The change in NFL MVP voting is long, long overdue


2021 MVP Aaron Rodgers
Photo: Getty Images

Hark! The Associated Press is considering making changes to their NFL MVP voting process! I never thought I’d see the day.

The Associated Press’ MVP Award has long been considered the “real” MVP. While other outlets may offer their own take on who the most valuable player is, the AP’s distinction is the most respected. However, the voting system to determine the MVP is archaic. One vote for each person?! That’s awful! Not because it doesn’t work. There hasn’t been a legitimately close MVP race since Adrian Peterson won the award in 2012. However, it’s boring. That’s undeniable.

Where leagues like the NBA and MLB give each of their voters a chance to rank their top-five options, the NFL’s MVP voters have never had that luxury. It not only gives voters a chance to shine a light on some people who might not have been considered for the award, but it also gives voters an opportunity to give more than one player recognition. Think about it. In the NFL’s voting method, if a voter can’t decide between two players, they ultimately have to pick only one. Although they believed it was a close race, all of their votes/points go to only that one player. Sure, some voters have offered co-MVPs in the past like in 2012 when Peterson received 30.5 votes and Peyton Manning received 19.5. However, that’s a very rare occurrence and under the current voting principles, it seems like a cop-out. Offering voters a chance to rank players would not only make the voting process less stressful, but would also enable voters to give recognition to athletes they considered to have the second or third-best seasons.

Of course, the ranked-choice voting system isn’t without its own flaws. The obvious drawback is the possibility of an MVP winner having fewer first-place votes than the second or third-place finisher. However, even in the 40-plus years that the NBA has used a ranked-choice system voted on by the media, only once has the player with the most first-place votes not taken home the hardware — 1990 Charles Barkley. There have been several instances where the player with the second-most first-place votes didn’t finish second in voting, but that’s inconsequential.

In MLB, the pros of the ranked-choice system were on full display in 2017, when both Joey Votto and Giancarlo Stanton received 10 first-place votes. If this were the NFL, we would’ve had co-NL MVPs that year. Just typing that out made me vomit profusely. However, Stanton received more ranked points throughout the remainder of the ballots and thankfully, there was only one winner.

AP’s NFL MVP Award has never been subject to much controversy. However, it’s also been the most basic, vanilla, unexciting MVP voting process of any of the Big 4 American sports. It also doesn’t give much respect to anybody unless they receive at least one MVP vote. Think about how great Russell Wilson’s 2019 season was — 31 touchdowns, only five interceptions, all while sitting behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. Wilson got sacked 48 times that season, which led the league. He also led the league in fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. Wilson didn’t get a single MVP vote.

I’m not undercutting how spectacular Lamar Jackson was that year, but wouldn’t it have been nice to see Wilson’s name right under Jackson’s? Right now, if you look up the voting in 2019, all you see is how great Jackson was. Wilson isn’t even given a second thought. He’s barely a footnote.

While some people may consider the ranked-choice system unnecessary given how obvious the last decade of NFL MVP winners have been, it’s still a system that promotes recognizing multiple players for their fantastic seasons, and that’s long overdue.

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