By John Turney
Last year, The Associated Press (AP) accepted that for years they had a few errors in their NFL MVP winners list, specifically that Gino Marchetti was not the 1958 MVP (he was the AP lineman of the year) and Charlie Conerly was not the 1959 MVP (he was the NEA MVP).
The actual winners for those years were Jim Brown ('58) and Johnny Unitas ('59). Research of the articles that moved over the AP wire at the time show the AP that the list they had been sending out for more than two decades was in error and that both Brown and Unitas were three-time winners of the ultimate AP award, along with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
However, the AP made what I think was a poor choice. Rather than correct the errors, they chose, essentially, to decertify the 1958-59 awards. Since those awards moved over the AP wire as "NFL Player of the Year" rather than "Most Valuable Player." Therefore, the AP reasoned, it was a different award than the one that was given to Paul Hornung in 1961 when the story moved over the wire stating that Horning was the "MVP."
So, after decades of the AP award list being erroneous and instead of giving Brown and Unitas the credit they richly deserve, the AP just took away those awards. The AP had been accepting Marchetti and Conerly as the winners for those years, but now Brown and Unitas are not?
The problem is that the decision the AP made last year might have been based on poor research — on which the original errors were likely based. In the minds of many, if not most, the terms "MVP" and "Player of the Year" are synonymous, having the same meaning and in this case the AP may have been making a distinction without a difference since the AP used those terms interchangeably during the time period in question.
In 1958-59, the term used was "Player of the Year." In 1961, it was MVP. However, in '62, the story that moved over the AP wire was that Jim Taylor was the "NFL Player of the Year." In '63, the AP returned to using the term "MVP."
Will Taylor's 1962 award be revoked, as was Unitas' and Brown's?
Now that Peyton Manning has won his record fourth AP MVP award, leaving Unitas and Brown tied with Brett Favre for second, perhaps the AP will end the issue by accepting that the "Player of the Year" awards of 1958-59 and '62 are the same award as the MVP awards of 1961 and from 1963 to present.
Perhaps the AP should listen to the logic of a 1965 New York Times headline that read, "Brown Is Named Player of Year; In Other Words, Most Valuable." And the story began with the line, "No matter who does the picking or what they call it, the conclusion is the same: The best player in the National Football League is Jim Brown."
John Turney is co-chairman of the awards committee for the Pro Football Researchers Association.