The Real Super Bowl MVPs

When it comes to selecting the Super Bowl's best players, it's usually all about the quarterbacks, even though that's often not been the reality
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When the Chiefs and Buccaneers face off in Super Bowl LV, you can pretty much expect either Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady to be named the game’s MVP — regardless of whether they deserve it. That’s what history has shown us. When it comes to selecting a Super Bowl MVP, the voters don’t get it right very often.

Super Bowl I — Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10

Who won: Green Bay QB Bart Starr

Who should have won: Green Bay WR Max McGee

The fascination with QBs began early. Starr completed 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, but more than half the yardage (138 on seven catches) and both touchdowns went to McGee. On top of that, McGee was a backup and legend has it he was hung over in the game. That should have deserved something, no?

Super Bowl II — Green Bay 33, Oakland 14

Who won: Green Bay QB Bart Starr

Who should have won: Starr

Even though Starr’s numbers were rather pedestrian (13-for-24 for 202 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions), this was a game without a clear standout.

Super Bowl III — N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7

Who won: Jets QB Joe Namath

Who should have won: Jets RB Matt Snell

Namath’s “guarantee” was one of the most overhyped moments in sports history — really, what would have happened to him if the Jets hadn’t won? — and then that was compounded by him winning MVP honors when there was not one, but two players more deserving. One was defensive back Randy Beverly, who had two interceptions in the end zone. And then there was Snell, who rushed for 121 yards and the Jets’ only touchdown, in addition to catching four passes.

Super Bowl IV — Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7

Who won: Kansas City QB Len Dawson

Who should have won: FS Johnny Robinson

Sorry, but 142 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception are not MVP numbers. The Chiefs won this game because of their defense, so the MVP should have been somebody from that side of the ball. We gave it to Robinson because he had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Super Bowl V — Baltimore 16, Dallas 13

Who won: Dallas LB Chuck Howley

Who should have won: Howley

In a game that featured 11 turnovers, it only made sense that a defensive player would get the nod. Howley, with his two interceptions, was as good a choice as any, even in a losing cause.

Super Bowl VI — Dallas 24, Miami 3

Who won: Roger Staubach

Who should have won: Dallas LB Chuck Howley

Yes, Howley should have made it back-to-back. Again, you hold a team to three points, it’s the defense that deserves the most credit, not a quarterback who passes for 119 yards. And if an offensive player had to be selected, it should have been RB Duane Thomas (95 yards rushing, one touchdown) and not Staubach. Howley, though, should have gotten the nod with an interception and a fumble recovery that set up a touchdown and field goal, respectively.

Super Bowl VII — Miami 14, Washington 7

Who won: Miami S Jake Scott

Who should have won: Scott

No major gripe here because of Scott’s two interceptions, although a case could have been for fellow safety Dick Anderson, who had seven tackles and a fumble recovery, and defensive tackle Manny Fernandez, who dominated the line of scrimmage.

RELATED: Assessing Jake Scott's Place in Dolphins History

Super Bowl VIII — Miami 24, Minnesota 7

Who won: Miami RB Larry Csonka

Who should have won: Csonka.

A slam dunk: 145 rushing yards, two touchdowns.

Super Bowl IX — Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6

Who won: Pittsburgh RB Franco Harris

Who should have won: Harris

Considering the Steelers held the Vikings to 119 total yards and without an offensive touchdown, it’s tempting to look toward the defense, but no player stood out as much as Harris with his 158 yards rushing and one score.

Super Bowl X — Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17

Who won: Pittsburgh WR Lynn Swann

Who should have won: Swann

Guess it’s impossible to ignore Swann’s four acrobatic catches, but you could make a major case for DE L.C. Greenwood, who had three sacks, including one to set up the punt block that turned the game around and another when the Steelers were clinging to a 15-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Super Bowl XI — Oakland 32, Minnesota 14

Who won: Oakland WR Fred Biletnikoff

Who should have won: Oakland RB Clarence Davis

The Raiders won the game because they rushed for 266 yards, including 137 yards by Davis, so how does Biletnikoff get the nod after catching four passes for 79 yards without a touchdown?

