In the ninth edition of our NFL Thursday series, we move into the second year of the Associated Press awarding an MVP award to a football player. Last week, we confirmed the AP pick; will we do so again this year? Read on to find out!
1958 NFL MVP: Jim Brown (original winner, confirmed)
We have not had a repeat winner yet in our NFL MVP analysis, let alone a multiple-time winner, and this was a year where the AP picked a repeat winner—in just its second season awarding a trophy to the most valuable player in the league.
Also, 1958 was the year of the famous overtime title game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants—and it has no impact on our process. But it’s key to note that the Giants and the Cleveland Browns tied for the East Division title with 9-3 records, while the Colts won the West with an identical 9-3 mark.
Teams in competition for the postseason including the Chicago Bears (8-4), Los Angeles Rams (8-4), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1). No other NFL team finished over .500 in the regular season, meaning our MVP candidates could be limited in this analysis.
Defensively, New York safety Jimmy Patton registered 11 interceptions, two more than Pittsburgh safety Jack Butler. But neither performance was strong enough to really warrant MVP consideration.
Baltimore end Raymond Berry tied for the lead league in receptions (56) and receiving touchdowns (9), while finishing fourth in receiving yards (794). That was a good season for a wideout, but it wasn’t really a dominant one. Rams flanker Del Shofner had an equally impressive season, too, with 51 catches for 1,097 yards and 8 TDs.
Colts halfback Lenny Moore posted very good receiving numbers—50 receptions, 938 yards, 7 TDs—in addition to his modest rushing totals: 598 yards and 7 more TDs. Combined, that’s 1,536 yards from scrimmage with 14 scores. That’s an MVP-caliber season, for sure.
However, Cleveland star Jim Brown had an amazing season on the ground: 1,527 yards and 17 TDs. His per-game average yardage (127.3) was almost twice as much (65.9) as the next-best player (Baltimore fullback Alan Ameche, who would score the overtime TD in the title game).
Brown also added 138 receiving yards and another score on a pass reception to bring his scrimmage totals to 1,665 yards and 18 TDs. While Moore was a great option through the air or on the ground, Brown definitely was a one-trick pony—but a historically great one.
Finally, quarterbacks: Colts leader Johnny Unitas led the league with a 90.0 QB rating, tossing 19 TD passes and throwing just 7 INTs. He only started nine games, though, while both Brown and Moore started all 12 regular-season games for their respective teams.
This comes down to the fact, again, that Brown was carrying more of the load for his nine-win team than Moore was, considering the contributions of Unitas and Berry note above. Cleveland QB Milt Plum tossed just 11 TDs while also getting picked off 11 times, and his general “averageness” at the position put more strain on Brown—who absolutely dominated the league with his unique ability to run over players repeatedly.
That makes it easier to confirm Brown again as the league MVP, while also providing our NFL Thursday series with its first repeat winner.