Jim Jividen examines all 47 Super Bowl MVPs and determines who really should have won each award. And no, he’s not still bitter about that 49ers game.
I just have to get something out of the way first. Just going to say it and then we can all move on with our lives.
Holding. Defense. First down.
What I’m doing here is taking a look at each of the 47 Super Bowl MVPs and asking the question “who really should have won each award.”
Like the Heisman, too often the winning QB is just handed the trophy and non-skill position players are totally ignored. Sometimes – they’ve gotten it right. No, there’s not a unified metric I’m using for this discussion. Ideally, to where I’d like it to lead is a list of the ten greatest performances in SB history. Or, as it turns out, the top 25, which you can find at the bottom of the piece.
I’ll put the actual named MVP in parentheses next to my new winner.
SB 1 – Max McGee (Bart Starr)
-Starr’s a good pick; I’ve got his performance as the 26th best quarterbacked game in SB history – but McGee’s numbers – 7 catches, 138 yards, 2 TD – are dominant. The Packers couldn’t run the ball at all; McGee was the center of the offense. The Chiefs defense was just average, but they had a terrific offense by Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System (and the opposite was true for Green Bay). This is exactly the kind of game where you’d want to look harder at a Packer defensive player for MVP and a Willie Wood pick with the Pack up only 4 in the third quarter seems the pivotal moment of the game; but particularly in a 1966 context, what McGee did to Willie Mitchell was the outstanding performance in SBI.
SB 2 – Herb Adderly (Bart Starr)
-Starr’s game was fine, I’ve got it 34rd all time, it’s particularly good given the downturn in Packer skill players and no standout offensive game other than Starr’s. But he was sacked 4 times, and Herb Adderly took a pick back for a touchdown and was the focal point of shutting down Lamonica/Biletnikoff in what was the latter’s best season. In a game this one sided you can’t consider a player from the losing team – but Big Ben Davidson owned the line of scrimmage with 14 tackles and a sack. The best of the four individual units in the game was Oakland’s offense, and I’m going with Adderly, one of the hundred greatest players in NFL history, as MVP.
SB 3 – Matt Snell – (Joe Namath)
-Namath’s game was fine, better when you consider the super high quality of the Colt defense (I’ve got his game 31st all time), but this is only a close race between Snell, who touched the ball on almost half of all of the Jets plays, and George Sauer, who caught 8 balls for 133 yards. Snell’s the pick, in a ball control, let’s keep it close and try to beat them, type of strategy for a Jet team that was way, way outmanned by the Colts – Snell was the guy in whose hands was the game. 30 carries, 121 yards, a touchdown; plus 4 catches for 40 yards.
SB 4 – Buck Buchanan (Len Dawson)
-Dawson was good, I have his as the 21st best QB SB ever, but were I to go with a KC offensive player I’d look at how the left side of the line, Jim Tyrer and Ed Budde, pushed the Purple People Eaters Marshall and Page around. Instead though, I’ll go defense; the Vikes leading rusher had 26 yards, Buchanan had 7 tackles and a sack, his control of the line of scrimmage gives him the nod over the left side of the Chiefs offensive line.
SB 5 – Mike Curtis (Chuck Howley)
-Points to the writers for not only picking a defensive player, but one from the losing team in an outside the box selection. But they got it wrong. Mike Curtis picked off a Craig Morton pass in Cowboy territory with the score tied to set up the game winning FG at the gun. In a game dominated by defense (Curtis also had six tackles) that was the play that decided the contest.
The best SB game from the first five years? I’m inclined to say McGee’s.
SB 6 – Duane Thomas (Roger Staubach)
-It’s tight among a lot of Cowboys; I’ve got Staubach’s game the 19th best all time. It was a game really controlled by the Cowboy flex defense – Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris were the up the middle keys to the defense and really controlled the Dolphins. By a narrow margin I’ll take Thomas – he led the team both in rushing (19 attemtps, 95 yards, touchdown) and receiving (3 for 17 yards) and he seemed the key to the 252 yards Dallas got on the ground. I could be moved to a different selection in this game, and Staubach might be the best option and I could be not picking him based on the conceit of this list.
