In the 101-year history of the NFL, 1982 has a case as the strangest season ever. Yet perhaps the weirdest part was a kicker winning the MVP award.
A nine-game, strike-shortened season. A game decided by a convict on a snowplow. A Super Bowl Tournament in lieu of the postseason.
Welcome to the 1982 NFL season. And somehow, none of the above was the weirdest thing from that storied campaign.
No, that distinction belongs to straight-on kicker Mark Moseley, who won the NFL MVP award.
A dying breed by ’82, the toe-first Moseley wasn’t leading many Vegas sportsbooks when it came time to place cash on who would bring him pro football’s most prestigious individual honor. In fact, Moseley wouldn’t have been near the list of most likely MVP among kickers.
Throughout his 12-year career to that point with the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Oilers and the then Washington Redskins, Moseley had made at least 75 percent of his field goal attempts just once. This happened in 1979, gaining the Texas native his lone Pro Bowl appearance.
By 1981, Moseley was another guy in the league. He missed four extra points, failed to connect on a single field goal of 50+ yards, and went 5-of-12 from 40-49 yards. In short, Moseley was firmly in the twilight of a solid, if not spectacular, career.
Then, 1982 happened.
Heading into that summer, Moseley didn’t have a job to begin the season. After eight years in Washington, head coach Joe Gibbs informed Moseley his job belonged to rookie Dan Miller, saying the 34-year-old shouldn’t bother showing up to camp, according to Ethan Trex of ESPN. Moseley arrived at camp anyway, won the job and then performed the miraculous.
In this magical and bizarre season, Moseley couldn’t miss. In nine regular-season affairs, Washington’s leading man missed only one field goal, and none shorter than 40 yards. For the year, Moseley hit on 20-of-21 field goals, giving him a then-record percentage of 95.2.
As importantly, Moseley almost single-handedly won two games for Washington, hitting four field goals in a 12-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Week 6 before nailing two fourth-quarter kicks — including one at the gun — to defat the New York Giants the following Sunday. In the season opener, Moseley knocked through a pair of kicks in the final quarter including a 48-yarder against Philadelphia at Veterans Stadium, before winning the tilt in overtime, 37-34.
In the postseason, Moseley struggled, missing four field goals. However, Washington prevailed in its three NFC playoff games before beating the Miami Dolphins in Super bowl XVII, with Moseley making two clutch kicks.
If the season Moseley enjoyed shocked the world, the man himself had an even bigger surprise waiting for him in the offseason, finding out he was the NFL MVP. Per ESPN:
“I think once I got nominated it was such an unusual thing that everybody voted for me. When they called me to tell me I had won it, I was shocked beyond words.”
Afterwards, Moseley played four more NFL seasons, enjoying three full years with Washington before being cut in the autumn of 1986. He latched onto the Cleveland Browns and factored into one of the greatest playoff games ever, with the Browns beating the New York Jets in double overtime of their AFC Divisional clash. Moseley missed three field goals in the 23-20 win, including a chip-shot in the first OT, but redeemed himself on a 27-yard kick minutes later.
Once the ’86 season concluded, so did Moseley’s career. And with Moseley retired, so too was the straight-ahead kicker in the NFL, likely forever.
No NFL season has ever been wilder than 1982. Mark Moseley is walking, kicking proof.