Forget rookie of the year - Luck for MVP! - NBC Sports

Forget rookie of the year - Luck for MVP!
Colts had no business winning six games, let alone making a playoff push
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Andrew Luck has led the Colts to a 9-4 record this season.
December 10, 2012, 11:12 pm

If Johnny Manziel can win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, why can't Andrew Luck be considered NFL MVP as a rookie?

They're all subjective awards. But the Heisman is given to the best player in college football. The MVP is not. The MVP is given to the Most Valuable Player.

And who has been more valuable this year than Luck?

Certainly people like Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings are worthy of serious consideration. They're extremely valuable to their teams, and they're having terrific seasons.

But none of those men is on a team that was projected to be as awful as the Indianapolis Colts were expected to be this season. They were the worst team in the league last year. They were expected to win between three to six games in 2012, and that was if everything went well. The roster was in rebuilding mode.

Chuck Pagano was in his first year as head coach when he got the news that he had leukemia and needed to take a leave to get treatment, which created the possibility of a team adrift without leadership.

Instead, Luck stepped up in a major way. The Colts are 9-4, and much of their success is due to their first-year QB. He has engineered six fourth-quarter comebacks in 2012. That's absolutely astonishing.

Rookie quarterbacks are supposed to learn on the job. They're not supposed to take a team from the basement to a likely postseason berth in their first season.

There have been plenty of valuable players in the NFL this year. But when you ponder the magnitude of what Luck has done with the Colts, he is the most valuable player in the league. Like Johnny Manziel, he should have hardware to hoist at the end of this season.

Larry Fitz a waste?
Rarely will you hear someone called "the biggest waste of money in football" and have it be considered a huge compliment. But that's what we have in Larry Fitzgerald.

The Arizona Cardinals' star is one of the league's top five receivers, maybe even top three, and maybe even No. 1 if he had someone like Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning throwing him the football. But of course he doesn't.

Fitzgerald is coming off a game Sunday in which he had one reception for two yards in a 58-0 embarrassment against the Seahawks in Seattle. He has 57 catches this year. With three games left - starting with Sunday's outing against the visiting Detroit Lions - he is projected to finish the 2012 season with 70, which would be his worst output since he grabbed 69 in 2006.

He also only has four touchdowns; his worst output has been six, achieved twice in his career. That dubious mark is within reach. His streak of 1,000-yard seasons looks almost certain to end at five, especially with guys like John Skelton and Ryan Lindley throwing the football.

Fitzgerald is as great a guy as he is a football player. But when you consider that he signed an eight-year, $120 million contract in 2011 and you take a look at his production this season, the only conclusion is this:

What a waste of money.

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Good luck, Greinke
How many times throughout the history of sports - particularly in the era of free agency and ever-expanding TV rights deals - have we seen money bring undue pressure and poor performance?

Get ready to see it again.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are closing a deal with starter Zack Greinke that will pay him $145 million over six years. That's about $24.5 million per year. It's an insane amount of money for any other franchise. For the Dodgers, currently negotiating a new television deal that is expected to be worth between $6 billion and $7 billion - and quite possibly more - the Greinke payout is chump change.

But with it comes a price. Greinke has suffered in the past from an anxiety disorder, which suggests that the remedy isn't a massive contract in the second-biggest media market in the country on a club under new deep-pockets ownership. All eyes in baseball will be on the Dodgers this year. They'll be scrutinized more than the Yankees. They're the new faces of excess in sports.

And Greinke is the shiny new Ferrari in the driveway - except he's more of a pickup truck kind of guy. Is he really a good fit for L.A.?

Also, money doesn't buy chemistry. It's awesome when a team spends money; it suggests that it's serious about winning. But throwing high-priced individuals together without any regard to whether they're compatible, and whether they will complement each other, is foolhardy.

I'd love to see Greinke succeed. A pitcher overcoming a social anxiety disorder and depression to reach the game's loftiest perch is an inspirational story. But I admit to some anxiety in seeing him try to achieve that under the harsh glare of the national media. He probably would have been better off in Milwaukee or Seattle.

Reportedly he has an opt-out clause in his deal with the Dodgers after three years. By that time he would have made about $76 million. Let's hope that, at that juncture, he has earned kudos rather than catcalls.

No NHL outrage?
You can tell the popularity of a sport by the roar. Or the silence.

In July of 2011, the NFL and its Players Association finally came to terms on a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement. There was a great deal of acrimony and haggling. But in the end, I believe what brought the two sides together was the deafening din from the fans.

People who follow the NFL - and that's fans, media and gamblers - demanded an agreement. The two sides in the dispute could feel the pressure every day. Finally, they caved to it, and came together.

The National Hockey League just announced that it has canceled its games through the end of the year because of a continued stalemate in labor talks with its players. Comparatively speaking, you can hear a few grumbles out there. But that's it. No sustained outrage. No anguished cries.

Obviously there is a much smaller fan base associated with the NHL than there is with the NFL. Therefore, little pressure is being generated on the two sides to reach an agreement. As a result, it looks like the season will probably be lost.

Fans don't just cheer AT games. They cheer FOR games. So no one around the NHL should be surprised that, when there are no cheers, there are no games.

A game of pepper
Judging by the direction this Saints bounty case is going so far, I think the end result will see NFL commissioner Roger Goodell giving back rubs to all the accused players.

A photo has emerged of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne wearing footie pajamas. Aside from any ribbing, one aspect of this item has been overlooked: He plays in Florida. Does he really need footie pajamas?

I like the New Orleans Pelicans. I'm also eager to someday see what gambling lines will look like if another NBA franchise changes its name to the Fish.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic bought up the entire supply of the world's most expensive cheese, a Serbian variety that sells for $585 per pound. If he has trouble jumping over the net from now on, you'll know why.

Kevin Garnett was upset with the stat keeper after a recent Celtics' win over the Sixers in which he was credited with zero rebounds. That's odd. Garnett usually gets at least a couple of rebounds a game by just glaring at them.

Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVentre44

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