SB 7 – Manny Fernandez (Jake Scott)
-I’m replacing one defensive player for another – but I’d suggest Fernandez owned the game from the line of scrimmage with ten tackles and a sack. Scott had two picks; he’s not a bad pick – but watch this game sometime and just see how Fernandez eats up the middle of the Redskins line.
SB 8 – Larry Csonka (Larry Csonka)
-Fernandez was similarly successful the following year, but Csonka, with 33 carries, 145 yards and 2 scores now slips by McGee as having the best game in SB history to this date. I don’t feel badly about Manny, having given him the award the year before. I’ll say the writers got this one right.
SB 9 – Joe Greene (Franco Harris)
-Franco had 158 yards rushing, and there isn’t a good metric to support Greene (outside of his int, but what happened to the Viking offense was murderous. Fran Tarkenton, an all time inner circle great quarterback, had the 5th worst QB game in SB history, the Vikes leading rusher had 18 yards, it was a game controlled by the Steel Curtain. I might go Lambert had he played a full game; Ernie Holmes might have had a better game than Greene – but I’ll go with Mean Joe as the focal point of the defense.
SB 10 – Lynn Swann (Lynn Swann)
-My apologies to Bradshaw, who had the 22nd best QB game in SB history, and to LC Greenwood and Dwight White, who both had 3 sacks – and especially to Jack Lambert and his 14 tackles. In terms of number of good candidates, the Steelers in X are the leaders to that date. I’ll take Swann and his 161 yards receiving +touchdown. The degree of difficulty of the catches is hard to overlook – I’m not sure what offense the Steelers have if not for Swann’s acrobatic game. I’m not going to pick any ties, but a Swann/Lambert tie may have been the way to go in 10.
Who had the best game through 10 SB? See, that’s hard…Franco’s 9 might have been better than Csonka’s 8…and Lambert might have been better than Swann.
I’m going to say Csonka.
1. Csonka 8
2. McGee 1
3. Swann 10
4. Fernandez 7
5. Lambert 10
SB 11 – Art Shell (Fred Biletnikoff)
-Jim Marshall didn’t have a tackle; Alan Page walked off the field before the game ended; Ken Stabler’s game is the 20th best SB QB performance ever; and Clarence Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards (105 on the left side). What that adds up to for me is Shell and Upshaw. Biletnikoff was okay, 4 balls for 79 – but he’s just an indefensibly bad pick. You’d put him behind Stabler and Stabler behind Davis – and if you’re looking at the real strength behind those Raider teams – it’s the left side of the OL. Upshaw was better, I’d suggest, than Shell for his full career – but if you make me pick between them for SB 11 – I’m taking the tackle.
I really, really like these Vikings teams; they’re under-appreciated and Tarkenton, like most QBs who got a lot of value from rushing the ball, is historically vastly underrated – but they were just awful in the SB. Here’s my favorite stat – Minnesota played in four SB….
…and didn’t score a single point in the first half in any of them. There’s a book in that somewhere.
SB 12 Harvey Martin (Harvey Martin/Randy White)
-The worst QB game in SB history – Craig Morton in SB 12. This was a game controlled completely by the Dallas defensive line. I’m not picking any ties, so forced to choose between the two MVPs; I’ll take Martin’s two sacks and forced fumble. This is the first full SB of my memory; I was 7 and I’ve also seen all 35 subsequent. I have flashes from the year before, but I lived in the Bay Area and I can’t really recall if it was from the actual game or from highlights. This year though the Orange Crush defense against America’s Team was a narrative I clearly understood. I rooted for the Cowboys that day out of a Raider motivated dislike of the Broncos. I did not watch this game at home…it may have been at my grandparents’, my recollection is hazy. If there are five games my whole life I’ve rooted for the Cowboys I’d be shocked.
