Simply put, Brees is hitting every mark this season, and even though there are other worthy candidates, including Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Brees is the runaway choice for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award at this point in the season. Here’s why:
He’s breaking just about every record.
Let’s start here with completion percentage, as Brees is on pace to absolutely shatter his own record of 72.0 percent, set last season. His current pace of 76.9 percent represents an increase over the current record that is equivalent to the difference between that and the 55th-best single-season completion percentage of all-time. His efficiency in completing passes is simply unprecedented.
Brees’s 126.9 passer rating that also would be an NFL record, breaking Aaron Rodgers’ 122.5 figure from 2011. When you isolate that solely for downfield passes (10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, using PFF’s play-charting), Brees is on pace with a 139.9 rating to break the previous record-holder Nick Foles and his 131.3 rating from the 2013 season.
And finally, if you want to get into team stats, Brees is commanding a record-breaking offense. The Saints are averaging 3.57 points per drive, the most in NFL history. They’ve scored on 62.5 percent of their drives, 8.7 percentage points higher than the second-place Chiefs and — you guessed it — higher than any offense in NFL history.
His performance so far is even more impressive than that of Mahomes.
The MVP conversation for the past month has centered around Brees and Mahomes. The second-year quarterback is putting up record numbers of his own in leading Kansas City to the AFC’s best record in his first season as a starter, and he’s on pace for the second-most touchdown passes and third-most yards in a single season all-time.
When comparing these two passers, however, because their traditional stats are so off-the-charts, we have to dig deeper. The first way we can capture Brees’s advantage over Mahomes is in their PFF grades, which come from measuring player performance on every play. Brees has earned a 95.6 on a 0 to 100 scale, compared to the second-place Mahomes, who has earned a 92.3.
We can also compare their performance by looking at how difficult-to-make each of the quarterback’s throws are. So far this season, Mahomes has attempted the second-most passes to open or wide-open receivers, and his 215 attempts of this variety are 61 more than Brees. Mahomes has produced 2,556 yards and a 151.9 passer rating on those open throws — both far and away the most in the league. By comparison, Brees has just 1,660 yards and 128.4 passer rating on open passes. While finding the open receiver is certainly a skill in and of itself, the scheme and talent around the quarterback are big factors in a quarterback’s production (think about Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s walk-in 73-yard touchdown catch during Monday night’s game versus the Rams).
When we flip over to look at throws in which a receiver has just a step of separation, are made into a tight window or with a defender closing, there really is no comparison. Brees is leading the league on these pass attempts by a wide margin in completion percentage (70.4 percent), passer rating (124.5) and yards (1,304). As the chart below shows, Mahomes trails significantly in each category.
1,217 (Ryan Fitzpatrick)
58.3% (Russell Wilson)
109.2 (Russell Wilson)
We are in the midst of one of the most impressive seasons of quarterback play in NFL history, and Mahomes has played a big part in that, while also making the Chiefs a bona fide Super Bowl contender. But even what Kansas City has accomplished hasn’t been more impressive than the play of the Saints, and the player most responsible for that success is Brees. Through 11 weeks, he is the clear-cut most valuable player in the league.
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