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AP explains voting process for NFL awards

New Orleans Saints v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

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.

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29 Responses to “AP explains voting process for NFL awards”
  1. dldove77 says: Dec 28, 2011 9:34 AM

    Who cares what the margin is between first and second as long as they get first place correct? I hate the Heisman voting system.

  2. Kya_Tropic_Fan says: Dec 28, 2011 9:39 AM

    I find it very hard to imagine that a player receiving the most first place votes wouldnt win the award… Generally speaking, when weeks 14-17 roll around, you usually know who the MVP is going to be, so it doesnt really matter how the votes are tallied. However, this year isnt so clear. I would not have a problem with Rodgers, Brees, or Brady winning the award, they are all deserving. The problem is with only one vote worth “1 point” I think you are going to see something like 34 for Rodgers, 14 for Brees, and 2 for Brady, and I just think it should be far closer than that… When you win 15 games (likely) it is hard to vote against you…but, when you break a passing record that has stood for almost 20 years (a record even Manning never broke) it is hard to over look.

  3. cobrala2 says: Dec 28, 2011 9:42 AM

    I hear you, but I see far bigger issues with how the Pro bowl is determined then the Associated Press’s most valuable player. I’m sort of shrugging my shoulders here.

  4. dldove77 says: Dec 28, 2011 9:47 AM

    The idiotic Heisman voting system resulted in Tebow getting the most first place votes in 2008, but still losing to Sam Bradford. Makes no sense and we don’t need that in the NFL.

  5. l0yalr0yal says: Dec 28, 2011 9:48 AM

    An MVP vote for Tim Tebow is a vote for terrorism.

  6. packerjer says: Dec 28, 2011 10:06 AM

    I think it’s an interesting point. Clearly Rodgers is the MVP as he has the best overall statistics AND the most wins, as well as a win over Drew Brees. There is no criteria by which he isn’t the MVP. So he should win unanimously.

    That said, there should be some recognition for the year Brees and Brady are having. It would be a compelling battle for 2nd place. Numbers are very, very close with Brady having a slightly higher YPA average and Brees having a slightly higher passer rating. If Brees has a slight edge is stats, Brady might get points for degree of difficulty playing most of his games outdoors. I’d be curious to see how the voting went down there.

  7. almighty1 says: Dec 28, 2011 10:08 AM

    Why do you care how many votes the second place finisher gets? The voting system used is not designed in a way to see how close the race is. Every fan knows Brees/Brady had fantastic years. We don’t need to see a close vote to confirm it.

  8. jbythebay says: Dec 28, 2011 10:30 AM

    Yes. Lets have a runner up and third place mvp award

  9. jbythebay says: Dec 28, 2011 10:31 AM

    A 45-9 vote ratio still isn’t as good as Rodgers 45-6 td/int ratio

  10. firethorn1001 says: Dec 28, 2011 10:50 AM

    As others have stated, who cares what the margin of victory in any award is?

    The only thing knowing the margin of victory does is give writers a different angle to write (complain) about in tracking down why someone voted a particular way.

  11. east96st says: Dec 28, 2011 11:12 AM

    “So if the AP truly wants “THE guy” for each award…”

    The AP should take the vote away from sportswriters and give it to the men who play and coach the game. The players and coaches have forgotten more about football than ANY sportswriter will ever know.

  12. dawgsafety13 says: Dec 28, 2011 11:18 AM

    Matthew Stafford: NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

  13. scytherius says: Dec 28, 2011 11:27 AM

    I like the way they do it. Leave it alone.

    Now about that Pro Bowl voting …

  14. warhawk04 says: Dec 28, 2011 11:31 AM

    “If you ain’t first, your last.”
    -Ricky Bobby

  15. dwarftosser says: Dec 28, 2011 11:40 AM

    By several different metrics Rodgers has just played the best season ever by any NFL QB in history. Let me repeat that, Rodgers has just had the best season ever by any QB in NFL history. Brees and Brady have had great years, but if Rodgers doesn’t win by a landslide it will be criminal.

  16. pftstory says: Dec 28, 2011 11:46 AM

    I dont see why we should care about making the guy who comes in second “lose by less.”
    The vote is for the MVP. Not to determine how close second and third place is to the winner.

    The question is “Who is the MVP?” The answer is one persons name.

  17. rc33 says: Dec 28, 2011 12:02 PM

    jbythebay says: Dec 28, 2011 10:31 AM

    A 45-9 vote ratio still isn’t as good as Rodgers 45-6 td/int ratio

    Where did 45-9 come from?
    50 people vote, right?

    Worse yet, 19 morons agreed with this post.

  18. GG Eden says: Dec 28, 2011 12:45 PM

    .You wanting to change every system you set your sights on doesn’t make a system flawed or your suggestion better. The AP system is spot on.

  19. vanmorrissey says: Dec 28, 2011 12:59 PM

    Much to do about nothing. So you come in second or third place, who really cares. Winner take all, these guys get paid a ton of money anyway, that’s what they want, that’s what they deserve, get over your self-justification already, it’s not a big deal.

