As far as individual accolades are concerned in the NFL, the MVP award is considered the highest honor. Over the years, many legends of the game have received this award as a testament to their greatness and what they have achieved on the biggest stage. Players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have already etched their names in the history books because of their incredible careers and multiple MVP awards.
However, there have been some players who performed exceptionally well during the season but could not convert that into an MVP title. In some cases, another player might have performed better in the same season, while sometimes the voting committee just got it wrong. However, there is no denying the fact that these players were also legends of the game in every sense of the word, irrespective of whether they received the converted prize.
With the advent of the new NFL season on the horizon, we take a look at some of the greatest NFL players who never won an MVP.
#10. Troy Aikman
An irreplaceable part of the Cowboys outfit during the ’90s, Troy Aikman is one of the several quarterbacks in our list who couldn’t convert their near-perfect season into an MVP title. The Dallas Cowboys were the team to beat during that time, and most of the hype was because of the brilliance of Aikman. He had a rocket arm which he put to good use by finding his teammates, who were great in their own right
The 1992 season was the one where Aikman should have won the award. However, Steve Young was handed the MVP that year. Granted that Aikman’s numbers were not as high as Young’s, but the impact he had has to count for something during the decision-making process. He threw for 23 touchdowns that season and produced many match-winning performances.
Although he did not get the MVP, Aikman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 for his incredible achievements during his playing career. His leadership for the Dallas Cowboys during that iconic era will never be forgotten by the franchise faithful.
#9. Tony Dorsett
Tony Dorsett is another player who became the victim of the quarterback preference custom that has been rampant in the NFL ever since its inception. His intensity and sheer tenacity in the ’70s inspired many generations of running backs who tried to emulate him. Dorsett was one of the rare variety of players who had the power to influence and motivate his team in a tough situation.
In only his second season in the NFL, Dorsett produced numbers that were worthy of an MVP any day of the week. However, he fell short of another legend of the game, Terry Bradshaw, who won the award with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Many analysts are of the opinion that Tony Dorsett had a better season than Bradshaw in lieu of his dominance over opponents.
Tony Dorsett is still regarded as a Cowboys great and not winning an MVP award is not going to change that in any way whatsoever.
#8. Randy Moss
The name Randy Moss brings back memories of incredible plays and incisive runs that almost always ended in a touchdown. “The Freak” was the perfect amalgamation of game awareness and skill, and he used it to full effect for the New England Patriots.
In the 2007 season, Tom Brady won his first MVP award by throwing 50 touchdowns, a feat never seen before in the NFL. There is no denying the fact that it was an MVP-worthy season, however, it has to be admitted that Warren Moon played arguably the biggest role in that season. Many critics argue that Tom Brady would not have had such an incredible season had he not had Randy Moss as his receiver.
That Patriots side was a thing of beauty and a treat to watch because it had players like Moss and Brady. Both stars were codependent on each other for their individual performances and ultimately it was for the team. It is not as if Brady wasn’t deserving of the award, he proved that by winning a handful of them later on.
However, Moss will be counted as one of the players who had a career that demanded an MVP but couldn’t lay their hands on it because of circumstances.
#7. Warren Moon
There haven’t been many players who have reached the level of Warren Moon over the years. One of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of the game, Moon was a beast in his prime. He used to take opponents on with ease and was never fazed by the pass rush. Over his long career, he won a lot of personal and team accolades. However, he could not convert them into an MVP award.
In the 1990 season, there weren’t many players better than him at his position. In fact, Moon was also able to throw for more than 300 yards in nine games that season, equalling the iconic Dan Marino’s record. The reasoning behind him missing out on the award has more to do with legendary status rather than stats. Joe Montana received the prize that season even when his stats were not as great as Moon’s.
As many analysts would later go on to say, Montana’s legacy had to be honored one last time before he hung his boots. Unfortunately, Warren Moon had to bear the consequences.
#6. Gale Sayers
Sayers is our oldest inclusion in the list, but it had to be done. The kind of stats he put up in the 1966 season was simply unbelievable. Arguably the greatest player in Chicago Bears’ history, Sayers carried the team for the entirety of that season and led them within touching distance of the playoffs.
