Aaron Rodgers was already one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history long before he won the last two MVP awards. This year, he has a chance to do something only one other player has ever done: win three times in a row.
Despite claiming league MVP for the past two seasons, the Packers quarterback has the fifth-shortest odds (+1000 or 10/1) at BetMGM to earn the honor of this year, which would tie him with Peyton Manning for the most MVP awards in NFL history (five). He would also join former teammate Brett Favre as the only players in league history to win three straight.
Rodgers has already won four in his 14-year career, including each of the last two. So why isn’t he the favorite to win another one?
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In some ways it feels like you’ve been here before. Rodgers opened as a 20/1 long shot to win MVP heading into the 2020 season, when he threw for 48 touchdowns for just five interceptions and led the league in completion rate (70.7%) , passer rating (121.5) and QBR (79.8) run away with the prize. He was also unfavored the following year, although 37 touchdowns and four interceptions helped him cash in at 10/1 odds.
Fittingly, he’s trading at the same price heading into this season, and it’s tempting to assume that his career-ending revival will earn him a record fifth MVP award. But remember: we’ve been here before too.
Winning MVP in back-to-back seasons is hard enough, something only four players had done before Rodgers joined the club in February. Three of them were quarterbacks: Joe Montana (1989-90), Manning (2003-04, 2008-09) and Favre (1995-97), who was the only one to extend this MVP for a third season .
So what was wrong with the other two?
Montana fell victim to the ultimate wild card betting on lasting success: injuries. He missed the entire 1991 season with an elbow injury and only played one game the following year.
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Manning was second MVP in 2005, leading the league in passer ratings (104.1) in a 14-2 season, but he couldn’t maintain his historic touchdown rate (9.9%) of the previous year. His touchdown rate in 2010 — after two other straight MVPs — was the fifth-lowest of his career (4.9 percent), and the Colts couldn’t win enough games to overcome it.
Even Favre’s third trophy comes with an asterisk, when he was tied with Lions running back Barry Sanders with just 18 of 48 votes for the 1997 award. His formula was simple but extremely difficult to maintain : Lead the league in passing touchdowns, which he’s done in his three MVP seasons but only once in his prolific 20-year career.
That sets the blueprint for Rodgers, who threw at least 37 touchdowns in all four MVP seasons and led the league in touchdown rate in three of them. Sometimes it’s as simple as this: The NFL’s touchdown leader has won the MVP title in six of the past seven seasons, with 2017 leader Carson Wentz the betting favorite to win the Price before an injury cut short his season in early December.
Touchdown rate is notoriously one of the most volatile stats from season to season, so it’s fair to wonder if Rodgers — who had posted five straight seasons with a TD rate below 7% before his two-year resurgence — can maintain his scoring brilliance with arguably the worst receiving corps he’s ever had after losing Davante Adams this offseason. It’s also fair to wonder if Rodgers can avoid the fate of Montana and stay healthy in his 39-year-old season, especially given his checkered health record that includes two lost half-seasons on wound.
Rodgers has shocked us before, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if he makes history this season as well. But there are too many factors working against him to bet on this run extending for a third consecutive season – even if his resume suggests otherwise.