  20. musicman495 says: Dec 28, 2011 1:23 PM

    I think it’s an interesting point. Clearly Rodgers is the MVP as he has the best overall statistics AND the most wins, as well as a win over Drew Brees. There is no criteria by which he isn’t the MVP. So he should win unanimously.
    ————————————————–
    This is absurd. Stop being a homer. The award is for Most Valuable Player, not Quarterback Whose Team Has the Most Wins. There are at least two quarterbacks who are having MVP type years, and are as valuable to their teams as Rodgers is to his.

  21. ndnut says: Dec 28, 2011 1:53 PM

    @rc33

    He said 45:5!!!!!! This ratio simplifies to 9:1 by dividing each number by 5. It’s truly amazing to see how much the public education system failed you. 45+5=50. 45\5=9. To everyone, MVP means Most VALUABLE Player, not Best Player. By this interpretation, Rodgers isn’t MVP because, and it hurts this Vikings fan to type it, the Packers have one of the best backup QBs in the league, making him less VALUABLE to his team.

  22. gregm5s7 says: Dec 28, 2011 1:58 PM

    As a Packers fan, I would be fine with Co-MVP Rodgers/ Brees.

    I’m sick of hearing Brady mentioned. “MVP” type year- well , there’s no such thing. This isn’t the pro bowl, this is most valuable player of the year.

    The only MVP type year is outplaying everyone in the NFL.

    Brady pales in comparison to Rodgers and Brees.
    I know he doesn’t have the WR depth of Packers/ Saints, but his offensive line is the best in football w/ two great TE’s. From an improvisation, out of pocket scenario, his athleticsm isn’t there. I’m not talking hypothetically, I’m talking the 15 games this year.

  23. jkcranshaw says: Dec 28, 2011 2:35 PM

    @gregm5s7

    If anything I would say Rodgers/Brady…

    Brees has almost a full games worth of attempts and completions over Brady, and 100+ over Rodgers. Based on the number of balls he’s put up I’m shocked there are only 190 yards and 5 TD’s between them.

    Also Brady lost his starting and backup centers, had one (now has 2) rookies starting at tackle. I will give you Mankins, but his other guard was signed off the scrap heap and made the Pro Bowl. Does the line make Brady good, or does Brady make the line look good?

    As far the the TE’s… IMO Gronk is the best TE in the league hands down, but Jimmy Graham isn’t far behind… Are you going to say that Gronk and Hernandez make up a better recieving corp than Graham and all of Brees’ WR’s?

    With the exception of 2007, Brady has done more with less than any QB in the NFL over the last few years.

  24. bearsstillsuck says: Dec 28, 2011 3:18 PM

    Who cares? Theses awards are as dumb as the pro bowl.

  25. cletusvandam says: Dec 28, 2011 3:50 PM

    They go 10 deep at every position to field a pro bowl team, lets do it with MVP also

  26. jkcranshaw says: Dec 28, 2011 4:09 PM

    @gregm5s7
    “From an improvisation, out of pocket scenario, his athleticsm isn’t there. I’m not talking hypothetically, I’m talking the 15 games this year.”

    15 Games this year Rushing-

    Brady- 109 yards, 3 TD’s, 20 First Downs, 2 Fumbles, 0 Fumbles Lost

    Brees – 81 yards, 1 TD, 4 First Downs, 1 Fumble, 1 Fumble Lost

    Ya, huge deficiency in Brady’s game…

    I’m looking for a break down of passing numbers “outside of the pocket”

  27. gregm5s7 says: Dec 28, 2011 4:34 PM

    @jkcranshaw

    One of those rookies is a top 20 pick. I don’t keep up with every NE offensive line change up, but they are very effective.

    As far as Gronk and Hernandez vs. Graham and all the Saints wr’s- Patriots do have a guy named Wes Welker and (a serviceable) Deion Branch. If the Pats felt they needed a “deep threat”, they could’ve drafted one, developed one, or spent more time with Brandon Tate. Not sure why that didn’t turn out, he seemed to be on the upswing.

    The gap isn’t as large, especially when you consider scheme wise. The Cowboys have a great passing attack with only 3 WR’s worthy of mention- Bryant, Austin, and Robinson-with Austin playing very limited this year.

  28. childressrulz says: Dec 28, 2011 5:14 PM

    ndnut says: Dec 28, 2011 1:53 PM

    @rc33

    He said 45:5!!!!!! This ratio simplifies to 9:1 by dividing each number by 5. It’s truly amazing to see how much the public education system failed you. 45+5=50. 45\5=9. To everyone, MVP means Most VALUABLE Player, not Best Player. By this interpretation, Rodgers isn’t MVP because, and it hurts this Vikings fan to type it, the Packers have one of the best backup QBs in the league, making him less VALUABLE to his team.
    _______________________________
    That is funny because years past it has always went to the best QB on the best team (Manning, Brady, etc.) But no you are right we should change it this year now that Rodgers is due.

  29. jkcranshaw says: Dec 28, 2011 5:47 PM

    @gregm5s7

    Don’t forget Dallas has Whiten. I would like to see what either Brees or Brady could do with Romo’s weapons.

    Again, I don’t think that there is a huge gap between the current top three QB’s in the league, but (taking a homer point of view) I would take Brady over Brees for number two. Rodgers is at number one with the insane numbers he is putting up this year… I would like to see it though over a larger sampling. I would also like to see what each would do with the coaching and player turnover that Brady has had over the last several years.

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