Max Thompson

Aaron Rodgers should clearly not be a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award this year. However, there are complex reasons why you would believe that in the first place.

The statistical basis for why Rodgers is not the MVP is quite simple. He currently ranks 15th in ESPN’s Quarterback Rating, the leader in measuring QB effectiveness. Yes, you read that correctly: Aaron Rodgers is currently one spot away from being the definition of average as a QB this year. One spot ahead of him is rookie Kyler Murray, while one spot below Rodgers is, of course, Case Keenum.

One of the most talented signal-callers in the NFL is currently playing worse than a rookie on a 3-6-1 team. He is slightly better than a career journeyman on a 3-6 team. In what world would either of those players get MVP consideration?

The truth of the matter is regardless of team record, Aaron Rodgers has not played nearly as well as expected.

Even despite knowing this, you may still feel that Rodgers is worth consideration as the Most Valuable Player. This is not your fault; the key is in the psychology.

First of all, the availability heuristic is causing much of the error. This mental shortcut occurs when people make judgements about the likelihood of an event based on how easily an example comes to mind. This is a widespread human error that is prevalent everywhere. It is why we think that a plane crash is much more likely than it actually is after seeing horrendous examples. The salient memory of these events play a key role in our judgements.

This directly applies to Aaron Rodgers as well. When asked about him, most casual fans will talk about his incredible accuracy or fantastic sidearm bombs or even his improbable Hail Marys. All of these highlights are so vivid that when we think of Aaron Rodgers, we think of these plays. Since they come to memory so easily, we overestimate how common this actually happens.

For every highlight-reel scramble, there are a pair of throwaways that we entirely ignore. For every perfect touch pass, there is another sack taken because Rodgers couldn’t find the open man. Aaron Rodgers has some of the most entertaining plays in football, but they warp our memories to where we can’t remember the bad plays by him. He puts himself in tough situations, occasionally makes a play to bail himself out, and we completely ignore the first half of that sequence.

Another reason why it is popular to think Rodgers is your MVP is because it just feels right. He has missed the playoffs and battled injuries in each of the past two years before this, and fell out of the public eye. We went from debating Rodgers against Brady to pondering if Aaron would even be able to stay healthy. Now, he gets a new head coach and more talent on defense, and the Packers explode out to an 8-2 start this year. Humans love the comeback story, and this one is no different.

The main issue with giving the MVP award to someone who doesn’t deserve it is that you are taking it away from someone that does. In this case, that person is Russel Wilson. He currently has more passing yards with a higher completion percentage, more touchdowns, yards per attempt, yards per completion, and a significantly higher QBR. Wilson has 69 estimated points added so far this year, while Rodgers has only added 46. In every single statistical category, besides cool throws, Rodgers is not nearly as good as Wilson.

Giving Rodgers an undeserved MVP just because he is an exciting quarterback on a good team is a fundamentally bad idea. He has been outplayed by multiple different signal-callers thus far, who have all had a higher impact on their teams.

It is essential to use more than just the “eye test” when evaluating quarterbacks. Our minds and their mental shortcuts will skew the perception of these players. The availability heuristic will make it feel like Aaron Rodgers makes a highlight reel throw every other play, and confirmation bias will lead us to emphasize those plays and forget everything else. Regardless of your opinion on Aaron Rodgers, the numbers never lie: he is anything but a dominant quarterback thus far.

Max Thompson is a freshman majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at sthomp92@vols.utk.edu. Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter for high-quality NFL analysis!

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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