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The NFL's Biggest Super Bowl MVP Snubs of All Time

For most players, winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate achievement. However, an even greater honor lies in the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player ("MVP") award, which signifies the one player in the big game that significantly impacted the outcome of the most-watched sporting event in the country. The Super Bowl MVP is usually taken home by the quarterback of the winning team, which makes sense because the quarterback is the most important position on offense and the most difficult position to play at a high level. However, the history of the Super Bowl has seen some unlikely heroes step up and take home the coveted award.

Wide receiver GOAT Jerry Rice won the award in Super Bowl XXIII. Running back Otis Anderson took home the award for the Giants in Super Bowl XXV, and Terrell Davis won it for the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. Stellar defensive performances have also resulted in Super Bowl MVPs. For Example, linebacker Ray Lewis won it in Super Bowl XXXV after leading a top-three all-time defense in the dismantling of the New York Giants, and defensive end Von Miller won it in Super Bowl 50 as a result of his six tackles, 2.5 sacks, one pass defended and a forced fumble.

Despite the many Super Bowl MVP success stories, there are many players who not only should have won the award, but out-right deserved it and were nevertheless snubbed anyway. Let's take a look at the most egregious Super Bowl MVP snubs of all time.

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Super Bowl LV: DE Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shaq Barrett put on a clinic against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, however, his accomplishments on the field were overshadowed by his quarterback, none other than the GOAT himself Tom Brady. Brady winning the Super Bowl MVP award over someone else more deserving is kind of a theme of this article. Brady threw for 21 completions on 29 attempts for 201 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl LV, but there was nothing special about his performance. It was a good performance on the biggest stage, but no one can dispute that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense won that game by shutting down Mahomes and company.

In the 2020 season, the Chiefs led the league with 303.3 passing yards per game. They were third in attempts (630), second in completions (420), and third in passing touchdowns (40). However, Shaq Barrett and the Buccaneers' lethal defense held them to 270 passing yards and zero touchdowns in the Super Bowl, which was the driving force behind Tampa Bay's victory. Barrett himself only had one tackle and one sack, but he was in Mahomes' face all game. Anytime Mahomes was pressured and had to roll out, it was Barrett that was in pursuit, and he should have won the MVP as a reward for his incredible effort.

Super Bowl XLII: DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants

Super Bowl XLII is best known for the Giants ruining the New England Patriots' perfect season due to an improbable helmet catch by David Tyree in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Eli Manning took home the MVP award, but it was largely due to that one play as opposed to his performance throughout the game. Manning completed only 19 passes on 34 attempts (56% comp.) for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception and was sacked three times, and he almost threw a second interception which would have ended the game, but, fortunately for Giants' fans, Asante Samuel dropped the pick.

Fortunately for Manning, defensive end Justin Tuck played out of his mind to the tune of two sacks, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble that was recovered by the Giants. Tuck led the Giants' NASCAR package which gave Brady fits all game and held the Hall of Fame quarterback to 29 completions for 266 yards and one touchdown despite averaging three passing touchdowns per game in the fabled 2007 season. The Patriots record-setting offense was sacked a total of five times, was held to a 50% conversion rate on third down, and failed on both of their fourth down attempts.

Super Bowl III: RB Matt Snell, New York Jets

Super Bowl III is best known as the "guarantee game" due to Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath famously guaranteeing a New York Jets victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. This game was shortly after the NFL/AFL merger, and the NFL was widely regarded as the superior league. The NFL champion Baltimore Colts were -19.5 favorites over the AFC Champion Jets, and because of the dynamic and talent discrepancies between the two leagues, this game is largely regarded as the greatest upset of all time. Certainly, though, there is an argument to be made for the 2007 New York Giants' defeat of the undefeated New England Patriots.

Super Bowl III was the first game given the "Super Bowl" title and was for all intents and purposes a relatively boring game. Broadway Joe was given the MVP award, however, his stat line was a porous 17 completions for 207 yards and zero touchdowns, and he did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter. The game plan was to keep Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas off of the field by controlling the clock and to do so, the Jets had to run the ball early and often.

Running back Matt Snell was the heart and soul of the Jets' offense as he carried the ball 30 times for 121 yards and the game's only touchdown, and he added four receptions for 40 yards through the air. If it were not for his effective rushing, the Colts would have likely had many more opportunities on offense and history could have had a different story to tell. We all remember Broadway Joe and the guarantee, but the fact of the matter is that the Jets would not have won this game without Matt Snell, easily the game's most valuable player.


Super Bowl XXXIX: DB Rodney Harrison, New England Patriots

Super Bowl XXXIX saw MVP Deion Branch haul in a record 11 receptions for 133 yards from the GOAT Tom Brady. However, this was not the most impactful performance of the game. That honor belonged to Safety Rodney Harrison, who wreaked havoc on the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Donovan McNabb for 60 minutes. The only explanation for Branch winning MVP over Harrison was that he set a Super Bowl record, however, Harrison changed the outcome of the game.

Harrison was far from intimidated by the Eagle's explosive offense led by running back Brian Westbrook and Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens. He racked up an impressive 10 solo tackles, one sack, one pass defensed, and two interceptions. The interceptions were the difference in the game.

Harrison's first pick came at the end of the first quarter when the Eagles were in the red zone and driving. McNabb had just thrown an interception to Asante Samuel but it was negated by penalty and kept the drive alive. Enter Harrison, who picked off McNabb on the very next play and ended the potential scoring drive. The second pick came with less than 20 seconds remaining in the game and sealed the victory for New England, essentially solidifying their status as a professional sports dynasty. Fans love offense, but there is no question that Harrison's defense won this game for the Pats.

