Last week, we took NFL Thursday off, as it was the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act: We hope you didn’t miss us too much. Today, we return with a look at the 1996 NFL season for a second time, as we continue with this second miniseries. We have confirmed just 13 of 30 Super Bowl MVPs in this series of analysis, so we see that, like the Heisman Trophy, the sports past often needs correction.
Super Bowl XXXI MVP: Desmond Howard, KR/PR, Green Bay (original); Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay (revised)
The Green Bay Packers returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 seasons, and they beat the upstart New England Patriots, 35-21. Packers kick/punt returner Desmond Howard won the MVP vote after posting 254 return yards on 10 attempts, including one for the final touchdown of the game in the third quarter. This was really the first time a special-teams player was voted the MVP on Super Sunday.
While we’re not undervaluing his contributions, the Packers defense was also outstanding, forcing 4 turnovers and holding the Patriots offense to just 257 total yards. The Green Bay offense was good enough to score 29 points on its own here, as well, led by quarterback Brett Favre’s 258 total yards and 3 total TDs. The Packers ground game was mediocre at best, yet Favre carved up New England easily.
And the defense! Defensive end Reggie White had 3 sacks on his own, so we see both Favre and White as better MVP picks than Howard. Favre’s 3 TDs (2 pass, 1 rush) all came in the first half as Green Bay moved out to a 27-14 halftime lead, and Howard’s TD came after a Patriots score tightened the margin to 27-21. It was symbolic, as White and the Pack defense was too good to give up the lead. We like Favre.
1996 NFL ROTY: Eddie George, RB, Houston & Simeon Rice, DE, Arizona (original); Terry Glenn, WR, New England (revised)
Both vote winners were played for non-playoff, non-winning teams, so we have to look elsewhere for our ROTY pick. Our best candidates are New England wide receiver Terry Glenn (1,174 scrimmage yards, 6 TDs) and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Tony Brackens (7.5 sacks, 5 FFs, 1 INT). Both teams made the playoffs after losing seasons the prior year, so they’re as good as the vote winners themselves, really.
Glenn caught 90 passes, which gives him a little edge in our minds. That’s a tremendous season for a rookie WR, as the Pats scored 124 more points than they did the year before. Meanwhile, Jacksonville was still outscored on the season, yet the Jags surrendered 69 fewer points than they did in 1995. Both are tremendous improvements.
Overall, though, on both improvements and volume, we’re giving this nod to Glenn, who famously had to put up with excessive hazing from his head coach. Coincidentally, Glenn and George were teammates at Ohio State in college before being drafted into the NFL.