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NFL at 100: The time the MVP award went to a kicker

Yes, this really happened

Photo by Getty Images

This didn’t actually happen, did it? 

Yes it did, and it will likely never happen again in the history of the National Football League.

Believe it or not, a kicker actually was once named the league’s most valuable player. 

Not a quarterback or a running back who produces touchdowns, but a kicker who attempted just an average of more than two field goals a game.

It’s akin to a pinch hitter winning an MVP award in baseball, or a sixth man (first player off of the bench to replace a starter) in the NBA being named league MVP. 

But the year was 1982, when a players strike muddled the entire complexion of the league’s schedule. 

Instead of a 16-game schedule, the league was reduced to playing a nine-game schedule during the regular season, and the Washington Redskins thrived in the abbreviated season.

The Redskins went 8-1 during the regular season and continued that dominance in four playoff games, ultimately winning its first Super Bowl title with a 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. 

During the season, Redskins kicker Mark Moseley went from nearly being traded to having a career year.

A throwback straight-on-kicker who didn’t step on an angle toward the ball before impact, Moseley made 20 of 21 field goals that season, with the only miss being a meaningless attempt in the final week of the regular season.

In 1982, the league average for successful kicks was 68.2 percent, so Moseley’s 95.2 conversion rate was phenomenal in comparison.

But was it really worthy of being named MVP?

Not only did Moseley miss three extra points that year and he didn’t handle kickoff duties, but future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts was named Offensive Player of the Year, while future Hall of Fame lineman Lawrence Taylor was named Defensive Player of the Year. 

Fouts that year led the league in passing yards, touchdowns and yards per passing attempt.

However, MVP voters gave Moseley the nod in a close 35-33 vote over Fouts, thus establishing history as the only time a kicker who played solely on special teams was named league MVP.

In 1954, kicker Lou Groza was named MVP, but he also doubled as an offensive lineman.

Short of a kicker making game-winning field goals from over 50 yards every single game during a season, it’s likely something the NFL will never see again. 


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