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Today’s guest post comes from hscer, a frequent commenter here at Football Perspective. Hscer is starting a project on his website, MVPQB.Blogspot.com, where he is working on his most valuable quarterback for each season since 1951. Here’s a sample chapter today: as always, we thank our guest posters for their contributions.

“When Fifth is First” – Maybe fifth is unkind to Gannon’s 2000 season, but he certainly wasn’t the best or even top three.

The Stats

Let’s begin with a look at the stats from six of the top quarterbacks from 2000: Rich Gannon, Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, and Brian Griese.

Gannon (AP1)284-473-(60.0%)-34307.25281192.428-1246.7312-43/4529-89-5.9-49105221.4
Manning (MVQB)357-571-(62.5%)-44137.73331594.720-1317.2210-62/3116-37-3.1-15188838.3

The Argument

Gannon’s win here is baffling when you look at the stats in this context: he ranks 5th in DYAR, and 6th in Y/A, ANY/A, Passer Rating, and DVOA. So why did the Associated Press, along with Pro Football Weekly / Pro Football Writers of America and The Sporting News select Gannon as their first-team All-Pro quarterback?

Well, four teams went 12-4 or better, including Gannon’s Raiders. The other three teams had Kerry Collins, Steve McNair, and the
Tony BanksTrent Dilfer combo at quarterback, and Gannon had the best numbers of that group. But even for media types, it usually takes a little more than wins to clinch these awards. McNair, with 2847 yards and 15 TD on the 13-3 defending AFC Champion Titans, was likely not considered by anyone.

Gannon’s 2000 season also lacks any run of dominance that might have caused voters to lock up their choice early. Compare his season progression to Manning’s. Oakland started the year 8-1 as Gannon had 1849 yards, 14 TD, and a 91.8 passer rating. But Indianapolis was 6-3 and Manning had 2740 yards, 20 TD, and a 100.3 rating.1 On November 13, the Colts won to improve to 7-3 (Manning: 21-35-210-1-0) and the Raiders lost (Gannon: 30-53-382-1-2). However, the Colts lost their next two games and the Raiders went 2-0, with Gannon doing better than Manning, although the latter was by no means terrible (83.4 passer rating). Both teams lost the game after that. Then the Colts won two more and the Raiders split their next two (with Gannon going 5-17 for 136 yards and 1 TD with 3 INT in the loss), which set up the final week, where both quarterbacks dominated. Oakland defeated Carolina, 52-9, as Gannon was 26-32 for 230 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions. Meanwhile, Indianapolis won against Minnesota, 31-10, and Manning was 25-36 for 283 yards and 4 TD with 1 interception. It’s hard to find any narrative that would have suggested Gannon over Manning, as great as Gannon’s season finale was.

Culpepper was in his first year playing and the AP is generally unwilling to name such players to the All-Pro team. However, Culpepper’s claim to the MVQB throne is legitimate, even if he was throwing to Randy Moss. Culpepper’s 33 TD passes are still the most a QB has ever thrown in his first year of play, since he sat for his entire rookie season. Marino and Warner were the only ones with more in their second season in the league, and only Blake Bortles (!) has since passed Culpepper.

Then there’s the matter of Kurt Warner. The reigning 1999 MVP, All-Pro, and MVQB missed 5 starts and still threw 18 interceptions, yet even he might have been a superior 2000 All-Pro selection than Gannon, considering Warner averaged a whopping 9.9 yards per attempt. Gannon threw for one more yard — one (!) — in 5 games and on 126 more attempts.

Had the 49ers fielded a better defense, Gannon’s cross-bay counterpart might have gotten some recognition from the AP.  He was essentially tied with Culpepper for the best passer rating among 16-game starters. But the 49ers were outscored 422-388 (ranking 6th in scoring, 28th in points allowed) while going 6-10.

Griese was the NFL’s official passing leader with his 102.9 rating, but he only started 10 games. Of these six quarterbacks, however, he ranked second on a per-play basis by DVOA, behind Manning.

Best that I can tell, Gannon’s All Pro award was decided entirely by having by far the best passing numbers among the teams with 12+ wins.

