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Dalvin Cook is playing like an MVP, so why does he have zero chance to win the award?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball as Detroit Lions free safety Will Harris (25) tackles him during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Dalvin Cook’s production this season has made it obvious just how valuable he has been to the Vikings, but even more telling might be the game-and-a-half in which the running back was not able to play.

Cook suffered a groin injury in the third quarter of the Vikings’ one-point loss at Seattle on Oct. 11, departing with Minnesota ahead by 13 points. He then missed the Vikings’ embarrassing 40-23 loss to Atlanta the following week in the team’s final game before the bye.

That dropped the Vikings to 1-5 in what appeared to be a lost season. But that was before Operation Dalvin went into full effect. The Vikings came out of the off week with a surprising 28-22 victory in Green Bay in which Cook rushed for 163 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 63 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown reception. Cook followed that by rushing for a career-high 206 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns and catching two passes for 46 yards in a 34-20 victory Sunday over Detroit.

That gives Cook an NFL-leading 858 yards rushing on 144 carries (6.0-yard average) with 12 touchdowns and 48 first downs in 6.5 games. Tennessee Derrick Henry is second in the league with 843 yards rushing in eight games. The Vikings have gone from being a contender in the Trevor Lawrence Sweepstakes to inching their way back into the NFC playoff picture.

There is only one reason for this and his name is Dalvin Cook. Halfway through the Vikings’ schedule, his performance should have him in the NFL MVP discussion. The only issue is that he has zero chance to win the award. Why? Because it’s going to a quarterback and to suggest otherwise would be silly. It will probably be Patrick Mahomes, but if it’s not the Chiefs’ star, it will be another QB.

The last non-quarterback to win the MVP was Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2012 and all he had to do was become the seventh player in league history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. The seven MVPs since Peterson have been quarterbacks, and 17 of the 21 MVPs since 2000 (it was shared by Peyton Manning and Steven McNair in 2003) have operated under center.

This is in no way suggesting that Mahomes, or Seattle’s Russell Wilson, shouldn’t win the MVP. But there is a case to be made that with the importance of the QB position in 2020 — it might be the single-most important position in all of pro sports — that we no longer have one MVP. The smart move would be to have the quarterbacks have their own award and then group everybody else together for another. (As you can see from the tweet below, ESPN is only considering QBs for MVP at the midway point.)

It still would remain extremely difficult to win the non-quarterback honor, but at least it would give deserving candidates a chance they currently don’t have. This doesn’t mean it should always go to a running back — the other four MVPs since 2000 (Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson and Peterson) were all running backs — but taking out the QB spot would present an opportunity for a wide receiver, tight end or a standout defensive player (Aaron Donald) to at least be in a discussion in which they can’t be included with a straight face these days.

Cook still has half a season of games remaining and his history suggests that his run of greatness could easily be interrupted by injury, or if defenses start to focus solely on him and dare Kirk Cousins to throw the ball. But what Cook is currently doing makes him the definition of an MVP. So why not create a realistic opportunity for a player of his caliber to have a chance to win it?