In the end, he lost the MVP award to Bart Starr, who was a part of the Green Bay Packers. Sayers lost the award only because of the performance of his team. The Chicago Bears did not qualify for the playoffs that season and the Packers ended up winning the Super Bowl. This played a big part in the voters swinging in favor of Starr.
Irrespective of whether there is an MVP award to his name or not, Gale Sayers will forever live on to be one of the players who introduced a new style in the NFL. He inspired many players of upcoming generations and was never one to back down from a challenge.
#5. Jerry Rice
It is incomprehensible to think that Jerry Rice did not win a single MVP award despite the dominance he had all through his playing career. The way he used to annihilate his opponents with nimble movements and exceptional game awareness were impeccable. As NFL fanatics would remember, Rice was a treat to watch.
However, this was yet another case of a quarterback teammate winning the MVP over his more prolific teammate. In 1989, Steve Young was awarded the honors while Rice was a close second. Now, it has to be said that Young deserved the award too, as his stats would tell. But he would not have thrown nearly as many touchdowns had Rice not been present in the team.
In the end, the LA Express benefited from their prolific duo as they ran rampant throughout the league. People still remember him as one of, if not, the greatest wide receivers the game has ever seen. And his Hall of Fame induction in 2010 might have something to do with that.
#4. Roger Staubach
The current crop of NFL fans might not remember Roger Staubach, but that does not take anything away from the stature he holds in the world of Football. One of the greatest quarterbacks in the league, Staubach lit up the NFL with his brilliant passing and never-say-die attitude. In fact, many analysts consider him as the player who ushered in a whole new era in terms of the Dallas Cowboys franchise.
In every season where Staubach featured for the Cowboys, he put in MVP-worthy performances. However, it was even more prominent during the 1978 season where he put up numbers greater than any other quarterback in the league. That season, he threw for a career-high 3586 yards and 27 touchdowns which was a lot back in the day.
This fact becomes even more deserving of an MVP when it is known that he was doing all this at the age of 37. While being way past his prime, Staubach was putting in match-winning performances every game. There is no doubt about the fact that he is the greatest Cowboy in the history of the franchise and an inspiration to many more who came after him.
#3. Eric Dickerson
Quite possibly one of the greatest running backs of all time, Eric Dickerson was one player who had to have an MVP award. An iconic athlete in the truest sense of the word, everything he did was memorable. Right from his goggles to his eccentric attitude, Dickerson was a player who functioned differently from the rest of the crowd.
The way he took on opponents was a thing to behold as he slalomed past defenses. And the fact that he did that for such a long time is even more commendable. It is quite possible that no other running back will be able to have that much of an influence on the game.
Dickerson’s 1984 season was one of the greatest in the history of the NFL. The only reason he did not win the coveted award was that his career coincided with that of Dan Marino. That year both Marino and Dickerson were lighting up the league with their scintillating performances and in the end, it was Marino who went home with the honor.
#2. Drew Brees
An inspiration to almost every young athlete, Drew Brees has achieved what others have only been able to dream of. Along with the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Brees too became the face of the NFL. The only difference, Drew Brees has never won the MVP award.
On more than one occasion, he has been bested by Tom Brady, and sometimes, luck simply was not on his side. Both Manning and Brady have run rampant over the league and Brees has quietly slipped under the radar. However, in 2013, it was almost a certainty that Drew Brees was going to win the award. Why he did not receive the honor still eludes many.
Nevertheless, Drew Brees will forever go down as one of the few players who were able to resurrect a franchise all on their own and lead them to a Super Bowl victory.
#1. Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly is simply one of the best players ever to step onto a football field. He had a certain swagger in the way he went about his game and his life in general. Therefore, to say that he does not have an MVP award is a shame in itself. A blatant mistake on the part of the Associated Press, the 1991 season was almost written for Kelly to win the award.
He threw for a league-leading 33 touchdowns and a career-high 3844 yards that season. Even after this kind of stats, the award went to Thurman Thomas, another pivotal member of the iconic Buffalo Bills team. While Thomas might have produced better stats than any other receiver, there is no doubt about the fact that Kelly should have been given the award.
Even today, many critics and analysts rate this decision as one of the worst in the history of this league. Nevertheless, the legacy of Jim Kelly remains untarnished as an NFL legend in the minds of people who love the game.
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