Monday, May 22, 2017

Introduction to Most Valuable Quarterbacks

UPDATE! This project is now available on Amazon at
Author's Note: This is the introduction to 36,000 words I drafted earlier this year and have long been considering releasing as an e-book. Any feedback is appreciated.

Welcome to Most Valuable Quarterbacks: 1951-2016. This is not a book about careers. It is about seasons. The best seasons quarterbacks have ever had. Or at least, the best season a quarterback had each year.
I hope I will bring to light some great seasons that weren’t recognized at the time, and I hope you will enjoy all the stories, numbers, and stories told by numbers within.
Multiple media organizations vote on the subject of the best quarterback every year for their All-Pro teams. The Associated Press produces by far the most popular and widely-cited of these teams. The AP announced All-Pro teams before 1951, but did not have a spot for quarterbacks before then, hence the starting point of this project. Sometimes, but not always, the alternatives to the AP, the most famous being Pro Football Weekly, will produce a different result than the AP. That openness for disagreement was part of the inspiration for putting this thing together.
The MVQB selections are all my opinion. I didn’t take a poll or create a stat. If you find yourself disagreeing with me at times, that means this book is generating critical thought and succeeding. If you find yourself disagreeing with me all the time, I don’t know whom to blame—I don’t think any of my picks are too adventurous, even if a couple of them might be seen that way by some people. And if you find disagreement disagreeable, feel free to interpret my arguments as devil’s advocacy. If you even want to engage in a good-faith discussion on a specific selection, feel free to email me (address at the end of the book).
Here’s the layout. Each year is discussed, but the order isn’t exactly chronological.
For the most part, the main foci of the discussion are the Associated Press 1st Team All Pro picks at quarterback. I will compare and contrast my own Most Valuable Quarterback (MVQB) selections with those the AP picked for their All-Pro team. First I discuss years in which I deviate from the AP, but not easily. Then there are years I stay with the AP, also not easily. Next come four years where I believe the AP got things very wrong.
Then, there are years so historic, everyone agrees who the best quarterback was; for these seasons, I discuss some other quarterbacks who had great years and might have been All-Pro or MVQB in other seasons. These three segments cover about half of the period from 1951-2016. The other seasons are briefly discussed in reverse chronological order; in all of these, I agree with the AP selections.
There are two additional sections; one discusses various players, teams, and trends related to the MVQB award, and then there is a conclusion [content TBD].

The MVQB award, like the All-Pro (and MVP) awards, is for the regular season only. It would make for a pretty silly comparison if I were creating an award that accounted for playoffs as a “replacement” for a regular season-only award.

All throughout, there will be all sorts of interesting tangential information in footnotes, so I hope some of those stats are fun.

Anyway, that’s what you’re in for. I hope you enjoy.

A final note: It occurred to me more than 19,000 words into this project that something like this had been done before with NBA MVP’s by Bill Simmons as a chapter of his Book of Basketball. I note that only because the baseball website FanGraphs ( once met backlash after its first annual trade value column, similar to a thing Simmons had previously done with the NBA, albeit in a much different style. Like that, this is hardly a proprietary concept, but let the similarity be duly noted.
However, I was not consciously mimicking Simmons when I set out on this project. I have not even reread that section of his book since recalling it, so as not to consciously or subconsciously adopt any part of his approach. And I do remember enough to suggest that when Simmons “corrects” the record on the NBA MVP, part of his shtick involves the conceit that he is definitely right. I try not to give any such impression. There are times where it will even seem like I’m apologizing for my choice.[1]
Okay, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s dig in.

Note: For a sample chapter, click here

[1] I also use footnotes for non-citation reasons, in case it’s claimed Simmons invented those too.


  1. Feedback: The AP All Pro award is not the only one the NFL officially recognizes. The AP's award is more famous, and probably more prestigious, but it isn't official. The league's "official" all star team is the Pro Bowl, while the official NFL Record and Fact Book includes all pro teams from the AP, PFWA, and SN.

    This is similar to the MVP award. Technically, the Joe F. Carr Trophy is the only official MVP award ever to exist in the NFL. The AP's award is sort of the de facto official one, but it has never been properly recognized as such (nor should it, in my opinion).

    From what I have seen, the use of AP above other awards comes down to the fact that the AP has a much larger reach than any other awarding body, and the likelihood that most in the media don't feel like doing the research past the most popular thing that shows up. I don't think any researcher or historian worth his or her salt would be AP-centric.

    1. Thanks. I'll need some time to consider your larger point but for now I wanted to acknowledge it.