What would NFL Thursday be like without some controversy? Our second miniseries examines awarded Super Bowl MVPs (15-for-39 so far) and Rookies of the Year (28-for-48). This year’s dilemma is minimal, though, as Super Bowl XL is very well remembered for all the wrong reasons, as it seemed like the NFL really wanted one team to win the Super Bowl so a star player could retire with a ring on his finger …

Super Bowl XL MVP: Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh (original); Ike Taylor, DB, Pittsburgh (revised)

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, in a very controversial Super Bowl, marred by terrible officiating that all seemed to favor the eventual winners. Regardless, Steelers wideout Hines Ward was voted the MVP for putting up 141 total yards and scoring once in a game where defense played a big role in the outcome. Ward’s score was the game clincher in the fourth quarter.

Anyone else to consider? It’s arguable that running back Willie Parker had a bigger game, with 93 rushing yards and a 75-yard TD run that came on the second play of the second half. This made the score 14-3 and was a psychological knife to the gut for the Seahawks. But both these players seem defined by their one big play, respectively.

Conversely, defensive back Ike Taylor had a strong game, leading Pittsburgh with 7 tackles, 2 PDs, and 1 INT. Topping his teammates in all those categories—with the interception coming at a key moment to set up Ward’s TD—means Taylor was more consistent throughout the game than either Parker or Ward, in truth. We’re going with Taylor as our Super Bowl MVP.

2005 NFL ROTY: Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay & Shawne Merriman, LB, San Diego (original); Williams (revised)

The San Diego Chargers missed the playoffs, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their division, so that puts Williams (1,259 scrimmage yards and 6 TDs) at the top of our candidate list here. He’s the only real offensive contender while linebackers Lofa Tatupu (Seattle) and Odell Thurman (Cincinnati) are the top candidates on the other side of the ball, helping their teams to division titles as well.

Tatupu (105 tackles, 10 PDs, 9 TFLs, 4 sacks, 3 INTs) and Thurman (105 tackles, 9 PDs, 5 TFLs, 5 INTs, 5 FFs) both posted pretty good stats, so this comes down to team improvement in our eyes. The Bucs improved 6 games, the Seahawks improved 4 games, and the Bengals improved 3 games. That means we will confirm this award for Williams.

On a sad side note, Thurman never played another season in the NFL due to ongoing substance-abuse and legal troubles. Looking at that stat line, it’s interesting to consider what his career could have amounted to if he’d just been able to stay clean.