It comes down to the alternatives, then. Warner and Griese get eliminated first — Manning, Culpepper, and Garcia were simply all too valuable to give the nod to someone who missed 5-6 games. San Francisco’s 6-10 record would be by far the worst of any MVQB’s team. That record can’t really have been Garcia’s fault given how well he played, but it serves as a tiebreaker, leaving Manning and Culpepper. Those two were basically equally effective, but Manning threw almost 100 more passes than Culpepper did.

Peyton Manning is the MVQB of 2000.

Signature Game: The Colts crush the Jaguars in the RCA Dome, 43-14, as Manning goes for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns on 23-36 passing.

  1. Through 7 games (as opposed to the 9 cited for Gannon and Manning), Minnesota began the year 7-0 behind 1671 yards, 14 TD, and a 99.6 rating for Culpepper. []
  • Thanks for the guest post, hscer!

    Some other context. The AP MVP that year went to Marshall Faulk, who got 24 of 50 votes. But the runner-up in the voting was a QB who got 11 votes, and was neither Manning (1 vote) nor Gannon (5 votes). It was 2nd-year QB Donovan McNabb!

    McNabb was down at 25th in ANY/A, but (1) the Eagles unexpectedly went 11-5, (2) he rushed for 629 yards on 7.31 yards per carry, and (3) his receivers were a washed up Charles Johnson and a washed up Torrance Small (TE Chad Lewis led the team in receiving yards and receptions). It’s not like Johnson and Small were ever that good, but they combined for 21 catches the rest of their careers after 2000.

    • Thank you for the opportunity!
      Interesting about McNabb. He was actually Dr. Z’s All Pro pick that year. But because I designed this as predominantly a statistical project, I just didn’t look at him.

    • Richie

      Didn’t McNabb pretty much only play with washed up receivers?

      (I’m being mostly sarcastic. But he has to be on the short of list of most impressive career with least help from WR’s.)

      • It’s not a short list. He’s the list.

        McNabb’s career leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns is running back Brian Westbrook. Terrell Owens is second in career receiving touchdowns from McNabb despite only playing 21 games with him. In terms of wide receivers, nobody caught more yards from Donovan McNabb than… Todd Pinkston. Who, (and this is what *really* blows my mind), caught less than 2800 yards from him.

        That’s absurd. Donovan McNabb threw for 37,276 career yards, and no single wide receiver caught so much as 2800 of them.

        In his 21 games with Terrell Owens, McNabb beat Peyton Manning’s career averages in passing yards per game, TDs per game, INTs per game (fewer is better), YPA, and Passer Rating (despite Manning still arguably having better receivers on average, and despite Manning having a chance to boost his career stats with numbers from the post-2011 passing explosion).

        • Richie

          Good stuff!

  • This is an interesting project. At The GridFe, we’re working on retro MVPs, and I’ve personally spent way too much time naming MVP, MOP (outstanding, to highlight non-QBs), O/DPOY, and position awards back to 1920. Usually the MVP goes to the guy who also won the best QB award. However, 2000 is one of eight post-merger seasons in which that is not the case (and one of just three seasons the MVP is a QB but not the one who got the QB award). In 2000, I named Garcia the top QB and Culpepper the MVP, but choosing between Culpepper and Manning was one of the toughest choices of all 97 seasons. Important to keep in mind my awards include the postseason.

    Full 2000 awards, for some context:
    MVP – Culpepper
    MOP – Larry Allen
    COTY – Gruden
    OPOY – Edge
    DPOY – Ray Lewis
    QB – Garcia
    RB – Edge
    FB – Beasley
    WR – TO
    TE – Gonzo
    T – Ogden
    G – Allen
    C – Nalen
    DE – Taylor
    DT – Glover
    OLB – Brooks
    ILB – Lewis
    CB – Rolle
    S – Sharper
    K – Longwell
    P – Stryzinksi
    R – Mason

  • sacramento gold miners

    MVP voting will always be an inexact science, I don’t know if we can automatically go with the highest rated players in some categories. And while I’m a Garcia fan, I could never vote for a QB as the MVP on a team with a losing record. Griese’s last significant 2000 regular season action was back on November 13th, so that’s a problem. Warner missed too many games in a disappointing season for St. Louis, and Kerry Collins came out of nowhere to have a strong season. Unlike 1999’s Warner, it wasn’t nearly that level of dominance.

