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When Shad Khan set out more than a decade ago to become the first member of an ethnic minority to own an NFL team, the Pakistani-American heard the scuttlebutt.

"The conjecture was, ‘You will never get approved, because you’re not white,’" Khan, now the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview this week.

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His attempt to purchase a 60% stake in one club fell through, so "the narrative that people had been giving to me kind of got reinforced," Khan said.

Undaunted — and, he says, encouraged by Commissioner Roger Goodell — Khan moved on and soon reached an agreement to buy the Jaguars. "Got approved unanimously," Khan noted. "The conjecture and what was going on — and the reality — turned out to be different."

Current and former players and others around the league have varying opinions about a key question that arose in light of the racist, homophobic and misogynistic thoughts expressed by Jon Gruden in emails he wrote from 2011-18, when he was an ESPN analyst between coaching jobs, to then-Washington club executive Bruce Allen: Just how pervasive are those sorts of attitudes around the sport these days?

It's certainly been a topic of conversation in locker rooms.

"I’m not surprised those ideas exist. ... I guess I was a little bit surprised by that comfort level, sending an email like that to somebody. I would assume you’re pretty assured that they’re not going to be offended by it or surprised by it or have them say anything to you about the nature of those emails," said Corey Peters, an Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman in his 11th year in the NFL. "But I think it’s good for the league to have that come out, and guys be held accountable for the things that they say, even in private."

Gruden resigned as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night following reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times about messages he wrote demeaning Goodell, union chief DeMaurice Smith and others, using offensive terms to refer to Blacks, gays and women.

Some saw Gruden's words as indicative of a behind-the-scenes culture that could persist in an industry where about 70% of the players are Black while more than 80% of head coaches (27 of 32) and general managers (also 27 of 32) are white — and all are men.

Among principal owners, only Khan and Buffalo’s Kim Pegula are members of minorities.

"The bigger issues aren’t unique to the NFL, but I think they are stark in the NFL: Who’s in positions of power? And who’s making decisions? When that is only one group, particularly people who are privileged, who are from the dominant group, then those are going to likely be skewed decisions and skewed world views," said Diane Goodman, an equity consultant.

"It’s easy to point to Gruden and go, ‘Oh, isn’t he terrible?’ and ‘Look at the terrible things he did.’ But that doesn’t look at that larger culture, where people were participating with him. People were allowing these emails to exist. It really is about the whole culture and that sense, that I’m sure people have cultivated, to feel like, ‘I can say these things and they will be, at best, appreciated and reciprocated or, at worst, people may not appreciate them but nothing’s going to happen.’ And that is about privilege and entitlement," Goodman said. "There is the assumption that ‘I can say these things to another white man who is going to think they’re OK.'"

Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons raised the point that representation matters, saying Wednesday: "You get different backgrounds, you get different opinions."

He also thinks the workplace culture is getting better.

"Progress has been made. Whether it’s good enough or not good enough, I won’t go into details about that," said Simmons, who entered the NFL in 2016. "I’m a firm believer that as long as we’re taking steps in the right direction, that has to be positive, right?"

Former defensive end Mike Flores figures the sentiments found in the emails, which were gathered during an investigation into sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team, do not represent merely one man's mindset.

"I know how people talk and joke around in locker rooms. Most people in the NFL would be highly scrutinized if the ‘politically correct police’ examined everyone’s emails," Flores — who played college football at Louisville with Gruden’s brother, Jay, before spending five seasons with the Eagles, 49ers and Washington — said in a phone interview. "Even the politically correct have many skeletons in their closets. It’s a shame that a man of his stature and expertise is now put on the leper’s list and possibly kicked out of the NFL circle for good for something typed a decade ago."

Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas, with the Jets, Eagles and Jaguars from 1995-2004, told the AP that Black athletes are "conditioned" to hearing "the racial stuff" and hypothesized that owners wouldn't want their emails made public.

