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Are there any players besides quarterbacks?

Published 9:58am Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Column: Pothole Prairie, by Tim Engstrom


NFL fans, are you sick and tired of all the idolatry of quarterback? It’s like the sports media, especially the lousy TV commentators, think each team only has a single player that really matters.

I cannot believe that Denver Broncos Peyton Manning was even in consideration for the league MVP award when compared to what Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson accomplished.

Peterson led the league in rushing, with 2,097 yards. That was 484 yards better than anyone else in the NFL this year. He placed second in the history of the National Football League for one of the loftiest records of them all — the single-season rushing record. And he was nine yards short of breaking the record, and he did it in a pass-dominated era, with 31 fewer carries than the record holder, L.A. Rams legend Eric Dickerson, who set the record back in 1984.

Manning, meanwhile, didn’t lead anything. He placed seventh for passing yards this season, 518 yards behind the leader, Drew Brees. Manning had the second highest passer rating, at 105.8, behind Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had 108.0.

Ah, but the argument is that Manning somehow lifted the Broncos to greatness.

Look, he took a Broncos squad to the playoffs that even perennial punching bag Tim Tebow took to the playoffs.

Even Tebow at least won one playoff game for the Broncos, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on the first play in overtime with a good pass. Manning couldn’t vanquish the Baltimore Ravens in 15 minutes of overtime. And he threw an interception gave the Ravens the ball and the field position they needed to win the game.

By comparison, the Vikings were garbage last year, 3-13, and had an awful offensive line for Peterson to run behind and a rookie quarterback to get used to. This year, with a revamped squad, Peterson came back from a knee injury that keeps most men out of football for a season. He put the Vikings on his back, and at some low points serving as the team’s only viable offensive weapon.

Where was Manning last year? Out for the season recovering from neck surgeries.

This should’ve been Peterson’s season off. Instead, it was one of the greatest seasons a football player has ever had.

I once liked Manning, to be honest — until this season, when I couldn’t understand why all the laurels were being heaped upon the guy. I am glad his team — or as sports pundits say, he — lost Saturday, and I hope sportswriters who voted for him for MVP are eating crow right now.

I know. The votes for MVP were cast by the Thursday before the playoffs began and will be announced on Super Bowl Sunday. But it still feels good after the whole Manning or Peterson debate.

Duh! Peterson. Obviously.

A quarterback is nothing without a good offensive line. Zip. Zero. Nada. Or receivers who can catch a football. Zilch. And it sure helps to have a good running back who makes the defense have to adjust to the rushing game.

An offense is nothing without a good defense to save their skin. Sure, Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls with the Steelers, but it was thanks largely to the Steel Curtain defense. He’ll be the first to admit it takes a team.

And Vikings kicker Blair Walsh surely reminds all of us of how valuable special teams players are.

So let’s review. All the players together make a team. Quarterbacks do not play alone.

All the quarterback worship these days is just ratings hype. Good players at other positions deserve consideration for the MVP just the same. Heck, I’d rather see Peterson’s merits debated in the same breath as that J.J. Watt from the Houston Texans. Watt led the league in sacks with 20.5, almost reaching the single-season record. He’s a monster.

If it is announced on Super Bowl Sunday that Manning won the MVP, it will hurt the credibility of sports writers everywhere and shine a light on how the NFL news media sees the league differently than the NFL fans.

Peterson deserves the award hands down.

Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.