Grantland: Mark Moseley and the 1982 NFL Season: A Case Study in Weird

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The Legend
Feb 1, 2010
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Waynesboro, VA

James Madison

There’s something fundamentally absurd about a place-kicker being named MVP. It’s like a setup man winning the Cy Young, or Ashton Kutcher winning anything. Yet that’s exactly what happened after the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season, when Washington Redskins place-kicker Mark Moseley took home the Associated Press’ NFL MVP honor. He remains the only kicker to have won the award, selected that year over more obvious choices. At first glance, it’s a puzzling decision. How did a place-kicker score such a high-profile honor? To put it another way: What the hell happened here?

If you’re looking for a bright side to the NFL’s current labor mess, it’s that weird things can happen when a season gets shortened. With any luck, the league won’t miss any contests in the upcoming season. If it does, though? Sure, we’ll miss a few fantasy games, but there’s a chance that some unheralded player can replicate Moseley’s miraculous 1982.

The turbulent season was an odd duck even before Moseley made his improbable grab at the hardware. Labor unrest loomed through the spring and summer, but the season started without incident. The season lasted two weeks before players went on strike. When the strike was resolved eight weeks later, each team played a nine-game schedule.

Moseley’s MVP campaign got off to an inauspicious start. To begin with, he was almost replaced. Washington coach Joe Gibbs’ staff told Moseley to not even bother showing up for training camp. His job belonged to Dan Miller, drafted by the Redskins that offseason. Moseley came anyway and was named a starter after Miller imploded in the preseason. He also didn’t handle kickoffs during season. Gibbs worried Moseley might aggravate a muscle pull, so Jeff Hayes kicked off.

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