"It seems fitting Peyton Manning and Steve McNair shared The Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award Friday. After all, their teams finished with the same record and tied atop the AFC South.
NFL MVP voting
Peyton Manning 16
Steve McNair 16
Tom Brady 8
Jamal Lewis 5
Priest Holmes 3
Ray Lewis 2
In just the third tie since the award began in 1957, the premier passers each received 16 votes Friday from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.
Manning and McNair led their teams to 12-4 records, with Manning's Indianapolis Colts edging McNair's Tennessee Titans for the AFC South crown by winning both games against the Titans.
But they deadlocked for MVP.
"It is great," McNair said. "My words can't express how I feel being co-MVP with another great quarterback like Peyton. It's very emotional right now for me that people look at me as being one of the top quarterbacks of the NFL, one of the top players, and a co-MVP."
Manning, naturally, felt the same way.
"This is such a tremendous honor," Manning said. "Obviously you look at all the former winners, it really is an honor to be on that same list, and to have such great teammates and a coaching staff that allowed me to go out and make plays.
"And to be sharing it with Steve, a player I have the most respect for and who has had a tremendous year, and to be ahead of guys like Tom Brady, who's a friend of mine, and Jamal Lewis, a former teammate of mine at Tennessee who easily could have been there, as well, it's tremendous."
New England quarterback Brady finished third with eight votes, followed by Baltimore running back Lewis, the AP Offensive Player of the Year, with five. Kansas City running back Priest Holmes got three votes, and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, the AP Defensive Player of the Year, received two.
McNair led the league with a 100.4 passer rating to Manning's 99.0. Unlike the seemingly indestructible Manning, who's never missed a start in his six pro seasons, McNair has played hurt for much of his career. This season, he missed the last month of practice with a strained right calf and sprained left ankle that also has a cracked bone spur. Those injuries also sidelined him for two games.
But the NFL has learned how tough the nine-year veteran is. And how dangerous he is, even though McNair no longer is the running threat he was early in his career. Now, he is a superb pocket passer, accurate and strong-armed.
"I was healthy until the 10th week of the season, and I was able to do the things I would normally do," McNair noted. "I think this was my best year overall, and getting the MVP caps it off.
"But now there's absolutely more work to do. We want to get back to the Super Bowl and win it."
Manning, naturally, echoes such thoughts. The Colts are at home against Denver in a wild-card game Sunday, one day after the Titans play at Baltimore.
"Definitely, we want to keep it going," said Manning, who led the league this season with 4,267 yards passing, topping the AFC with 29 TD passes. He has thrown 25 or more TD passes in each of the past six seasons -- the only player to accomplish the feat.
"I felt like I've really gotten better every year since I got in the league, and that was one of my goals," Manning said. "I'm more motivated not to be a one-year wonder guy, to keep coming back and be consistent every year."
McNair believes that has been one of Manning's strengths as a pro, along with his dedicated work ethic and intelligence, something else they share.
"It's just his knowledge of the game," McNair said. "When Peyton came in, there were very few guys who came in and started, and Peyton did a good job learning from his mistakes his first year. He came back and had a magnificent career, a student of the game, extra film work, learning the game mentally."
Manning and McNair make it three straight years a quarterback has been selected most valuable player. Oakland's Rich Gannon won last year and Kurt Warner was the 2001 MVP.
The other ties came in 1997 (Brett Favre and Barry Sanders) and in 1960 (Norm Van Brocklin and Joe Schmidt)."