Super Bowl MVP: Consider the Linemen
There's no precedent, but precedent-setting has thus far posed little problem for these New England Patriots.
It's never happened to an offensive lineman, but rarely have we seen an offensive line as good as this quintet. It happens to quarterbacks and halfbacks all the time, wide receivers often enough, secondary and defensive linemen from time to time.
A DE was once the man, and even a special teamer got lucky.
Despite any number of incredible offensive lines that have carried teams to the bowl—Dr. Z, TMQ, and even a few folks in the know who don't use initials—no lineman has ever been named Super Bowl MVP. Not even last year's Colts with Jeff Saturday, among others, one of the greatest lines of all-time, could attract the voters' attention enough.
The default choice in the Super Bowl, of course, is quarterback: Witness Peyton Manning in XLI when it probably should have been split between running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, or Tom Brady himself in Super Bowl XXXVI when, stirring comeback drive aside, the game-turning/-winning efforts of Ty Law or Adam Vinatieri probably should have been worth the prize.
Since the modern sport fan's problem (and hey, yours truly is guilty as well) with judging the vast majority of offensive lineman is lack of stats, let's consider lack of stats.
First, let's assume a Patriot win. Let's say Brady turns in numbers like:
• 14 completions on 27 attempts, 246 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions, or
• 12 of 22, 123 yards, zero TDs, one interception, or even
• 9 of 21, 123 yards, zero TDs, two interceptions.
The lines represent the numbers of Brett Favre in XXXI, John Elway in XXXII, and Ben Roethlisberger in XL; all represent efforts from winning, much-hyped, modern-day, Super Bowl MVP-favorite QBs. None of them won the award, however.
Better yet, say Brady goes...
• 32 of 42, 356 yards, two TDs, zero interceptions.
That was his line against the Giants in Week 17; this observer believes that game was won on the line, with the blindside bunch of Matt Light, Logan Mankins and Dan Koppen plus TEs mostly giving Brady plenty of time - and late in the game, enough at least - to throw, as they have all season long.
While it's fairly unlikely that Brady will turn in a Bad Ben-like performance, surely much (much) more will be required from a guy who's already won the award twice.
Further, let's say that the running game chores are evenly divided—not a stretch, despite the general recent re-resurgence of Laurence Maroney as a viable threat just when the pundits had gone to sleep on the Patriot running game. Bill Belichick will surely call for a series of plays for Kevin Faulk (maybe even a full quarter's worth; remember the 2007 AFC Championship game?), which should subtract the glorious numbers and big-play potential for Maroney individually.
But what if as a tandem important yards are gained, as in the game-ending, time-killing fourth-quarter drive against the Chargers two weekends ago? Recall that Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur effectively neutralized the well-hyped Michael Strahan and Barry Cofield when the teams met last; the two managed a combined eight tackles and neither was truly a factor.
Let's say that, as the last time the teams met, the defensive highlights are evenly spread amid individual effort. Junior Seau (who turned in quite a nice performance against the Giants in Week 17, actually) and Tedy Bruschi are the emotional favorites for an offbeat MVP selection, particularly with both considering retirement. But this duo's impact is mostly of the socio-psychological variety and heart alone has yet to win anyone an MVP nod.
Say the receivers split the yards and Randy Moss is smothered again to be made a non-factor; say Wes Welker only manages four or five grabs instead of the 11 with which he tortured the Giants' secondary playing deep.
The Week 17 game wasn't quite perfectly played by New England's offensive line, with Reggie Torbor notching the Giants' only sack with an excellently timed bag in the third. (Of course, Torbor was himself looking for blood after getting burned by Moss on the 65-yarder two game minutes earlier.)
But if the Patriots play with their usual stoic machine-like precision, spreading the highlight-reel glory among the team as is Belichick's wont, well, the case may be made: An offensive line as Super Bowl MVP for the first time ever. In Super Bowl XLII, the voters could well see the Light. Or Neal or Koppen or...
Lovin' the linemen all year long at RealFootball365.com
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