Landon Collins came into this season with a goal of being the Defensive Player of the Year. Now even that audacious objective is starting to seem almost trite.
As the Giants’ second-year safety continues to rack up interceptions, tackles and accolades, there are murmurs beginning to circulate in league circles that Collins could be in the conversation for a more prestigious honor. Something that has not been given to a defensive player in 30 years. A recognition that Collins told Newsday he hadn’t even considered . . . until recently.
Could Collins be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player?
He’s certainly been the Giants’ most important piece to their 7-3 season, and many believe he is a front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year. But it wasn’t until last week, when Collins was texting with his agent, David Mulugheta, that the seed of MVP was planted.
“I asked him about Defensive Player of the Year,” Collins said Wednesday, “and he said: ‘You could be up for MVP.’ ”
Mulugheta followed it up by comparing the stats between Collins this year and Ed Reed in 2004, which is probably the closest a safety has come to winning MVP in recent memory. The numbers gave the preposterous idea some merit.
In 2004, Reed had nine interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He also had 2.0 sacks, 62 tackles, 17 passes defensed and three forced fumbles. Through 10 games, Collins has five interceptions, one for a touchdown. He has 3.0 sacks, 80 tackles and 10 passes defensed.
“I was like ‘Dang, that’s crazy,’ ” Collins said. “My eyes were never that far.”
It whet Collins’ appetite, though. He asked Mulugheta what he needed to do to further his chances. The answer was pretty straightforward.
“He said I have to force more fumbles, definitely catch more interceptions, and score at least one or two more times,” Collins said. “I was like ‘OK, cool, I’ll see what I can do. Let’s try to make that happen.’ ”
Obviously, other things need to take place. Lawrence Taylor’s 1986 season stands as the last time a defensive player won MVP, and before that it was Alan Page of the Vikings in 1971. So for Collins to ascend to that level, he’d not only have to continue playing at a high level but also have some offensive competition for the title fall back.
That certainly could happen. Voters could withhold support from Tom Brady because he missed four games because of his suspension. The young stars in Dallas, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, both in consideration, could get tripped up (plus Collins faces them in a prime-time game Dec. 11 with a chance to impress voters). Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan could miss the playoffs and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, another possibility, has been streaky.
That’s a lot that has to happen. A very small window. But if 2016 has taught us anything about trying to predict voters’ impulses, Collins certainly has a shot.
He is the first NFL player with at least five interceptions and at least 3.0 sacks through 10 games since Green Bay’s LeRoy Butler in 1996. He is the first Giant with five picks in a four-game span in one season since Willie Williams in 1968.
Collins’ quest won’t get much public support from his coach.
“I think he’s playing at a high level,” Ben McAdoo said. “I don’t get a chance to watch everybody in the league, so I don’t have an opinion on whether he’s playing at an All-Pro level, but I know he’s playing at a high level for us. He’s still learning, he’s still growing, he’s still a young player and he’s preparing well and he’s very productive.”
So he’ll have to continue to let his play do the trumpeting for him.
“MVP, that’s crazy status,” Collins said. “But I’ll try. I’m pushing for it now.”
Ed Reed, 2004 (16 games)Landon Collins, 2016 (10 games)