Pat Hanlon, senior VP of communications for the New York Giants, tweeted, "Been in league 35 yrs. Have never heard that language in writing or verbally. I’m not naïve. Sure it has been there." He wrote "it is not commonplace" in a second tweet.

Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers sees a generational gap between the folks in charge and those taking the field.

"I can say with real honesty and pride that I don’t feel like those are opinions that are shared by players. I feel like, in the locker room, it’s a close-knit group of guys. And we don’t treat people differently based on the way that they talk, where they’re from, what they’re into, what they look like," the Packers quarterback said on The Pat McAfee Show.

"I know that there’s probably opinions similar to (Gruden’s), but I feel like they’re few and far between. I really do," Rodgers said. "I feel like the player and the coach of today is a more empathetic, advanced, progressive, loving, connected type of person. ... Hopefully we can all, as a league, learn and grow from this and hopefully it puts people on notice who have some of those same opinions, like, ‘Hey, man, it’s time to grow and evolve and change and connect.’"

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is Black, echoed that sentiment.

"From my standpoint, what I love about the game is that it brings people together. It really brings people from all walks of life together," Flores said. "So you hate to see anything that brings any type of division."

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Speaking about what happened with Gruden, in particular, Jacksonville’s Khan said, "Obviously, these emails are disturbing," and quickly added: "My personal experience has not been that way."

In the time since Khan agreed to purchase the Jaguars in 2011, he’s seen a change in the league’s culture, particularly with regard to social justice causes.

"One hundred percent, I think the league is at the forefront," he said, "and they’re going to be doing more."

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Tags: security innovation computers video games military tech security innovation computers video games military tech it’s good politically correct you get different you get different i feel like in locker rooms defensive end brings people the new york these emails surprised the new york a decade ago with gruden i think going to be but i think good enough people were but i think he terrible to purchase the jaguars

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It's been a forgetful second season in the Windy City for former All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, registering just one reception for 11 yards on three targets. He's appeared in all six of the Chicago Bears' games to this point though, but that streak will end on Sunday, as the 34-year-old was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.

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Coach Nagy announced that Jimmy Graham has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 22, 2021

Graham signed a two-year, $16 million contract with Chicago in March 2020 and, though he has only appeared as a shell of his former self while with the Bears, he did have a semi-productive season last year. 

Since the 2016 campaign, Graham has played in 86 consecutive regular season games and in 2020, he posted 50 receptions for 456 yards on 76 targets. His eight touchdown receptions last season were his most since he grabbed 10 scores during his last Pro Bowl season in 2017, while his catch percentage of 65.8% a year ago was high highest since 2016.

The former New Orleans Saints third-round pick has a pair of seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards in his career, and posted a league-leading 16 touchdown catches in 2013, when he was named first-team All-Pro.

The Bears (3-3) will have a tough assignment in week seven, as they face the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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Related slideshow: The best individual seasons that didn't result in an NFL MVP award (Provided by Yardbarker)

