Today on NFL Thursday, we look at an interesting season, where one team lost the Super Bowl due to bad playcalling—and the winning team claimed there was a conspiracy against it … Go figure! Remember, we’re looking at awarded Super Bowl MVPs (17-for-46 so far) and Rookies of the Year (31-for-55). 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, this probably was not one of them!

Super Bowl XLVII MVP: Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore (original, confirmed)

The Baltimore Ravens won their second Super Bowl with a weirdly exciting 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers, making their first appearance in the big game since 1994—and losing their first Super Bowl in six tries. The drama came in the third quarter when the lights went out in the Superdome, as the Ravens held a 28-6 lead. The 49ers made a comeback, scoring 23 of the next 26 points, but eventually, Baltimore won the game. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (287 yards, 3 touchdowns) was named the MVP.

On the surface, we are fine with this selection; no one else on the team really stood out, as the offense skill-position players either fumbled (running back Ray Rice) or had their success dependent on Flacco (wide receiver Anquan Boldin). Defensively, it was a collective effort for the Ravens with multiple players having good games, although no player had an outstanding game. The one exception to all this is Ravens WR Jacoby Jones—who arguably made the biggest play of the game to start the second half.

But let’s back up: With Baltimore leading 14-3 in the second quarter, he caught his only pass of the game—a 56-yard TD—and then to open the third quarter, he returned the kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown to get his team that 28-6 lead that proved to be insurmountable. Those two touches were explosive and tremendously impactful, in terms of momentum. Can those two plays truly take the MVP away from Flacco?

The TD pass was a great effort from both Flacco and Jones, while the kickoff return was all Jones. But we keep thinking how Flacco did plenty to build the 21-6 lead—and then helped the Ravens score just enough in the fourth quarter (two field-goal drives) to keep the lead and secure the game. We like the consistency of Flacco from start to finish here, without much of a running game (35 carries for 93 yards), either. Jones was stunning, but the Ravens QB was more responsible here for the win, all day long.

2012 NFL ROTY: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington & Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina (original); Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle (revised)

Griffin helped the Washington Redskins win the NFC East with a 10-6 record, a five-game improvement from the season before, but he may not have been the best rookie QB: Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson helped his team to a four-game improvement and a postseason slot, too. Meanwhile, Kuechly’s team finished just 7-9 and didn’t have a shot at the postseason, so we start with the two rookie QBs for starters:

  • Griffin: 3,200 passing yards with 20 TDs and 5 INTs for a 102.4 QB rating, while rushing for 815 yards and 7 TDs
  • Wilson: 3,118 passing yards with 26 TDs and 10 INTs for a 100.0 QB rating, while rushing for 489 yards and 4 TDs

Griffin seems to have the edge until we factor in the 12 fumbles—and Wilson only coughed it up half as much. That leaves Wilson with more overall TDs and fewer combined turnovers, which are huge, really. The QBR formula, devised by ESPN, gives Wilson the edge (72.7 to 69.4). We don’t usually like the measurement, but it’s worth noting here, due to the fumbles, etc. It may be splitting hairs, but Wilson is our top QB here. But is there any other rookie who can top him?

Strangely, we have four other candidates, too, including two that played for the same team that didn’t qualify for the postseason (RB Doug Martin and LB Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). That leaves us with Washington RB Alfred Morris (1,690 scrimmage yards and 13 TDs) and Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (2,198 total yards and 8 TDs)—but Morris can’t win, because of Griffin. So, how did the Colts do? Well, they improved 9 games to make the playoffs with an 11-5 game.

However, in a strange twist, Indianapolis also had the services of a rookie QB, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft: Andrew Luck. He wasn’t as good as Griffin or Wilson, though, posting just a 76.5 QB rating. But still, it’s not like Hilton engineered the Colts’ turnaround on his own, as Luck was a prize talent and a great leader in the huddle. Thus, we name Wilson as our sole ROTY winner.