The time has come to review and summarize our second NFL Thursday miniseries. Starting in 1950, we went back to award championship game MVP awards, even though they weren’t a “thing” until 1961 in the NFL. Eventually, of course, we assessed the Super Bowl MVP voting, and that dominated our analyses. In addition, however, we also looked at Rookie of the Year winners, which was given out officially from 1957 onward.
Let’s start with the Super Bowl MVPs: In 57 games now, including the most recent one, we only agreed with the chosen player’s award 24 times. That’s a 42-percent rate, which is higher than we thought it would be, in truth. It’s close enough to 50 percent, of course, and considering our choices were not emotional/in the moment, that seems to be fair enough. And yes, the number is lower because of our refusal to acknowledge Cheatin‘ Tom Brady as legitimate, so keep that in mind.
Some interesting tidbits here:
- We chose 19 defensive players as the SB MVP, when historically only 8 defensive players were voted MVP;
- We chose 2 players from the losing team for MVP, not including the one historical choice from the losing team;
- We chose only 2 players as repeat MVPs, compared to the six players historically who have won multiple SB MVPs.
We won’t list the 19 defensive players here, but most of them should not surprise you. The focus on offense throughout the decades dominates most prominent league awards, and contextual analysis (combined with hindsight) was bound to turn up a few more of them. This development is not any shock to the system, especially as more defensive statistics are available to us now than perhaps were available at the time of voting. That was definitely a factor.
The losing players we chose—Thurman Thomas in 1990 and Larry Fitzgerald in 2008—also aren’t anomalous in any particular way; their teams lost close games that went down to the wire, and those two guys were just the best players on the field for those two Super Bowls, respectively. Ironically, though, in not choosing Chuck Howley in 1970, we did choose his opposite from the winning team. We’re not sure why the voters missed that at the time.
Finally, our repeat winners—Lynn Swann (1975, 1978) and Joe Montana (1984, 1988, 1989)—both won votes on their own, but we just gave them each an extra one as well at the expense of their teammates. Our respect for Montana is well documented, but the second Swann selection might surprise some people. Yet his quarterback won that MVP vote at the time despite committing all three team turnovers, and we weren’t going to reward that kind of “value” performance.
Now, on to the ROTY voting: we started off confirming the first six NFL ROTY winners, but then it got more dicey. Overall, in 66 seasons for the trophy, we agreed with the voters 34 times, which is better percentage (51.5) than with the other award discussed above. Of course, starting in 1967, we had a better chance to agree, since there were two ROTY winners (one for offense, one for defense).
The intriguing discoveries for this award follow:
- The longest stretch we went without agreeing with the media vote was a six-season span from 1985 to 1990;
- We chose 27 defensive players as the singular ROTY between 1967 and 2022;
- Obviously, there were no repeat winners, but we did overlook some very famous winners to choose someone else.
Examples of that final tidbit include Chuck Foreman, Ottis Anderson, Billy Sims, Lawrence Taylor, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Eddie George, Julius Peppers, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Von Miller, Odell Beckham, Jr., Aaron Donald, Dak Prescott, Joey Bosa, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Kyler Murray, Nick Bosa, and Justin Herbert.
We’ve written about a lot of these guys over time, but context just meant they weren’t the most valuable rooks. It is shocking to see so many future NFL MVPs (voted or chosen by us) on that list, but quite often, first-year players were joining playoff teams that would have been fine without them. We looked for the real difference makers between a bad team and a postseason participant, so that probably accounted for a lot of the discrepancies.
In the end, this was a fun exercise, and we hope you enjoyed it. We will start a month from now on our next NFL miniseries, after we take a deserved break for a much-needed rest period. Cheers!