SB 13 Terry Bradshaw (Terry Bradshaw)
-A terrifically quarterbacked game. Bradshaw and Staubach threw for a combined 7 scores and each had passer ratings over 100. Bradshaw was the right call here – this was clearly the best of his 4 SB and remains the 7th best QB’d SB in history. Big games for both Steeler receivers and another double digit tackle performance by Lambert – but this one is Bradshaw’s game. I was wholeheartedly for the Steelers; you had to pick a side, as an American in the late 70s, not unlike the Bird/Magic rivalry. My anti-Dallas consciousness had evolved as an 8 year old (America’s team? Screw you guys) and I threw in my lot with the Steelers. This game I definitely watched at my grandparents house, I recall going outside at halftime to throw a nerf football up in the air; I would try to play football games by myself, being both teams, deciding how far I had to go to get a first down, throwing the ball and running underneath to try to make a catch. You gotta make your own fun.
SB 14 Jack Lambert (Terry Bradshaw)
-This is a dead on switch; I’m going to call it the best defensive performance to that date – the once dominant Steeler DL which had protected an undersized Lambert at MLB had begun its decline – leaving this game to Lambert to win. He came up with 14 tackles and a game saving pick – the Rams were in Steeler territory, down five with just a handful of minutes to play when Lambert’s pick ended the drive. My grandmother had passed away in the intervening year, but again I watched the game at my grandparents’ house. I was still solidly behind the Steelers, motivated both by a sense of loyalty from the previous year and a dislike of the Rams, who I now recognized were the natural rival of my 49ers.
SB 15 Jim Plunkett (Jim Plunkett)
-Rod Martin had 3 picks and five tackles. It is a superlative, just out of the box performance and would have made him the MVP in more than half of the first 14 SB. But Plunkett’s passer rating of 145 was supercrazy – and as it was against a really strong Eagle defense it still is the 4th best QB game in SB history. This game I watched with my mom; we were heavily pro-Raiders; my dad and I cheered violently in that Cleveland playoff game when Brian Sipe’s inability to throw the ball into Lake Erie caused a Mike Davis interception. Oakland blew the Eagles out and I had gotten used to the team for which I was rooting winning the SB.
Top games through SB 15
1. Plunkett 15
2. Lambert 14
3. Bradshaw 13
4. Csonka 8
5. McGee 1
SB 16 Ray Wersching (Joe Montana)
My Niners win their first SB and I’m saying its the kicker who should have been MVP?
Yeah, it’s tough. Joe was good – it was the worst of his 4 SB games, but still the 32nd best in SB history (that was the lowest until Sunday, Kaepernick wasn’t bad, certainly, he had a qb rating of 90+ and that doesn’t account for all the work he did on the ground – but he’s down at #50 all time) and I don’t hate him for MVP – there just aren’t any other offensive players with noteworthy games (maybe Cross and Fahnhorst). Defensively, the key possession was the goal line stand – Dan Bunz was easily the most important figure of that sequence, but it was essentially all he played during the game. Were I to pick a defensive player of the game, it might be Jack Reynolds, 7 tackles a sack and made a play in that goal line stand. I don’t really quibble with either Joe or Hacksaw. But Wersching made 4 FG and his 2 squib kicks gave the Niners a field position advantage the Bengals had to fight uphill all day long to overcome. I’ve thought about this for years, honestly, considering alternate ways to look at the Niners SB wins. Gun to my head – it’s Wersching. Fortunately, there’s not a gun to my head. That would be a bad evening. I watched this game with my mom as well, we moved, weirdly considering the opponent, from San Francisco to Ohio in between SB XV and XVI – do you remember where you were when Dwight caught the ball to beat the Cowboys? I was with my parents listening to the game on the radio – as our power literally went out during the drive. It’s in my top 5 all time sports memories.
SB 17 John Riggins (John Riggins)
38 carries, 166 yards and a touchdown. That’s it. That’s all there is. It doesn’t really appear a smash mouth game decided by the OL – the defense actually might have been the stronger unit. But the strongest individual performance – I’m gonna say the writers got it right. This was memorable to me as the first game I “lost”; I didn’t like this Redskin team, they were my new Cowboys, I was against them and in a loud way. I may have dropped some of my 7th grade cash monies in this one. I don’t know if the start time was later, but this feels like a night game to me, in the way that our win the year before, even though I watched it on the east coast as well, still felt like the afternoon games that I watched back in California. I recall specifically watching this game with both my parents.
