In this season of unprecedented offensive football output, talk recently has emerged of a defensive player earning the league MVP award. But the man who runs the defense for which Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald plays doesn’t see it happening.
Unless he’s engaging in reverse psychology.
“Yeah, they’re not going to give it to a defensive player, in my opinion,” Wade Phillips told reporters on Thursday. “Quarterbacks are always the guy that — and probably well deserved — they cause a lot of points. It’s harder on defense to say, ‘Hey, man, he stopped him from scoring how many times or how many points he’s accounted for.’ But, [Aaron has] actually accounted for a lot of points because he’s stopped drives or he’s caused fumbles, all those things. But you don’t see that in the defensive player stats and so forth, so I think it’s always going to be an offensive player, pretty much. I think the only chance that any player would have and Aaron would have would be to set the all-time record for sacks or something like that. We’re glad we have him and whether he gets the MVP or Todd Gurley gets it, we really don’t care.”
Last year, Donald became the defensive player of the year and Gurley won the offensive player of the year award. This year, they could split votes, opening the door for someone from another team to win it. Unless the voters who are inclined to give the award for the Rams get together ahead of the official vote (there’s a word for that but it slips my mind) and pick one specific Ram for whom to vote.
And it could be Donald, especially if he surpasses Michael Strahan’s single-season* record of 22.5 sacks. But even if Donald falls short of that mark, he’s only 1.5 sacks away from the record for sacks by an interior defensive lineman, set by Keith Millard in 1989.
Rams coach Sean McVay was less pessimistic about Donald’s prospects that Phillips.
“I think if the voters determine that that’s the case, then certainly it could happen,” McVay told reporters on Thursday. “If it happens to be somebody that we’re working with, no one would be more excited and happy for Aaron than we would as an organization. But, for us, the best part about it is our guys are focused on what they can do to contribute for our team. Certainly, he’s made a huge impact on the game. I think a lot of it really goes back to just playing good football, getting better every single day. He certainly has done that, but a lot of it is an interpretation thing, ‘Most Valuable Player.’ Do you deem that based on the impact you’re making on the game? Are you saying that somebody that touches the ball every single play is the most valuable based on the nature of the position? So I think it’s really left for interpretation, but I know this: Aaron Donald is playing outstanding football. He has been instrumental in a lot of the big plays that have occurred as a result of us winning football games because of the defense coming through in some crunch-time situations. It’s not by coincidence that 99 is usually in the middle of all of that and it starts with his preparation. He sure is a talented player as well.”
The current favorites for the award are Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes, not necessarily in that order. The reality is that, with 25 percent of the season still to play, the winner won’t truly come into focus until the season ends, the stats are finalized, and the playoff seedings are set.
Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page won the MVP award in 1971, and Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor captured the prize in 1986. The year Strahan racked up 22.5 sacks, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner won his second MVP award in three years.