The Hart Memorial Trophy, the John R. Wooden Award, the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. These are the names of notable Most Valuable Player awards in American sports. Strangely, our country’s most popular sporting league, the NFL, hasn’t named its own MVP award after anyone.
Given this curiosity, NFL.com’s Dave Dameshek recently polled a litany of superstars, including J.J. Watt, Calvin Johnson, Jamaal Charles and Demarcus Ware, about which football great deserves the distinction of having the league’s Most Valuable Player award named after them.
The crew came up with some great suggestions–some of which we agree with wholeheartedly–but there were definitely some prominent names not included in the discussion. Here is TickPick’s list of the top five NFL players whose names could grace the MVP trophy.
5.) Walter Payton
— Walter Payton (@walterpayton) May 29, 2015
Make no mistake about it, Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton was one of the most incredible athletes to play any sport. Period. His 16,726 career rushing yards rank second on the NFL’s list of all-time and the Pro Football Hall of Fame named him to the First Team of their All-1970s and All-1980s teams.
He was also the heart and soul of the 1985 Chicago Bears team that won Super Bowl XX. The only real hang up in naming the MVP award after Payton is that the league has already named an award in his honor–the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award highlighting work off the field and in the community.
4.) Jerry Rice
Without question, San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice was the greatest wide receiver ever to play in the NFL. When the NFL Network comprised their own list of the top 100 players in the league’s history, Rice held the distinction of being No. 1 on the list.
The rundown on Rice goes as follows: most receptions in NFL history, most receiving TDs in NFL history, most receiving yards in NFL history. I could keep going, but the bottom line is that no player at his position was as good for as long as Rice. If there’s a knock on him, it’s that he benefited from playing with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, but you can’t fault the man for being on teams with championship-level talent. Especially when he was a major part of what those teams accomplished.
3.) Joe Montana
Speaking of playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback, Joe Montana was the figurehead of the 49ers Super Bowl success during the 1980s. His name alone sounds like an MVP signal caller, purveying the grit, the determination and the mystique requisite for a franchise-changing QB.
In many ways, Montana personifies what the MVP award is all about. His numbers didn’t always place him at the top of the league rankings, but his willingness to do whatever it took to win and his importance to the 49ers as a team and an organization may have been unequaled in his time.
2.) Jim Brown
— A_Fans_Opn (@AFansOpinion_) June 5, 2015
Jim Brown was one of the most intriguing personalities ever to play in the NFL. His colorful life and contributions to social justice make for an incredible case study of the legacy of a transcendent athlete.
With all of that being said, his actual on-the-field greatness is what make Brown the prototypical most valuable player. Not just for his Cleveland Browns, but for the league he played in. As such, the Browns star won multiple MVP awards throughout his career.
Despite retiring 50 years ago, his 12,312 career rushing yards still rank ninth best all-time in the NFL. Meanwhile, his 106 touchdowns remain at No. 5 on the list of career leaders.
1.) Johnny Unitas
“The Golden Arm” Johnny Unitas not only changed the Baltimore Colts, he revolutionized the quarterback position in the game of football. It can be difficult to compare different eras, but Johnny U provided the blueprint for the modern NFL QB. He was the total package as a football player–a statistical marvel, a clutch performer, a good teammate and a tough guy.
His record for consecutive games with a TD pass stood for more than 50 years before Drew Brees broke it in 2012. Unitas played in ten Pro Bowls during his 17-year career, was a five-time All-Pro First team selection, won numerous awards and led his team to victory in the “Greatest Game Ever Played.”