Jan
03
2021

Travis Kelce Being Overlooked In The MVP Conversation Is Symptomatic Of A Larger Issue

Over the last few weeks, the conversation around who should win the NFL’s MVP award has been narrowed down to just two players: Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Of course, this is essentially a quarterback award (over the last 20 years, only three non-quarterbacks have won the award), so the finalists are almost always all quarterbacks.

Why is this? Well, it has to do with the nature of the league, with success becoming more and more tied to a team’s ability to pass the ball. Teams are passing the ball more as a result of that, and thus, padding the results of their quarterbacks. It is completely normal for a quarterback (especially one on a team that passes the ball 50 or 60 times a game) to have 4000 or even 5000 yards passing on a season, or 35 to 40 passing touchdowns.

We are gonna take a small break in this analysis to look at the stat lines for the two leading MVP candidates. Patrick Mahomes, the player with the second-best odds to win the award, has thrown for 4740 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions (he is not playing week 17, so this is his final stat line). Aaron Rodgers has 4059 yards passing, 44 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions (he will be playing Week 17, so these stats can change).

Over the last 20 years, the passing touchdown leader has had more than 44 passing touchdowns 5 times (25% of the time), while the passing yards leader has had more than 4740 passing yards 12 times in the last 20 years (60% of the time). To make matters worse, the passing yards leader has had more than 4059 yards passing every year for the last 20 years, while the passing touchdown leader has had more than 38 touchdowns passing 7 times over the last 20 years (35% of the time).

Multiple players have done exactly what these quarterbacks are doing, with many doing it much better within the last few decades. Sure, an MVP does not need to be the best there ever was, but if they put up numbers that are expected of them at their respective position, maybe we should stop praising them for doing nothing to change the game.

Speaking of changing the game and putting up unprecedented numbers for your position, it is time to talk about Travis Kelce. In just fifteen games ( he is likely to rest in week 17), Travis Kelce broke George Kittle’s record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1416 yards, with 11 touchdowns, or as some people may call it, 29.8% of Patrick Mahomes’ total passing yards this season, and 28.9% of his touchdowns.

Travis Kelce is second in the league in receiving yards, and if he plays week 17 with Chad Henne (who will lean on him due to his knowledge of the system and ability to get wide open), he could very easily surpass the current receiving yards leader (Stefon Diggs, who is playing against a stout Miami defense), and be the first tight end to ever lead the league in receiving yards.

Do you know how many tight ends have had more receiving yards than Travis Kelce has had this year? None, as is the nature of breaking the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a season. As a matter of fact, Travis Kelce’s 1416 yards receiving would have him ranked at least seventh in receiving yards every year for the last ten years (with an average of fourth place) even if he does not have a single reception in week 17.

Kelce will finish the season with the highest receiving yards per game for a tight end ever, breaking a 53-year record set by Jackie Smith by at least ten yards per game. He could lead the league in yards per touch with some big receptions in week 17, with only a half yard separating himself and the current league leader, Tyreek Hill who will be inactive in Week 17.

Travis Kelce has been changing the game for tight ends for years, but this year, he has officially announced to the league with his action that he is the future of the tight end position and the future is now.

Do you want to know Travis Kelce’s odds of becoming MVP? The man who is going to end the season having broken almost every single tight end record on the books and is legitimately in a position to lead the entire league in receiving yards. Do you want to know what his odds to win the NFL MVP award are?

Zero. According to every single sports betting site and odds tracker that I could find, Travis Kelce has a zero percent chance of winning the league MVP award. This puts him behind not only Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, but also Tom Brady (who has the second most pick-sixes and has thrown the eighth-most interceptions), Josh Allen, Derrick Henry, Davante Adams, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and several other players.

The rest of these players played their position the same way it has been played for years, changing nothing and being awarded for it. Meanwhile, the tight end, who is putting in work every week to overcome the box that his position puts him in, therefore making the game better and adding an immeasurable amount of prestige to future and past players legacies, gets slighted because “Well, he is not a quarterback”

What does it take for a tight end to get on the list for potential MVPs? Apparently breaking every tight end record in the books is not enough, so what impossible standard does a tight end have to reach to be appreciated by the panel of journalists who vote for MVP? Meanwhile, quarterbacks put up numbers that are expected of them and they get overwhelming praise heaped on them.

There is an obvious quarterback preference in the media, and it is unfair to any other player on the field. This is evident in the day to day coverage of the league, but in the MVP conversation and voting, it is overwhelmingly clear. Maybe it is time to rebalance the MVP panel with minds and voices that are willing to vote and make decisions with context and without QB bias.