Since the NFL MVP always goes to a quarterback or running back, for a decade TMQ has conferred a Non-QB Non-RB MVP, the coveted "longest award in sports." This year for the first time, readers choose the winner! See the poll midway through the column.
The Non-QB Non-RB MVP must be a player from one of the Super Bowl entrants, my reasoning being that he who would wear the mantle of "most valuable" had better have created some value. This year's finalists in alpha order are Doug Baldwin of Seattle, Richard Sherman of Seattle, Danny Trevathan of Denver and Louis Vasquez of Denver.
There are capsules for each player below, near the poll. You won't see the count when you vote -- because the winner will be announced Thursday at noon ET. I will tweet the result, and you can check the NFL Nation blog for more on the winner. Beware that you may confer upon your choice the Non-QB Non-RB MVP Curse. The 2012 winner, David Diehl of the Giants, just retired; the 2013 winner, NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers, was injured last week, reportedly tearing his ACL and MCL.
During this pause between the conference championship games and that Super Bowl thing you might have heard of -- it is withdrawal rehearsal week, since football, America's national drug, is about to be taken away -- TMQ wants to shine a light on reform ideas for the game.
Football is a fantastic sport, the No. 1 sport of the No. 1 nation. The level of play has never been higher. But it's a sport with deep-seated problems that, if not addressed, could lead to long-term decline. Right now might be the peak moment of the football bubble, and not just because big-college attendance is mildly off and Super Bowl ticket prices are falling. The whole football bubble could burst if high schools begin to drop the sport owing to liability exposure.
My new book, "The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America," is about how to reform football so the game is "just as exciting and popular, but no longer notorious." Here is a fast-forward version of the reform plan:
For the NFL:
• Revoke the nonprofit status of league headquarters, and the ability of the league and individual clubs to employ tax-free bonds. A bill before the Senate, from Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, would end these and other sports tax breaks.
• Require disclosure of painkiller use club by club -- as anonymous data, with names removed. Painkiller abuse may be football's next scandal.
• Change law so images of football games played in publicly funded stadia cannot be copyrighted. The effect would be that the NFL would immediately repay all stadium construction subsidies, and never seek a subsidy again. Altering national copyright law seems more promising than trying to ban pro football stadium subsidies state by state, since the handouts originate with a broad mix of state, county and city agencies. (Yes, careful wording of such a law would be required to prevent unintended consequences.)
For the NCAA: