More problems here again … it’s NFL Thursday with our second miniseries on awarded Super Bowl MVPs (15-for-38) and Rookies of the Year (27-for-47). We have yet another New England Patriots cheating dilemma in determining the real Super Bowl MVP, of course, which is sadly going to happen too often over the next handful of months. No one likes cheaters, of course, except those who profit, right?

Super Bowl XXXIX MVP: Deion Branch, WR, New England (original); Rodney Harrison, SS, New England (revised, vacated)

In a sweet moment of relief for us, the voted MVP for the Patriots in their 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles—not secured until the final minutes—was wide receiver Deion Branch, our choice for the vacated MVP of the prior Super Bowl. He caught 11 passes for 133 yards to tie a record for most receptions in a Super Bowl, but he probably was not the actual MVP of the game, in truth.

Quarterback Tom Brady lost a fumble in this game while managing a mere 7.2 ypa on his 33 throws, but it was running back Corey Dillon—our choice for the 1996 Heisman Trophy—who probably was valuable, running for 75 yards on just 18 carries with a touchdown while adding 3 catches for 31 more yards through the air. The Pats struggled in this game, overall, yet Dillon was the reliable one for the offense.

We also should look at strong safety Rodney Harrison, in truth: 12 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 sack, and 1 PD. In truth, we’re not sure how this performance was overlooked at the time, as New England’s defense held the Eagles offense to just 14 points for the first 58 minutes of this game to effectively seal the victory. We give this trophy to Harrison in the end, with the usual caveat about it being vacated due to SpyGate.

2004 NFL ROTY: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh & Jonathan Vilma, LB, New York Jets (original); Roethlisberger (revised)

It’s rare to see a rookie QB play so well; this is the first time since 1970 one has been voted a share of this award. Pittsburgh posted a 15-1 record with their rookie starter going 13-0 overall with a 98.1 QB rating. That will be hard to beat, although the Jets made the playoffs with a 10-6 record, too, behind Vilma’s 77 tackles, 3 INTs, and 2 sacks. Is there anyone else to consider for this award?

Vilma is the top candidate on defense from a postseason qualifier, despite his underwhelming stats, although the New Orleans Saints (8-8) lost out on a playoff spot by a tiebreaker: their defensive end Will Smith led the league with 6 forced fumbles, while also notching 7.5 sacks and 5 TFLs. And he only started 4 games, too, so we actually think he’s a better contender here than Vilma, in truth.

As for offense, there were some great efforts from rookies on losing teams, but no one can tough Big Ben here. So, between Roethlisberger and Smith, it’s necessary to point out the Steelers improved 9 wins from the year before thanks to stability at the QB position—while the Saints merely posted the same mark they did in 2003. Thus, this hardware goes to Big Ben, without question.