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Bob Angelo

Thoughts On The Game
  • Writer's pictureBob Angelo

"MVP's and Unsung Heroes"

Super Bowl LVII (57) kicks off this Sunday at 6:30 pm EDT.

In 31 of the previous 56 games, a quarterback won the game’s Most Valuable Player or MVP award.

Recent winners include the Eagles Nick Foles for his work in Super Bowl LII (52) and Kansas City’s Pat Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV (54). Tom Brady was the last quarterback to win it, capturing a record fifth MVP nod in Super Bowl LV (55).

Yes, most QBs earn it. But in some cases, NFL signal callers could at least have shared the spotlight with some memorable Unsung Super Bowl Hero performances. Some examples:

Green Bay QB Bart Starr earned the car in Super Bowls I & II (1 & 2). But in that first big game, Packers wide receiver Max McGee suited up after a full night of partying, entered the game when starter Boyd Dowler injured his shoulder, then caught both of Starr’s touchdown passes, one of which was an underthrown ball that McGee pinned to his hip with one hand before collecting it then running it into the end zone.

The first non-quarterback to win MVP honors was Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley in the Cowboys’ 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V (5), a game remembered as “The Comedy of Errors.” Clearly no heroes, unsung or otherwise, in that contest!

Dallas QB Roger Staubach was named MVP in Super Bowl VI (6). But legend has it voters wanted to recognize Cowboys’ running back Duane Thomas (aka “the Sphinx) but feared he would not show up at the award presentation in New York City a month later.

Jim Plunkett took MVP honors in Super Bowl XV (15), but his counterpart QB Ron Jaworski contributed mightily to the L-A Raiders 27-10 win, tossing up three interceptions to Raiders linebacker Rod Martin. Why Martin’s unsung performance failed to qualify for the MVP award remains a mystery.

Conversely, San Francisco 49ers passer Joe Montana won 3 Super Bowl MVP’s—but could have and should have won 4. How and why voters selected Jerry Rice in Super Bowl XXIII (23)—after Montana led the Niners on a last minute, 92-yard, game-winning scoring drive—completely defies all logic.

In Super Bowl XXX (30), Steelers QB Neil O’Donnell threw a pair of gift-wrapped, fourth-quarter picks to Dallas cornerback Larry Brown, leading to a 27-17 Cowboys victory, an MVP nod for Larry, and a huge free-agent contract with the Raiders for the suddenly famous defender. Two years and a dozen so-so games later, Brown retired from football.

Of more recent vintage, Eli Manning’s Super Bowl XLII (42) MVP award against New England was made possible by a stupendous late-fourth-quarter, pin-the-football-to-his-helmet catch by backup receiver David Tyree. Fittingly, it was the last catch of Tyree’s less-than-storied NFL career. Now there's an unsung hero!

And who can forget Seattle QB Russell Wilson’s late fourth quarter pass in Super Bowl XLIX (49), delivered directly into the hands of Patriots linebacker Malcolm Smith, costing the Seahawks the game and Russell his very own MVP award.

Vegas oddsmakers think Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts is more likely to capture this year’s award than his Seattle counterpart and Super Bowl LIV’s Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes. Don’t be surprised it one of them wins it.

But a slew of potential Unsung Heroes waits in the wings.

Philadelphia edge rusher Hassan Reddick seems the likeliest of the non-QB candidates to rise from supporting cast status to MVP. The Chiefs offensive line strength resides inside at the center and guard positions. Reddick will be coming around the corner. Only Nick Bosa recorded more sacks in 2022-23.

Right behind Reddick among this season’s sack leaders was Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones. Like Reddick, he’s played well in the postseason. But his path to the passer takes him through a pair of All-Pros in the middle of Philly’s offensive line, center Jason Kelce and guard Landon Dickerson--definitely a more difficult assignment.

Speaking of the Kelce’s, Jason’s brother and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce could easily find holes in Philly’s pass coverage schemes and have a big YAC (Yards After Catch) day. If he takes a couple to the house, he also becomes a viable MVP candidate.

Of course, Eagles strong safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson could step in front of one of those Mahomes-to-Kelce throws and carry one back himself, making him a legitimate dark horse MVP possibility.

And let’s not forget both team’s running backs. The Chiefs smallish but lightning quick duo of Isiah Pacheco and veteran Jerick McKinnon have delivered some big playoff moments. Likewise for Philadelphia’s Miles Sanders and the surprising Kenneth Gainwell. Great name for a runner and an MVP.

One thing for certain, somebody will win the game, which means somebody will be heading off to Disney World.

Your guess as to who that will be is as good as mine.

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