Was Drew Brees Really the Super Bowl MVP?

Drew Brees is clearly what makes the Saints go. He appears to be their physical, mental, and emotional center of gravity, so it's appropriate he is the MVP even if the numbers tell a different story. Still, it's interesting to pull the game apart and find out which players helped and hurt their team the most.

Tracy Porter's interception return was obviously a crucial play. So was the onside recovery to start the half. Garrett Hartley's three long FGs made a big difference too. Joseph Addai had a surprisingly strong night. There were a number of performances worth looking at. Let's see what the Win Probability Added (WPA) numbers have to say.

Before I proceed, a quick disclaimer: When we look at WPA numbers for individual players, we're simply adding up the WPA values for each play that their name appears in the NFL's official play description. For example, Drew Brees' WPA total is not solely his own. It belongs to the offensive line, the receivers, and the coaches who design and call the plays. WPA can be a useful tool, but in some cases, it's just an interesting exercise. This falls into the latter category. We're really just putting a number to what we already saw with our own eyes.


PlayerWPA
D.Brees+0.45
J.Addai+0.31
P.Thomas+0.25
P.Manning+0.20
D.Clark+0.18
R.Bush+0.13
G.Hartley+0.12
D.Henderson+0.12
T.Porter+0.12
L.Moore+0.09
M.Colston+0.08
P.Garcon+0.07
J.Shockey+0.04
A.Collie-0.04
M.Stover-0.10
R.Wayne-0.10

A few notes on each player:

Drew Brees rightfully earned the MVP award with a +0.45 WPA total. 288 yards, 2 TDs, and no turnovers.

Joseph Addai had the second highest. He averaged almost 6 yards per carry and scored a key TD in the first half. Addai totaled 135 yards on 13 carries and 6 receptions.

Pierre Thomas had a strong game too. He had 85 total yards on 9 carries and 6 receptions, plus he  scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the game.

Peyton Manning follows with +0.20. The back-breaking intecreption return for a TD was worth -0.21 by itself, so aside from that single play, Manning had an MVP night himself.

Dallas Clark led the Colts' receiving corps with a few key first downs and a deep reception. In total he led his team with 86 receiving yards on 7 catches.

Reggie Bush had a nice game, earning +0.17 WPA on multi-purpose duty.

Garrett Hartley's three field goals, each over 40 yards, was impressive, but doesn't compare to some of the other performances in the game.

The Saints receivers each contributed positively, but a couple drops hurt Colston's numbers. Lance Moore gets +0.05 just on the 2-pt conversion.

Tracy Porter's inteception return for a TD was worth +0.21, but he gave up some plays along the way for a net of +0.10 WPA. He's probably the only defender with a positive score. WPA is not always suitable for defenders. (Imagine that a RB escapes 10 other tackers only to be chased down by the 11th defender 90 yards downfield. The hustling tackler would be the player penalized for the play.)

The Colts receivers had a surprisingly poor showing. There were a handful of crucial plays where they made the catch for positive yards but came up short of the first down. Collie couldn't make the play deep just prior to Stover's missed FG. Wayne couldn't make a play on the intercepted pass. If you want to absolve him of any responsibility for that play, his WPA would be +0.11. I've heard people make the case both ways.

Poor Matt Stover. He was asked to kick a FG clearly outside his comfort zone. His previous FG that night was worth +0.02, and the miss was -0.12, for a net of -0.10 WPA.

Overall this was an offensive game just as everyone expected. The Saints net +0.80 when on offense (including kicks and the onside recovery), and the Colts net +0.30 on offense.

Thomas Morstead and Chris Reis teamed up for the onside kick recovery, worth +0.07 WPA. (The decision was worth +0.02, but its successful execution resulted in an additional +0.05.) But all 22 players appeared to be in on the scrum, so the credit needs to be spread around.

There is group of players that aren't mentioned anywhere in the play-by-play unless they commit a penalty--the offensive line. If you think about it, they can rightfully lay claim to almost all +0.80 of the Saints' offensive performance, on both runs and passes. But something tells me they're not very bothered that they're not on Advanced NFL Stats' MVP list today.

I'm really happy for Brees, who by all accounts is a good guy. When he was still with the Chargers when my squadron at the time (VFA-125) gave him a back-seat ride in one of our 2-seat jets. Celebrities and athletes sometimes get to do that in exchange for the good publicity it gives the Navy. One flight is worth a lot of recruiting. I happened to be out of town that day, but everyone there remarked what a good guy he was. I'm told he did really well in the jet--only threw up twice and passed out once. That's a +1.00 WPA for most back-seat rides!

  • Spread The Love
  • Digg This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Stumble This Post
  • Submit This Post To Delicious
  • Submit This Post To Reddit
  • Submit This Post To Mixx

12 Responses to “Was Drew Brees Really the Super Bowl MVP?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It would be interesting to see past super bowl MVP's based on WPA. Not sure how far back you can go.

