NFL MVP Award Is Flawed: How Quarterbacks and Running Backs Blind Voters

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2010

16 Sep 1990:  San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice (left) and quarterback Joe Montana look on during a game against the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium in Washington, D. C.  The 49ers won the game, 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allspor
Mike Powell/Getty Images

MVP. Most Valuable Player. While the MVP award remains an incredible feat for any player, most players could fit the criteria and still be snubbed for their entire career. So what is the criteria for being the Most Valuable Player in the NFL? One would think it would be the player who is just that, the most valuable player in the league, but a look closer says different.

Twenty-four seasons ago was the last time a quarterback or running back was not named the MVP of the league. Lawrence Taylor broke the mold and stole the MVP from the typical winners. He was one of two defensive players to ever win the award, along with Alan Page. The other winner in the award's history that was not a quarterback or running back? Mark Moseley, a placekicker for the Washington Redskins during the strike year of 1982.

It is hard to believe that in the history of the NFL, no receiver and only a handful of defensive players have ever been bestowed the award. If Jerry Rice never won the award, guys like Roddy White that pop into the discussion never stand a chance. The reason? It's in the numbers.

While Jerry Rice accumulated the numbers that justified his candidacy for the award, Joe Montana and Steve Young posted more impressive numbers, because quarterbacks get credit for not only that receiver's yardage, but everyone they complete a pass to. Rice had great quarterbacks, but there is no getting around the fact that during perhaps the greatest career in NFL history, he should have been given the award at some point.

When teams dominate, the award seems to gravitate to those teams. This is completely acceptable to me, as the Most Valuable Player in the league will likely be on the best teams in the league. That being said, the best player on the team isn't always the one tossing the ball or coming out of the backfield.

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Let's look to the 70's Pittsburgh Steelers as the example here. The Steelers in the 70's were known for their Steel Curtain defense, a defense so fearsome it is difficult to say who played the biggest part in their success. Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount are just a few of the players who would come to mind as being the most valuable on the defense.

Unfortunately, the MVP award once again found the offensive side of the ball. The offense was obviously still outstanding, as it featured Hall of Famers on the offensive line as well as two at wide receiver, one at quarterback and one at running back.

Let's disregard the bias towards the offensive side of the ball. Doesn't it strike anyone as odd that the only player off these teams to come away with the award is Terry Bradshaw? Bradshaw was instrumental in the Steelers' success, but he was not only not the MVP of his team, some would argue that he didn't break top three on his offense.

That being said, the NFL consistently points to the quarterback as the reason why teams win or lose, regardless of who is around them or where the impact of the team is being made.

It is not uncommon that the MVP of a team is a running back or a quarterback. Clearly Barry Sanders deserved the award when he received it, as he was responsible for the large majority of success the Lions had during his time there.

In the league today, if any GM had a choice of one player to have on their team today, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady would be at the forefront of the discussion. That being said, when a player at another position excels to the point where they are the best player on their team, it is unfair to overlook them and give the award to their quarterback. This is common practice in the NFL today and it makes the MVP award laughable.

Roddy White and Clay Matthews could be the best and most valuable players on their teams. Both of their teams are excelling and they have proven to be an asset when their team needs them the most. Both have single-handedly changed games and rank near or at the top in most statistical categories for their respective divisions.

Naturally, this means their quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, are among the top contenders for the award. The award needs to be completely remodeled, much like the Heisman Trophy. When a player does exceedingly well, MVP voters should not fail to cast their vote to a player because he is excelling at a position of what is seen as being less significant.

A quarterback or running back could have the 20th-best season for their respective position in league history and would likely run away with the award. A defensive player or wide receiver could have the single-best season of any player at their position and be overlooked.

We are going to see players like Ndamukong Suh force their way into the discussion for these awards, as he did last year when he was a Heisman finalist. The voters can continue to look away, but I encourage them to take notice, rather than side with what is traditional.

Offensive linemen will never be the recipient of this award, as they don't take over games in the way that other positions do. The NFL gets so wrapped up in numbers and statistics that it loses sight of the impact a player has on games. A player that falls victim to this trend is Darrelle Revis. He could be the best player on the best team in the NFL, but since quarterbacks refuse to throw to his side of the field, his numbers are not impressive.

If this award is to regain its mystique, it needs to completely change the way it is voted upon. While I don't believe the voting should be traded over to the fans, or anyone else for that matter, the criteria provided to the voters need to be changed.

Perhaps posing the question, "Who is the best player in the National Football League?" would suffice. The voters need to re-route their thinking back to what the award was originally meant for. As for now, we will continue to see players like Clay Matthews left in the cold.


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