SB 18 Marcus Allen (Marcus Allen)
If it were any other performance but this one, you’d go defense – Haynes/Hayes dominating from the secondary, Reggie Kinlaw pushing through the Hogs OL. But Marcus Allen rushed for nearly 200 yards at almost 10 yds/carry and had the greatest single run in SB history. That he’s my favorite non-Niner ever plays no role in my saying that to that date, his was the greatest SB in history. A fun game, the first one I recall watched with the five of us – my parents and my younger brothers as well. I think I owned a Raider sweatshirt back in ’84.
SB 19 Joe Montana (Joe Montana)
The first 18 win team in NFL history, still my favorite ever SB. Dan Marino had one of the great all time seasons, but his SB performance is 64th of all QB games; so it’s reasonable to look at the Niner defense – and what you’d see there is a terrific game by both Dwaine Board (two sacks) and Big Hands Johnson. But the offensive performance from Roger Craig, 135 total yards and a record 3 TDs jumps pretty far ahead of the pack (probably you can youtube OJ Simpson from the pregame picking a big SB from Craig. But holy cats – it’s the fifth best SB game by a QB, not only 3 TDs passing but another one rushing and nearly 60 yards on the ground for Joe. Like most 80s Niner games, this was a full household experience; I have very few memories, through the first 42 years of my life, as happy as watching a big Niner game with my family.
SB 20 Richard Dent (Richard Dent)
Someone from that defense had to get picked. Dent forced two fumbles and had a sack and a half; I think I was the only one in the family still with the game by the fourth quarter. It’s the Super Bowl, you watch ever play.
Here’s the top 5 through the first two decades of SB.
1. Allen – 18
2. Plunkett – 15
3. Montana – 19
4. Lambert -14
5. Bradshaw – 13
SB 21 Phil Simms (Phil Simms)
22 of 25 is sort of a conversation ender. It’s the 3rd best QB performance in SB history, making it the best SB game for anyone to that date. Carl Banks had a good game too. I watched it by myself in Washington DC, part of a junior class trip. I joined things in high school. I’m not entirely sure why. It seems unlike me.
SB 22 Timmy Smith (Doug Williams)
The Redskins might still be scoring in that second quarter. Check one of those stations high up on your guide, like the Longhorn Sports Network. Doug Williams was the big story of the game, and he performed, still the 8th best game by a SB quarterback. Ricky Sanders had the best game for a WR in SB history to that date – 9 balls for 193 yards and two scores, and he’d be an equally good choice. I’m taking Smith; 22 carries, 204 yards and 2 scores – the best game by a RB, still, in SB history. It was a tour de force by the Skins (I rooted for the Broncos in 21, in a NYG protest vote given how thoroughly they hammered my Niners in the NFC title game, but here my Broncos dislike overcame my Redskins dislike.) These were hard back to back SBs with which to be engaged if you were me. This was the first SB where my parents flipped the front room and living room in our Prospect, Ohio home. I liked the other configuration better, but this provided more room.
SB 23 Jerry Rice (Jerry Rice)
I was a freshman in college now, blowing off striking a set from a just concluded play to drive back home. I had to ask permission – but I wasn’t so much asking; the chances that I wasn’t going to spend the day back home readying for a Niner SB were nonexistent. The one moment, really in my life, most memorable with all five of us was the moment when John Taylor caught the touchdown pass – we all leapt from our respective seats simultaneously. 4 options for MVP here; it was largely our defense that carried the bulk of the game. You’d look at Ronnie Lott with his memorable hit on Ickey Woods and leading a secondary that limited a historically underrated Esiason to the 73rd best QB game in SB history. You’d look at Charles Haley, a terror from the edge with 2 sacks and 7 unassisted tackles. You’d look at Joe – this is the 11th best QB game in SB history, and then settle on Jerry – 11 balls for 215 and a score and more than anyone responsible for our winning the game. If someone can dominate a football game from the WR position – it was Rice in SB23.
