Our second NFL Thursday miniseries continues on in its usual fashion, this time out examining the 2018 season, one that culminated with the last Super Bowl to feature the cheatin’ New England Patriots and their lying quarterback. Remember, we’re looking here at awarded Super Bowl MVPs (20-for-52 so far) and Rookies of the Year (33-for-61). We look forward to the day when we don’t have to sift through the trash for columns like this, although today is not that day … enjoy, nonetheless!
Super Bowl LIII MVP: Julian Edelman, WR, New England (original);
Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England (revised, vacated)
The Patriots (who should not even have been here) beat the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, in perhaps the most boring Super Bowl ever, and the first one we didn’t even bother watching. New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had been suspended by the NFL for PED use earlier in 2018, won the MVP vote, somehow. We’re not sure how you give the MVP to a player on an offense that scored just one touchdown and posted the lowest scoring total for a Super Bowl winner, ever. But whatever.
Edelman managed to catch 10 passes for 141 yards while rushing once for 8 yards as well. But again, no player on this offense deserves the MVP when the group scored just 13 points despite rolling up 407 total yards and getting the benefit of nine penalties and a turnover from the opponent. Defensively, then, these are our candidates: cornerbacks Jonathan Jones (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL) and Stephon Gilmore (5 tackles, 3 PDs, 1 INT), or linebacker Dont’a Hightower (2 sacks, 2 TFLs, 1 PD).
We think it’s weird Jones had so many tackles without actually defending any passes, which even Hightower managed. So, this comes down to Gilmore, who we think did more widespread damage than Hightower, whose efforts were somewhat concentrated. In truth, we don’t really care, as we know the Pats were cheating: How else did they shut down the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game and then the Rams in the Super Bowl, after a relatively middling defensive season? Geez, the answer is so obvious.
The Chiefs scored 565 points to lead the NFL, and the Rams scored 527 points to lead the NFC. New England had the 10th-best sabermetrically ranked defense on the year, but the Pats really had it all figured out in the postseason, didn’t they? Remember, New England was busted again in 2019 for illegally filming an opponent. Clearly, they were doing it in the 2018 postseason, too. Bleh. Whatever, as it’s all vacated, anyway. Gilmore wins our symbolic award analysis.
2018 NFL ROTY: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants & Shaquille Leonard, LB, Indianapolis (original); Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago (revised)
The New York Giants finished under .500 for the year, rendering rookie running back Saquon Barkley irrelevant in this discussion, but the Colts won 10 games to make the AFC playoffs, so LB Shaquille Leonard (111 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 INTs) is still in the discussion. Who else can we consider? Really, only two other defensive guys were good enough to help their teams to the postseason, so we have a three-way defensive showdown.
Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith (89 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 INT) and San Diego Chargers strong safety Derwin James (75 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 INTs). So, how did each rook help his team? Indy improved a whopping 6 games, but that was mostly due to quarterback Andrew Luck returning to the lineup after missing a full season in 2017. The Bears improved 7 games (second-year QB Mitch Trubisky made significant strides with a new coach), while the Chargers improved a mere 3 games.
Chicago’s defense only improved 37 points, while San Diego’s defense actually got worse. Go figure. By default, almost, we’re going to give this nod to Smith for having the most serious impact on his team’s improved performance that resulted in a postseason appearance. Plus, the Bears won their division, while the two AFC teams were wild cards. We’d listen to all arguments on this one, because we know it’s a thin argument—but it’s all we have in us today.