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Let me start by saying I know that Aaron Rodgers will be named the NFL MVP, and I am ok with that. Today though, I want to make a case that the most valuable player in the NFL is Joe Burrow. Without Burrow, the Bengals would be terrible! Without Rodgers, I think the Packers would still be in contention in the NFC North; the Packers are excellent on defense and have a talented team. The Cincinnati Bengals organization was a complete mess until they drafted Joe Burrow to make the case a little clearer. Burrow has done for the Bengals what Peyton Manning did for the colts; he made them relevant again. The Cincinnati Bengals have not won an NFL playoff game since January 1991, and the expectations had always been to be competitive and sneak into the playoffs. What Burrow has done makes Cincinnati Bengals fans dream that the Bengals can soon win a Super Bowl. For lack of a better term, Joe Burrow has changed the culture of an entire organization.
I know he has 14 interceptions, which pales compared to Aaron Rodgers, and that’s fine if you want to base MVP strictly off numbers. A quarterback is measured by what he can do in clutch situations, and in the last four games, Burrow has thrown 11 TD passes and zero interceptions. He has taken a team with 25-1 odds to win the division, and he has won the division! That is valuable and clutch! Burrow has thrown more than 600 yards than Rodgers this year, and he did it while being sacked 51 times! Rodgers, in comparison, has been sacked just 27 times this year. Joe Burrow is doing all of this with no offensive line help at all! Burrow’s yards per attempt is a superb 8.9, and Rodgers is 7.8; Patrick Mahomes, in comparison, averages 7.5 yds per attempt. Joe Burrow is not a dink and dunk quarterback.
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In his last two games, Burrow’s 971 passing yards are second-most in a two-game span in NFL history (Dak Prescott). He’s thrown eight touchdown passes in his last eight quarters, capping a fantastic seven-week run that’s seen him go for 14 TDs and just three picks. During that stretch, he’s first in completion percentage over expectation (8.2) and second to only Rodgers in expected points added (EPA) per play (0.27). Burrow leads the league in yards per pass (8.9), completion percentage (70.4), and OVM (30.6), is second in passer rating (108.3) and CPOE + EPA (0.162), sixth in touchdowns (34), and 11th in QBR (53.9).
When asked if he could put into words what Burrow has meant to the Bengals’ franchise, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor let everybody know how valuable Joe Burrow is to Cincinnati.
“No, you can’t. I don’t think anybody can,” Taylor said. “We had expectations for him, and so far, he’s exceeded those expectations. And of course, he’s got championships on his brain — he’s not just a guy winning big regular-season games. I know that’s why he’s here — he’s always playing for championships. He’s playing for championships in high school, he played for championships in college, and his expectation has always been to compete for championships here.
“And it’s not going to be easy — we’ve got a lot to work to do — we’re not even close yet to doing all these great things. Certainly a big step in the right direction today, and there’s no question that Joe is at the forefront of leadership on this team, and this team jumps on his back, and he’ll carry us as far as we let him.”
That sounds like an MVP to me! Joe Burrow hasn’t just changed the culture of a franchise. He has changed the culture of an entire city; the Bengals were a once-proud organization that had qualified for two Super Bowls. That all changed in 1991 with the passing of Paul Brown. The Bengals since then have been snake-bitten as a franchise with the Ki Jana Carter injury, the 2005 playoff loss where Carson palmer got hurt on just the second play of the game, and it all culminated with the Jeremy Hill fumble in the 2015 NFL playoffs. Many fans became apathetic towards the franchise; that is all changing now, and it’s changing at breakneck speed because of Joe Burrow.
If you have watched the past two weeks, you know what I am saying is not far-fetched. Remember Burrow had not played 16 games until halfway through this season because of a torn ACL which had people questioning if he would even be ready for the start of the season. He did indeed start week one, and he has gotten better every week; and the game that stands out to me is the Bears game where he threw consecutive interceptions and, on the very next drive, throws a TD pass that put the Bengals right back in the game.
Burrow is unique because he sees things ordinary quarterbacks can’t see, and his pocket presence gets better every week. Remember, he has been sacked 51 times this season, and it does not affect him. Will the Bengals win the Super Bowl this year? Probably not, but as soon as the offensive line is average, the Bengals will win at least one; the fact that we are even thinking about this happening after the injury he suffered last year will tell you how special this young man is.
Joe Burrow is a winner, and he has not had anything handed to him in life. Remember, this quarterback transferred from Ohio State because they didn’t think he was good enough to start! He transfers to LSU and has the most remarkable season any college quarterback has ever had! Then he comes to Cincinnati and has to overcome a catastrophic injury. He does it in less than a year, and then, yesterday, trailing the Chiefs by 14 points on three different occasions brings the Bengals back and leads a game-winning drive against the Chiefs to win that game. Really how is anybody more valuable than that?
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