  2. Daniel says:

    Did you give Hartley credit for the onside kick too?

  3. Ryan says:

    Anon:
    Yeah, it would. I think they usually get it right, picking the players who make the biggest plays (think Desmond Howard), but it would be interesting to see if that's really the case. With the Colts' win a few years ago, everyone said Manning didn't deserve it as much as, say, Dominic Rhodes... but the MVP award seems to have become more of a "playoffs MVP" when it's not so clear-cut. Since Manning was the biggest, most obvious reason they made the Super Bowl in the first place, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion he'd win MVP as long as they won the game.

  4. Ryan says:

    Daniel:
    Wasn't Hartley. It was Thomas Morstead, a rookie punter. I'd be curious to see what his WPA is, or any punter really, but especially given the onside kick.

  5. Eddo says:

    As much as I love U of I alumni, Pierre Thomas did not score the final go-ahead touchdown; Jeremy Shockey did.

    Thomas scored on the Saints' drive following the onside kick, which *was* a go-ahead score, but I wouldn't say that was "late in the game".

    @Ryan: I think the logic voters have is this:
    1. Did the winning quarterback have a very good game? (ex: Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Steve Young)
    2. If not, did another individual have a stand-out performance? (ex: Desmond Howard, Santonio Holmes, Terrell Davis, Marcus Allen, Jerry Rice, Larry Brown)
    3. If not, did the winning quarterback play well and/or lead a fourth-quarter game-winning drive? (ex: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Eli Manning)
    4. If not, and the defense carried the team, did they have a high-profile leader? (ex: Ray Lewis)
    5. If not, did a defensive player do something notable, like score a touchdown or cause multiple turnovers? (ex: Dexter Jackson, Richard Dent)
    6. If not, pick someone that scored a touchdown, had 100+ yards, or played a pretty good game. (ex: Hines Ward)

  6. Brian Burke says:

    Eddo-Thx. Had that mixed up in my head. Thought Shockey's catch came earlier.

  7. Dave says:

    This is pretty cool. Kind of amazing that Reggie Wayne had such a negative effect on the outcome, though I suppose he was listed as the intended reciever on that INT?

  8. Jeltz says:

    Brian, have you ever considered factoring in the play-call as a discrete event with its own WPA, rather than just the plays themselves? In each situation, the play-caller has to decide to do one of the following: Run, Pass, Kick for Field Goal, or Punt. (could maybe add a few, like "take a knee", but you get the idea)

    Suppose a team has 4th and 2 at the opponents 40. The coach decides to attempt a field goal. This decision alone, the decision to kick a FG, would instantly decrease WPA, before the kick was even attempted. Then, if the kicker misses, WPA would decrease again, but only slightly. This way, the kicker doesn't bear the full brunt of the negative WPA. He's only responsible for a small portion, whereas the play-caller would rightly get a larger share of the negative WPA. This would be a great tool to evaluate coaching decisions, and seperate their judgement out from player execution. Perhaps this would also help the WPA distortion caused by work-horse running backs who are asked to carry the ball multiple times to protect a late game lead. Most of the impact on WPA in such plays would be felt by the play caller rather than the running back.

  9. James says:

    I like Jeltz's idea, it sounds like a solid way to improve WPA. You could also evaluate the coach's WPA, and see if the players' bailed him out (ie the kicker gets an additional WPA boost if he made that field goal.)

  10. Jason says:

    "But something tells me they're [the Saints offensive linemen] very bothered that they're not on Advanced NFL Stats' MVP list today."

    Is that deliberate irony, or di dyou mean to type "they're NOT very bothered"?

    Love the articles.

    -J

  11. Laison says:

    SOUNDS LIKE WE HAVE SOMEONE HERE THAT JUST THINKS THAT BREES WAS NOT THAT IMPRESSIVE. THE SAINTS DID WIN AND THE COLTS DID LOSE.

    I AM TAKING IT THAT THE WRITER IS BIG TIME COLTS FANS.

    NOW THAT THE SAINTS WON THE SUPER BOWL NOW THE NFL WANTS TO CHANGE OT RULES. GEE, I WONDER WHY? THE REALLY DON'T WANT THEY SAINTS ANYWHERE NEAR SUPER BOWL CONTENTION IF THEY CAN HELP IT.

    I THOUGHT THE COMMISSION WOULD BE BETTER THAN TAGLIABOU. HE IS A GUY THAT NEEDS TO BE IN TOTAL CONTROL.

    A TOTAL CONTROL FREAK!!!!!!!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Relax dude, this is Advanced NFL Stats, not Conspiracy Theory 101.

Leave a Reply

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.