Welcome to NFL Thursday once again, as we move deeper into the 1980s, the pass-happy decade that started to shape the modern game more than anyone wants to admit. We’ve had the same quarterback win the award two years in a row. Will it happened for a third straight time?
Read on to find out …
1983 MVP: Joe Theismann (original AP & PFWA), Eric Dickerson (revised)
Tackling stats are still incomplete for the 1983 seasons, but we do have some intel on sacks, for example. Let’s start with outstanding defensive players during the year: New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau (19 sacks) and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Fred Dean (17.5 sacks) each stood out from the rest in this area.
Gastineau also added two fumble recoveries although the Jets struggled to a 7-9 record and a last-place finish in the AFC East. Miami Dolphins defensive end Doug Betters notched 16 sacks and four fumble recoveries to help his team post a 12-4 record in the same division to take the crown. No one picked off double-digit passes, so Betters is the best defensive candidate.
In a sign of the times they be a-changin’ … seven QBs posted QB ratings over 92.0 on the year, topped by Atlanta Falcons star Steve Bartkowski (97.6) and Washington Redskins signal caller Joe Theismann (97.0). The Falcons finished last in the NFC West, while the Redskins won the NFC East, making Theismann the best QB candidate for the MVP Award.
Los Angeles Rams rookie running back Eric Dickerson took the NFL by storm with 1,808 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns on the ground. But he did fumble 13 times, too, which puts a dent in his credentials, for sure. Redskins fullback John Riggins ran for 1,347 yards (averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, though) and scored a whopping 24 TDs rushing.
Riggins coughed the ball up just five times, too, but that per-carry average just isn’t MVP worthy. Both Dickerson and Riggins played for playoff teams, too. Overall, 16 runners posted over 1,000 yards rushing, making this a very crowded club with just a few standouts.
In the pass-receiving realm, 13 players exceeded the 1,000-yard threshold, and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mike Quick was the best: 1,409 yards and 13 TDs. But overall, it was not a year for dominant pass catchers, and the Eagles finished just 5-11 to miss the postseason, anyway.
The total yards category can tell us a lot: Three players topped 2,000 yards total on the season, and Dickerson was at the top of the list (2,212 yards, 20 TDs total, 13 fumbles), followed by Falcons fullback William Andrews (2,176 yards, 11 TDs, 6 fumbles) and Chicago Bears star Walter Payton (2,028 yards, 8 TDs, 5 fumbles)—our MVP pick in 1977, 1978, and 1979.
Even with the fumbles, Dickerson is the best of the bunch here. Is his season better than the Betters and Theismann campaigns, however? Betters played for a team that rookie QB Dan Marino (96.0 QB rating) on the other side of the ball, while Theismann had Riggins to hand the ball off to all year, scoring a lot and not fumbling much, even if in small chunks.
Dickerson’s QB? Vince Ferragamo, who threw more INTs than TDs in 1983 on his way to a 75.9 QB rating. The Rams were a one-man show during the year, after finishing 2-7 in 1982. The Dolphins and the Redskins met in the Super Bowl after the prior season, so both teams were already good.
Betters was the top player in terms of Approximate Value for the year, and he certainly is a viable candidate for this award, but we just think Dickerson had more value to his team in terms of carrying it, alone, to the postseason.