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Full screen 1/31 SLIDES © David Madison/Getty Images The best individual seasons that didn't result in an NFL MVP award The 2020 NFL season involved a few dominant individual performances. Aaron Rodgers took home this year's MVP award, so players like Patrick Mahomes and Derrick Henry will join the league's collection of near-misses. Here is who this year's "others receiving votes" contingent will join among the best NFL seasons of the MVP era (1957-present) that did not result in a trophy. 2/31 SLIDES © Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images 30. Randall Cunningham, 1998 While a "feat. Randy Moss" credit is necessary, Cunningham proved he could thrive as a pocket passer. The unretired quarterback experienced frequent criticism as a passer in Philadelphia, but at 35, he took advantage of the best weaponry array of his career. Terrell Davis' 2,000-yard season clinched MVP honors, but Cunningham threw for 3,704 yards in 34 touchdown passes in 14 starts. The Vikings had gone 9-7 in 1997; with Cunningham (and Moss) in '98: 15-1. Behind Cunningham, Minnesota broke a 15-year-old scoring record with 556 points. 3/31 SLIDES © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports 29. Aaron Donald, 2018 This was not a good year to wage an MVP campaign, with Patrick Mahomes setting the league ablaze. But Donald coasted to Defensive Player of the Year acclaim, soaring to a 20.5-sack season. The Rams defensive tackle flourished under Wade Phillips, helping them to Super Bowl LIII. While their defense was not statistically great, Donald helped compensate — most notably in Los Angeles' epic Monday-night win over Kansas City, when Donald stripped Mahomes twice. Donald seized the "best defender alive" belt during J.J. Watt's previous injury hiatus and has not given it back. 4/31 SLIDES © Focus on Sport/Getty Images 28. Emmitt Smith, 1995 From 1990-97, either Smith or Barry Sanders won the rushing title. Behind another dominant offensive line, Smith took his turn in 1995 and led Dallas to its third Super Bowl title in four years. Smith broke John Riggins' 12-year-old record with 25 rushing touchdowns — 10 more than anyone else in 1995 — and led the league with 1,773 rushing yards. Four of Smith's five O-linemen made the Pro Bowl, with Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen — not present on the previous two Cowboy Super Bowl teams — debuting as a full-time starter in '95. Brett Favre's first MVP season edged out Smith. Slideshow continues on the next slide 5/31 SLIDES © Jeff Fishbein/Icon Sportswire 27. Rob Gronkowski, 2011 Gronkowski began his long run as the NFL's best tight end in his sophomore campaign. Despite being a second-round pick with an injury past, Gronk set the tight end receiving record (1,327 yards). That has been broken, but the ex-Patriot icon's 17 touchdown catches remain the tight end standard. Gronkowski's emergence helped the worst of Bill Belichick's Patriots defenses (31st in yards) to Super Bowl XLVI and opened the door to another set of Tom Brady Super Bowl appearances (four pre-Gronk, six post). Brady finished with a career-high 5,325 yards in 2011. No tight end dominated more than Gronk during his Pats years. 6/31 SLIDES © Malcolm W. Emmons/Sporting News via Getty Images 26. Jim Brown, 1959 This list could devolve into "Best non-MVP Jim Brown seasons." The Cleveland phenom was in the heart of an unparalleled prime in his third season. The result: a runaway rushing title. Only two running backs eclipsed 900 rushing yards in 1959. Brown came in at 1,329 — 293 ahead of second-place J.D. Smith of the 49ers — in the 12-game season. Cleveland had two Hall of Famers in its backfield that year, in Brown and Bobby Mitchell. They combined for over 2,000 yards. The 1957 and '58 MVP, Brown scored 14 touchdowns but lost out to Johnny Unitas for the award. 