Deebo Samuel's mind is pretty much made up regarding who should win league MVP. If he were in charge, the 49ers wide receiver would give it to his quarterback, Brock Purdy, who currently leads the NFL in completion percentage.
"Man, my boy number one right now,"during an appearance on Up & Adams. "It ain't even up for debate."
Samuel's opinion isn't unwarranted. Purdy is the current front-runner to win MVP, ahead of fellow quarterbacks Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa. Not bad for the player who was the final person selected during the 2022 NFL Draft.
In that vein, Purdy would have been arguably the most surprising person to ever win league MVP had he taken home the award last season. That being said, Purdy winning league MVP this season would still put him in the conversation as the most surprising league MVP in league history.
With that in mind, here's a look at the 10 most surprising league MVPs in league history.
Honorable mention: QB Ken Anderson, Bengals, 1980
Anderson had been one of the NFL's better quarterbacks during the 1970s, earning consecutive Pro Bowl nods at one point and leading the Bengals to two playoff berths over a three-year span. But he and the Bengals had fallen on hard times prior to his MVP season. After winning just five games the previous season, Cincinnati won a franchise-record 12 games behind the play of Anderson, who outplayed Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts in that year's AFC title game won by the Bengals.
10. QB Rich Gannon, Raiders, 2002
Gannon's MVP season isn't quite as surprising as others on this list given the fact that he was named a Pro Bowler the previous three years. Gannon took his game to another level in 2002, however, as he led the NFL in attempts, completions and passing yards while taking full advantage of having two Hall of Fame receivers at his disposal in Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. Gannon's success helped the Raiders capture the franchise's most recent AFC title.
9. QB Boomer Esiason, Bengals, 1988
Esiason had made a Pro Bowl two years earlier, but that was before his and the Bengals' disastrous 1987 season that saw the team slog through a 4-11 campaign. Making matters worse was Esiason's apparent rift with the organization as one of the faces of the '87 players strike.
The quarterback and the team were in perfect sync in 1988, however. Esiason guided an up-tempo Bengals offense that led the NFL in scoring. Esiason then helped lead the Bengals to playoff wins over Seattle and Buffalo and had Cincinnati on the brink of its first Super Bowl, only to come up just short against Joe Montana and the 49ers.
8. QB Bert Jones, Colts, 1976
The second overall pick in the 1973 draft, Jones won just two starts in his first two seasons. His breakthrough season occurred in 1975, when he led the Colts to 10 wins and a playoff appearance. Even then, not many people expected Jones to win MVP the following year. He did just that, however, after he led the NFL in passing while guiding Baltimore to an 11-3 record.
While his career didn't live up to his pre-draft expectations, Jones nevertheless won a league MVP, which is something Hall of Fame Roger Staubach (arguably the league's best quarterback during that era) can't say.
7. QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs, 2018
No one anticipated Mahomes having the breakout season he enjoyed during his first year as the Chiefs starting quarterback. He put the league on notice with a six-touchdown performance in Pittsburgh in Week 2 and kept going from there, finishing the year with 5,097 yards and 50 touchdown tosses. Mahomes joined Peyton Manning as the only QBs in history with 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes in one season.
6. QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens, 2019
Jackson went 6-1 as a starter during his rookie season, but not many people were anticipating the level of success Jackson enjoyed during his second season. That year, Jackson broke Michael Vick's 13-year-old record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season with 1,206. Jackson also led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes despite sitting out the final game of the regular season.
5. QB Brian Sipe, Browns, 1980
The former Browns quarterback had never been named to a Pro Bowl before his MVP season. Then in his seventh season, Sipe was the catalyst behind the Browns earning the nickname "Cardiac Kids" following several heart-pounding wins en route to a 11-5 regular season. The Browns' season ended in heartbreak, however, when Sipe threw an interception in the end zone late in the 1980 AFC Championship. The Browns called a pass play despite being down two points to the Raiders and were in field goal range at the time of the pick.
It was nonetheless a memorable year for Sipe, who that season joined Dan Fouts as the first quarterbacks to throw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in one season.
4. DT Alan Page, Vikings, 1971
Page was already a force by the '71 season; he was named to the Pro Bowl each of the previous three seasons and was an All-Pro in 1970. But the fact that he was the first defensive player to win the award is what made his MVP season a surprise.
The leader on the Vikings' famed "Purple People Eaters" defense, Page's greatness was undeniable, especially that season. The future Minnesota Supreme Court judge had two safeties that season, a year after he led the NFL with seven fumble recoveries.
3. QB Earl Morrall, Colts, 1968
Owner of one of the most unique careers in NFL history, Morral had been a Pro Bowler for the Steelers in the late '50s before losing his job to Hall of Famer Bobby Lane after he was traded from Detroit to Pittsburgh.
Morrall toiled mostly as a backup in the NFL over the next decade before he replaced an injured Johnny Unitas during his first year in Baltimore. That turned out to be a brilliant year for Morrall and the Colts, who won the NFL title on the strength of Morrall's passing and a dominant defense, led by linebacker Mike Curtis.
The Colts' memorable season was most known for their historic loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III. Morrall was the losing quarterback that day, but he was on the field when the Colts won Super Bowl V after again replacing Unitas. Morrall later helped the Dolphins win two Super Bowls; he was the starting QB for more than half of Miami's 17 wins during its perfect season.
2. K Mark Moseley, Washington, 1982
Yes, a kicker actually won league MVP once upon a time. Washington's kicker at the time, Moseley made 20 of his 21 field goal attempts during the season that included the game-winning boots in wins over the Eagles and Giants. Moseley's clutch kicks helped Washington sew up the NFC's top seed. He then made each of his 14 point-after attempts in the playoffs while helping Washington capture its first Super Bowl.
The fact that '82 was a weird, strike-shortened season is the main reason why this isn't the most surprising MVP season ever.
1. QB Kurt Warner, Rams, 1999
Warner's Cinderella '99 season was so out of this world it was later immortalized on the big screen. A grocery store clerk several years earlier, Warner got another chance in the NFL after a successful run in the Arena Football League. Warner, who had attempted 11 regular-season passes prior to the '99 season, ran with his opportunity following Trent Green's season-ending injury during the preseason.
Warner threw for three touchdowns against Ray Lewis and the Ravens in the season's first game en route to becoming the first player to throw three touchdowns in his first three starts. Warner finished the regular season with 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns while joining Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks to that point with at least 4,000 yards and 40 touchdown passes in one season.
His story wouldn't have been movie-worthy, however, if not for how it ended. Warner won MVP honors after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in one of the most dramatic finishes in Super Bowl history.
The greats are clutch in the biggest of moments.@IsaacBruce80's Super Bowl XXXIV performance is just another reason why he's earned a gold jacket. (via @nflthrowback)— NFL (@NFL) August 7, 2021
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