After a week off, we hit the ground running again on NFL Thursday, to take on the 1989 season for the Super Bowl MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. The Decade of Excess ended with a lot of points on the scoreboard for the NFL champs, the San Francisco 49ers, who ended up with four SB rings in a nine-year span to claim “Team of the Decade” honors, readily.

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

Super Bowl XXIV MVP: Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco (original, confirmed)

The 49ers overwhelmed the Denver Broncos, who tied the Minnesota Vikings (1973-74, 1976) by losing a third Super Bowl in a four-year span. It was 27-3 at halftime, but the S.F. offense kept throwing the ball in the third quarter, pushing its lead to 41-3 before the Broncos managed to score a touchdown. The final score, 55-10, was reflected in the 461-167 yardage and 4-0 turnover edges the 49ers earned.

Oddly, Denver didn’t commit a single penalty in the game, as S.F. quarterback Joe Montana won the MVP vote (22-for-29, 297 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs). It was pretty classless of the 49ers to keep throwing the ball with their big lead, so those numbers should be muted a bit. S.F. didn’t run the ball well, and although wide receiver Jerry Rice had 148 yards receiving and 3 TDs, it was still Montana at the helm of the O.

Defensively, Daniel Stubbs posted 2 sacks and had a fumble recovery, as well, to spearhead the stat sheet. Otherwise, it was a collective effort. Generally, then, we confirm Montana’s award—his third from us, and his third in real life, too—despite the running-up-the-score bit of showboating that really wasn’t necessary or cool. But hey, it was the 1980s, right?

1989 NFL ROTY: Barry Sanders, RB, Detroit & Derrick Thomas, LB, Kansas City (original); Bobby Humphrey, RB, Denver (revised)

What a duo we had here winning the ROTY votes: Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders (1,752 scrimmage yards and 14 TDs) and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas (10 sacks)—both Hall of Fame players. Is that the first time we’ve seen that? We think it is. Incredible to have to choose … but anyone else to consider first? Yes.

Broncos RB Bobby Humphrey (1,307 scrimmage yards and 8 TDs) and San Diego Chargers defensive end Burt Grossman (10 sacks) also stood out among first-year players. The only team to make the postseason, however, was Denver, as none of the other teams really came within shouting distance of reaching the playoffs. We know Sanders and Thomas were amazing, but … value is value, of course.

So, we give this nod to Humphrey, surprisingly, as the Broncos won the AFC West and improved 3 games from their 1988 record. That’s the way we roll here. Shocker!

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