In 1977, 15 years before Le’Veon Bell was born, there was a handwritten note.
It was a 72 second signal received by researchers at Ohio State of a still unknown origin in the vastness of outer space. To date, it is the best evidence of communication from another civilization.
That was Bell yesterday. By the time the game ended, he had me saying – Wow!
And convinced he isn’t of this planet.
It’s for those reasons that it’s fair to include him into the NFL MVP race. There isn’t a clear cut leader this season. No Tom Brady or Peyton Manning record-setting year. No Adrian Peterson literally running away with things. The field is wide open, a polite way of saying it isn’t that great.
Granted, it’s not completely empty of candidates. Matthew Stafford is the favorite in my mind. Derek Carr not far behind and Tom Brady continually in the mix. But assuming neither of those responses makes you instinctively shake your head yes, why not add Bell to that list?
MVP means value, we’ll get to that, but it almost always means you’re an elite talent. Aaron Rodgers. Brady. Peterson. Manning. All undeniable elite talents. So were the last two running backs handed the award; Peterson in 2012 and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.
Each of those were dominant seasons. But Bell, game-for-game, is outproducing them. And by more than a little bit. Peterson averaged 144.6 yards per game. Tomlinson, 145.2.
The most yards from scrimmage in a single year goes to Chris Johnson in 2009. He averaged five less yards per game than Bell’s pace. Meaning, if Bell had played in every game this season, he’d be well on his way to break the all-time record. The only reasons why Johnson didn’t win MVP that year was the Indianapolis Colts’ 14-0 start – the award went to Manning – and the Jeff Fisher-led bland 8-8 finish for the Tennessee Titans.
This year? There’s no undefeated team this year and the Steelers aren’t finishing .500. So it vaults Bell into the conversation.
Bell’s the best back in football. I don’t think anyone is even trying to make a case against it like there is for virtually every other position in the NFL. Even after yesterday, the Bills’ defense was openly admitting it.
He’s not just a two-way back, who can catch and run. He’s complete in all three phases, having the full trust of his quarterback in pass protection. Bell isn’t the best runner, far from the fastest and not quite the most powerful, but he’s one of the most consistent. Of his 218 carries this season, only eight of them have gone for negative yards. Only one for a loss of at least three yards.
Vision and patience. That’s him. To tweak George Carlin’s line, it’s a small club, and you ain’t in it.
You see it every single down. And that isn’t just a trite saying. It’s basically reality. The Steelers basically have to escort him off the field if they want to give him a breather. Even after missing the first three games, he’s still – entering this weekend – fifth in snap percentage league-wide among backs. After coming off the field, what, once against the Bills, he’s probably moved up the list.
Value. No, he’s not at the top of that list, not even on his own team yet alone league-wide. Blame it on the nature of his position. That’ll always be the reality, that’ll always work against him. But take him away from this team and they’re fractured. You can bet your bank account they aren’t winning yesterday. So he’s immensely valuable, even if it is a little less than a quarterback.
Best player. Historic season. Winning games. I’m not saying he has to be the MVP pick.
All I’m saying is.