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Sacco Sez: A look back through NFL MVP history


The NFL offseason chatter is full of notes and columns about what might come in the new year, and chief among these is speculation about the new season's Most Valuable Player.

Of course, Russell Wilson is a name has popped up quite a bit in this chatter.

Should that come to pass, it would be great for the franchise and the city and would come after a relatively dry spell in Broncos football.

I say "relatively" because the six straight non-playoff seasons and five straight losing seasons are a milestone for the Broncos, but not really so long in the cosmic scheme of NFL football.

The Broncos have actually had three previous MVP winners (quarterback John Elway, running back Terrell Davis and quarterback Peyton Manning), and Denver is one of eight teams with at least three different players to win MVP.

Of course, the all-time leader in number of MVP awards is Manning, who had five (including four with the Indianapolis Colts before signing with Denver).

The award itself is voted on by a nationwide panel of media, and then named by the Associated Press. It started back in 1957, then known as the NFL Most Outstanding Player Award, essentially becoming the NFL MVP Award in 1961.

The first winners were Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns, who won in both 1957 and 1958. For those who do not recognize Brown as the greatest running back in history, consider that in 1958, he rushed for 1,527 yards and added 17 touchdowns — in what was then a 12-game schedule. Can you imagine a healthy Jim Brown playing five more games?

Johnny Unitas was the winner in 1959, and he was followed by fellow quarterback Norm Van Brocklin in 1960. "The Dutchman" was as crusty as they came and in 1960, he guided the Philadelphia Eagles to their first title since 1949. He passed for 24 touchdowns and led the Eagles to their championship win over Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, the only NFL title game Lombardi's Packers ever lost.

But I remember Van Brocklin more for his incredible generosity in paying the down payment for the Eagles' public relations director's new house — and then forevermore refusing to be paid back.

While the NFL MVP winners include mostly quarterbacks and running backs, there have been the exceptions that make the rule.

In 1971, Alan Page was the winner, leading the Minnesota defense that allowed 139 points as the Vikings won their fourth straight NFC Central title. Then, later in life, Page was even more impressive in earning a law degree and becoming a judge.

Not every MVP plays quarterback, and not every quarterback makes the Hall of Fame.

In 1980, Cleveland quarterback Brain Sipe won with a club-record 30 touchdown passes and 4,132 passing yards, the latter being a staggering figure at the time.

In the middle of a string of awards won by quarterbacks, Washington placekicker Mark Moseley was the NFL MVP in 1982, becoming the only true special teams player to win the honor.

Linebacker Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants led the league with 20.5 sacks and won the honor in 1986.

In 1987, Elway passed for 19 touchdowns and 3,198 yards in just 12 games (it was a strike year), winning his much-deserved MVP Award.

As the offensive statistics became more and more prominent in the game, so too did the MVP award become the territory of quarterbacks and running backs.

We can only speculate about 2022, but most of the preseason buzz revolves around quarterbacks, not only Wilson of the Broncos but defending winner Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay, who has claimed back-to-back titles and four overall.

Regardless of who wins the coveted MVP award, that individual would certainly prefer the ultimate honor of being the 11th to be able to say he was the Associated Press MVP winner and won the Super Bowl in the same season (four others won MVP and won what was then known as the NFL Championship).

Broncos fans would certainly love for that player to be Russell Wilson, but only time will tell.

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