We have moved on to 1986 on NFL Thursday this week, and this was the third year in a row that the NFC would win the Super Bowl—starting a trend that stretched all the way to the 1996 season. Incredible dominance by one conference, strangely enough, although we all know the world moves in circles and waves. But at the time, it’s seemed like a lock that the NFC team would win—and often big.
(And if you’re curious, check out our first miniseries entry on this year for context.)
Super Bowl XXI MVP: Phil Simms, QB, New York (original, confirmed)
The Denver Broncos led the New York Giants, 10-9, at halftime, but the second half was all New York as the Giants rolled to a 39-20 victory. N.Y. quarterback Phil Simms set a record for completion percentage, going 22-for-25 overall, totaling 268 yards and tossing 3 TDs. He was named the game’s MVP, and we really just have to confirm this outright.
This makes it 8 times in 21 years we have confirmed the SB MVP vote winner. For the record, no Giants player surpassed 100 yards in rushing or receiving (or both combined), although the New York offense piled up almost 400 yards on the day. That was Simms’ ability to spread the ball around successfully while also not really being able to rely on a strong running game (38 carries, 136 yards).
1986 NFL ROTY: Rueben Mayes, RB, New Orleans & Leslie O’Neal, DE, San Diego (original); Charles Haley, LB, San Francisco (revised)
Both ROTY vote winners played for losing teams: New Orleans Saints running back Rueben Mayes (1,449 scrimmage yards and 8 TDs) and San Diego Chargers defensive end Leslie O’Neal (12.5 sacks, 2 INTs). Were there any candidates here from teams that made the postseason? Yes, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Charles Haley (12 sacks, 1 INT). The Niners won their division by a half game, too.
No other rookie had that kind of impact on his team while performing at such a high level. The 49ers actually had a few other rookie starters on defense who were very good, but so much of those players’ impact—both in the secondary—stemmed from Haley’s pressure up front on the opposing QBs. Case closed, as S.F. edged the Los Angeles Rams by just half a game in the NFC West Division.