Taylor was the last defensive player to win the NFL’s MVP award, in 1986. More than a quarter of a century later, with 20.5 sacks and one game left to play, Watt is making a case for a defensive player to win the award again.
Watt told USA Today that, while he understands why quarterbacks and running backs tend to take MVP honors each year, he thinks defensive players — and in particular, himself — have made the case for the hardware this season.
“Being a defensive player, I want a defensive player to win it, and I think I have as good a chance as any,” he said. “And if I’m not even in the discussion, I think it’s going to be tough for anybody to ever get into the discussion again. I would love to be a representative for defensive players.”
Watt is just two sacks away from tying Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5 from 2001. But he’s not the only defensive player to make waves this season. Denver’s Von Miller and San Francisco’s Aldon Smith have both received attention and MVP mentions, as they lead a crop of young players who could be clearing the way for a new era of defensive excellence.
Of all the strong defenders this year, though, Watt definitely has a case for himself being the best. In addition to his sack totals, he’s elevated the entire Houston defense, and his pass-swatting ability is unrivaled in the league — and maybe even NFL history, for that matter. He has four forced fumbles as well.
While Watt is doing well in the defensive MVP competition, however, all NFL MVP chatter has gone in the direction of offensive players. Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning, who have both come back from injuries to post what could be their best single seasons in the NFL, are the front-runners for the prize.
“There’s obviously a strong lean toward the offensive players, which is understandable,” Watt said. “I mean, quarterbacks and running backs touch the ball a lot more. But when you look at a dominant year from a defensive player, I think they can affect the game just as much as an offensive player.”
The MVP award may be out of his hands, but Watt admitted that he’ll be thinking about the sack record come Sunday. The Texans play their division rival, the Colts, with a first-round bye in the playoffs on the line for Houston.
“I’m thinking about the win first and the record second,” Watt told USA Today. “It’s obviously on my mind, but I want a win. If I get the sack record along with the win, it would be a great day.”
Great enough to sway the minds of MVP voters? He’d better bat some passes, too, just for good measure.