The annual Serby Says NFL Awards rail against the continued bias toward quarterbacks in the voting for Most Valuable Player.
Wide receivers and running backs are people, too.
Justin Jefferson, Vikings
No receiver has ever won this honor, because a quarterback has won it 45 times since the AP began handing it out in 1957, and we all get why.
Jerry Rice (64-1,078 with a career-best 22 touchdowns) received 30 votes in 1987 and finished six votes behind John Elway (54.6 completion percentage, 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions). The Broncos were 10-4-1 and Super Bowl runners-up that year. The 49ers were 13-2 before losing to the Vikings in the divisional round.
Rice deserved MVP. He was second again in 1995, receiving 10 votes to Brett Favre’s 69. Favre (38 TDs, 13 INTs) led the Packers to an 11-5 season before losing in the NFC Championship game to the Cowboys. Rice caught a career-best 122 balls for 1,838 yards and 15 TDs. The 49ers (11-5) lost to Favre in the divisional round. Hard to argue with Favre.
Quarterbacks have won the award nine consecutive times and 14 of the past 15. Running back Adrian Peterson, in 2012, was the last non-quarterback to win it.
Cooper Kupp’s triple crown last season — leading the league in receptions (145), yards (1,947) and touchdowns (16) — was still not enough to dethrone Aaron Rodgers (37 TDs, four INTs), whose Packers (13-3) lost in the divisional round to the 49ers. The champion Rams were 12-5 before Kupp went on to become Super Bowl MVP. Kupp received one vote and finished third. Rodgers received 39. Tom Brady received 10.
Patrick Mahomes is the favorite this time, followed by surging Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen … followed by Jefferson. The Chiefs wouldn’t be the Chiefs without Mahomes (37 TDs, 11 INTs), and the Eagles wouldn’t be 13-2 without Hurts, etc., etc. So obviously they are invaluable — the quarterback in a quarterback-driven league always is.
But where would the Vikings (12-3) be without Jefferson (123-1,756, eight TDs), who is on the brink of an historic first 2,000-yard season for a receiver? How do you quantify “valuable”? Jefferson won’t come close in the MVP voting. He’ll have to settle for the slightly less prestigious Serby Says MVP.
“If he breaks Calvin Johnson’s record (1,963 yards in 16-game season), I think there’s gonna be a lot more notoriety to it,” ESPN analyst Damien Woody told Serby Says. “If I had a vote, I’m voting for Patrick Mahomes, simply because when I look at the numbers he’s been putting up without Tyreek Hill, and be able to have the Chiefs based in the same position that they’ve been year in, year out with Tyreek Hill. It’s hard to overlook that.”
I understand that. But I tell Woody that I am sick and tired of quarterbacks winning it every year. He laughed and said: “I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you at all.”
I tell Woody I think he’s the best player in the league myself.
“You will be hard-pressed for me to argue against that,” he said. “I think that every time that Kirk needs a throw, the whole league knows that Kirk Cousins is throwing the ball to him and they still can’t stop it. … [Jefferson’s] route-running is ridiculous. He’s a very smooth athlete, gets in and out of his breaks really fast, he’s very competitive when the ball is in the air. He’s just money. He’s a money guy.”
Offensive Player of the Year
Patrick Mahomes (QB, Chiefs)
See Woody’s argument. Can’t ignore the guy, right? If the oddsmakers are right, this will be Mahomes’ second MVP award after he beat out Drew Brees in 2018.
Defensive Player of the Year
Nick Bosa (DE, 49ers)
He has 17.5 sacks — six in the fourth quarter — and two forced fumbles. Micah Parsons (13) has one sack in his past four games. Brock Purdy doesn’t have to do this alone.
“[Bosa] can do it all — he plays run well, and he might be the most technically-sound pass rusher that we have in our league,” Woody said. “The way he’s able to use his hands, he can beat you any way you want. He can beat you with speed, he can beat you with power, he can beat you with finesse.”
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Garrett Wilson (WR, Jets)
He has lived up to best-receiver-in-the-draft hype (71-996, four TDs), and he has done it with Zach Wilson as his quarterback more than anyone else.
“I think he’s gonna be like a Justin Jefferson,” Woody said. “I think he’s a better athlete than Justin Jefferson.”
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Sauce Gardner (CB, Jets)
Quarterbacks throw in his direction at their own peril. Receivers talk smack at him at their own peril. He’s long, and he’s long on the requisite athletic arrogance for stardom.
“He’s played so well that teams don’t really challenge him,” Woody said. “He’s the real deal.”