7/31 SLIDES © Vic Stein/Getty Images 25. Deacon Jones, 1967 Although sacks were not official until 1982, pass rushers had field days dropping QBs in anonymity. Defenders could mug receivers, and O-linemen were heavily restricted in how they could block until the late 1970s. Jones also had his since-banned head-slap maneuver. That said, Jones was an all-time menace in his heyday. Accounts vary on his masterpiece season, but the Rams defensive end recorded between 21.5 and 26 sacks during a year in which Los Angeles went 11-1-2 to lead the NFL. This was Jones at his peak, at age 29, he teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen to power a talented Rams team. 8/31 SLIDES © Christopher Hanewinc/USA Today Images 24. Derrick Henry, 2020 Coming off his 2019 rushing championship, the Titans running basically lapped the rest of the pass-happy NFL's running backs. The bruising runner's 2,027 yards rank fifth all time and led the NFL by nearly 600. The ex-Heisman winner ripped off three 200-yard games and saved his best stuff for crunch time. Needing 223 yards in Week 17 to become the eighth to 2,000, Henry dropped 250 on the Texans. The Titans needed nearly every yard to clinch their first AFC South title since 2008. Eight years after Adrian Peterson won MVP for his 2,000-yard season getting the Vikings to a wild-card game, Henry did not receive an MVP vote. 9/31 SLIDES © Bill Vaughan/Icon Sportswire 23. Jamal Lewis, 2003 No. 3 on the all-time single-season rushing list, Lewis lost out on MVP acclaim when Peyton Manning and Steve McNair shared it. Lewis bizarrely ranked fourth, behind Brady as well, after carrying Baltimore's offense to a 10-6 record and an AFC North title. The Ravens used a first-round pick on Kyle Boller and used him and journeyman Anthony Wright in Lewis' fourth year. The Ravens ranked 32nd in passing yards but turned to their hardnosed back, who broke the single-game rushing record in Week 2 (295 yards) and finished with 2,066 to go with 14 TDs. This was Lewis' only Pro Bowl or All-Pro season. Slideshow continues on the next slide 10/31 SLIDES © Monica Davey/Getty Images 22. Deion Sanders, 1994 Voyaging to back-to-back Super Bowl routs, the Cowboys were 3-0 against the 49ers from 1992-93. Each win came by double digits. With Sanders as a one-year hired gun, San Francisco beat Dallas twice en route to a Super Bowl blowout. The era's premier cover man changed the course of modern NFL history, joining Steve Young and Co. in stopping a Cowboys three-peat. Despite signing in September and missing two games, Sanders intercepted six passes and took three back for TDs. The ex-Falcon and future Cowboy totaled 303 return yards and dueled with No. 1 wideouts, helping the 49ers go from 16th to sixth in scoring defense. 11/31 SLIDES © John Iacono/SI/Icon Sportswire 21. Ray Lewis, 2000 Statistically, Lewis' 2003 Defensive Player of the Year campaign was better. But the Ravens middle linebacker made a defining team defensive season possible. Wearing bigger shoulder pads and sporting a bulkier physique due to the era, Lewis was still a sideline-to-sideline demon who led Baltimore to a 12-4 record. Lewis' 137 tackles (14 for loss) and two INTs were not career-highs, but the Ravens held the opposition to 10.3 points per game — the lowest in the 16-game era's 43 years — and won two games in which its offense failed to score a touchdown. The Super Bowl champs do not hit these heights without their 25-year-old leader. 12/31 SLIDES © MSA/Icon Sportswire 20. Calvin Johnson, 2012 Johnson did not receive an MVP vote, with Adrian Peterson edging Peyton Manning during a season that featured a 4-12 Lions team, but he left no doubt as to the NFL's wideout of the moment. Megatron broke Jerry Rice's 17-year-old record with a 1,964-yard season. Only one receiver, Andre Johnson, came within 400 yards of the 6-foot-5 marvel in 2012. While today's wideouts have easier paths to production, and the Lions phenom only scored five TDs, Megatron dropped both of his 200-yard games on playoff opposition and broke Rice's record in an 11-catch, 225-yard Week 16 day against a Falcons team on its way to the NFC's No. 1 seed. 13/31 SLIDES © Bettmann/Getty Images 19. Randall Cunningham, 1990 Cunningham ran into perhaps the toughest MVP luck of anyone, finishing second in the AP balloting four times. Joe Montana won in 1990, but Cunningham received 18 votes (to the 49ers QB's 26) and had a clear case. The Eagles QB dropped an ahead-of-its-time 3,466-942 passing-rushing double that featured 30 TD passes and five more rushing scores. Cunningham's 30 touchdown passes — highlighted by this one — ranked second to Warren Moon, and in a season in which the Eagles defense ranked only 12th, their quarterback powered the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth out of an all-time great division. 