Talk of Fame Network
There is less than a week left in the regular season, with All-Pro ballots collected the first week of January. Former coach Jim Fassel doesn't have a vote, but, if he did, he made it clear whom he'd choose as his league MVP.
Derek Carr, come on down.
The Oakland Raiders' quarterback was a favorite after leading the Raiders to the top of the AFC West and their first playoff appearance … and first winning season … since 2002. But then he broke his leg last weekend, and his MVP candidacy was cast into question.
Except ... except he has the wins, he has the numbers and he may have the votes.
Most observers believe he and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan are the leaders in a race that includes Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Matt Stafford, and it will be intriguing to see how … or if … Carr's injury affects his candidacy. But when Fassel spoke to the Talk of Fame Network prior to Christmas weekend he made it clear whom he favored.
"I think he's led his team (to) a complete turnaround," said Fassel, making his monthly appearance on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. "As a young quarterback, he has played outstanding.
"When you pick an MVP, you're looking at stats, and I haven’t looked at where he is stats (wise) with all the quarterbacks. But leadership and what you’ve done for your team …When a team is not doing well most of the time, they blame it on the quarterback. Well, the Oakland Raiders are having a year that they haven’t had in a long time. And when I watch this young man play, he's playing really good for a young quarterback."
He is correct there. His 96.7 passer rating is ninth among the 30 top-ranked quarterbacks. He completes nearly 64 percent of his passes, a career high. He has 28 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. And he's thrown for 3,933 yards, 54 yards short of his 2015 total.
Best of all, he's 12-3 as a starter. Only Brady (10-1) and Prescott (12-2) are better.
"I want to pick somebody as an MVP who has lifted his team up special," said Fassel. "I mean, he's made a difference in that team big time. And that’s when you say, 'Who's the most valuable player?' I'd throw the stats out the window and say this quarterback led this team to first place and the playoffs where they haven’t been for a long time."
In all likelihood, Brady will not gain a significant number of MVP votes, partly because he was suspended the first four games and partly because he lifted the bar so high during his career that voters are inured to his success. But Fassel said he "totally disagrees" with critics who claim that Brady's four-game absence should disqualify him from the conversation.
"Tom Brady will always be in the race for the MVP," he said, "because of the success of the team, the way he plays … and if I ever went back into coaching he'd be the first guy I would pick."
(Derek Carr photos courtesy of Oakland Raiders)