SB 24 Joe Montana (Joe Montana)
Here were the scores of the Niners playoff games leading up to SB 24.
Niners 44 Vikings 13
Niners 30 Rams 3
And then the SB was 55-10. It’s the most dominant postseason in NFL history.
This is the best QB game in SB history, and given that Denver had a really good defense, just a gobsmacking performance. The competition is Jerry – 7 balls for 148 and 3 scores. Like the writers, we give it to Rice in 23 and Montana in 24. I was 19; again, I came back home – it’s the last SB I’d watch with anyone for several years. It’s the capper, really, of this Niner team’s dominance. The ’94 team was tremendous, but it was less a continuation than a largely changed group. This was a ridiculously fun game.
SB 25 Thurman Thomas (Ottis Anderson)
It’s hard to pick a losing team’s player for MVP of a single game; it really has to be a significant disparity.
Here’s Anderson’s numbers: 21 carries, 102 yards, 1 score, 1 catch, 7 yards. A good game.
Here’s Thomas: 15 carries, 135 yards, a score, 5 catches, 55 yards. Thomas was better. Hostetler was good too, the 37th best QB game in SB history – but my vote, without hesitation, goes to Thomas. I had my first apartment now, as a 20 year old college junior. I watched the game on my couch, disinterested in the game, given the crushing way in which we lost the NFC Title game (and Joe’s Niner career effectively ended) and the hysterical cheerleading of the broadcast for a war I thought was a bad idea. Clearly, I was wrong, as there’s certainly been no blowback on us from that invasion over the past two decades.
25 down. I’ll make this a top 10.
1. Montana 24
2. Simms 21
3. Rice 23
4. Rice 24
5. Smith 22
7. Allen 18
9. Montana 19
10. Sanders 22
SB 26 Jim Lachey (Mark Rypien)
Rypien had a terrific year for the best team of the SB era (yes, I think the ’91 Skins were the best football team of all time) and his game here, the 37th best of all time, is fine – but not really comparable given the context of the other quarterbacked games of the era. Both Clark and Monk had over a hundred yards receiving and Wilbur Marshall had 11 tackles and a sack. But I’m going to this version of the Hogs, specifically Jim Lachey who completely took Bruce Smith, one of the great players of all time, out of the game. I have very little memory of this game; I was now a college senior, I watched it at my then girlfriend’s apartment in a largely halfhearted “why am I stuck rooting for the Bills again” way.
SB 27 Troy Aikman (Troy Aikman)
Aikman, like Bradshaw, is a little historically overrated based on the success of his team, which really outstripped his statistical contribution. But not in this one. His is still the 6th best QB game in a SB. The Cowboy defense, particularly the line and Ken Norton, was also dominant, the godawful Bills turned the ball over 9 times (I was still stuck rooting for them, couldn’t they have played a team I didn’t hate in this run?) but this is the best game of Aikman’s life and not a close call. I’m now in my first year of law school, although still in the same town as where I went to college, in one of the three worst decisions I’ve ever made. No, I’m not going to do that list today, I’m watching the game in my new apartment. It was a hole. ’93 would not be a great year.
SB 28 James Washington (Emmitt Smith)
James Washington had eleven tackles and a pick and a forced fumble and a returned fumble for a score to tie a game that had largely been controlled by the Bills. Emmitt was who he was, a ball control machine, pounding away at the Bills in the second half, finishing the game with 132 yards and two scores. He was Emmitt; I dig – and he owned the second half – but there is just no way to overlook Washington’s game. I was about to get dumped – but didn’t know it yet and my disappointment was largely contained this day to having to root for Buffalo on their way to another certain defeat.
