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Should Warren Moon Have Won the 1990 NFL MVP Instead of Joe Montana?

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 11:45 PM
In 1990, Joe Montana was named the AP NFL MVP for the second consecutive season. Despite the fact that his passer rating dropped 23.4 points below his 1989 MVP campaign, and despite matching his 1989 touchdown pass total (26) with an additional 134 passing attempts, Montana edged out fellow quarterbacks: Warren Moon, Randall Cunnigham, Jim Kelly and Steve DeBerg—who had all received MVP votes respectively.

1990 QBS Season Rankings
  1. Warren Moon: 37.0
  2. Joe Montana: 27.0
  3. Jim Kelly: 26.0
  4. Steve DeBerg: 22.0
  5. Randall Cunningham: 19.0

Montana and Moon were the the top-two quarterbacks in the league, but the distance between the two was considerable.

Joe Montana (1990): 321 of 520 (61.7) for 3,944 yards, 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. 89.0 passer rating.
Warren Moon (1990): 362 of 584 (62.0) for 4,689 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. 96.8 passer rating.

In 1990, Joe Montana ranked 3rd in passing yards, 3rd in touchdown passes, 3rd in completion percentage and 6th in adjusted net yards per attempt—27.0 QBS.
In 1990, Warren Moon ranked 1st in passing yards, 1st in touchdown passes, 2nd in completion percentage and 3rd in adjusted net yards per attempt—37.0 QBS. 

In respects to team support, Montana was part of Eddie Debartolo's organization, throwing to Jerry Rice and John Taylor, backed by the league's 2nd ranked scoring defense. Comparatively speaking, Moon played for Bud Adams' Oilers, throwing to Haywood Jeffiries and Drew Hill, backed by the league's 14th ranked scoring defense.

While playing under more difficult circumstances, Moon was more productive, more accurate, more efficient and threw fewer interceptions than Montana did. Had Moon not missed the final game of the season, his rate of production would have left him with an astonding 5,002 passing yards in 1990—which would have been more than 1,000 yards ahead of Jim Everett, who ranked second in the league with 3,989 passing yards.

Traditionaly, win/loss records have a tremendous impact on MVP voting. The 49ers finished with a 14-1 record with Montana as the starter, while the Oilers finished 8-7 under Moon. It should be noted that in three of the Oilers' seven losses, Moon finished with a passer rating of 104.9 (vs. Jets), 93.2 (@ Falcons) and 91.9 (vs. 49ers).

Using the multi-generational scoring system, Moon's 37.0 QBS in 1990 was the 3rd highest of the decade—Montana's 27.0 QBS ranks 16th.

Had the two quarterbacks' win/loss records been identical, Moon would have been the easy selection for league MVP. Montana's season was very good, but it was not nearly as good as his 1989 MVP campaign and his success was easier to attain by virture of his supporting cast. Moon was not nearly as fortunate, yet, he was still able to out-perform Montana across the board. Historically, traditional statistics and the QBS system both illustrate Moon's 1990 season as one of the finest in NFL history.

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