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Why Vikings' Allen is NFL's biggest non-quarterback impact player

It's an honor long overdue.

After all, America's pigskin "pundits" are obsessed with offensive players and with quarterbacks in particular. Just look at the long list of NFL MVPs or college ball's Heisman Trophy winners. Both awards are almost exclusively reserved for offensive players.

In the NFL, they should just rename it the Peyton Manning Memorial Award since the voters now hand him MVP honors each year merely as a mindless reflex, even on seasons when he clearly did not deserve it, as was the case in both 2008 and 2009.

So it's this obsession with offense and with quarterbacks that spawned the introduction of our new MV non-QB P.

And that player over the past six seasons, the NFL's Most Valuable Non-Quarterback Player, is Jared Allen, the high-motor defensive end currently plying his trade with the Minnesota Favrkings, a team that was so much more than just its over-exposed quarterback last year.


It's amazing what you learn at Taco Bell

In football, we have few ways to measure the performance of defensive linemen, save for sacks and the often misleading tackles: the former was not even an official stat until 1982, the latter, the most basic function of defense, is still not an official stat.

The Cold, Hard Football Facts, however, boast a statistic that measures the performance of each team's defensive front. We call it the Defensive Hog Index, an incredible indicator pioneered one night while waiting in the Taco Bell drive-thru lane.

(The Defensive Hog Index, for you CHFF newbies, measures each defense in three areas: ability to stop the run, ability to force Negative Pass Plays -- sacks and INTs -- and ability to get off the field on third down. )

In the three years since we've offered the Defensive Hog Index, the No. 1 team in the indicator has twice won the Super Bowl (the 2007 Giants and 2008 Steelers). The No. 1 team last year went 11-5 and reached the playoffs (Green Bay). Not a bad performance considering the indicator came between bites of a 99-cent chalupa.

In addition to identifying great teams, the Defensive Hog Index allows us to prove that Allen is the NFL's MV non-QB P.


The Jared Allen effect

Allen arrived in Kansas City in 2004, on a team desperate for defensive help.

The pre-Allen Chiefs of 2003 went 13-3, won the AFC West and boasted the league's No. 1 offense (30.2 PPG). But they fielded a brutal defense (20.8 PPG, 19th), as the football world witnessed in a divisional playoff game against the Colts.

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Peyton Manning and the Indy offense shredded the Kansas City defense like cabbage in cole slaw that day: they gained 142 yards on the ground, 304 through the air, averaged a dominating 6.9 yards per play and the converted 8 of 11 third downs. The Chiefs were helpless defensively.

So Kansas City's promising 2003 season came crashing down around it, with a frustrating a 31-28 one-and-done playoff defeat at home.

Big changes were needed, and Allen was a part of that movement to solidify the defense. The Chiefs drafted him in the fourth round out of Idaho State. The Kansas City defense was actually worse in 2004 (27.2 PPG, 29th), but Allen showed promise with nine sacks as a rookie.

By 2007, the Kansas City defense had improved dramatically, to the point that the stoppers carried the team despite a poor offense. Allen was a dominant defensive end in 2007 -- leading the league with 15.5 sacks -- and the Chiefs were a dominant group of Defensive Hogs: No. 5 overall on our Defensive Hog Index and the NFL's best defense on third downs.

Then Allen was traded to Minnesota in 2008: the Vikings instantly went from a one-dimensional group of great run stoppers to a group of Defensive Hogs dominant in all phases of the game. They remained a dominant group in 2009.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have imploded in the wake of the Allen departure. A dominant defensive front in 2007, the Chiefs fielded one of the worst defensive lines in memory 2008. They barely improved in 2009.

Quarterbacks rarely have that kind of immediate impact on a team's fortunes, let alone defensive ends. So let's break it all down.


The Allen impact is most visible with the Chiefs. They were a fairly dominant defensive front in 2007, Allen's last season with the team. In the space of one year, they fell from sixth at forcing Negative Pass Plays to 32nd. They fell from fifth overall on our Defensive Hog Index, to 32nd and dead last in the space of one season. Kansas City barely recovered in 2009.

The Vikings of the mid-2000s enjoyed an impressive group of run stoppers. But they were an otherwise ordinary defensive front overall. With the acquisition of Allen before the 2008 season, Minnesota became an elite group of Defensive Hogs. They ranked just 24th at forcing Negative Pass Plays in 2007, but improved to eighth in 2008. They also improved dramatically in third-down defense, from 18th to fourth in the space of one year.


The Allen impact was also obvious, at least in Kansas City, in the most important place: the scoreboard. The 2007 Chiefs surrendered 20.9 PPG (14th in the NFL); the Chiefs were then torched for 27.5 PPG (29th) in 2008 and 26.5 PPG (29th) in 2009.

The Chiefs, in other words, have fallen apart in every measureable way defensively since Allen left for Minnesota.

The Vikings, for their part, have remained static in scoring defense with Allen in the lineup: 19.4 PPG (12th) in 2007; 20.8 PPG (13th) in 2008; and 19.5 PPG (10th) in 2009.

But clearly, as chronicled above, the production of Minnesota's defensive front has skyrocketed since the Vikings acquired Allen.

Nowhere was his impact felt more strongly than in Minnesota's two biggest games of the 2009 season, the two games against the Packers that lifted the Vikings to the NFC North crown. Naturally, the offensive players got all the attention: and Favre's efforts against his old team generated endless headlines.

But it was Allen, not Favre or any offensive player, who was the dominant force in both games: he hauled down Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers 4.5 times in their first meeting, a 30-23 Minnesota victory. He added three more sacks in the rematch, a 38-26 Minnesota victory.

That's 7.5 sacks for Allen in just two games (he had 14.5 for the year). His old team, the Chiefs? They registered a paltry 22 sacks in all of 2009, 31st among 32 NFL teams.

The Vikings, meanwhile, were just 8-8 back in the pre-Allen season of 2007. They've won the NFC North each of the past two years with Allen in the lineup, and were one Favre mistake away from playing in the Super Bowl last season.

It's a dizzying array of Cold, Hard Football Facts, but they all add up to one thing: Jared Allen is pro football's greatest impact player and our nominee for the NFL's MV non-QB P.