SB 29 Steve Young (Steve Young)
My law school clerkship had just ended, and after a year and a half I felt confident I did not want to practice law. That would not stop me from practicing law, but a combination of protracted post-breakup depression, an increasing inability to deal with people on almost a holistic level, and my getting rejected from every decent legal job on both sides of the Mississippi did not bode well for my career success. Who was successful were my Niners – this was the 8th best regular season team in Niner history; the year before the 11th best; the year before that the 3rd best – a better regular season Niner team than every SB winner save for ’84. But despite the run of these Steve Young Niners we had fallen short of the Cowboys. Until here – we got over the hump in the NFC Title game and I flew to Florida to see my family to watch SB 29 (and attend the fan festival, during which I won a trivia contest and got to broadcast a clip of Dwight’s catch with my brother Joe).
I won a healthy amount of money having given all 18 1/2 and then had to sweat the possibility of a Charger backdoor cover. It was a laugher; Young’s game is the second best by a QB in SB history (and, given he added 49 yards rushing to 6 TDs in the air, I would never criticize anyone who wanted him to be first) and Jerry added a 10 catch 149 yard 3 score game to his resume.
SB 30 Troy Aikman (Larry Brown)
I know, right? I’m taking an award away from a defensive player and giving it to a largely overrated QB. Madness.
But Aikman’s game was good – the 28th best ever – and Brown’s picks were right place/right time, and in one instance, caused due to his getting beaten on a play. There aren’t any skill positions that stand out, and Emmitt had a particularly subpar game – the inability to run the ball takes the OL out of play – and looking at defense you don’t really see a special performance. This is another one I could be talked out of (Larry Allen? Deion? Chad Hennings?) but right now it’s a typical sportswriter I can’t find anyone else to pick selection. I made some money on this one too – taking two touchdowns and the Steelers while still picking Dallas to win outright. Nothing I enjoy more than winning on both sides. I passed the California Bar in the summer of ’95 and was toiling away. The less said about the rest of the 90s, the better. Not my best decade. I liked me some Pearl Jam, however.
1. Montana 24
2. Young 29
3. Simms 21
4. Rice 23
5. Rice 24
6. Rice 29
7. Smith 22
8. Allen 18
9. Plunkett 15
10. Montana 19
SB 31 – Reggie White (Desmond Howard)
254 return yards and a score – if you don’t give it to Desmond Howard in SB 31, you’re never going to give it to someone for kick returns. And I’m probably not. Reggie White had 3 sacks and 4 pressures, this may have been the best defensive performance in SB history. He wins. I don’t hate you if you pick the Heisman winner, but I’m going with one of the top ten players in league history.
SB 32 – Terrell Davis (Terrell Davis)
I’m in Florida now, teaching high school history – so I was able to, once again, watch the SB with my parents. I didn’t like Brett Favre in a pretty serious way, so I was with the Patriots in 31, and swallowed hard here to root for Denver in 32. There’s no other candidate but Davis – 30 carries, 157 yards, 3 scores – it stands just behind Smith’s game as the best performance by a RB in SB history.
SB 33 Rod Smith (John Elway)
It’s the 27h best QB’d game in SB history (Elway’s best) so Elway was a defensible choice, Darrien Gordon had two picks, and he’s in the conversation – but my vote is for Smith’s 5 catches for 152 yards and a score. I was heavily on the Falcons side, as for the first time I entered Niner legacy protection mode and didn’t want to see a second title for Elway. I took the Falcons plus the touchdown. That did not work out. My dad was irritated with my rooting for the Falcons, as they had bounced us from the playoffs; he was unreceptive to my Montana > Elway needs.
SB 34 Mike Jones (Kurt Warner)
I like Kurt Warner even less than Brett Favre, but this is a perfectly fine pick. He threw for over 4 bills and I have his as the 14th best QBd game in SB history. Bruce and Holt both had 100+ yards yards receiving – this was the greatest show on turf playing their game. But Mike Jones made the greatest defensive play in SB history – an open field goal line tackle at the gun to win the SB. He also had 8 other tackles in the game. You can pick Warner and feel fine about it – without hesitation, I’m going Jones.
