Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Texans’ J.J. Watt working against history in MVP race

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) stands on the sideline during a game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Cleveland.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) stands on the sideline during a game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Cleveland. AP

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is now third-favorite to win this season’s NFL MVP award, based on betting odds that reflect public opinion. Bovada has Watt at 5-1 odds, hardly a hopeless longshot, trailing only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning.

This is equal parts pretty amazing and pretty ridiculous, and it is both for the same reason: Defensive players never (by which I mean hardly ever) win the MVP award.

Watt will breeze to Defensive Player of the Year honors. It’s a lock. But he is fighting history on the MVP trophy, which is the near-exclusive property of quarterbacks and running backs. Evidence:

The recognized MVP award given by The Associated Press since 1958 has gone to a QB or RB 55 of 58 times, or 94.8 percent. The exceptions were defensive tackle Alan Page in 1971, kicker Mark Moseley in 1982 (a strike-shortened season) and linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986.

The Pro Football Writers Association has given out 39 MVP awards since 1975, 37 (94.9 percent) to a passer or runner. The exceptions: Taylor in ’86 and receiver Jerry Rice in ’87.

The Sporting News has had 70 MVP winners since 1954 (two each year in the ’70s for NFC/AFC), and 65 (92.9 percent) have been QBs or RBs. Exceptions: Tackle/kicker Lou Groza in 1954, Moseley in ’82, Taylor in ’86, and Rice in ’87 and ’90.

Add those three most recognized MVP awards together and that’s 157 of 167 (94.0 percent) given to a quarterback or runner, with only four (2.4 percent) going to a defensive player.

Watt’s best hope to join the exclusive club: A couple of more defensive TDs, another attention-getting scoring catch, and 5-5 Houston somehow rallying to make the playoffs after finishing 2-14 last year. In that case, Watt would get credit for being the main reason, on a team decidedly not QB-driven with Ryan Fitzpatrick and now Ryan Mallett.

But Watt’s only real hope is all of the above, AND a concurrent slump by the clear frontrunner Rodgers and the five-time winner Manning.

Good luck with that, J.J.


The NFL ruled late Thursday that severe snowstorms in upstate New York would prevent Buffalo from hosting the Jets on Sunday. Expectations were the game would be played Monday at Detroit (Lions are away), Washington (Redskins are away) or Pittsburgh (Steelers have a bye).


▪ Dolphins enter Week 12 seventh in jockeying for six AFC playoff spots, and that’s substantiated by, which also has Miami seventh with a 42.0 percent postseason likelihood. Ahead of the Dolphins are the Patriots 89.2 percent, Colts 77.3, Broncos 71.9, Chiefs 68.9, Steelers 54.1 and Bengals 53.3.

▪ A Manning TD pass vs. Dolphins on Sunday would be his 50th consecutive game with at least one. Drew Brees has the record, 54 from 2009 to ’12. Tom Brady had 52 in a row from 2010-13.

▪ Steeler LeVeon Bell’s 204 yards rushing Monday night were fourth in MNF history, after Bo Jackson (221 in 1987), Dolphin Ricky Williams (216 in 2002) and Thurman Thomas (214 in 1990).

▪ Bucs receiver Mike Evans is the fourth rookie with three games in a row of 120 or more catch-yards, after Billy Howton (1952), Jimmy Orr (1958) and Marques Colston (2006).

▪ Updated Super Bowl betting odds, via Bovada: Patriots the new favorite at 4-1, followed closely by Packers at 9-2. Dethroned fave Broncos are now third at 19-4, then it’s a sizable gap to Cardinals at 10-1. (Miami is 50-1, tied for 17th.)