I don't think any of us saw this coming. Matt Hasselbeck, picked up off of the free agent wire, completely unwanted by the team he had helped resurrect, is a serious MVP candidate in a year chock full of good nominees. Hasselbeck, along with other surprise contenders Matt Stafford and Ryan Fitzpatrick, have taken their once forsaken franchises and brought them all unprecedented levels of success. The Bills are relevant. The Titans are relevant. The Lions are relevant. The success of these three quarterbacks, all in the midst of their first full seasons with their respective teams, (remember that Stafford has never played a full season, nor has Fitzpatrick) have elevated said teams to relevance and as luck would have it, all three are sitting either one game out of first place are actually there already.
It would be naive to attribute these three separate turnarounds to just improved quarterback play, the Lions and Titans currently boast two of the NFL's best defenses, but it's a widely known fact that quarterbacks of today have a disproportionately large impact on their teams, making them easy choices on the ballots of MVP voters every single year. In fact, it's so rare to not have a quarterback or running back take home the hardware, the last time it happened was 1990 with Jerry Rice. If you don't believe me, just consider the fact that there's actually a movement to give Peyton Manning the MVP despite the fact that he might not play a down all season. That might seem ludicrous, but it's hard to debate that Peyton hasn't been the player whose value most directly benefits his team. Look, I understand that the Colts minus Manning are the biggest wreck in the league, but don't give him the award, just name it after him already.
This year has been a career renaissance for a several QBs, the aforementioned Matt Stafford and Eli Manning instantly come to mind. It's been a flurry of offense through the air and the totally arbitrary stat of 300 yard games has been brought up more times than I care to mention. When there are so many quarterbacks who are on top of their game early on, it's obviously going to come down to which one finishes strongest and, since the MVP isn't totally stat based, will probably have something to do with who ends up making the playoffs. Factoring in that the Titans weren't on anybodies radar coming into this season, I think that if they should end up making it to the postseason that Hasselbeck has a great case for the award as long as he keeps up his standard of excellence that he's set for himself early on. Barring injury, I think it's possible. Add to this that Matt has received no help from his running game and his number one receiver is, let's be honest with ourselves here guys, Nate Washington, and you have a perfect storm. 29 TD's. 12 picks. 4524 yards. Those would be Matt Hasselbeck's basic stats assuming he finished the season like this. His rate+ of 115 ain't too shabby either. In fact, if this continues, he's on pace to have the finest season of a pretty distinguished career.
At this point, you'd be hard pressed to bet against Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, both of whom are going ballistic on the rest of the league. Consider Rodgers' absolutely insane rate+ rating of 150. NFL average is 100, that means that Rodgers is playing 50% better than your average QB. Bananas. There are also a couple of other guys i might put ahead of Hasselbeck on my ballot at this point, but only because there have been so many unstoppable QB's this year that it makes it impossible to narrow it down. However, like I said earlier, it's not always the player with the loftiest stats who wins the award, but man, it's really hard to vote against something like that. I'd give Hasselbeck around a 5% chance to end up with the award, and that' being generous. Nearly all of his consideration would have to come from the fact that the Titans were garbage one year and contenders the next. That may make the title of the post a little misleading, but honestly, how likely did you think it was that a free agent scrap heap QB with limited weaponry would even be in the conversation at this point?
As is always the case with me, sustainability is the big question here, but the worst game of the season for Hasselbeck was probably the Steelers game and even then a sad amount of his incompletions seemed to be on the receivers who had their backs turned to the ball when it got to them. Oh, and Hasselbeck's stats from the game? 262 for a TD and a pick. If that's his turd for the year, I'm sure glad he got it out of the way when the rest of the team did.
In conclusion, the lofty stat-line looks really nice, but it will ultimately be whether or not the Titans make the playoffs that will truly determine Hasselbeck's value to the voters. Should that happen, he should be at least considered for the award. A turnaround like that isn't something that should be overlooked, especially when it's being directed by the league's fifth ranked passing offense.
One last thing: you mad Seattle?