Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon can add another honor to his record-setting season: NFL Most Valuable Player.
Gannon received 19 votes to edge Green Bay's Brett Favre on Wednesday, a satisfying achievement for a player who wasn't even wanted out of college, spent much of his 15-year career as a journeyman, and even sat out a season.
Favre, the only three-time winner of The Associated Press MVP award, got 15 votes from the nationwide panel of 48 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league.
Gannon established an NFL mark this season for completions (418) and also connected on 21 consecutive passes in a victory over Denver that ended a four-game losing streak and started a five-game winning string.
Gannon led the league with 4,689 yards passing, helping the Raiders top the AFC West at 11-5 and earn home-field advantage for the playoffs.
"What I achieved is what the football team has achieved," Gannon said. "Without all the skill people like Tim Brown and Jerry Rice and Charlie Garner and the tight ends and the other wide receivers and runners and the line, and the coaching staff, I would never be in the position to make those plays."
His modesty notwithstanding, the 37-year-old Gannon made as many plays as any NFL player in 2002. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Gannon's 97.3 rating was second in the NFL to the Jets' Chad Pennington.
Gannon's 10 300-yard passing games this season set a record. He is one of only four quarterbacks with 400 completions -- Warren Moon had 404 in 1991, and Drew Bledsoe had 400 in '94.
And he is now the MVP, something few would have predicted when the Raiders dropped four straight in October.
"A lot of people wrote us off, but we continued to believe in ourselves," he said.
Gannon never lost faith in his abilities, even though he was traded by the New England Patriots just two weeks after they drafted him out of Delaware in the fourth round. He went on to play for Minnesota (1987-92), Washington ('93), sat out the 1994 season, then became an effective starter in Kansas City from 1995-98.
He left the Chiefs as a free agent in 1999, and he's been a sensation in Oakland, where the Raiders had the top-ranked offense this season.
"I think he has a dimension that I haven't seen a quarterback take," coach Bill Callahan said. "Here's a guy who won more games at the quarterback position in the regular season than anybody in the league (in the last three years). He's a player that we ask a tremendous amount from. You've seen him improve on a year-to-year basis, this year being his finest year as a pro."
Good enough to beat Favre, who guided the Packers to the NFC North championship and a 12-4 record. The Packers were the first team to clinch a playoff spot this year.
"You don't really beat somebody out," Gannon said. "It's not a competition between one candidate and another. He's had a great year, too, and I know Brett, and I am sure he is focused on the same thing as we are: winning a championship."
Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair finished third with 11 votes. He battled injuries all season, even going several weeks without practicing, then playing on the weekend.
Next in the voting were Kansas City running back Priest Holmes, Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick and Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, each with one vote.
Gannon is the third Raiders player to win the award, after QB Kenny Stabler in 1974, and RB Marcus Allen in 1985.
St. Louis QB Kurt Warner won last year.
2002 MVP VOTING
Selected by The Associated Press in balloting by a nationwide panel of the media:
|Rich Gannon, Oakland||19|
|Brett Favre, Green Bay||15|
|Steve McNair, Tennessee||11|
|Priest Holmes, Kansas City||1|
|Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay||1|
|Michael Vick, Atlanta||1|