For NFL Thursday this week, it’s that magical season of 1972 where the Miami Dolphins put together the only unbeaten, untied, championship season in the history of the sport.
That’s special, but will our MVP pick come from that roster? Read on …
1972 MVP: Larry Brown (original), Ron Johnson (revised)
What most people don’t remember about the Dolphins was that veteran quarterback Earl Morrall was the starter for 9 games in the 14-game regular season and also saw playoff action on the way to the NFL title. Well, Morrall did what Roger Staubach did in 1971: He posted a perfect, unbeaten record as the starter.
His 91.0 QB rating was tops in the league by more than 6 points, and Morrall did play in all 14 games. However, he threw just 150 passes total on the season, and it’s hard to classify a QB as the MVP if he’s attempting just 11 passes per game on average. Of course, the Miami offense was about running backs.
On that note, a whopping 10 runners reached the 1,000-yard mark in 1972—including two Dolphins, fullback Larry Csonka and running back Mercury Morris. Of the two, Csonka was better, averaging 5.2 yards per carry on his was to 1,117 yards. He also fumbled just twice.
Washington Redskins RB Larry Brown won the MVP vote at the time, running for 1,216 yards in just 12 games and scoring 8 touchdowns—but he fumbled 9 times, which is a lot for just 12 games. We don’t see the value there when a guy has more turnovers than TDs, and no other runners really stood out during the season.
Only two receivers topped 1,000 yards on the season, and neither of them played for a winning team (Philadelphia’s Harold Jackson and Minnesota’s John Gilliam). This is turning out to be a barren year for offensive players!
No defensive players reached double digits in interceptions, and statistics are incomplete for the era—the Dolphins, for example, led the NFL in scoring defense, but we really have no good measurements to assess if there was an MVP candidate there.
Back to offense and total yards from scrimmage then: Brown added 473 receiving yards to top the NFL with 1,689 yards total, with 12 scores and those 9 fumbles. But he only finished 56 yards ahead of New York Giants RB Ron Johnson, who scored 14 times and fumbled just three times.
The Giants finished 8-6, three games behind the Redskins in the NFC East Division and in third place. Is that a contending team? Washington swept New York by a combined 23 points in the two matchups, so we can’t even really give the Giants credit for competitiveness there.
However, Johnson was probably the best player in the NFL. He also ran for 176 yards in the two losses to Washington, while adding 76 yards through the air as well. He wasn’t the reason the Giants lost to the Redskins, and without him, New York would not have finished with a winning record.
In today’s NFL, that Giants team would have been the sixth seed in the NFC. New York had the third-best scoring differential in the conference, proving the team’s overall competitiveness, and with a lack of bona fide MVP candidates elsewhere this season, we elect to give Johnson the nod here.