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Why Can't a Wide Receiver Be MVP?

Posted at 12:02 PM on November 15, 2008 by David Zingler

The wide receiver position is the most exciting in football. They catch 50-yard bombs, turn a 10-yard slant passes into an 80-yard touchdowns and bend and twist into impossible angles to haul in balls on the sidelines. No player can change the game as quickly as a wide receiver, yet not a single one has won the Associated Press NFL MVP award.

Two defensive players (Alan Page in 1971 and Lawrence Taylor in 1986) and even a kicker (Mark Mosley in 1983) have won the award, but no wide receiver has even been MVP. Not even Jerry Rice. (Every other winner was either a QB or RB.)


The San Francisco 49ers won 3 Super Bowls from 1988-1994 and the one constant was Rice. In my opinion, he is the best player of his era, if not history. Along with Wayne Gretzky in hockey and Michael Jordan in basketball, Rice dominated his sport in the 1980s and 90s. The stat YAC (Yards After Catch) was invented because of Rice. He was the first player that could consistently take short passes long distances. And he was never an MVP.

In 2007 the New England Patriots went 16-0 and had the highest scoring offense in NFL history. Their quarterback, Tom Brady won the MVP after setting the league record with 50 TD passes. But, Brady had been the Pats starting QB since 2001 and had never thrown more for more than 28 TDs in any season before last year. The Patriots had been one the league's better offenses this decade, but were never mistaken for the 1998 Vikings or 1999 Rams.


Randy Moss, in his first season with New England, should have won the MVP. Moss was clearly the reason the Patriots suddenly had an all time great offense. He set an NFL record with 23 receiving TDs and gave the team something they had never had under Bill Belichick; a game breaking threat. It's no coincidence that the two most potent offenses in NFL history (the 1998 Vikings and 2007 Patriots) both featured Moss.

It's clear that MVP voters have a bias against wide-outs. The quarterback position is considered the most important on the team and wide receivers are often portrayed as preening divas, but in the end, each needs each other equally. Brady was great before Moss and Moss was great before Brady, but put them together and you get history. Why does the quarterback get most of the credit?


It's not like a wide receiver can't carry a team. Just look at the Vikings in the 1990s; Cris Carter was the unquestioned leader of the team and focal point of their offense. The Vikings went through a host of signal callers - Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham and Jeff George - and still Carter was able to put up Hall of Fame numbers on a perennial playoff team. There's no reason to think that if the Vikings had a QB of Carter's quality with no Carter at WR they would have done any better.

Don't expect the drought to end this year either. Houston's Andre Johnson is having a standout year, but the Texans are going nowhere. Atlanta's Roddy White is leading the surprising Falcons, but rookie QB Matt Ryan is getting all the credit there. The Cardinals are going to win there first division title since the advent of the forward pass but, Kurt Warner, not Larry Fitzgerald is considered their MVP candidate.

You have to think that someday a pass catcher will finally shatter this glass ceiling, but if guys like Rice and Moss can't do it, who can?

(Rice photo by Mike Powell; Moss by Jim Rogash; Carter by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

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