SB 35 Ray Lewis (Ray Lewis)
Like Joe Greene in IX, there’s not a metric specifically pointing to Lewis – but like IX this was a game won by the defense, with NY getting across midfield a total of twice. Michael McCrary andhad three sacks, Rod Woodson, one of the great players of all time, led a solid secondary. The pick of Lewis, who did bat down 4 balls, is reflective, like Greene in IX, largely of a sense that his play was the key to the structure of the defense. I could be persuaded to flip to McCrary. I watched both of those games with my parents. It was hard to muster much passion. I rooted for Tennessee out of a Rams dislike and was with the Ravens here. Probably, my investment on the SB increased during these years out of an otherwise disinterest in the game. This is a mistake.
The new top 10 is the same as the old top 10. But I’m sliding Reggie White into the 10th spot. When we get to 40, I’ll make it a top 20.
SB 36 Ty Law (Tom Brady)
This was a bad pick, a “aw, let’s go ahead and pick the QB” pick – Brady’s game is middling of all SB QB performances, 44th of all time, and NE’s offense was whipped all day; if you need to pick an offensive player – it’s Vinatieri for a 48 year yard GW FG at the gun. I want to go defense, the Rams were a lights out, all time offense and couldn’t score – Willie McGinest gets pass rush points; I’ll take Law for his pick run back for a score and 8 tackles (there’s also a rule named after Law which maybe the officials at SB47 could have brushed up on). I could be persuaded that a different defensive player, like Ray Lewis the year before, was the real key. I lost heavy on this game, both side and giving the two touchdowns. I had just bought my house before this SB, but wasn’t set up enough yet to watch the game, so once again it was with my parents.
SB 37 Simeon Rice (Dexter Jackson)
And then I lost even more on this game. My life had turned over again by SB37. I left the high school job I had since SB32 and was now getting a masters in history and teaching undergrads. Here, I hosted my parents for the SB; we were all in with the Raiders, both because it was a Bay Area team back in the SB and to see Jerry Rice in what would pretty clearly be his last time on the big stage (5 catches, 77 yards, score; I made a super dumb “will Jerry get a score” investment that just turned out well). I got this game wrong too. The Bucs defense ran this game – taking back 3 Gannon picks for scores. Dwight Smith got two of them – and two int’s taken back for scores is hard to pass up. Rice had two sacks and Derrick Brooks, with a pick returned for a score, had big games. A “Simeon Rice dominated like Richard Dent” argument is a fair one. The play of the DBs was really set up by the front 7, and Smith’s second score was in garbage time.
SB 38 Deion Branch (Tom Brady)
Brady’s game was good, I have it 25th all time for SB QB – but you can’t make him MVP when Delhomme was better, the 12th best all time. Mike Vrabel had a good game with two sacks, but Dan Morgan had 18 tackles for the Panthers. This was a shootout game anyway, and the best player on the field was Deion Branch with 10 balls, 143 yards and a score (although Muhsin Muhammad had 4 balls for 140 and a score). Were the Panthers to have won, it would have been Delhomme, and I’d be receptive to that choice, but I’ll go Branch.
SB 39 Ted Bruschi (Deion Branch)
Brady was better in 39, the 16th best QB game in SB history, and his best, in what sort of looks like a makeup call, he lost out to the guy who should have won the year before, Branch. I’d solidly go Brady were I picking an offensive player, but Bruschi and Rodney Harrison each had 7 tackles, a sack, and a pick. Harrison’s ended the game, but the Eagles passed the ball pretty easily yet didn’t run effectively – and Bruschi’s pick might have been the pivotal play in the game. I rooted against the Patriots in both of these two SBs, and watched each game alone; my workload was heavy, I drove through my MA in a year and a half, taking full courseloads without break, and here I had just started my first term as a full time college instructor, and while my actual workload was then just a fraction of what it would become, everything was brand new, requiring heavy preparation. I think I was working through both games, hence my not seeing the parents.