14/31 SLIDES © Tom Hauck-Icon Sportswire 18. Derrick Brooks, 2002 The signature season in the linebacker's Hall of Fame career coincided with the best slate in Buccaneers history. Perennial losers until Brooks and Warren Sapp's 1995 arrivals, the Bucs fielded an all-time defense in 2002. Tampa Bay led the NFL by allowing 12.3 points per game — the third-lowest number this century — and rode Brooks to Super Bowl XXXVII. In addition to his 118 tackles, Brooks notched a career-high five interceptions. He ended the regular season with four touchdowns, returning a fumble for a score as well. Brooks added a fifth TD in the playoffs — a pick-six against Rich Gannon to seal the Bucs' first Super Bowl title. Slideshow continues on the next slide 15/31 SLIDES © Rich Kane/Icon Sportswire 17. Ed Reed, 2004 Reed's "best safety ever" claim began in his third season. The Ravens were still trying Kyle Boller at quarterback and ranked 31st in total offense. They still went 9-7, behind the league's No. 6-ranked defense. Reed was at the epicenter of this effort, intercepting nine passes and returning them for a then-record 358 yards. Reed thwarted a Browns game-tying touchdown attempt with a 106-yard pick-six; he broke this NFL record four years later. Overall in 2004, the ex-Miami Hurricane totaled 12 forced turnovers for 402 yards and two TDs. It is hard for a modern safety to be more productive. 16/31 SLIDES © Brian Cleary/Getty Images 16. Barry Sanders, 1994 The Lions went from starting three QBs in 1993 to turning to Scott Mitchell and a 36-year-old Dave Krieg in 1994. Fortunately, they had the era's best running back. Sanders broke through to power the Lions back to the playoffs, rushing for 1,883 yards on 5.7 per carry. Detroit ranked 24th in passing yards in a 28-team league. Sanders' masterpiece came in Week 3 when the Lions beat the defending champion Cowboys after their running back's 40-carry, 194-yard night. This was the second of Sanders' four rushing titles; he led the league by more than 300 yards. 17/31 SLIDES © Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire 15. J.J. Watt, 2014 This Watt version became the only defender to receive more than one MVP vote since James Harrison in 2008. Watt garnered 13 — the most any defensive player has since Lawrence Taylor won the award in 1986. Watt recorded 20.5 sacks, a career-high 51 QB hits and 29 tackles for loss (tied, with 2015 Watt, for second in the TFL era). His MVP push centered on touchdowns. The fourth-year Texan scored five — on a pick-six, a fumble-six and, in a one-year-only role, three as a tight end. Illustrating defenders' MVP futility, this perfect storm could not top Aaron Rodgers' third-best season. 18/31 SLIDES © Joseph Patronite/Getty Images 14. Jerry Rice, 1995 In a year that featured passing numbers balloon leaguewide, the 49ers played five games without Steve Young. At 33, Rice confirmed his prime was not finished. In the middle of an unapproached span of 10 first-team All-Pro nods in 11 years, Rice broke the single-season receiving record with 1,848 yards. In the five-game stretch with second-year backup Elvis Grbac, Rice posted four 100-yard games — including a 161-yard performance in a 49ers upset win in Dallas. The all-time receiving kingpin punctuated his season with a 289-yard showing on a December Monday night against the Vikings. 