The Associated Press has announced significant changes to its NFL award voting system, where voters can now vote for multiple candidates instead of just one
In a press release on Friday, the Associated Press (AP) announced significant changes to its NFL awards voting system. These changes will affect numerous awards, including the MVP, 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, and Coach of the Year. The updates also include its first and second All-Pro teams.
AP voters will now be able to rank their top 5 choices for MVP and top 3 choices for other individual awards, with some form of a weighting system for first, second, third, etc. This is known as a ranked-choice voting system. Also, voters can now vote for the first and second All-Pro teams separately. According to the release, “this process will more seamlessly allow for AP to name second and third-place finishers.”
This is not a foreign concept to American sports, as both the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have similar systems for their honors, although the points for each spot vary between awards.
This was long overdue, in my opinion, as this amendment discontinues voting for a single player for a particular honor and, in theory, allows for more accurate results in terms of which player(s) are truly deserving of the award. Since media members can now include second through fifth-place players for MVP, it may increase the likelihood of a non-quarterback winning since a weighted system will enable multiple positions to be included on every ballot.
This would also help prevent vote splitting between players on the same team from potentially altering the final outcome. For example, John Elway of the Denver Broncos won the 1987 NFL MVP award, but only received 36 of the 84 votes (42.9%). The other 48 votes were split between San Francisco 49ers teammates Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. It’s perfectly plausible to conclude that Elway would not have won the honor that season if a ranked-choice system was in place, since many voters could have had Rice and Montana in first and second place while having Elway as third. Since it was a one-voter, one-vote structure, a lot of the surveyed media members wanted to vote for a 49er but had to pick just one, instead of two. Many believe that Jerry Rice would have won the MVP in 1987 if the ranked choice system was used back then.
Relating to 2022, Timo Riske and Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus have theorized that this change could benefit Patrick Mahomes:
They make great points as Patrick Mahomes is considered the current favorite for the NFL MVP but many people are split on the more polarizing candidates, such as Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, Jalen Hurts, and Josh Allen, for example. Mahomes may not be everybody’s top choice but he is undoubtedly a serious contender for the high majority of voters. If the vote were held today, Mahomes will likely be anywhere from first to third on basically every ballot, but the previously mentioned players have more variance in terms of where they will finish on a given voter’s ballot, including first place or even off the ballot entirely. That would allow #15 to quietly rack up points and maybe eventually finish at the top due to the split among several other players.
But to be honest, a lot of this talk is silly as there is a long way to go until the final vote is held in January and the list of contenders will almost certainly change. Patrick Mahomes could separate himself from the pack and leave voters with little choice or completely see his chances drop like a rock with a shaky end to the season.