Bambi Awards 1920-2017

The Bambi Award, named for graceful dynamo Lance Alworth, is given to the league’s premier wide receiver each season.1 Like the quarterback and running back awards previously published, the Bambi Award leans heavily on statistical output in determining the winner. In general, I look at yardage and scoring, emphasize first downs gained when available, and give a tiny little head nod toward receptions (because catches in and of themselves don’t mean all that much to me). I also take into account the passing volume of the receivers’ teams, as well as the quality of pass defenses they faced. When I can, I try to look at a player’s impact on his team – his ability to block for runners, affect defensive alignments, bail out inaccurate passers, and the like. Only work on offense counts, so great return men don’t see a boost from that aspect of their performance. For the 1920-31 period, I use the incomplete stats available from David Neft’s research, as well as original research of contemporary newspapers. From 1932-44, I rely on the official stats, in addition to media accounts. From then on, I add to those as much film gorging as possible. Below are the results.

Bambi Award Winners

The table below contains every Bambi Award winner from 1920 through 2017. Read it thus: In 1924, playing in the NFL, Charlie Mathys of the Green bay Packers won his second Bambi Award.

YearLeagueWRTeam#
1920NFLDutch ThieleDayton Triangles1
1921NFLScotty BierceAkron Pros1
1922NFLGuy ChamberlinCanton Bulldogs1
1923NFLCharlie MathysGreen Bay Packers1
1924NFLCharlie MathysGreen Bay Packers2
1925NFLCharlie BerryPottsville Maroons1
1926NFLVerne LewellenGreen Bay Packers1
1927NFLCharley RogersFrankford Yellow Jackets1
1928NFLEddie KotalGreen Bay Packers1
1929NFLLavvie DilwegGreen Bay Packers1
1930NFLJohnny BloodGreen Bay Packers1
1931NFLJohnny BloodGreen Bay Packers2
1932NFLRay FlahertyNew York Giants1
1933NFLBill HewittChicago Bears1
1934NFLJoe CarterPhiladelphia Eagles1
1935NFLTod GoodwinNew York Giants1
1936NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers1
1937NFLGaynell TinsleyChicago Cardinals1
1938NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers2
1939NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers3
1940NFLDon LooneyPhiladelphia Eagles1
1941NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers4
1942NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers5
1943NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers6
1944NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers7
1945NFLJim BentonLos Angeles Rams1
1946NFLJim BentonLos Angeles Rams2
1946AAFCDante LavelliCleveland Browns1
1947NFLMal KutnerChicago Cardinals1
1947AAFCMac SpeedieCleveland Browns1
1948NFLMal KutnerChicago Cardinals2
1948AAFCAl BaldwinBuffalo Bills1
1949NFLTom FearsLos Angeles Rams1
1949AAFCMac SpeedieCleveland Browns2
1950NFLTom FearsLos Angeles Rams2
1951NFLElroy HirschLos Angeles Rams1
1952NFLBilly HowtonGreen Bay Packers1
1953NFLPete PihosPhiladelphia Eagles1
1954NFLHarlon HillChicago Bears1
1955NFLBilly WilsonSan Francisco 49ers1
1956NFLHarlon HillChicago Bears2
1957NFLRaymond BerryBaltimore Colts1
1958NFLDel ShofnerLos Angeles Rams1
1959NFLRaymond BerryBaltimore Colts2
1960NFLRaymond BerryBaltimore Colts3
1960AFLBill GromanHouston Oilers1
1961NFLTommy McDonaldPhiladelphia Eagles1
1961AFLCharley HenniganHouston Oilers1
1962NFLBobby MitchellWashington1
1962AFLArt PowellNew York Titans1
1963NFLBuddy DialPittsburgh Steelers1
1963AFLLance AlworthSan Diego Chargers1
1964NFLJohnny MorrisChicago Bears1
1964AFLCharley HenniganHouston Oilers2
1965NFLDave ParksSan Francisco 49ers1
1965AFLLance AlworthSan Diego Chargers2
1966NFLBob HayesDallas Cowboys1
1966AFLLance AlworthSan Diego Chargers3
1967NFLHomer JonesNew York Giants1
1967AFLDon MaynardNew York Jets1
1968NFLPaul WarfieldCleveland Browns1
1968AFLLance AlworthSan Diego Chargers4
1969NFLRoy JeffersonPittsburgh Steelers1
1969AFLWarren WellsOakland Raiders1
1970NFLGene WashingtonSan Francisco 49ers1
1971NFLPaul WarfieldMiami Dolphins2
1972NFLJohn GilliamMinnesota Vikings1
1973NFLHarold JacksonLos Angeles Rams1
1974NFLCliff BranchOakland Raiders1
1975NFLKen BurroughHouston Oilers1
1976NFLCliff BranchOakland Raiders2
1977NFLNat MooreMiami Dolphins1
1978NFLWesley WalkerNew York Jets1
1979NFLSteve LargentSeattle Seahawks1
1980NFLJohn JeffersonSan Diego Chargers1
1981NFLAlfred JenkinsAtlanta Falcons1
1982NFLWes ChandlerSan Diego Chargers1
1983NFLMike QuickPhiladelphia Eagles1
1984NFLJohn StallworthPittsburgh Steelers1
1985NFLArt MonkWashington1
1986NFLJerry RiceSan Francisco 49ers1
1987NFLJerry RiceSan Francisco 49ers2
1988NFLHenry EllardLos Angeles Rams1
1989NFLJerry RiceSan Francisco 49ers3
1990NFLJerry RiceSan Francisco 49ers4
1991NFLMichael IrvinDallas Cowboys1
1992NFLSterling SharpeGreen Bay Packers1
1993NFLJerry RiceSan Francisco 49ers5
1994NFLJerry RiceSan Francisco 49ers6
1995NFLJerry RiceSan Francisco 49ers7
1996NFLIsaac BruceSt. Louis Rams1
1997NFLTim BrownOakland Raiders1
1998NFLRandy MossMinnesota Vikings1
1999NFLJimmy SmithJacksonville Jaguars1
2000NFLTerrell OwensSan Francisco 49ers1
2001NFLMarvin HarrisonIndianapolis Colts1
2002NFLMarvin HarrisonIndianapolis Colts2
2003NFLRandy MossMinnesota Vikings2
2004NFLTerrell OwensPhiladelphia Eagles2
2005NFLSteve SmithCarolina Panthers1
2006NFLChad JohnsonCincinnati Bengals1
2007NFLRandy MossNew England Patriots3
2008NFLLarry FitzgeraldArizona Cardinals1
2009NFLAndre JohnsonHouston Texans1
2010NFLBrandon LloydDenver Broncos1
2011NFLCalvin JohnsonDetroit Lions1
2012NFLCalvin JohnsonDetroit Lions2
2013NFLAntonio BrownPittsburgh Steelers1
2014NFLAntonio BrownPittsburgh Steelers2
2015NFLJulio JonesAtlanta Falcons1
2016NFLMike EvansTampa Bay Buccaneers1
2017NFLAntonio BrownPittsburgh Steelers3

