We laid out our process here last month, so away we go!
1955 NFL MVP: Farewell to the first King of Cleveland …
Only five of the 12 NFL teams finished above .500 in this regular season, with the 9-win Cleveland Browns leading the way in the East and the 8-win Los Angeles Rams pacing the pack in the West. The Browns had a 1.5-game edge on the Washington Redskins and a 3-game edge on the New York Giants, while the Rams slipped past the Chicago Bears by a half game out west.
Safety Will Sherman of the Rams led the NFL with 11 interceptions, and the next best defender—Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Bibbles Bawel—had 9 picks. However, Bawel did return two of his INTs for touchdowns. Sadly, however, the Eagles finished five games behind the Browns, so the effort wasn’t exactly valuable. We also don’t see Sherman’s effort as dominant, so he won’t be considered for MVP.
One of the reasons why the Browns won another NFL title—beating the Rams in the championship game, 38-14—was the regular-season performance of quarterback Otto Graham. He tossed 15 TD passes and only 8 interceptions, while leading the league in passer rating (94.0) by a whopping 14 points. Graham was one of just two QBs to throw more touchdowns than interceptions. That is a dominant season.
The best runner of the season was clearly Baltimore Colts fullback Alan Ameche, who is better known for something else besides winning the Triple Crown of rushing in 1955. Ameche led the NFL in rushing attempts (213), yards (961), and TDs (9), although he did it in a vacuum, playing for the mediocre Colts, who finished 3 games behind the Rams.
Our 1953 MVP, Pete Pihos, led all receivers in receptions (62) and receiving yards (864), while our 1954 MVP, Harlon Hill, led the NFL in TD receptions (9). Neither effort was as dominant as the respective MVP seasons of the past, however.
This really leaves us with just Graham and Ameche as the primary candidates for the big award, and with the Colts finishing under .500 as an also-ran team in the playoff chase, it’s an easy call here to send the MVP to Graham in his final season as a professional football player.
It’s worth noting that Graham led the Browns to the league title game in all 10 seasons of his career, the first four in the old All-American Football Conference and the final six against the big boys in the NFL. That’s a record that no one will ever match (take note, Tom Brady blowhards).