Put a hold on that new world order of the NFL passing game … for NFL Thursday always sets the record straight—even if we are the ones that hinted at a paradigm shift. What will happen in this edition of MVP Award revisionist history?!
Read on to find out … is it the quarterback or the running back?
1984 MVP: Dan Marino (original AP & PFWA, confirmed)
We are doing to start with defense: Four players registered at least one sack a game, including New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau (22). This record would last until 2001 when it was artificially broken. That definitely makes Gastineau an MVP candidate … until we remember the Jets finished 7-9 and out of the playoff chase completely.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Art Monk hauled in 106 passes to lead the league, while St. Louis Cardinals wideout Roy Green topped his peers in yardage with 1,555 yards. And in just 15 games, Miami Dolphins rising star Mark Clayton caught 18 touchdown passes to set a new NFL record. All three players contributed to their teams’ playoff-contending success, for sure.
Yet, none of them were truly dominant in the MVP sense, and all three of them played with stellar QBs ranked in the Top 6 for NFL passer rating—which dampens their value a bit. In addition, Clayton’s record would only last three seasons before it was broken readily in 1987. That’s not historic, so none of these players are true MVP candidates.
In the end, perhaps this award battle was always going to come down to either Dolphins QB Dan Marino or Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson—our pick for MVP in 1983.
The former set historic records of 48 TD passes, breaking the old record of 36 (originally set in 1961 as we discussed at the time and not broken until 2004), and 5,084 passing yards (which wouldn’t be broken until 2011, either).
Meanwhile, Dickerson also broke records—set by two-time MVP O.J. Simpson—for most rushing yards in a season (2,105 which still stands) and most total yards from scrimmage in a season (2,244 which was broken in 1985, lasting just one season).
The major issue here to us is turnovers: Dickerson fumbled a whopping 14 times! He only scored 14 TDs, too, so his net-zero ratio there is not MVP worthy. We understand he was a one-man team again: His primary QB—retread Jeff Kemp—posted a 78.7 QB rating.
Marino definitely played on a better team, as the Dolphins went 14-2 while the Rams went just 10-6 during the regular season. But the Miami QB also tossed just 16 interceptions. His 108.9 QB rating led the NFL by six full points over fellow legend Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers, and his INT percentage was the sixth-best mark in the league.
In a season where a legendary QB and a legendary RB set records for the ages, we also have to keep this in mind: Dickerson had the most turnovers among runners and receivers in the league. We realize this may have been because he had the ball so much and was probably gang tackled repeatedly, but … it is what it is.
The modern, aerial NFL had truly arrived by the 1984 season, and Marino was one of the primary torch bearers. This is his MVP Award to keep.
Check in every Thursday for our NFL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!