    Culpepper’s first year playing was great, but also had Moss and Carter to throw to. So that leaves McNair and Manning, who had Eddie George and Edgerrin James in the backfield, while Gannon had Tyrone Wheatley. I think there was a perception Gannon had less help, and McNair did have an issue with a 15-13 TD/INT ratio, and threw for less than 3000 yards. Also, it’s worth noting the Colts were just a wildcard team in 2000, while the Raiders captured the AFC West. And in a head to head competition, Oakland beat Indy at their place, with Gannon having a higher passer rating then Manning in that game. Manning had more completions and yards, but also threw two picks to Gannon’s zero.

  • WR

    I don’t understand why people make the “he had Randy Moss!” argument against other quarterbacks, but ignore the fact that Peyton spent his entire career throwing to a bunch of all-pro receivers. Also, if Randy Moss can transform an offense just by being there, then why wasn’t he more successful with the Raiders?

    As for the 2000 all-pro race, that’s one of those years where there were 3-4 acceptable candidates, and no one stood out from the field. I’m not sure Gannon was the best choice, but given the wider context, the choice was defensible.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Randy Moss, while a HOF lock, was a receiver who lost interest at times, and didn’t want to be an Oakland Raider. I’m sure the Raiders could have used his talents, but Moss wasn’t motivated again until arriving in New England.

    • It may have to do with the fact that, aesthetically, Moss was the most dangerous weapon of any of the WRs. Outside of maybe TO, no other guy was perceived to have the ability to completely take over a game in the way that Moss was perceived to. Marvin Harrison was great and consistent, but he was small and boring and never captured anyone’s imagination in the same manner. Possibly, the notion that Harrison was just another young receiver before Manning came along plays into this as well. There is always some chicken and egg with every QB-WR combination, but widespread perception of who is the chicken and who is the egg can change depending on the observers and the observed. Manning and Brady generally are thought to make their receivers better, while Moss was generally thought to make his QBs better. I’m not saying any of these is accurate (although they probably are), but those were the common views during their careers.

      • Wolverine

        All fair points, but as you pointed out above, it’s still unfair when you consider that Culpepper had one of the best seasons of his career with Nate Burleson as his defacto WR1 (and that was Burleson’s best season of his career by a mile…Perhaps it was Culpepper making him look better?)

        • It’s definitely unfair, and it might not even be correct. It’s just my impression of why Moss gets that treatment from the general public when other WRs don’t. I do believe Moss improved his QBs’ chances at success, and I also believe great QBs improve their WRs’ shot at success. No reason they can’t both be true.

  • Adam

    I see 2000 as essentially a tie between Manning and Culpepper with Garcia close behind. Culpepper gets an edge for his rushing contribution, but that’s canceled out by the luxury he had of playing with Randy Moss. If Warner and Griese had played full seasons, it would be pretty much a five way tie for MVP. Gannon is a step behind and I have no clue how he was awarded AP1.

    • Culpepper played with Moss, Carter, and Smith, but Manning played with Harrison and Edge. Garcia had TO. Warner had Bruce, Holt, and Faulk. Griese didn’t have the one guy to point to, but he had a pretty deep surrounding cast and a solid line. Most MVP QBs don’t put up years that look like MVP years without plenty of help.

      • Adam

        That’s true. However we also have to consider that Randall Cunningham and Jeff George each had career years with the Vikings right before Culpepper arrived. IMO that makes Culpepper’s season look a bit less impressive.

        • I might think that if I didn’t also watch Culpepper have the best season of his career with an absent or hobbled Moss. It seems like the aftermath of the Culpepper/Brees signings has tainted Culpepper’s reputation. He was on track for a HOVG career.

          • Richie

            All I remember, was watching some of Culpepper’s games early on in 2000 and he was chucking bombs to Randy Moss, and then running with the ball and having defenders bounce off him. I had never seen anything like that. I thought he was going to dominate the NFL.

