CINCINNATI — He received the credit he deserved … or did he?
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson caught the NFL world off-guard when he came through in the clutch in the AFC Divisional playoff game against the No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans.
McPherson, with the game on the line and a chance to send the Bengals to the next round in the playoffs, booted a 52-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired for the 19-16 upset win.
But that wasn’t the best part.
Right before he ran onto the field, he told his teammates, “Well, looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship game.”
And he was right.
On the following Monday, he was taken on the media “car wash” for appearances on news and sports talk telecasts.
The next week in Kansas City, he did it again, but this time, the heroics came in overtime.
Cincinnati rolled into Arrowhead Stadium, and McPherson shocked the NFL world when he kicked a 31-yard field goal in sudden death to clinch the Bengals’ first trip to the Super Bowl since the 1988 season.
Let’s look at his rookie season in the Queen City.
McPherson, who played college at the University of Florida, was a fifth-round draft pick (149th overall) by the Bengals.
He was not on any team’s radar, even though he had a good career as a Gator.
In his three years of NCAA action, he scored 302 points, made 149 of 150 extra point kicks, and drilled 51 of 60 field goals.
During his first NFL regular season, he connected on 28 of 33 attempts (84.85 percent) — and his longest was from 58 yards against Miami for a Bengals record.
He scored 130 points and never had a kick blocked.
He made every attempt inside the 40, and made nine FGs of at least 50 yards or more.
I watched him in the pre-game at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles prior to Super Bowl LVI, and he was clearing the goal post from 63 yards easy.
In the postseason, he connected on 14 of 14 FG attempts (tying the NFL record) — and added six extra points for a total score of 48.
Combining the regular and postseason, he scored a total of 178 points.
And in the playoffs, every point mattered.
Was his name put in the hat for consideration for Rookie of the Year?
The finalists were: Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Dolphins’ receiver Jalen Waddle, Patriots QB Mac Jones, Steelers running back Najee Harris, Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
Not McPherson. Not even an afterthought. Not even an honorable mention.
Chase dominated the wide receiver position for the Bengals by racking up 1,455 yards which put him in fourth in the NFL this past season.
He added 13 touchdowns on 81 catches, and came through with clutch performances when the team needed him most.
The rookie from Louisiana State University garnered 42 of 50 votes and took the honor in a landslide.
He holds several NFL rookie receiving records, and his 266 yards against the Chiefs in week 17 set a record for most receiving yards by a first-year player in a single game.
He is also the Bengals’ all-time leader in receiving yards during a single season.
Besides taking the NFL Rookie of the Year Award voted on by sportswriters, Chase was named the 2021 Pepsi Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of the Year — in which he beat out the same nominees.
When Chase entered the league, there were whispers about his drops and his inability to catch the tough passes.
Everyone was proven wrong.
He deserved the ROTY, but McPherson’s performance warranted at least something.
But instead, we heard crickets.
The only noise I heard was from the Who Dey faithful every time he ran onto the field.
His perfect postseason performance got the attention of the national media.
But he stayed true to his personality and his faith amidst the frenzy.
During the Bengals’ media day on the campus of UCLA during Super Bowl week, he was not even spotlighted as a player to speak with.
I found that amazing.
Most media were asking where he was because they wanted to ask him questions.
But his season did not go without recognition.
He was twice named the NFL Player of the Week during the season, and named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team.
Did he deserve more?
Yes. He certainly earned it in my opinion.
He deserved to at least be nominated for ROTY, as he gave an exceptional performance in his first year and was “money” in the clutch.
He did earn, after all, the nickname “Money Mac.”
He has the rest of his career to keep pace with his outstanding rookie season.
How great can he be? Mark Moseley type of great?
Moseley is the only special-teams player (kicker) to win the NFL MVP Award.
He captured the honor during the strike-shortened 1982 season — when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl.
One thing is certain.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Chase bring in the headlines and win the awards, and they deserve them. But McPherson
quietly wins the games down the stretch.
Sportswriters who pick and vote for the nominees selected the glamour players, and that’s okay.
I wasn’t asked about my opinion, nor did I qualify to vote.
But McPherson put together a sensational season for a rookie.
No matter the position. No matter the status.
He’s Money. And you can take that to the bank!