December 30, 2022 12:00pm

The NFL and the MVP Award

We Asked Power Poll NFL.

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

The NFL MVP award has become a quarterbacking honor.

Should it be?

Jerry Rice caught a staggering 22 touchdown passes in just 12 games in the strike-shortened 1987 season. But he wasn’t voted the NFL MVP – a quarterback was. Eric Dickerson set an NFL single-season rushing record with 2,103 yards in 1984. But he wasn’t voted the NFL MVP, either – a quarterback was. Since 2000, there have been 22 players selected as NFL MVP and 18 of them have been quarterbacks.

So we posed a two-pronged MVP question this week to our panel of NFL experts -- former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters. In the first question, we asked the panel if the criteria for the award should be most “outstanding” player, most “valuable” player or, simply, the best quarterback?

Of the 222 respondents, 72 said the criteria should be most the “valuable” player, 67 said it should be the most “outstanding” player and two said just give the award to the best quarterback.

Hall of Fame voter Barry Wilner recently retired as the head NFL writer for the Associated Press, which conducts the MVP voting. He said the voting is what it is.

“Having overseen the awards voting for the last three decades, it became clear that with the NFL becoming a quarterback-driven league, the MVP award has become the same,” Wilner said. “The Offensive Player of the Year is viewed by voters as more of a statistical award – and (Minnesota wide receiver) Justin Jefferson is likely to win that. But it would be a good look if defensive players received more consideration for MVP.”

Others said it’s almost impossible not to vote for a quarterback as “moist valuable.”

“The NFL has changed all the rules to favor the quarterbacks,” said long-time Hall of Fame voter Vito Stellino, “so it’s normal for quarterbacks to top the MVP voting.”

“It’s usually the quarterback of one of the two No. 1 seeds,” added Charean Williams of “That’s just what it’s turned into. Other players have to have a record-setting year AND have no quarterback be truly special that year. That’s rare. It has turned into a quarterback award and Offensive Player of the Year has turned into the most outstanding player among running backs and receivers.”

“It’s best quarterback on a playoff team,” said Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I wish it wasn’t.”

“Quarterback is where everyone starts looking and, unfortunately, where they usually stop,” said Brad Sham, the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe says it’s time to change the criteria for the award.

“Calling the award most `valuable’ player seems to add an extra layer of subjectivity to the process and makes it clearly slanted toward quarterbacks,’ he said. “Calling it most `outstanding’ player would be keeping with the spirit of the award and would probably clear up some of the confusion and subjectivity of the criteria.”

Added Gene Frenette, a columnist for the Florida Times Union: “The phrase `MVP’ should be changed to `MOP’ but that’s probably not going to happen because MVP sounds better.”

Which brings us to Question #2. With two weeks left in the regular season, Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson has the chance to do what no receiver has ever done in NFL history – catch 2,000 yards worth of passes in a single season. He needs 209 receiving yards to break Calvin Johnson’s NFL single-season record – and 244 yards to become the NFL’s first 2,000-yard receiver. Neither should be out of reach for a player who has already caught 223 yards in a single game this season.

If Jefferson reaches 2,000, we asked our panel where he should finish in the MVP voting – first, second, third or out of the Top 3? He received 28 votes for MVP, 43 votes for runnerup, 99 votes for third and 52 voters said he’d finish out of their Top 3.

“Jefferson would be my MVP,” said Bill Bender of the Sporting News. “He is having a fantastic individual season, which he set the tone for in Wek 1 against Green Bay (164 yards) and added a signature game against Buffalo (193 yards). He also is on a team that won several close games this season. He’s been an impactful player.”

“He should receiver MVP consideration for his season coupled with the fact his team has one of the best records in the NFL,” said Bob Papa, the radio voice of the New York Giants. “And I do believe if he was not with the Vikings they would not have the same record. However, the position of quarterback still trumps all in my opinion.”

“Cooper Kupp arguably had as dominant a season last year as Justin Jefferson this year,” said Jeffrey Kerr of “And he only got a single vote (in the 2021 MVP voting) behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. It’s a quarterback award now with the numbers they are putting up.”

“If teams view quarterback as most valuable – and they do based on contracts and the draft – it’s probably O.K. for the media to do so as well,” said Bill Huber of Packer Central.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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