Last August, I said in the past that Tyreek Hill was a high tide who could lift Tua Tagovailoa’s boat. I didn’t expect Miami’s subterranean offense to morph into a seaplane.
Hill watching the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl without him should have been a humbling experience. Not only did Patrick Mahomes lead the entire league in passing, but he became the first-ever quarterback to win the Super Bowl in the same year. In a 17-game season, I’m not exactly sure where the midpoint is, but with Week 9’s Thursday Night Football contest now in the books, it feels past due time to proclaim Hill as Midseason MVP. It feels like heresy to refer to a receiver as the most important player in an offense, but Hill has been such a juggernaut in 2023 that it feels lazy to go back to the quarterback well.
Defenses might be able to suppress Tagovailoa or force him to make a mistake, but they can’t suffocate Hill for 60 minutes. And amid a gritty first half to the NFL season, in which no quarterback has jumped out to a blazing start, it’s time to look elsewhere for the answer to MVP questions.
Instead, ESPN asked 12 analysts to rank and explain their MVP frontrunners, yet somehow Hill can’t make up ground in the race. The five names ESPN came up with? Tagovailoa, Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts as an honorable mention. They threw a bone to non-quarterbacks with McCaffrey, but somehow Hill couldn’t make the cut despite leading his entire position group in yards, yards after catch, receptions into first downs, and touchdowns. What else does he need to do? He’s three catches behind Stefon Diggs from making this a clean sweep.
There are no gimmicks to what Hill is doing. I get that quarterbacks are graded on a curve, but as great as Tagovailoa is, Hill has helped him pull off the greatest turnaround since Lance Alworth saved Dan Fouts’ floundering career. Mahomes and Hurts were too good to deny last season, but both are grinding out tighter wins these days. In the context of the MVP race, it’s OK to move on.
During a gritty first half of a season in which no quarterback has jumped out to a blazing start, it’s time to look to other positions for the answer to this year’s MVP question. Instead, 12 analysts ESPN asked to rank and explain their MVP frontrunners came up with the following: Tagovailoa, Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts as an honorable mention. They threw a bone to non-QBs with McCaffrey, but couldn’t be bothered to include a receiver who leads his position group in yards, yards after catch, receptions into first downs, and touchdowns.
NFL.com, meanwhile, had Mahomes, Tagovailoa, then Lamar Jackson as its 1-2-3 slots in the early MVP race, followed by Myles Garrett and Jared Goff. The disrespect for receivers is egregious.
Quarterbacks have always had a monopoly on the MVP, and no wide receiver has ever won the award since its inception. Exceptions should be made this year. When Cooper Kupp won the triple crown, leading the league in receptions, catches, and touchdowns, he only came in third. However, this field of quarterbacks is more flawed than Kupp’s 2021 MVP opposition. The winner in 2021 was peak Aaron Rodgers, who registered a 70.9 QBR after throwing 37 touchdowns to four interceptions. Tagovailoa’s numbers this year are commendable, but not as immaculate as Rodgers’ 2021 campaign.
Bless Tagovailoa’s heart, but his season just doesn’t compare. And worse yet, his favorite target is responsible for nearly half of his production. As great as Mahomes is, he’s having a down year. NFL voters don’t need to feed him MVP votes out of some odd sense of duty. An actual historic season is occurring and the NFL cognoscenti have brainwashed themselves into supporting the quarterback.
Teams across the league have begun scheming to take the deep pass away because of Hill and he still ranks second in 20-yard gains on catches and first in 40-yard gains. This week is a huge opportunity for him to put a permanent stamp on the season and insert himself into the thick of the race in Germany on Sunday morning by taking his former team to the woodshed.
Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex