As far as individual NFL honors go, it doesn’t get much better than winning the MVP award. While MVP conversations start in week one and intensify with every passing week of action, many might not know how MVP voting works. In reality, it is a remarkably simple process when compared to other leagues, but that doesn’t mean that it is a perfect system. As another NFL season races toward the homestretch, it’s time to learn who decides the NFL MVP and how the voting works.
What is the NFL MVP voting process?
Several leagues employ a point-based voting process that allows the voters to vote for multiple players based on how they rank them. Depending on the system, whoever gets the most points will typically win the award. This allows the voters to think about their order and make sure that they are voting for who is most deserving. The NFL does not do this, however.
The NFL has voters cast a single vote at the end of each season. This makes their vote hold more weight than the other system, but it can also make the voting process a runaway when it could be closer. In 1997, Brett Favre and Barry Sanders shared the award, a feat that Steve McNair and Peyton Manning repeated six years later.
Who are the NFL MVP Voters?
There are 50 voters chosen by The Associated Press every year. These voters are ultimately the ones who decide the NFL MVP. Although there is a lot of carryover from year to year, the voters are not necessarily the same.
This year’s voters have not yet been announced, but the voters of the 2018 MVP award include several of the biggest names in sports media. These include legendary quarterback Troy Aikman, mercurial writer Peter King, Sunday Night Football announcer Chris Collinsworth, and Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy. They are ESPN writers, NBC and CBS sports contributors, and local beat writers who have made a name for themselves on a larger scale.
The single voting system can make things a little bit more exciting if there is a genuinely close race, with one vote having the ability to swing the vote one day or another.
The NFL MVP award is historically skewed to advantage quarterbacks. As the facilitator of the offense and the sole person at his position a vast majority of the time, the quarterback naturally draws the majority of the attention, but he may also be the one who gets the most blame. It’s a high stakes position that gets rewarded for this, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t have a chance.
The last non-quarterback to win the award was Adrian Peterson, who won the award as a running back in 2012. Running backs have won the most non-quarterback MVP awards, and the other positions are largely shut out. The exceptions to this are Lawrence Taylor, who won in 1986, and Mark Moseley, who defied all odds and won the award as a kicker for the Redskins in 1982.
This year, Michael Thomas could have a shot at being one of the rare wide receivers to get votes, but the award will likely go to another quarterback.
Snubs and interesting picks
Not every team has had great luck when it comes to MVP. The New York Jets, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, and Tamp Bay Buccaneers have never produced one. The Eagles and Saints may surprise people given historic successes, and the Ravens might soon leave the list if Lamar Jackson can get the award.
The Moseley pick was an unprecedented one by the AP in the current format. The Redskins were the best team in the NFL, but they did not have a definitive leader. Moseley kicked historically well during the shortened season, and this made him an easy choice.
However, with a specialized position like kickers, it is hard to say that they are ever the most valuable on a team, let alone a league.
As far as other controversies go, the NFL does find a way to get deserving candidates. Controversies are typically no more than arguments over semantics. Did Favre deserve the tie with Sanders? What about Manning with McNair? Big names may get an unfair advantage in the process, but with all the flaws it’s hard to find too many players who didn’t deserve the award as much as those who may not have been given a fair shot.
With so much on the line, the MVP voting in any league will never be perfect, but the league has a cut and dry method that makes it pretty clear who decides the NFL MVP.