The Chicago Bears sit atop the NFC North and control their own destiny for the rest of the regular season. The Bears’ offensive woes have been a popular topic of conversation in Chicago and in NFL circles, and with the return of Jay Cutler this past Sunday it was evident that the Bears’ offensive still has life. After Sunday’s victory over the Vikings, murmurs from the Chicago media and elsewhere have suggested that Jay Cutler should be considered for the MVP.
So what is this MVP recommendation based on? It seems that the primary argument is simply how much better the Bears are with Cutler lining up behind center. Going back to last year, the Bears are 13-2 with Cutler in the lineup. Without Cutler Chicago is a helpless 1-6, which clearly demonstrates Cutler’s value to both the offense and the football team as a whole.
This argument certainly deserves consideration. The Most Valuable Player award is intended to be given to a player who demonstrates incredible value to their football team. There is no doubt that Cutler has shown this and then some. The Bears are one of the NFL’s best with him in the lineup yet don’t even play as a cohesive unit without him. So does that justify an MVP award?
My answer is no. I find this to be an example of value by absence rather than value by performance. This is not intended to be a knock on Jay Cutler. The most passionate Cutler detractor would have a hard time explaining how a 13-2 record demonstrates anything other than great football, and I certainly do not intend to be a detractor. But I do think there is a serious flaw in this logic. The Cutler-for-MVP train left the station due to Jason Campbell demonstrating just how much the Bears need Cutler. This is what I would call value by absence.
By my definition, the most valuable player is awarded to the person that demonstrates unquestionable value to their team on the field. Cutler is the difference between a Bears win and loss, which demonstrates value on the field, yet it would be hard to argue that he is the reason the Bears are one of the NFL’s top teams. Cutler is currently sitting on a respectable 60.8% completion percentage with 13 TDs, 11 INTs, and 2002 yards. With the exception of the interceptions, those are very solid numbers. But MVP numbers?
In contrast, Peyton Manning has a 67.7 completion percentage with 26 TDs, 8 INTs, and a very impressive 3260 yards. That’s more like it. Jay Cutler has been as solid as a rock for Chicago, but we aren’t talking about the Most Solid Player/Game Manager award. The MVP isn’t awarded based on how your team is without you, it’s about what you do on the field.