Mark Moseley, who thought the Washington Redskins might trade him four months ago, yesterday became the first place-kicker to be named the National Football League's most valuable player by the Associated Press.
The award was announced a day after Moseley missed a 40-yard attempt against St. Louis that ended his consecutive field goal streak at 23, an NFL record.
It was that streak, which attracted national attention, and his major contributions to almost every Redskins' victory this season that helped Moseley beat out San Diego quarterback Dan Fouts in the voting, 35-33. Rookie running back Marcus Allen of Oakland, with six votes, finished third in the balloting by sportswriters and broadcasters. Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was fourth with three.
The Redskins, the NFL's most surprising team, ended the regular season with an 8-1 record, best in the National Football Conference. Moseley won two games with field goals in the last seconds and his kicks supplied the point difference in four other victories.
His 42-yard field goal with four seconds remaining against the New York Giants remains the most dramatic moment of Washington's season. It won the game for the Redskins, it put Washington in the playoffs for the first time since 1976 and it broke Garo Yepremian's league record of 20 straight field goals.
"I never dreamed a kicker could win an award like this," said Moseley, the league's highest-paid kicker. "I didn't even have a (incentive) clause my contract in case I won it. That's how far-fetched it is for a kicker to think he could win it.
"But I think this award is going to make kickers a legitimate part of every team. This shows we just aren't some throw-in. We make a definite contribution to the team. I'm just happy that I am on a team that needs me to the point it has."
Unlike major league baseball, the NFL has no official MVP award. The Associated Press is one of three primary organizations naming a player of the year. No kicker was honored previously by any of these groups.
Moseley, 34, is in his 11th season. Only nine other kickers in NFL history have more than his 209 career field goals. None has matched his 20-for-21 kicking this season (95 percent).
Fourteen times during his nine years with the Redskins, he has been asked to tie or win games. Thirteen times he has succeeded, including five within the last five seconds.
This season, he led the NFL for the fourth time in field goals and the National Football Conference for the third time in scoring (76 points). He holds or is tied for seven team records.
"With our team, and the way we've won, Mark couldn't have come along at a better time," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "He's certainly been instrumental in our team doing well."
Gibbs made the decision at the end of camp to stay with Moseley, who had been challenged seriously all summer by rookie Dan Miller. Until Miller, an 11th-round draft choice from the University of Miami, missed two field goals in the final preseason game, the Redskins were considering trading Moseley, possibly for a much-needed defensive lineman. Gibbs, however, says he never would have parted with Moseley.
"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about having some vindication now for what happened this summer," Moseley said. "But I'm not bitter. I told my wife before I went to camp that I thought the Lord had something good in store for me and this team this year. I just hoped I would be doing my kicking for the Redskins."
Moseley, one of two straight-on kickers in the league (Minnesota's Rick Danmeier is the other), had been through major tests before. Drafted in 1970 on the 14th round by Philadelphia, he was cut in 1971 and then by Houston in 1972. Until he was signed, for $19,000, by the Redskins in 1974, he dug septic tanks and kept in shape by kicking field goals in a park, with his wife serving as holder.
"I spent two years wondering if I ever would get a chance to kick in the NFL again," Moseley said. "This is hard to believe . . . It's easily the greatest honor I've ever won. But the streak still is my greatest thrill. It shows consistency and that's what I want to be remembered for."