It’s become fashionable to make the case for Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to be named the NFL’s MVP for 2017. And with plenty of short-list candidates either injured or potentially disqualifying themselves with bad late-season performances, maybe Brown — who has been unstoppable over the past four weeks — should get some consideration.
But his candidacy defies history. No receiver has been named NFL MVP, ever. When Lions receiver Calvin Johnson racked up a single-season record 1,964 receiving yards in 2012, his name never came up for the award — and he didn’t even get a single vote.
When Patriots receiver Randy Moss set the single-season touchdown reception record in 2007 with 23, he also didn’t get a vote, primarily because the quarterback who threw all of those passes (and more) got 49 of them. (Brett Favre got the other vote.)
Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver of all time, never received serious consideration for MVP. Not in 1987, when John Elway won the award despite a then-record 22 touchdown receptions from Rice. Not in 1995, when Rice had a career-high 122 catches and 1,848 receiving yards. (Favre won it then.) Not in any season of the best career any pass catcher ever has had.
One of the reasons for the historical slighting of receivers has been the traditional use of the MVP award to acknowledge the best quarterback on the best team. Since 2007, a quarterback has won the game every year but one. Several running backs (including Adrian Peterson) have won the award over the years, along with two defensive players (Alan Page in 1971 and Lawrence Taylor in 1986) and a kicker (yes, a kicker) in 1983 (Mark Moseley).
Since Taylor became the league’s MVP in 1986, however, it’s been a quarterback and running back award only, with a quarterback winning or sharing the honor 24 times and a running back winning or sharing it seven times.
That said, it’s rare that a receiver even gets mentioned as an MVP candidate, so Brown already has defied tradition, and for good reason. He’s clearly the best receiver in the game, with 99 catches and 1,509 yards in 13 games. That puts him on pace for 121 receptions and 1,857 yards.
If he continues the pace that he has established for the last four contests (9.75 catches per game, 156.75 yards per game), he’ll finish with 128 catches and 1,979 receiving yards — and that would break Johnson’s five-year-old record.
While Roethlisberger is on pace for no single-season NFL records, why shouldn’t the guy who distributes the ball in one of the best offenses in the NFL be getting talked about for what essentially has become a quarterback award? It’s simply odd that, with Brown (and to a lesser extent Bell) being mentioned for MVP recognition, Roethlisberger’s name never comes up.
It should. And, at least for this specific publication, it is. But since I don’t (and probably never will) have one of the 50 votes for the Associated Press postseason awards, what I think will continue to not matter to anyone except me.