Brief thoughts.

Those familiar with NFL history will not be surprised to see Don Hutson and Jerry Rice tied for the most Bambi Awards, with seven apiece. From 1936 until 1944, only Gaynell Tinsley and Don Looney loosened Hutson’s grip on the award. Henry Ellard, Michael Irvin, and Sterling Sharpe are the only receivers to earn the award during Rice’s (unreasonably long) prime.

Alworth picked up four of his namesake awards, all in the AFL. His level of competition wasn’t quite on par with that of contemporaneous NFL players, but his league had made great competitive strides by the time he was a full-fledged superstar.

Three-time Bambi winners include father of the timing route Raymond Berry, the Freak himself Randy Moss, and future Hall of Famer Antonio Brown.

Some of the greatest receivers of all time either don’t make an appearance or only show up once on the list. Cris Carter, Fred Biletnikoff, and Lynn Swann don’t have a single Bambi Award between them. Steve Largent, Tim Brown, and Larry Fitzgerald have just one apiece. The explanation is simple: awards are binary, and second place finishes don’t show up. Carter and Brown spent their careers competing with Rice, while the others had many great seasons but happened to see others have career years and steal the awards.

 

  1. Jerry Rice already has an award named after him, and I like Bambi better than Don Hutson‘s Antelope sobriquet.