Only two times in the history of the NFL has an NFL MVP award gone to a player whose team didn’t make the playoffs. In 1967, the Baltimore Colts’ Johnny Unitas won it, and in 1973 the Buffalo Bills’ OJ Simpson took home the award.
If the Bills lose to the Dolphins on Sunday night, the Jacksonville Jaguars win — joining the victorious Pittsburgh Steelers — and Buffalo finds themselves watching the playoffs from home, you can essentially count out Josh Allen for NFL MVP.
But the truth is that even if the Bills win their fourth-consecutive AFC East title, Allen still isn’t likely to win the award.
There’s bias towards wins among NFL MVP voters firstly. There have only been two NFL MVPs selected in the last 20 years whose teams have had more than five losses: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was MVP in 2006 when his Green Bay Packers were 10-6, and in 2012 running back Adrian Peterson had a monster year for the Minnesota Vikings and was selected. No team with seven losses has had an MVP during that time, which puts odds notably against Allen should the Bills lose against the Fins and still make the playoffs. As mentioned above, non-playoff teams can essentially count their odds of having an MVP as zero.
Secondly, there’s a recency bias in all aspects of human voting. We see it with the Heisman in college in addition to various NFL awards. Josh Allen didn’t throw a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots and he has a grand total of 733 yards passing in his last four games. Meanwhile, quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Brock Purdy both had stellar last outings and remain high in Vegas odds for the award.
Thirdly, the odds of a player who wasn’t a first-team Pro Bowler winning the NFL MVP are naturally going to be lower because although the voters don’t overlap (Pro Bowl voters are players/coaches/fans, and NFL MVP voters are sportswriters), public sentiment doesn’t historically shift that dramatically between sub sections. In the last 20 years, not a single NFL MVP won the award who was not also a Pro Bowl first-team selection.
So the case for why he likely won’t win the award regardless of the outcome of Sunday night’s game has been outlined...
...but the truth is that it doesn’t really matter.
NFL MVPs don’t have a higher correlation to win the Super Bowl than non-MVPs. In fact, for a 22-year stretch from 2000-2022, the fact that an NFL MVP hadn’t won a Super Bowl that same year was a notable story line. It’s only happened 11 times in the history of the NFL.
“Josh Allen doesn’t care, so why should I” has been a common rebuttal when the topic is brought up. There’s no way to know whether or not he cares on a pride level, but it’s important to note that Allen’s contract does contain a $1.5 million incentive for NFL MVP along with incentives for the team winning the AFC Championship and Super Bowl — so on a financial level, it’s likely that he cares.
But we don’t get $1.5 million if he wins NFL MVP. There’s not a higher chance the Bills win the Super Bowl if he wins MVP. It’s bragging rights for a fan base whose most ideal bragging rights would be to post a picture of Allen holding a Lombardi trophy.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!