Mark Madden: Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger might earn NFL MVP, but he won’t win it
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is Las Vegas’ favorite to be NFL MVP. His odds are 11-2. Mahomes won MVP last year.
Baker Mayfield did well as a rookie last season, but Cleveland finished 7-8-1. Yet Mayfield inexplicably ranks fourth among MVP favorites at 11-1. Those odds are too short.
Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards last season. His MVP odds are an astronomical 30-1, ranking him 13th in Vegas.
I’ll be in Vegas next week. Betting on Roethlisberger is great value for money. I’m in for $500. (OK, maybe $100.)
Sports leagues pick their MVP differently than Vegas sets odds. Their methodology is a lot more random.
Despite my (ahem) high standard of betting acumen, Roethlisberger won’t win NFL MVP no matter what. The football media won’t give it to him. (OK, maybe $50.)
Roethlisberger isn’t the new flavor. Mahomes is.
Roethlisberger isn’t the legendary veteran. Not like Tom Brady. (Roethlisberger should be just shy of that. He’s not.)
Roethlisberger still unfairly carries residue from the circumstances surrounding his absolutely unwarranted four-game suspension in 2010.
Roethlisberger could have an MVP-caliber season in 2019. In fact, I expect that.
But consider what goes into picking the MVP in any sport. It’s supposed to be “the player most valuable to his team.”
That often gets tweaked to “best player,” or “stats leader.”
It gets further adjusted by popularity, race, lifetime achievement, predetermined expectations and what’s perceived to be good for the league and/or sport.
The original idea of “most valuable” gets extremely diluted, sometimes forgotten.
Mistakes get made. Like Wayne Gretzky getting NHL MVP over Mario Lemieux in 1988-89 despite 31 fewer points (all goals).
I’ve never taken MVP awards seriously since.
It’s the same with halls of fame. Ex-Steeler Alan Faneca was his era’s best guard. Probably one of the best five ever at his position. How has Faneca missed out on the Pro Football Hall of Fame four straight years?
The Pro Football Hall of Fame process may be the most flawed. A 48-man panel gets in a room and debates who should make it. It’s worse than a debate between Democratic presidential candidates.
The media who vote for NFL MVP will root for Mayfield. He’s a sexy choice. Like Mahomes, Mayfield is a new flavor. Cleveland is football’s big story in 2019 despite being sub-.500 in 2018.
Oh, right, they added receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham played five seasons for the New York Giants. They finished with a winning record just once and didn’t win any playoff games. Beckham couldn’t find the promised land with a GPS.
But if the Browns win the AFC North, Mayfield wins MVP. I don’t even need to know his stats.
But the Browns won’t win the division, or come close. The preseason pandemonium will add up to zilch.
Cleveland has had two winning years since re-entering the NFL in 1999. But the team’s fans drip with arrogance somehow born of finishing 7-8-1 last season. Meantime, Mayfield shotguns beers like a frat boy on the Jumbotron at an Indians baseball game and chews out his receivers at practice. Cracks already are showing.
Steelers fans have plenty of story arcs to follow:
• Will Antonio Brown fail in Oakland? (Depends if those blisters heal.)
• Will Le’Veon Bell fail in New York? (He’ll be out for the season by Week 8. Then he can rap.)
• Will Cleveland betray its preseason hype? (Absolutely.)
• Will the Steelers be better without Brown and Bell? (Yes. Here’s predicting they score more points than last year.)
Schadenfreude will splatter all over the league.
I’m going to bet Roethlisberger will be MVP. But that’s wasted money. (OK, maybe $25.) He very rarely even wins the Steelers’ team MVP.
Roethlisberger has been the Steelers’ franchise player since he was drafted in the first round in 2004.
But during a nailed-on Hall-of-Fame career that’s spanned 15 years and won two Super Bowls, he has been voted MVP by his teammates once.
How did that happen?
See the factors listed above, and draw your own conclusion.
It’s a microcosm of the problems that beset MVP awards big and small.