see him last week? No, you didn’t because you were watching the Jets with me. But, Gronk put up 160 yards and 2 TDs. Amazing performance right? Yeah, until you realize that he put 120 of those yards in yards after catch and 83 of them in yards after contact. In other words, Gronkowski barely needed a QB to pitch him the ball in order to put together enough yards to march down the field.

Nick: In other words, if we go through another thought experiment, and for some reason you were forced to bench either Brady or Gronkowski , you would choose to bench Brady? The only man not named Joe Montana with multiple NFL and Super Bowl MVP awards? The man who touches the ball on every snap, instead of the guy who catches the ball every so often? The NFL record holder for most passing touchdowns in a season? Sarcasm alert: Right. That makes a ton of sense.

Mike: OK, let’s play the record-setter game. Gronkowski might actually become the first tight end ever (EVER!) to lead the league in TD receptions. He’s on pace to hit 19 receiving TDs, 20 total. If he gets there, he’ll be the third person to ever catch 19 TDs. The other two being Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Remember them? They were the guys who dominated the sport and who happened to be wide receivers. Jerry Rice helped his team go 13-2 the year he caught his 22 (the previous record, set in just 12 games during that strike-shortened 1987 season, mind you – replacement players led by Keanu Reeves played the other three regular season games). And Moss broke Rice’s record with 23 TD catches in what year? You guessed it. The Patriots’ undefeated season.

Nick: You know, it’s funny that you mentioned Randy Moss’s 23 touchdown season. You know what the common denominator would be for two of those seasons where a player caught at least 19 touchdowns? Tom Brady! How does the saying go? Oh yeah — “Coincidence? I think not.”

Mike: Comparing #12 in 2007 to #12 in 2011 is foolish. Moss’s accomplishment came easily because his QB was nearing perfection. Gronkowski is making more Brady out of less Brady. That’s the exact definition that James Walker gave for an MVP.

But you want me to keep him and Brady separated? Like in middle school when you have to separate talkative kids? Fine. Gronkowski is also the best blocking tight end in the league according to ProFootballFocus.com. (I know, that’s not a trustworthy source because it’s not written or edited by a raving Boston sports fan, but look, they’re saying nice things about Boston! Yay!)

Remember when the Patriots lost two games in a row? That a was a bummer, right? Guess who’s scored 2 TDs in four the five games since then? Gronkowski.  His enlarged role in the Patriots’ offensive scheme has brought the Pats out of the dark days of Weeks 8 and 9. That odd fifth-game-out, by the way, Gronkowski still caught a TD and beasted 59 yards on 4 catches.

Nick: You want to talk about cause and effect in those two losses? Against the Steelers, Gronk had 7 catches for 94 yards — good for 13.4 yards per catch. Against the Giants, he reeled in 8 catches for 101 yards, including a touchdown. I would say those are pretty impressive stat lines showing he did his part. Yet the Pats still lost. Meanwhile, in those same two games, Brady was 24-35 with 2 TDs, but had only 198 yards and gaining just 5.7 yards per attempt. Versus the Giants, Brady had a terrible game, completing just 28 of 49 passes and offsetting his 2 TDs with 2 costly picks. I’d say that when Brady doesn’t play well, the Pats lose; yet when Gronk plays “well” and has a “good” game that is about as much difference he can make, the Pats still lose. For shits and giggles, let’s look at the loss to the Bills. Gronk? 7 catches, 109 yards, 2 TDs. Boom! That’s a Patriots win, right? Nope. Brady throws 4 interceptions, Pats lose. I’m sensing a pattern. Wouldn’t you agree?

Mike: I think the point you fail to notice is that Gronk doesn’t play poorly. I’ll repeat my point: Gronk is doing great things even when he is given less from his QB. Nothing can slow him down. And of course a team loses when its QB doesn’t perform well. It would be pointless to award the MVP by seeing which games a team lost and see who played badly. That’s using negative evidence to assign positive values. Almost every team leans heavily on their QB to win games. That’s the whole point of the position. But the most valuable player isn’t “the most valuable QB.”

Nick: Trust me, I don’t fail to notice Gronk’s consistent dominance. But just because he puts up quality numbers week in and week out doesn’t make Gronk more crucial to the success of the offense. But I’ll admit maybe that’s just because ESPN has brainwashed me into thinking the quarterback is the only noteworthy (read: glorified) position on the football field.

But when you talk about “value,” the QB does inherently have the most. Of all the NFL MVP trophies ever awarded, only three have been given to a player at a position other than quarterback or running back. They touch the ball more, so they are inevitably more valuable. And that doesn’t even address the QB’s decision-making responsibilities calling plays at the line of scrimmage. It’s  Brady who is in charge of overcoming the inept Patriots defense; Gronk just has to see the ball, catch the ball. Then plow through a defender, and get the ball across the pylon, obviously.

Mike: If your argument is that the Patriots’ defense, being on track to allow more yards in a single season than any team in NFL history, needs their QB to perform more than any other team, then I’m simply not buying it. Give the award to Peyton or Tebow, then.

This year, Tom Brady is on pace to break Dan Marino’s record for passing yards because Rob Gronkowski has defied the best defensive backs in the league. Even when Tom Brady cannot lead his team to a win, Gronkowski still runs up Brady’s stat-line. Gronkowski is indispensable. He isn’t the league’s MVP. Aaron Rodgers should take home that honor.

But if Boston were a world unto itself… and it is… Gronkowski is the MVP — Most Valuable Patriot.

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