PFF did the honors of rewatching that Super Bowl after Rodney Harrison was inducted into the Patriots' Ring of Honor, and it confirmed what we already knew, Harrison was an unstoppable force and deserving of the MVP.

Super Bowl XXXVI: DB Ty Law, New England Patriots

Next on our list of Super Bowl MVP snubs comes another Patriot, defensive back Ty Law, who helped New England win their first Super Bowl by defeating the Greatest Show on Turf, St. Louis Rams. Once again, Tom Brady took home the MVP (his first) despite the fact that another player was clearly more deserving. Brady threw for a mild 16 completions for 145 yards and one touchdown, whereas Law recorded a pick-six, seven solo tackles, one for loss, and two passed defensed.

Law set the tone of this game early. With just under 9 minutes to go in the first half, NFL MVP Kurt Warner attempted to hit Hall of Fame wide receiver Isaac Bruce on the sidelines, but the throw was rushed due to pressure and Law intercepted the pass and returned it 47 yards for the first touchdown of the game. The pick-six was the first sign that this was not going to be the easy blowout victory that the Rams were used to, and they could, in fact, lose the game.

Law almost had another interception in this game, but he dropped the ball on an end zone target intended for Bruce. Every time the Pats' defense needed to make a play it seemed like Law was the one to make it, and he even dropped what would have been his second interception on an end zone pass intended for Bruce, but he dropped the ball. Law is widely regarded as having put down one of the top individual performances in the Super Bowl era, however, MVP voters snubbed him from taking home the award that he clearly deserved.


Super Bowl XXI: QB Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers

The Gunslinger Brett Favre helped lead the Packers to their first Super Bowl win since Vince Lombardi and Super Bowl II. It is a historical travesty that the Hall of Fame quarterback did not take home a Super Bowl MVP and an even bigger travesty that the award went to special teamer Desmond Howard for essentially returning a kickoff for a touchdown. You could make the argument that the MVP also could have gone to Reggie White for his three sacks, two of which came on back-to-back plays on a key Patriots' drive late in the game, but Favre's elite passing and youthful exuberance was the story of this game.

Favre set the tone early with a 54-yard touchdown dime to Andre Rison on Green Bay's second play of the game. His second touchdown pass came on an 81-yard bomb to Antonio Freeman which was the longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history at the time, and is still the second-longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history today (Jake Delhomme's 85-yarder to Muhsin Muhammad is the current record). Favre would finish the game with 246 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 completions (a staggering 17.6 yards per completion) with zero interceptions, and he added a rushing score on top of it. As if that was not enough, Favre converted a critical two-point conversion which made it a two-touchdown game & put the Packers ahead 35-21.

Howard likely won the MVP due to an electric 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but White and Favre were unquestionably the best players in this game, and my vote for MVP goes to the legend himself, the invincible man, Brett Favre.


Super Bowl LIV: RB Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs

Running Back Damien Williams was not a household name, however, in Super Bowl LIV he became a star. Second-year starter Patrick Mahomes took the league by storm and made some incredible plays in the Super Bowl, including the famous Jet Chip Wasp play on 3rd and 15 in the fourth quarter which resulted in a 44-yard completion to Tyreek Hill with the Chiefs trailing 10-20. However, Williams was the deciding factor in this game and should have won the MVP over the future superstar quarterback.

Williams had 17 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown, and he added four receptions for 29 yards and another touchdown. He became the first player in Super Bowl history to rush for 100 yards and score a rushing and receiving touchdown. In addition to this incredible feat, the main reason Williams deserved the MVP was the timing of both of his touchdowns, which came in the fourth quarter. The first was a go-ahead five-yard touchdown reception on 3rd and goal from the five-yard line to put the Chiefs up 24 to 20 with less than three minutes remaining. The second should have been what won him the award as he took a handoff 38 yards to the house with 1:12 left in the game and the Chiefs only up by four. The late-game touchdown stunned the 49ers and effectively sealed the victory for the Chiefs.

His 133 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns were the difference in the game, and the undrafted hero outrushed both of the 49ers' Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, who combined for only 86 yards. Williams accomplished this feat against the toughest run defense in the NFL, on the biggest stage, in the most critical moment, and he should have been rewarded with the MVP.


Super Bowl LI: RB James White, New England Patriots

It has been a long list of those deserving of the biggest game's highest honor, but no Super Bowl MVP snub compares to the armed robbery that running back James White faced at the conclusion of Super Bowl LI. Once again, Tom Brady took home the MVP award that rightfully belonged to someone else, and this time, it should not have even been close.

The Patriots trailed the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 28-3 in the third quarter, and they miraculously came back to win in overtime thanks to James White and James White alone. Sure, Brady threw for 466 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, but 110 of those yards and one of those touchdowns belonged to James White. Trailing by four scores, the Patriots adjusted their game plan to neutralize the Falcons' pass rush and attack their linebackers in space. Enter James White.

White hauled in a Super Bowl record 14 receptions, which still stands today, for 110 yards and a touchdown while adding 29 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He accounted for three of the Patriot's four touchdowns, all of which came after the Patriots found themselves down 28-3. His last touchdown came on the opening drive in overtime where he converted a five-yard rush on second down for the game-winning score. He was stopped at the one-yard line, but he powered through and reached the ball over the goal line right before his knee touched the ground for the first and only walk-off touchdown in a Super Bowl. White not winning the MVP is one of the greatest tragedies in NFL history and certainly the greatest Super Bowl MVP snub.

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