19/31 SLIDES © Arthur Anderson/Getty Images 13. Lester Hayes, 1980 In the third year of the NFL's shift toward a pass-focused product, Hayes dropped a throwback season that made a major difference in a Super Bowl push. During eight of his 10 seasons, the Raiders cornerback did not surpass four interceptions. "The Judge" snared 13 INTs in his fourth season and posted 273 return yards. Hayes had four more called back due to penalty and later managed five playoff picks. Yes, the since-banned Stickum was heavily involved. But Hayes did not stack these picks against bad QBs; he intercepted a pass in 12 games. In the 40 seasons since, only one player — the Cowboys' Everson Walls — has even reached 11 INTs. 20/31 SLIDES © Tony Medina/Icon Sportswire 12. Chris Johnson, 2009 Venturing into Sanders territory and doing so in a pass-crazed era, Johnson set the NFL record for scrimmage yards with 2,509 in his second season. "CK2K" spawned because of this season, and although the Titans' 8-8 record (after an 0-6 start) kept Johnson off the MVP radar, it remains an all-time great slate in rushing annals. After being held under 100 yards in four of his first five games, Johnson finished with 11 straight three-digit outings. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and accomplished all this against teams geared toward stopping him and not Vince Young. 21/31 SLIDES © Joe Robbins/Getty Images 11. Charley Hennigan, 1961 So obscure that photos have proven elusive, Hennigan was the 1961 AFL champion Oilers' top yard-gainer. But the wide receiver's total resided in another stratosphere compared to peers. In a 14-game season, Hennigan posted 1,746 yards. Even in what became a pass-friendly AFL, that total bested all other receivers by nearly 600. The 6-foot-1 ex-high school biology teacher's 82 catches did not lead the league, and Bill Groman's 17 TD grabs paced the Oilers. Hennigan, however, averaged 21.3 yards per catch and had three 200-yard games in teaming with George Blanda. Hennigan's single-season record stood for 34 years. 22/31 SLIDES © Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire 10. J.J. Watt, 2012 Watt is far from the best player on this list, but it is impossible to exclude his second season. The Texans defensive end delivered one of modern sports' signature breakouts, running up a mind-boggling combination of numbers. Watt's 20.5 sacks led the league, but his peripheral stats are more impressive. The interior pass rusher recorded 39 tackles for loss. For perspective, no one else since TFLs became charted (in 1999) has surpassed 30. No non-Watt season has ever topped 28. The 23-year-old sensation also forced four fumbles and tallied 16 passes defensed — seven more than any other D-lineman that year — in the Texans' 12-4 season. 23/31 SLIDES © Bill Smith/Getty Images 9. Earl Campbell, 1980 Winding down their "Luv Ya Blue" run, the Oilers traded Dan Pastorini for Ken Stabler in 1980. The future Hall of Famer threw 13 TD passes and 28 INTs. The Oilers still went 11-5 and won the AFC Central for the first time. This happened because Campbell was unstoppable in his third season. Browns QB Brian Sipe won MVP honors, but this was Campbell's defining season. He amassed career highs in rushing yards (1,934) and yards per carry (5.2) and dominated despite presenting nary a receiving threat (47 yards). Campbell's career steadily declined after this, but his '80 season is a time-capsule rushing year. 24/31 SLIDES © Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire 8. Drew Brees, 2011 The heart of Brees' Saints dominance saw Dan Marino's 27-year-old single-season yardage record fall and the New Orleans QB lead the NFL in touchdown passes (46) and completion percentage (a then-record 71.2 figure). But Aaron Rodgers garnered 48 of the 50 MVP votes while leading a 15-1 Packers team. Helping Jimmy Graham become an all-time fantasy sleeper, Brees threw for 5,476 yards to lead a 13-3 Saints team. The future career pass yardage kingpin threw at least one touchdown pass in every game, on his way to breaking Johnny Unitas' record for consecutive games with a TD toss in 2012. That currently stands at 54. 25/31 SLIDES © Robert E. Klein/Icon Sportswire 7. Randy Moss, 2007 The season that lifted Tom Brady onto the elite quarterback tier can be traced to the Patriots swindling the Raiders for Moss. Bill Belichick giving up a fourth-round pick for the 30-year-old superstar transformed the Patriots, and though Brady was the unanimous MVP, Moss kind of deserved co-MVP acclaim. Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdowns. Just as he catalyzed the 1998 Vikings, Moss lifted the Pats to the NFL's lone 16-0 season. Brady's TD number ballooned from 24 in a non-Pro Bowl 2006 season to 50. That record has fallen; no one has approached Moss' TD standard. 