Roughly every year at this time, I complain about the Associated Press process for determining the officially unofficial NFL awards: MVP, offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, coach of the year, comeback player of the year, offensive rookie of the year, defensive rookie of the year, and the All-Pro team. Voting occurs right after the regular season ends, with most of the awards unveiled during Super Bowl week on NFL Network, well after the curiosity of most fans has subsided.
I don’t complain because I don’t have a vote. I complain because I think the process needs to improve. (Peter King, who has one of the votes, agrees with me, as we explained during a recent Friday edition of NBC SportsTalk.)
The problem is that, with one vote per person, the outcome can be badly skewed. This year, for example, the MVP vote likely will reflect a landslide win for Aaron Rodgers, even though the performances of Drew Brees and Tom Brady justify a far closer outcome.
So I asked Barry Wilner of the Associated Press for an explanation of the decision not to use a Heisman-style first-place, second-place, and third-place voting system, or a similar procedure that allows voters to list more names other than the winner.
“We don’t want an MVP who doesn’t get the most first choices, so we use a better system that guarantees the player with majority of first-place votes wins,” Wilner said via email. “We are looking for THE guy for each award.”
It’s a fair explanation, but I’m not sure it’s realistic to think that the guy who gets a majority of first-place votes (or even a plurality) won’t win. (One way to address the concern would be to add extra weight to a first-place vote.)
And so I continue to believe that the current system is flawed. Though Rodgers likely deserves to win the MVP in 2011, Brees and/or Brady deserve the final outcome to be closer than 45-5, a 9-1 ratio.
Then there’s the reality that one of the 50 voters can be counted on to do something goofy and/or bizarre, like voting for Keith Rivers to be the defensive rookie of the year despite missing nine games or voting for LeGarrette Blount to be the comeback player of the year . . . as a rookie. This year, the Colts’ late-season winning streak likely means that Peyton Manning won’t attract any votes, notwithstanding the decision of NFL Magazine to endorse Peyton as the league’s MVP.
An expanded voting system would neutralize those potential Ralph Nader votes, which end up being wasted on a non-viable candidate and possibly deciding the outcome in a close race. It also would eliminate the possibility of co-winners, which we saw in 2003 with co-MVPs Peyton Manning and Steve McNair, and in 1997 with co-MVPs Barry Sanders and Brett Favre.
So if the AP truly wants “THE guy” for each award, the AP should consider broadening the voting process to eliminate possible ties, to tighten up the final outcome, and to eliminate the influence of ballots cast by voters whose votes reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the awards and the men who are eligible for them.