While the race for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year will come down to Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt and Los Angeles Rams’ All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald once again, Donald — who is slated to play in his second Super Bowl on Sunday — made the case for Watt to not only receive DPOY hardware, but additional NFL awards Thursday night in the league’s awards ceremony.
Speaking with reporters Monday night during his media availability ahead of Super Bowl LVI, Donald made the case for Watt to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award, though he added the caveat that historically the MVP award has become a QB award, making it very difficult for non-QB, let alone a defensive player, to win the award.
“A lot of great defensive players that have the stats. You know, you got a guy like T.J. Watt that got all them stats this year and it made a lot of production in a short amount of time, and he only played, you know — [he didn’t play] every single game this year,” Donald said to reporters Monday. “That’s a guy you can talk like, he can probably be an MVP this year.”
— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) February 7, 2022
That’s some great stuff right there from Donald, himself a three-time NFL DPOY award winner and future first ballot Hall of Famer. Greatness recognizing greatness and crediting it is always great to see.
Though Donald makes the case for Watt to win the MVP coming off of a year in which he tied the NFL’s single-season sacks record of 22.5 with New York Giants Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, there’s very little precedent for a defensive player to win not only the Defensive Player of the Year award, but the MVP as well.
In fact, just twice in NFL history dating back to 1957 has a defensive player won the league’s MVP award. That would be Minnesota Vikings’ Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page in 1971, and New York Giants’ Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor in 1986. That’s it, that’s the list.
The only non-QB in the last decade to win the MVP award was Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson in 2012.
While Watt is extremely unlikely to win the MVP, he should be able to beat out Donald for the DPOY this year during Thursday’s awards ceremony.