Welcome back to NFL Thursdays, as we push deeper into the 1970s, where memories were created and documented by NFL Films for us all to remember. In this 1976 season, 10 teams again each won 10-plus games each in a 14-game season, leaving the 10-4 Cincinnati Bengals and the 10-4 St. Louis Cardinals without playoff slots.
Will that create MVP analysis drama? See below …
1976 MVP: Bert Jones (original AP & PFWA), Chuck Foreman (revised)
Two different quarterbacks led their teams to the postseason on the backs of stellar QB ratings: Oakland Raiders star Ken Stabler (103.4) and Baltimore Colts upstart Bert Jones (102.5). Sadly, we had to strip the Snake of his AP MVP in 1974, but could he recoup an MVP award here? Stay tuned.
What a year it was for runners, as 12 guys reached the 1,000-yard mark, including Buffalo Bills sensation O.J. Simpson (1,503 yards) and Chicago Bears standout Walter Payton (1,390 yards). However, neither team posted a winning season, which makes these two afterthoughts in an MVP discussion.
It is worth nothing that both Baltimore (Lydell Mitchell) and Oakland (Mark van Eeghan) had 1,000-yard rushers, giving our two QB candidates above plenty of help in posting high QB ratings.
When it comes to receivers, Kansas City Chiefs aging fullback MacArthur Lane topped the NFL with 66 receptions, while three wide receivers posted 1,000-yard seasons: Baltimore’s Roger Carr (1,112 yards on 43 catches), Oakland’s Cliff Branch (1,111 yards on 46 catches), and San Diego Chargers legend Charlie Joiner (1,056 yards on 50 catches).
Again, note how the top QBs had plenty of help on the ground and in the air. This will be important when we look at the yards-from-scrimmage leaders in a few moments.
But first, what about the defensive guys? Los Angeles Rams cornerback Monte Jackson topped the league with 10 interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns and also recovering one fumble. That’s a standout season, but it’s probably not at the MVP-caliber level.
In terms of scrimmage yards, there are some standouts here who did not have teammates to help them out: Minnesota Vikings running back Chuck Foreman (1,722 total yards and 14 TDs) and Rams running back Lawrence McCutcheon (1,473 total yards and 11 TDs). Foreman finished just 40 yards behind the NFL leader (Simpson), and both these guys led teams to division titles.
A key here is fumbles: Foreman fumbled 7 times in 333 touches, while McCutcheon coughed it up 10 times in 319 touches—giving Foreman the distinct edge over the Rams star.
It’s hard to take any of the Baltimore and Oakland candidates seriously in terms of value, because each team had its own set of “triplets” leading the way to overall season success. This really leaves us with Foreman as the leading candidate, since he finished third in total yards (barely behind the league leader) and tied for the league lead in TDs.
Yet, the Vikings still had 1975 MVP vote winner Fran Tarkenton at QB, so Foreman wasn’t exactly doing it alone. But Tarkenton finished a mere sixth in QB rating, well below the leaders, so he wasn’t having a dominant season in comparison to Stabler and Jones. The Vikings also had WR Sammy White, who finished with 906 yards receiving.
On the whole, however, Minnesota’s “supporting triplets” were a notch down compared to trios in Baltimore and Oakland, pushing Foreman to the top of the discussion as an upper-echelon player with “lesser” support.
Sometimes, that’s how value is determined, and in this case as a result, Foreman gets his second MVP Award from us.