Here’s how real: “I think he’s better than the rookie [Darrelle] Revis,” Woody said. “I think he’s more advanced than Revis at this stage of the game.”
Comeback Player of the Year
Saquon Barkley (RB, Giants)
“I just want to show the Giants that the guy they drafted is still here,” Barkley said at the beginning of training camp. And then: “Now, it’s a kill mindset. Now it’s like, you know what? [Expletive] everybody. I’m ready to go crazy,” he said on the Second Wind podcast. He has gone 283-1,254-10-TDs crazy, with 55 receptions for 343 yards.
“He looks like the Saquon that first came into the league,” Woody said.
Coach of the Year
Nick Sirianni (Eagles)
“Look at how good Jalen Hurts has gotten,” Woody said. “The way that he built a system around the quarterback, that’s what smart coaches do.”
Executive of the Year
Howie Roseman (Eagles)
The draft-day trade for A.J. Brown for the 18th and 101st picks changed everything for Hurts and the Eagles, and led to the firing of Titans general manager Jon Robinson.
“They’ve made so many moves that are just paying off big dividends. … I don’t know an executive that can touch him this year,” Woody said.
Interim Head Coach of the Year
Steve Wilks (Panthers)
Takes over a 1-4 team from Matt Rhule. Christian McCaffrey is traded. Sam Darnold takes over at QB for Baker Mayfield, with some PJ Walker in between.
“If he beats Tampa [Bay] and they win the NFC South, there is no question in my mind that he should be hired as a full-time head coach for the Carolina Panthers,” Woody said. And even if he doesn’t.
The Wrong-way Marshall
Jakobi Meyers (WR, Patriots)
His wrong-way pass for Mac Jones that became a Chandler Jones pick-six has never been in Bill Belichick’s playbook. Or anyone else’s.
“That was the stupidest play I’ve ever seen. Ever,” Woody said.
The Bomb Cyclone
Zach Wilson (QB, Jets)
Christian Hackenberg could have performed better on “Thursday Night Football” on Dec. 22. Ask waterlogged Jets fans.
Brock Purdy (QB, 49ers)
Mr. Irrelevant has stepped in seamlessly for Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Dennis Green
Joe Burrow (QB, Bengals)
“I am who I thought I was.” He was who the Bengals thought he was even with Ja’Marr Chase sidelined.
The I am not who they thought I was
Russell Wilson (QB, Broncos)
Woody: “His game needs to adjust. He’s been on the decline the past couple of years in Seattle. I think he needs a really good coach to come in there and really build his confidence and build a system to maximize most of what he’s got left.”
Is he fixable? “It’s hard to say after this year, man, ’cause I’ve never seen a quarterback fall off a cliff like Russell Wilson did this year,” Woody said.
Justin Jefferson (WR, Vikings)
That fourth-and-18, one-handed, falling-backward, 32-yard catch against the Bills … Google it.
Kirk Cousins and the Vikings stormed back from 33-0 against the Colts for a 39-36 win. A reminder, it ain’t over till it’s over.
Best Postgame Quote
Geno Smith (QB, Seahawks)
“They wrote me off, but I ain’t write back.” Runner-up Comeback Player of Year.
The Hooray for Hollywood
Baker Mayfield (QB, Rams)
That game-winning, 98-yard TD drive against the Raiders 48 hours after being waived by the Panthers was the stuff of movie magic.
“I think Baker Mayfield is jumping back on people’s radars again,” Woody said.
Worst Head-coaching Decision
Nathaniel Hackett (Broncos)
He began sealing his own fate when he thought letting Brandon McManus attempt an ill-fated, last-minute 64-yard field goal trailing 17-15 at Seattle was preferable to letting Wilson, his $242,588,236 million man, try to convert fourth-and-5. Wide left. Which could sum up the costly Hackett-Wilson Era.
Dan Snyder (Commanders)
Inspirational Player of the Year
Nick Gate (OL, Giants)
Seven surgeries on his left leg since his Sept.16, 2021 catastrophe and he fought all the way back.
The Square Peg-Round Hole
Matt Patricia (assistant coach, Patriots)
Perhaps play-calling is rocket science.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen
Book of the Year
Jay Glazer (Fox insider)
“Unbreakable: How I Turned My Depression and Anxiety into Motivation and You Can Too.”
Game of the Year
Vikings 33, Bills 30 (overtime).
Creep of the Year
Deshaun Watson (QB, Browns)
There shouldn’t be a massage therapist in America who wouldn’t agree.