Super Bowl XII — Dallas 27, Denver 10

Who won: Dallas DT Randy White, Dallas DE Harvey Martin

Who should have won: Dallas DB Randy Hughes

The Cowboys won this game because they forced eight — yes, eight — Broncos turnovers, and Hughes had an interception and two fumble recoveries.

Super Bowl XIII — Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31

Who won: Pittsburgh QB Terry Bradshaw

Who should have won: Bradshaw

Tough to argue with that one considering Bradshaw threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns.

Super Bowl XIV — Pittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19

Who won: Pittsburgh QB Terry Bradshaw

Who should have won: Pittsburgh MLB Jack Lambert

Yep, Bradshaw threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, but can’t give it to a guy who also had three picks, including two when the Steelers were down 19-17 in the second half. Lambert was in on 14 tackles and came up with the biggest defensive play of the game with an interception in Pittsburgh territory with the Steelers clinging to a 24-19 lead late.

Super Bowl XV — Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10

Who won: Oakland QB Jim Plunkett

Who should have won: Oakland LB Rod Martin

Yes, Plunkett did throw three touchdown passes, but Martin’s three interceptions trumps that.

Super Bowl XVI — San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21

Who won: San Francisco QB Joe Montana

Who should have won: San Francisco CB Eric Wright

Montana came up with a few big plays despite not having big passing numbers (157 yards), but Wright forced a fumble in the first half and had a key interception in the fourth quarter.

Super Bowl XVII — Washington 27, Miami 17

Who won: Washington RB John Riggins

Who should have won: Riggins

Slam dunk: 166 yards rushing, game-clinching 43-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1.

Super Bowl XVIII — L.A. Raiders 38, Washington 9

Who won: Los Angeles RB Marcus Allen

Who should have won: Allen

Another easy call: 191 yards rushing, two touchdowns.

Super Bowl XIX — San Francisco 38, Miami 16

Who won: San Francisco QB Joe Montana

Who should have won: Montana

331 passing yards, three touchdowns, no picks, enough said.

Super Bowl XX — Chicago 46, New England 10

Who won: Chicago DE Richard Dent

Who should have won: Dent

Half the Chicago defense would have made for good candidates, but Dent had 1.5 sacks and forced two fumbles.

Super Bowl XXI — N.Y. Giants 39, Denver 20

Who won: N.Y. Giants QB Phil Simms

Who should have won: Simms

It doesn’t get much better than 22-for-25.

Super Bowl XXII — Washington 42, Denver 10

Who won: Washington QB Doug Williams

Who should have won: Williams, Washington RB Timmy Smith

Awarding co-MVPs had been done before, so how could Smith and his 204 yards rushing be left out completely?

Super Bowl XXIII — San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16

Who won: San Francisco WR Jerry Rice

Who should have won: Rice

Another great game for Montana with 357 yards, two TDs and the great game-winning drive, but Rice’s 11 catches for 215 yards couldn’t be beat.

Super Bowl XXIV — San Francisco 55, Denver 10

Who won: San Francisco QB Joe Montana

Who should have won: San Francisco WR Jerry Rice

Maybe it should have been co-MVPs again with Montana and Rice, but a receiver with seven catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns should trump a QB with 297 yards and five scores.

Super Bowl XXV — N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19

Who won: N.Y. Giants RB Ottis Anderson

Who should have won: Buffalo RB Thurman Thomas

Yes, Anderson had a good game, but he was on the winning side only because Scott Norwood missed the field goal at the end (sorry, Bills fans). Thomas was by far the best player on the field that day. His 190 total yards (135 rushing, 55 receiving) were more than half the Bills’ final tally of 371.

Super Bowl XXVI — Washington 37, Buffalo 24

Who won: Washington QB Mark Rypien

Who should have won: Washington WR Gary Clark

No major problem with the selection of Rypien, who threw for 292 yards with two TDs and one pick, but Clark’s seven catches for 114 yards and a score beat that.

Super Bowl XXVII — Dallas 52, Buffalo 17

Who won: Dallas QB Troy Aikman

Who should have won: Dallas WR Michael Irvin

A good game by Aikman, but Irvin had six catches for 114 yards and his two touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half turned a 14-10 game into a 28-10 cushion.

