On NFL Thursday, the time has come to acknowledge that this is the last year with just one original MVP Award. Starting in 1975, the Professional Football Writers Association (PFWA) started giving out its own award, to compete with the Associated Press one.
For now, though, enjoy one last year of simplicity!
1974 MVP: Ken Stabler (original), Chuck Foreman (revised)
Seven NFL teams won at least 10 games each in a 14-game season, which means we could have many candidates for this award. Let’s start with the quarterbacks, as we almost always do.
Two different full-time passers posted QB ratings over 94 this year: Cincinnati Bengals legend Ken Anderson (95.7) and Oakland Raiders star Ken Stabler (94.9). The Bengals finished just 7-7, although the Raiders posted 12 wins to secure the best record in the NFL.
Stabler tossed 26 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions in 13 starts, where Oakland won 11 times. He was, by far, the QB with the most value in the league, and that’s one reason he was voted the MVP award by the AP guys.
The best runner in the league was Denver Broncos fullback Otis Armstrong, who topped them all with 1,407 yards and 5.3 yards-per-carry average, to go along with 9 TDs on the ground. Although the Broncos finished 7-6-1, they missed a playoff bid by two victories.
One year after not making the postseason, O.J. Simpson and the Buffalo Bills did win 9 games to qualify ahead of Denver. The Juice ran for a mere 1,125 yards, however, and he fumbled (7) more times than he scored (3).
Only two receivers finished with over 1,000 yards in the air: Oakland’s Cliff Branch and Dallas’ Drew Pearson. Branch topped the NFL in yards (1,092) and TD receptions (13); Pearson trailed Branch by 5 yards and 10 TDs for the 8-win Cowboys, who missed the postseason for the only time between 1966 and 1983.
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Emmitt Thomas intercepted 12 passes for a 5-9 team, and his season is worth noting here. Likewise, San Diego Chargers running back Don Woods finished third in total yards (1,511), but he also did it for a 5-9 team in the AFC West.
Additional MVP candidates include Los Angeles Rams RB Lawrence McCutcheon (1,517 total yards) and Minnesota Vikings FB Chuck Foreman (1,363 total yards, league-best 15 TDs). Both played for division winners, although McCutcheon—like Simpson—fumbled (7) more than he scored (5).
That generally leaves us with Stabler, Branch, and Foreman. The Raiders duo obviously fed off each other, while Foreman’s quarterback was Frank Tarkenton—no slouch, obviously, as his solid 82.1 QB rating demonstrates. But Foreman was the primary weapon on the ground and in the air for the Vikings offense, while Oakland had Marv Hubbard to run (865 yards).
The “best” Minnesota receiver—Jim Lash—had just 32 catches for 631 yards and no TDs. Overall, Foreman carried a bigger load with less help than the other MVP candidates during the regular season.
That is what this is all about: value.