            • Yea man. No one is going to confuse him with Manning or Brady, but he was special for a brief period. He was big and powerful, but he had more speed than you’d expect from a guy his size. He had a beautiful deep ball, and his deep passes rarely required receivers to break stride. Plus, he was super fun to watch because he had that sort of Brett Favre backyard football mentality where he’d try really weird stuff in order to make a play.

              • Richie

                I knew his injury was questionable, but you can imagine how pumped I was when he came to Miami.

                • I quit being a fan of a team after Jerry Rice and Steve Young were no longer 49ers, so I never had the opportunity to have my heart broken by a team as an adult. I also never get to feel that excitement and joy when something great finally happens, like the 2009 Saints or 2013 Seahawks.

                  • Just so we’re super clear, there is still time to join the Jets bandwagon.

                • Wolverine

                  I remember watching him with the 2008-2009 Lions, and thinking, “wow, this is literally the same player who I used to dread my team playing against in the early 2000’s…and now look at him.” (Yes, those Lions teams were terrible, but Culpepper made a significant contribution to that whenever he entered the lineup).

  • Frank Yi

    My guess the case for Gannon would be the increase in the Raiders offensive productivity with minor changes in their defensive productivity from 1999. From PFR:

    1999: 390 Points scored (5.7 OSRS), 329 PA (1.0 DSRS)
    2000: 479 Points scored (8.0 OSRS), 299 PA (1.8 DSRS)

    The increase in scoring output could be attributed to Gannon’s season, whereas the 1999 Colts went 13-3 and the 2000 Colts went 10-6. The Raiders scored 50 more points than the Colts that season while improving from 8-8 to 12-4.

    That being said, the change in Strength of Schedule (SoS) for the Colts went from 0.5 (1999) to 1.5 (2000), while the Raiders went from 2.9 (1999) to -1.5 (2000). The Raiders benefited from an easier schedule in 2000, while the Colts PS and PA were almost identical despite facing a harder schedule. Also, the difference of 3 points in SoS between the Colts (+1.5) and Raiders (-1.5) was basically the difference in the teams scoring output (that would account for 48 of the 50 points, and 2 points for a season is basically just white noise). The DSRS also favored the Raiders by a point, suggesting Gannon had more help all around than Manning.

  • Scott Kacsmar

    My gut feeling on this one is that the Week 2 game when Indy blew a 21-0 lead to Oakland ultimately decided this. With respect to the butterfly effect, if the rest of the season played out the same way then both of these teams would be 11-5 with the Colts having the H2H tie-breaker over Oakland. Not sure how that would have played out with the rest of the conference, but the No. 2 seed is now possible.

    That game went downhill once Vanderjagt missed a 47-yard field goal that would have put Indy up 24-0. Gannon didn’t have a big passing day, but had 3 short TD runs. Down 38-31, Manning ended up getting picked off in the end zone on a 4th-and-25 prayer to end that one.

    It also didn’t help when the Colts had a lot of poor starts and lost 4-of-5 games later in the season.

    • Scott Kacsmar

      Funny quote related to that game http://www.upi.com/Archives/2000/09/10/Oakland-38-Indianapolis-31/2557968558400/

      “Raiders Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darrell Russell provided bulletin board fodder for the Colts this week, saying that Manning was “unable to win the big one.” The third-year quarterback did not respond to the criticism, but did his talking on the field, completing 14 of his first 15 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns.”

      That was 35 starts into his career. Hmm, maybe it was before 2003 when people lost their minds about ringz.

      • someguy

        Russell was proboly considering Peyton’s years in Tennessee too, but it is still a crazy comment. Pretty much a complement that a 24 year old would be so good that pressure was already on to win the big one.

        • Scott Kacsmar

          I saw another article that did show that Russell was talking about Tennessee too, which basically means “39-6 as a starter, but we only count the 3 losses to Florida as big games. And maybe that time in a bowl game that Ahman Green ran wild.”

          But yeah, it is a backhanded compliment in a way. To that point (September 2000) only Kurt Warner had won a SB in his first two seasons, and he was damn near 30 at the time.

  • Joe Wright

    Only tangentially related, but if anyone ever questions the value of era adjustments, point out to them that the top 5 passing yardage seasons in NFL history by a Griese all belong to Brian.