26/31 SLIDES © John McDonough/Icon Sportswire 6. Jerry Rice, 1987 Fantasy players in the discipline's infancy cleaned up if they drafted Rice in his third season. It is both a dominant display indicative of the wideout deity's future while simultaneously a tantalizing "what if?" year. Due to a players' strike, Rice played 12 games. He caught 22 touchdown passes. Only one other player topped eight that year. Rice also added a rushing score, and his 1,078 yards would have led the league had Cardinals wideout J.T. Smith not crossed the picket line. The 49ers went 13-2, and Rice and Joe Montana split MVP votes in a year when John Elway won. It took Moss all 16 games to break Rice's record. 27/31 SLIDES © Todd Warshaw/Icon Sportswire 5. Marshall Faulk, 1999 In a three-year stretch when the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" claimed three MVP awards, Faulk scored 26 touchdowns to win the award in 2000. His Rams debut may have been better. Acquired from the Colts that spring, Faulk became the second player in NFL history to go 1,000-1,000. Kurt Warner won the 1999 MVP, but Faulk was the biggest difference between a bad 1998 Rams team and its Super Bowl champion outfit. The explosive back reached 2,429 scrimmage yards — still second-most all time — and averaged 5.5 per carry in his age-26 season, one that drove St. Louis to a championship. 28/31 SLIDES © George Gojkovich/Getty Images 4. Reggie White, 1987 In addition to Rice's unfathomable TD edge on his peers, 1987 featured a fellow all-time great lap his contemporaries in sacks. Like Rice, White played 12 games because of the strike. He registered a career-high 21 sacks — 8.5 more than anyone else. While the historically gifted power rusher was a star from the jump after two USFL seasons, White's monster third NFL slate did not come from big games. He notched a sack in 11 games and got to 21 without a four-sack showing. White's consistency would remain until the late 1990s. The record Michael Strahan owns would be buried had the NFL's regulars played 16 games in 1987. 29/31 SLIDES © David Madison/Getty Images 3. Eric Dickerson, 1984 During their lengthy period without a reliable quarterback, the Rams landed an offensive centerpiece in the 1983 first round. A year later, Dickerson set the NFL rushing record. After totaling 390 carries as a rookie, Dickerson logged 379 and turned those into 2,105 yards — a number that has topped info graphics for a generation. He rushed for 14 TDs, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and was so effective the Rams barely threw to him (139 yards). The Rams made the playoffs with career backup Jeff Kemp as their primary starting quarterback, ranking 27th in passing and winning 10 games. Dan Marino cruised to MVP honors in '84. 30/31 SLIDES © George Rizer/The Boston Globe via Getty Images 2. O.J. Simpson, 1975 Simpson's prime goes understandably overlooked now, other than his 1973 2,000-yard MVP season. The Bills running back was perhaps even better two years later. At 28, Simpson led the NFL in rushing for the third time in four years. He got to 1,817 yards on 5.5 per carry but far exceeded his '73 work in other areas. After a 12-TD 1973, Simpson scored 23 times in '75 and eclipsed his scrimmage-yards total as well by reaching 2,243 — easily the best mark in the NFL's 14-game era. Aided by Simpson torching the Steel Curtain for 227 yards in Week 2, the Bills went 8-6. But they missed the playoffs, further obscuring this transcendent season. 31/31 SLIDES © Focus on Sport via Getty Images 1. Jim Brown, 1963 Y.A. Tittle's 36 touchdown passes earned him MVP honors; the Giants finished 11-3 to the Browns' 10-4. But there is no satisfactory explanation for the most dominant player in NFL history's best season receiving seven votes to Tittle's 33. Brown's 1,863 rushing yards broke his own NFL record by 336. He averaged 6.4 per carry and a career-best 133 per game and totaled 15 TDs. A better illustration of the gap between Cleveland's fullback terminator and the other men paid to take handoffs: Jim Taylor — the 1962 MVP — ranked second with 1,018 yards. Respected as he is, Brown is underrated. His three MVPs are not enough. 31/31 SLIDES

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