Super Bowl XXVIII — Dallas 30, Buffalo 13

Who won: Dallas RB Emmitt Smith

Who should have won: Dallas FS James Washington

This was a bad miss. Yes, Smith rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns, but Washington’s 46-yard fumble return tied the game at 13-13 in the third quarter and his interception set up the touchdown that made it 27-13. Oh, one more thing, Washington led Dallas with 11 tackles.

Super Bowl XXIX — San Francisco 49, San Diego 26

Who won: San Francisco QB Steve Young

Who should have won: Young

Six TD passes. Yep, an easy call.

Super Bowl XXX — Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17

Who won: Dallas CB Larry Brown

Who should have won: Brown

Two interceptions returned 77 yards to set up two touchdowns in a 10-point game. Yep, an easy call.

Super Bowl XXXI — Green Bay 35, New England 21

Who won: Green Bay KR Desmond Howard

Who should have won: Howard

Yes, Howard had only one big play in the game, but his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter after New England had cut the Packers’ lead to 28-21 was THE PLAY of the game.

Super Bowl XXXII — Denver 31, Green Bay 24

Who won: Denver RB Terrell Davis

Who should have won: Davis

Davis has to get the call with his 157 yards and three touchdowns, even if the Packers let him run freely into the end zone on the last one so they could get the ball back.

Super Bowl XXXIII — Denver 34, Atlanta 19

Who won: Denver QB John Elway

Who should have won: Elway

Elway goes out in style with 336 yards passing and a rushing touchdown. Really, how could voters not have given it to him?

Super Bowl XXXIV — St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16

Who won: St. Louis QB Kurt Warner

Who should have won: Warner, St. Louis WR Isaac Bruce

Warner passed for 414 yards and two touchdowns, and Bruce had six catches for 162 yards and the game-winning 73-yard score. Which is more impressive? That’s right, split the MVP.

Super Bowl XXXV — Baltimore 34, N.Y. Giants 7

Who won: Baltimore LB Ray Lewis

Who should have won: Baltimore KR/PR Jermaine Lewis

The Ravens defense had four interceptions and four sacks and Lewis had none of those, so exactly how did he get the MVP? If anybody on defense should have won the MVP, it was CB Duane Starks, who returned an interception for a touchdown. But Jermaine Lewis was an even bigger factor. His 34-yard punt return in the first half set up a touchdown and he then scored on a 84-yard kickoff return right after the Giants’ Ronald Dixon had returned a kickoff for a touchdown to cut Baltimore’s lead to 17-7.

Super Bowl XXXVI — New England 20, St. Louis 17

Who won: New England QB Tom Brady

Who should have won: New England CB Ty Law

Yes, Brady led a tremendous game-winning field goal drive, but the only reason the Patriots were in that position was because of their defense. Law not only led the team with eight tackles, he also had a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Super Bowl XXXVII — Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21

Who won: Tampa Bay FS Dexter Jackson

Who should have won: Tampa Bay CB Dwight Smith

Both Jackson and Smith had two interceptions, and perhaps the voters dismissed Smith because both of his came in the second half after the outcome had been decided. That’s valid, but he returned both his interceptions for touchdowns. Jackson’s picks, meanwhile, only resulted in one field goal, so it’s not like they were the difference in the game.

Super Bowl XXXVIII — New England 32, Carolina 29

Who won: New England QB Tom Brady

Who should have won: Brady

This MVP award was legit. Brady not only set up the game-winning field goal with a last-minute drive, he also passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns.

Super Bowl XXXIX — New England 24, Philadelphia 21

Who won: New England WR Deion Branch

Who should have won: Branch

A case could be made for S Rodney Harrison, who had two interceptions and a sack, but his second pick came with the Eagles at their own 5 with 17 seconds left when they were in desperation mode. With 11 catches for 133 yards, Branch was a solid choice.

Super Bowl XL — Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10

Who won: Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward

Who should have won: Ward

Five catches for 123 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown. No objections here.

Super Bowl XLI — Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17

Who won: Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning

Who should have won: Indianapolis RB Dominic Rhodes

One of the worst selections ever. Manning passed for 247 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Rhodes, meanwhile, rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown and this was a game where the Colts running game, not their passing game, controlled the action. Heck, even cornerback Kelvin Hayden would have been a better choice based on his 56-yard interception return for the final score of the game.

