Our staff voting for NFL MVP is complete here at SB Nation.com, and when the dust settled I was left being the only No. 1 vote for Jalen Hurts. Make no mistake, it was a brutal choice down the ballot for Most Valuable Player, and every semblance of logic told me this should be Patrick Mahomes — but in the end I just couldn’t bring myself to move off Hurts.
Instead of just leaving my vote hanging in the wind, I thought it might be interesting to dive into my thought process and explain what led me to picking Hurts when Mahomes had a 5,250 yard, 41 TD season.
For me, MVP really breaks into three areas of analysis: The numbers, the results, and the intangibles — which I use not in the over-used pre-draft sense, but as a way of looking at what forces were outside of the player’s control and how they navigated them.
Jalen Hurts, by the numbers
It’s easy to overlook just how phenomenal Jalen Hurts was this season if you’re simply looking at a list of quarterbacks and see him sitting in 10th. Yes, throwing for 3.700 yards isn’t the kid of eye-popping raw production that warrants praise in 2023, but there’s so many facets to Hurts as a passer that were staggering this season.
Efficiency is really the story here. Because the Eagles were an efficient team top-to-bottom in 2022 it led to Hurts not needing to throw as often as many quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, he finished with 188 fewer attempts than Mahomes, When Hurts did throw, however, he dominated. His 8.0 yards-per-attempt is second only to Mahomes (8.1) this season, and keep in mind that Hurts is a dual-threat quarterback, rather than a pure pocket passer.
This is coupled with an absurdly low 1.3 percent interception rate on the year, best in the NFL. An INT% rate that low is rare for most quarterbacks outside of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in their respective MVP seasons.
In short: Everything worked in concert to win games at the expense of Hurts’ raw passing numbers. The Eagles were rarely behind, meaning he didn’t get a lot of chances to volume throw his way back into games and boost his numbers — and because he barely turned the ball over he naturally had less drives to work downfield and try to score.
All of this is before we discuss what a dominating performance Hurts had when he ran the ball this season. Running for 760 yards and 13 TDs in 15 games, Hurts extended drives by rushing for 67 first downs this season — and showed a tremendous knack for pick apart defenses.
We’re left statistically with a season that is remarkably similar to Lamar Jackson’s MVP campaign in 2019 when you mash all the stats together.
- Lamar Jackson (2019): 4,333 all-purpose yards, 43 touchdowns, 8 turnovers
- Jalen Hurts (2022): 4,461 all-purpose yards, 35 touchdowns, 6 turnovers
This was a good enough case for me based on numbers to put Hurts deep into the conversation with Mahomes for MVP, and he passed the bar.
Stuffing stats is meaningless without something to show for it. Sure, it might make for good fan feelings and an inflated Madden rating, but when it comes to performance Hurts really backed it all up.
We all know the Eagles finished 14-3 this season when the expectation was they’d push to maybe be an 11 win team, but with Hurts under center Philadelphia was 13-1. This team was damn-near unbeatable when he was under center. The only loss on Hurts’ record in 2022 game was to Washington, in a game where the Eagles committed seven penalties for 75 yards, and gave up 330 yards of offense.
The end result to all this is that there really wasn’t a bad game on Hurts’ card this season. Sure, there were one or two where he underperformed, but you can’y find a single game and say “yes, that’s the reason the Eagles struggled or lost.”
When you compare this to Mahomes there are definitely games where Mahomes couldn’t get the job done — most notably in losses to Indianapolis and Cincinnati, where he played so below his typical production that the lack of offense is the key reason the Chiefs lost.
The Eagles would be a horrifically mediocre team without Jalen Hurts under center.
I know this can be equally said about the Chiefs without Mahomes — but we have a direct evidence of what Philadelphia would have been in 2022 without their superstar quarterback.
Gardner Minshew played a perfectly decent game against the Cowboys on December 24. He threw for 355 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. It wasn’t a mind-blowing game, but it wasn’t horrible either. The Eagles would go on to lose by six points.
Minshew played totally decent football the next week too against the Saints — and the Eagles lost by 10.
There have been arguments that the Eagles are this incredible, complete football team without any major problems — as a way to praise Nick Siriani’s system over giving Hurts his flowers. The problems with this discussion is that it simply didn’t bear out. Instead what we saw from the Eagles was that when they didn’t have Hurts under center they were a middling football team, who would have likely finished last in the NFC East (as competitive as the division became), and even struggled against a bad team like the Saints.
Siriani’s system and schemes are great, but without Hurts they’re bland — there’s no spark. It’s the equivalent of watching someone buy a beautiful dry-aged Wagyu steak and then turn it a tepid grey over low heat with no seasoning.
When Hurts is in control he’s the nexus, the chef, the prism in which raw energy can be focused through and turn into something transcendent. Seeing how anemic the Eagles were without Hurts showed me why he’s the most valuable player on that team, and most integral to a team’s fortunes.
What’s the functional difference between Mahomes and Hurts?
That’s really what this comes down to, right? Every argument I applied to Hurts can easily be applied to Mahomes too. The Chiefs would probably be an absolute dumpster fire without him under center as well.
In the end it comes down to expectation, which is my final tilt. Mahomes had a phenomenal season — hell, perhaps the best he’s ever had when you take into account the questionable offense talent he has in 2022 vs. past years. Still, what Mahomes did is an extension of everything he’s done since entering the league. He’s is the next great one, a player who has the ability to destroy every expectation for quarterback play moving forward.
We really could go from saying “there will never be another Tom Brady” to “I can’t believe we saw someone better than Brady,” all within the span of the next decade — but Mahomes is on that trajectory.
The point is: I expect greatness from Patrick Mahomes. It’s just about the striations of greatness along the way. I didn’t expect Jalen Hurts to go from being questioned whether he actually is the future of the Eagles, to become the most important part of the team in a year where Philadelphia was the best team in the NFC.
This is not an easy decision, but when the dust settled and I looked at all these factors I had to make Jalen Hurts my MVP for 2022.