We’ve entered the most recent decade of play on NFL Thursday, as today takes on the 2011 season (again). In this space right now, we’re looking at awarded Super Bowl MVPs (17-for-45 so far) and Rookies of the Year (31-for-54). If Super MVPs were running backs, they’d stink. If ROTYs were quarterbacks, they’d be merely average. And if Super Bowls have been fixed, the one below is just another example of it, sadly …
Super Bowl XLVI MVP: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (original); Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants (revised)
The New York Giants—a team that was outscored during its 9-7 regular season—somehow made their way through the playoffs again with a favored son at QB and faced the cheating New England Patriots in the big game. In the end, the Giants won on another last-minute score, taking the title by a 21-17 margin. Everything about these playoffs was fishy, but the NFL got to anoint Eli Manning again as the Super Bowl MVP. He was 30-for-40 with 296 yards and 1 touchdown pass, for a 103.7 game rating.
The Giants scored the final 12 points of the game without Manning throwing for a TD in the process; RB Ahmad Bradshaw totaled 91 scrimmage yards and the game-winning score with just 57 seconds left in the game. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks also caught 10 passes for 109 yards, constantly moving the chains throughout the game. And then the defense, which held the high-scoring Pats in check, also deserves a lot of credit here.
New York gave up 400 points during the regular season, but somehow, the Giants were able to contain New England’s offense that scored 513 points. The key defenders were defensive end Justin Tuck (2 sacks) and linebacker Michael Boley (10 tackles, 1 pass defensed). We’re more inclined here to single out either, as the Giants defense was the true winner of this game. And we have issues with Manning, since he oddly never won a playoff game in any other season but 2007 and 2011 when it was so contrived.
Yes, we know the Pats were cheaters, but that didn’t make it right for the NFL to fix two Super Bowls for them to lose, either. Two wrongs never make a right, and everything about Eli here is wrong. We’re also going to remind everyone right now that Tuck put 3 additional QB hits on New England’s Tom Brady—and that the mighty Brady also tossed an interception in this game, as he was rattled all game by the Giants defensive line more than anything else. We give Tuck the most credit for that.
N.Y. won the game mostly by keeping the ball away from Brady: Despite 37-plus minutes of possession, the Giants offense only scored 21 points—and didn’t even get to that threshold until the end of the game. We like Tuck as the true MVP here, over Boley’s merely good play, for helping keep the Patriots potent passing offense in check and constantly returning the ball to his offense, which truly did very little with the opportunities. We cannot reward Manning for scoring just 21 points in 37-plus minutes.
2011 NFL ROTY: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina & Von Miller, LB, Denver (original); Aldon Smith, LB, San Francisco (revised)
The two ROTY vote winners would make history in a few seasons, facing each other in Super Bowl 50, but for the 2011 season, only Von Miller (50 tackles, 11.5 sacks) will get consideration here as his team won its division, while Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers won only 6 games. Who else is a rival, then, to Miller for this ROTY trophy? Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (1,110 scrimmage yards and 7 TDs) helped his team reach the postseason, too, so that’s a good start.
But Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (1,015 scrimmage yards and 8 TDs) also played on a postseason squad as well, so which rookie WR was better? In truth, the Bengals improved 4 wins from the prior year, while the Falcons actually regressed by 3 victories. So we have to give the edge to Green for helping his club make the playoffs for just the third time since the 1990 season. That’s a huge impact for a rookie to have.
Finally, San Francisco 49ers LB Aldon Smith (31 tackles, 14 sacks) might have had more of an impact on his team’s division title than Miller did for his: The Broncos improved by 4 wins from 2010, but the 49ers jumped an improbable 7 victories to claim the NFC West Division title for the first time since the 2002 season. For that reason, we’re going with Smith here as our pick for the ROTY hardware. That’s a lot of sacks for a rookie.