SB 40 Ike Taylor (Hines Ward)
Ward wasn’t great, dropping a TD pass. Big Ben was worse, just abysmal in his first SB, the 71st best QB performance in the game’s history. With no one really jumping out I’ll go with the most important play of the game – Ike Taylor’s near goal line interception that snuffed what looked like a Seattle comeback win (he also had 7 tackles). It was not a well played nor officiated game. My parents moved in the year between 39 and 40 and would move again just a couple of years later, but I was now able to go back to their house in 40 and have remained doing so since. My dad has passed away since SB 44; the one thing I’ve most learned over the past year is you don’t want to win a World Series in the year your father dies. It just reminds you of the empty space.
There wasn’t a game in that stretch of 5 that makes the top 10, so it stays the same.
1. Montana 24
2. Young 29
3. Simms 21
4. Rice 23
5. Rice 24
6. Rice 29
7. Smith 22
8. Allen 18
9. Plunkett 15
10. White 31
And now we add the second 10, for a full top 20.
11. Montana 19
12. Davis 32
13. Aikman 27
14. Sanders 22
15. Montana 23
16. Lambert 14
17. Bradshaw 13
18. Williams 22
19. Dent 20
20. Csonka 8
SB 41 Dominic Rhodes (Peyton Manning)
Manning may retire as the greatest QB in history, but he has struggled in the SB, more broadly in the postseason, and specifically in this game, where his was the 45th best SB ever making this a really poor pick. The Bears missed 15 tackles; Kevin Hayden made a game altering pick/touchdown that might make him a good choice. I’ll take Dom Rhodes, 21 carries/113 yards and a score with virtually all of those yards coming after contact. His was the best game in an undistinguished field.
SB 42 Justin Tuck (Eli Manning)
The other Manning rolled out the 35th best QB game in SB history and was similarly a poor pick. NE had one of the great offenses of all time, carrying the team to their undefeated record – and they were largely controlled by the NY front line. I’ll take Tuck with two sacks and a forced fumble.
SB 43 James Harrison (Santonio Holmes)
Holmes was good – Larry Fitzgerald was better; Darnell Dockett dominated the first half, he hit the Steelers for 3 sacks – but the game was totally turned around at the end of the first half with Harrison’s 100 yard interception returned for a TD – like Mike Jones, sometimes one pivotal play overwhelms the entire game, and in 43 it was Harrison’s.
SB 44 Drew Brees (Drew Brees)
The first correct MVP call since Lewis in 35. Brees had the 17th best QB game in SB history. Tracy Porter’s pick ended the game; were Brees to have been only average, he’d be the side.
SB 45 Aaron Rodgers (Aaron Rodgers)
Big defensive plays by Collins and Matthews, a lot of receiving yards for Nelson – but pretty conclusively it’s Rodgers for 45. I’ve got Rodgers as the 9th best QB performance in SB history.
SB 46 Eli Manning (Eli Manning)
Good games at WR for both Nicks and Manningham; NY had the ball 15 minutes more than the Patriots without turning it over. I’ve got Manning’s game as the 24th best QB game in SB history, the best of any of the Manning SB games.
SB 47 Joe Flacco (Joe Flacco)
It’s a top 10 QB game for Flacco, 3 scores and no picks. Jones had the two touchdowns and the interior of the Ravens line really controlled the Niners more than one would have anticipated – but it’s solidly Flacco, you go over a QB rating of 120 in the SB and you’re the MVP. Holding. Defense. First down. Son of a gun.
Here are the 25 best performances in SB history:
1. Joe Montana 24
2. Steve Young 29
3. Phil Simms 21
4. Jerry Rice 23
5. Jerry Rice 24
6. Jerry Rice 29
7. Timmy Smith 22
8. Jim Plunkett 15
9. Marcus Allen 18
10. Reggie White 31
11. Joe Montana 19
12. Terrell Davis 32
13. Troy Aikman 27
14. Ricky Sanders 22
15. Joe Montana 23
16. Jack Lambert 14
17. Terry Bradshaw 13
18. Doug Williams 22
19. Richard Dent 20
20. Larry Csonka 8
21. Max McGee 1
22. Art Shell 11
23. Rod Martin 15
24. Justin Tuck 42
25. Roger Craig 19