Super Bowl XLII — N.Y. Giants 17, New England 14

Who won: N.Y. Giants QB Eli Manning

Who should have won: N.Y. Giants DE Justin Tuck

Yes, Manning produced a dramatic game-winning touchdown drive. But the Giants won this game because of their defense and Tuck (two sacks, one forced fumble) led the way.

Super Bowl XLIII — Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23

Who won: Pittsburgh WR Santonio Holmes

Who should have won: Holmes

LB James Harrison had a game-turning 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, but Holmes not only caught the game-winning pass, he did so after setting it up with a 40-yard reception.

Super Bowl XLIV — New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17

Who won: New Orleans QB Drew Brees

Who should have won: Brees

CB Tracy Porter deserves mention for his game-clinching INT return for a touchdown, but Brees was 32-for-39.

Super Bowl XLV — Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 25

Who won: Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers

Who should have won: Rodgers

The Packers QB was absolutely magnificent in this game as he finished with 304 yards passing with three TDs and no interceptions.

Super Bowl XLVI — N.Y. Giants 21, New England 17

Who won: N.Y. Giants QB Eli Manning

Who should have won: Manning

Manning had a much better performance than in his first Super Bowl appearance, completing 30 of 40 passes and leading another game-winning drive. Tuck had another MVP-worthy outing, too, with two sacks and the pressure that led to a safety in the first quarter.

Super Bowl XLVII — Baltimore 34, San Francisco 31

Who won: Baltimore QB Joe Flacco

Who should have won: Flacco

It’s impossible to ignore Flacco’s 124.2 passer rating, although an argument could be made for Jacoby Jones, who had the two biggest plays of the game with a 56-yard touchdown catch and a 108-yard kickoff return for another score.

Super Bowl XLVIII — Seattle 43, Denver 8

Who won: Seattle LB Malcolm Smith

Who should have won: LB Malcolm Smith

The story of this game was how the Seahawks shut down the high-powered Denver offense and Smith led the way with a pick-six and a fumble recovery.

Super Bowl XLIX — New England 28, Seattle 24

Who won: New England QB Tom Brady

Who should have won: CB Malcolm Butler

Yes, Brady threw four touchdown passes, but he also had two picks and he would have been on the losing side if not for Butler’s dramatic goal-line pick in the final seconds. If ever a Super Bowl MVP deserved to be awarded for one play, this was it.

Super Bowl 50 — Denver 24, Carolina 10

Who won: Denver LB Von Miller

Who should have won: Von Miller

Miller had 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, including recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Yes, this is a no-brainer.

Super Bowl LI — New England 34, Atlanta 28

Who won: New England QB Tom Brady

Who should have won: New England RB James White

Yes, Brady was masterful in bringing the Pats back from a 28-3 deficit, but he wouldn’t have done it without White, who scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, and had a two-point conversion on a run.

Super Bowl XLII — Philadelphia 41, New England 33

Who won: Philadelphia QB Nick Foles

Who should have won: Nick Foles

Yeah, that one was pretty clear-cut, with Foles passing for 373 yards and three touchdowns and catching a TD pass on the famous “Philly Special.”

Super Bowl LIII — New England 13, L.A. Rams 3

Who won: New England WR Julian Edelman

Who should have won: New England CB Stephon Gilmore

This was a really bad whiff. Yes, Edelman had 10 caches for 141 yards, but he figured prominently only in one field goal drive. The Patriots won because of their defense, so it’s somebody from that side of the ball who should have gotten the award. Dont’a Hightower was a good candidate with two sacks and a forced fumble, but we’d have given it to Gilmore because of his interception at the New England 4 with 4:17 left and New England up by seven, along with his three overall passes defensed.

Super Bowl LIV — Kansas City 31, San Francisco 20

Who won: Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes

Who should have won: Kansas City RB Damien Williams

This was a really tough call. Mahomes deserves credit for his brilliant fourth quarter, but he did throw two interceptions before that and his final passer rating was 78.1. We gave it to Williams because he scored the final two touchdowns of the game, the second one a 38-yard that put him over the 100-yard mark for the game.