We like to remind readers of NFL Thursday that in this decade, three teams alone won 8 Super Bowls, and the league grew in popularity as a result of these dominant teams. We have a winner this season from that Group of Three, with some serious star power, too—which makes even more sense when you consider where the NFL champion was from this year.

(And if you’re wanting to, check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context.)

Super Bowl XII MVP: Harvey Martin, DE, Dallas & Randy White, DT, Dallas (original, tie); Randy Hughes, DB, Dallas (revised)

The Dallas Cowboys won their second NFL title of the 1970s with a 27-10 win over the Denver Broncos, and there was a very unique situation for the MVP vote: Two Dallas defensive linemen tied for the award, after the Cowboys defense forced a whopping 8 turnovers and notched 4 sacks. Defensive end Harvey Martin (2 sacks) and defensive tackle Randy White (1 sack) pulled off the co-MVP trick.

Defensive statistics are relatively incomplete here, and so we will look first to the Dallas offense to see if anyone worthy is there instead. The only offensive player who really stands out is quarterback Roger Staubach, who completed 17 of his 25 passes for 183 yards and 1 touchdown, but he did lose a fumble. That somewhat takes him out of our equation, and the running backs all did committee work here.

Qualitative reports of the game suggest that Dallas defensive back Randy Hughes may have been the real MVP, with an INT and 2 fumble recoveries in the first half alone. That helped the Cowboys overcome their own offensive woes: By halftime, the Dallas offense had fumbled five times (losing one), had missed three field goals, and had allowed four sacks—but still led 13–0. To us, there is a lot of value there.

Without Hughes’ efforts, it’s possible the Cowboys could have behind at halftime instead of ahead, since both offenses were so mediocre. The final score doesn’t suggest it, but in the third quarter, Dallas led just 13-3 at one point. Thus, we think Hughes was the real defensive MVP here for the Cowboys. This means that we have only confirmed 3 MVP winners in the first 12 Super Bowls. Shocking, huh?

1977 NFL ROTY: Tony Dorsett, RB, Dallas & A.J. Duhe, LB, Miami (original); Dorsett (revised)

The Cowboys offense got a boost in the regular season from rookie RB Tony Dorsett (1,280 scrimmage yards and 13 TDs), while the Miami Dolphins defense was improved by linebacker A.J. Duhe (7 sacks). The Dolphins just missed the postseason on a tiebreak, despite giving up the second-fewest points in the AFC. Meanwhile, Dallas won the NFC East by 3 games.

Who else can we consider, besides these two vote winners? No one else, really, and here’s the rub: We feel the Cowboys would have made the playoffs anyway, with or without Dorsett, but the Miami defense placed four rookies on the All-Rookie team: Duhe, DT Bob Baumhower (4 sacks), LB Kim Bokamper (2.5 sacks), and safety Vern Robinson (1 INT). Duhe may have been the best of them, but … geez.

Due to this reality, we will give the hardware to Dorsett alone, as his numbers were more impressive than Duhe’s, and his team did make the postseason. But this was an odd way to arrive at that conclusion, truly, as the Dolphins really put together the core of a defense that would take the team to two Super Bowls in the early 1980s.

Check in every Thursday for our NFL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!