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Seattle Seahawks

Why the NFL’s new MVP voting process could’ve helped Russell Wilson in Seattle

Raiders tackle Andrew Billings chases after Denver quarterback Russell Wilson during the second half Oct. 2 in Las Vegas.  (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – For most of his decadelong career in Seattle, the overriding narrative surrounding Russell Wilson was that he never received a vote for NFL MVP.

Depending on who you believe, it was something that reportedly gnawed at Wilson and led to some friction over play-calling and his role in the offense.

One reason Wilson never received a vote for MVP was the nature of the voting process itself – which in his first year no longer playing for the Seahawks is about to change.

The NFL MVP voting, conducted by the Associated Press since 1957, has always been a simple process – each of the 50 voters selected one MVP and that’s it.

No top five, no top 10, as in voting for awards in other sports – or a top three for the Heisman Trophy – which allows for several players to be recognized in some way.

That’s been the way the AP has conducted all of its voting for all of its NFL awards, which are considered the official league awards with players recognized during an NFL Honors event during Super Bowl week.

The AP announced Friday that will change.

According to a statement from the AP: “Voters will rank their top five picks for MVP and top three picks for other awards. They will also rank their choices for first- and second-team All-Pro – the best players at each position. This process will more seamlessly allow for AP to name second- and third-place finishers.”

Those other awards include: Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Assistant Coach of the Year, Coach of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

“The essence of the AP NFL Awards remains the same – to recognize the top performers of the season,” AP Global Sports Editor Ricardo Zuniga said in a statement. “Our goal is to provide the voters with an accurate and fair voting system to reflect their preferences. These tweaks will help them in their selection process.”

While this is too late for Wilson to get any MVP votes retroactively, maybe this could mean a Seahawks QB will get votes this year.

Geno Smith has the eighth-best odds for winning MVP, according to this week.

With a system using a top-five ranking, that might almost assure Smith would get a vote or two, assuming he continues to play as he has this year, with voters able to throw a lot votes around to deserving players at the bottom of their ballots if they wish.

The one-vote system the AP resulted in a lot of years when only a couple of players got votes, and more than a few years when it was unanimous.

Just three players received votes last season – Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (39), Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady (10) and Rams receiver Cooper Kupp (one).

Signifying the kind of bad luck Wilson had with the award during his Seahawks career was the 2020 season, when he set a team record with 40 touchdown passes and led the Seahawks to a 12-4 record and the NFC West title.

Just three players received votes that year, as well – Rodgers (44), Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes (four) and Buffalo QB Josh Allen (two).

With a top-five system, Wilson undoubtedly would have received votes, possibly finishing fourth.

One of Wilson’s best years was 2015 when he was third in the Offensive Player of the Year voting. Carolina QB Cam Newton was a near-unanimous pick as MVP with 48 votes (Brady and Arizona QB Carson Palmer, who led the Cardinals to a 13-3 record, each got one vote).

Wilson also got a vote for Offensive Player of the Year in 2013, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning was a near-unanimous choice as MVP, getting 49 of 50 votes, the other going to Brady.

The only Seahawk who has received a vote for MVP during the Pete Carroll era was linebacker Bobby Wagner, who got one vote – from former coach Tony Dungy – in 2014, a year when the defense led the NFL in fewest points and yards allowed.

The Seahawks have had only one NFL MVP – running back Shaun Alexander in 2005, a year he set a then-NFL record with 27 rushing touchdowns. Four others got votes that year with Alexander winning with just 19.

According to Pro Football Reference, just three other Seahawks got votes in the years before Alexander won the award. QB Jim Zorn finished third in 1978, getting six votes, one of just four players to get a vote in a year it went to Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw.

Receiver Steve Largent got two votes in 1979 (a year it went to Houston running back Earl Campbell), and defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy got one vote in 1992 (a year he won Defensive Player of the Year honors).

But figure that history to change soon, if not this year.