Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has been here before. After everything was said and done at the end of the 2012 season, Charles had gained 1509 yards on the ground, good for a 5.3 yards per carry average and scored 5 touchdowns. He added another 236 yards of receiving yardage and a score in that facet of the game as well. After all was said and done, Charles gained 1,745 yards from scrimmage.
The Chiefs as a team last year only scored 18 touchdowns in 16 games. Charles scored exactly one third of them himself. The Chiefs gained a total of 5,108 yards of total offense during the season. Charles gained over 34 percent of that himself. One man, one individual was responsible for one third of the total team offense of the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs. And oh, by the way, he only had 12 carries the year before because he blew out his ACL in the opening game of the season.
Charles has been the Chiefs most valuable player since he stepped out of former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson’s shadow in Week 7 of the 2009 season after the Chiefs cut Johnson. In just 10 starts that season and with only 190 carries, Charles broke the 1K mark with 1,120 yards and seven touchdowns, his most of any season on the ground. He hasn’t looked back since.
Charles should have won the “Comeback Player of the Year” award last year. The only problem was, another superstar running back blew his ACL as well. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings made a comeback and ended the season only nine rushing yards shy of breaking the all-time, single-season rushing record. They gave him the “Most Valuable Player” award. Then there was this other guy who had three neck surgeries and had sat out the entire previous season. Then, with a new team and new system, he led his team into the playoffs. Peyton Manning was named the “Comeback Player of the Year,” and Charles was left with nothing.
However, this could be the year for Charles.
He is the only player to have over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the NFL thus far in the 2013 season. He has recorded 725 rushing yards on 170 carries and another 389 receiving yards on 47 receptions (a career high.) His eight total touchdowns has him tied for fourth best in the league and his rushing yardage puts him as the #3 running back. And he’s done this in a pass heavy offense where the split is closer to 70-30 pass to run, a far departure from the “run first” offense he’s played in the last few years. As with last season, he owns a huge chunk of the 2,856 yards gained by the Chiefs offense in 2013 at nearly 40 percent.
To put into words, Charles is a beast.
The problem is, his biggest competition, just like the Chiefs, is Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
Pitting a running back against a quarterback when you’re talking about who is “more valuable” is a tough argument. Where Charles has eight touchdowns, Manning has 29 through the air and one on the ground. How do you compare that? When you talk about yardage, Charles has over 1,000 from scrimmage, but Manning has already thrown for nearly 3,000 yards.
In order to find the true value of each player, I think you have to imagine the team without that particular player.
If Charles wasn’t wearing the Red and Gold of the Kansas City Chiefs, they wouldn’t be 9-0. I can’t even say if they’d be 5-4. Charles is one of those rare backs that only come around every so often. I’m pretty sure not even King Carl Peterson knew what he had when he drafted Charles in the third round with the 73rd overall pick out of the University of Texas.
Without Manning, the Broncos would function. Minus a couple of pieces this is a very similar Denver Broncos team that made the playoffs with Tim Tebow at the helm. The defense has gotten weaker and there have been a couple of weapons added on the offense (read Julius Thomas and Wes Welker) but it’s a very similar team.
I can’t rightly say how this race will shake out. And let’s not fool ourselves; Manning and Charles aren’t the only two in the race. There are several other players who could be considered “MVP” worthy this season. But if you’re going to have the conversation, I think you have to at least include Charles.
I guess the Chiefs beating the Broncos in a week and a half will go a long way to settling this debate. Especially if Charles has a game against them like he did to end the 2009 season. Remember that one, Addicts? Does 259 yards on the ground and two touchdowns sound familiar? How about the Chiefs pounding the Broncos 44 – 24 in the Mile High altitude? There’s more at stake on November 17th than just potentially the first place position in the AFC.
Charles could ride a Chiefs victory all the way to the MVP.