When a National Football League player makes it to the Super Bowl with his respective team and then wins the game’s Most Valuable Player Award, is that player having the game of his life or how often does one win? the best players in the league? the MVP?
Most of the time, the winner of the award is, in fact, one of the best players in the NFL. But sometimes a player just has a great game that earned him the coveted MVP of the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XXX, the Pittsburgh Steelers were attempting to hand the Dallas Cowboys their third straight league title loss when they played Pittsburgh.
The Cowboys were the favorites, but when the last shot rang out, the game was closer than the final score. The final tally was Dallas 31-17, but the Steelers led in almost every offensive category. Most Valuable Player was awarded to cornerback Larry Brown because thanks to Neil O’Donnell’s two terrible pass attempts that Brown intercepted, he won the award. The two interceptions were almost a gift. Easy pickoffs that some even think O’Donnell may have thrown on purpose because of how out of place they were. Regardless, the Cowboys won and Larry Brown instantly became a star.
But looking back at Larry Brown’s career, it seems like he was on the side of good luck in Super Bowl XXX and wasn’t very successful before or after that season. In the 1995 season, Brown had six interceptions, two of which were pick-six. His career began in 1991 with Dallas and he was selected in the 12th round of the draft, 320th overall. His rookie season had two interceptions.
The year before Dallas won the Super Bowl, Brown had four picks. But from 1991 until he retired with the Cowboys in 1998, Brown had just four other interceptions. Take away his rookie season and the 10 interceptions he had from 1994 to 1995, and Larry Brown had only two additional picks in five seasons.
After his winning Super Bowl MVP campaign, he never had fewer than 45 tackles on the field. Given his Super Bowl XXX heroics, Brown signed with the Oakland Raiders the following season. There he played in just eight games and made just 22 tackles. A year later, he was in just four games and had very few stats to record. His last season was back in Dallas where he played in just four games and made one inning and then his career ended like this.
Is Brown the only player who won a Super Bowl MVP and then had very little success in the league before or after? Certainly not. In 1991, the New York Giants won the Super Bowl by beating the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in the infamous Scott Norwood missed a late-game field goal that would have given the Bills their only Super Bowl win in the United States. history. The focus in that game was entirely on the Norwood fault and continues to be to this day.
However, the MVP of Super Bowl XXV went to Ottis Anderson, a Giants running back who rushed just 102 yards in that game and scored a touchdown. For Anderson, he had been in the NFL since 1979, when he started with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had been one of the best running backs in the league, rushing for 784 yards scoring 11 times in that Super Bowl-winning year for New York.
But the MVP award would be Ottis Anderson’s last proof of success because the following season he played in 10 games but finished the season with just 141 rushing yards on a single touchdown on the ground. The season after that, he appeared in 13 games and carried the ball just 10 times and his career was over.
A year after Larry Brown won the Super Bowl MVP, the Green Bay Packers became NFL champions when they defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. Green Bay’s MVP was kick / punt return specialist Desmond Howard. Howard also played wide receiver in the NFL, but in this championship game he was assigned solely to return punts and kicks and had 10 chances to do so.
In four kickoff returns, Howard averaged 38.5 yards per return, but that was thanks to a 99-yard force coming to the house. In six punt returns, Desmond Howard averaged 15 yards per return. Those efforts earned him the grand prize, but what was the shape of his career before and after Super Bowl XXXI?
Upon leaving the University of Michigan, the Washington Redskins selected Howard knowing that he would be a returns specialist. In his rookie season in 28 returns, he had a punt return touchdown. He wouldn’t hit the end zone again in a comeback until he’d been through Jacksonville for a season with the Jaguars and then was on the Packers roster for the championship season.
In 1996, Howard led the league with 58 punt returns, three touchdowns, had the longest return of that season with 92 yards and averaged 15.1, the best in the league. He also had a 20.9 mark on kickoff returns. After his MVP performance in the Super Bowl, he changed teams again and moved to Oakland. With the Raiders in 1997, Desmond Howard’s punt returns declined to 27 for the season, but he had the most kickoff returns in the NFL at 61. However, there was not a single touchdown scored in a return.
He would play one more season with the Raiders in 1998 and scored twice on punt returns, but once the season concluded, his career began a downward spiral. He would play for two teams in 1999, Detroit and back to Green Bay a year that saw him score a return touchdown on 13 punt returns and 34 kick returns. Ironically, Howard is the only special teams player in Super Bowl history to win the MVP award.
In 2000 with the Lions he scored his career final touchdown on a punt, returning it 95 yards, but would only have another 30 punt returns focusing primarily on kick returns in which he failed to score a touchdown. His last two career seasons and with Detroit he saw no special teams touchdowns and only 31 punt returns. After 2002, Howard was left out of football.
In 12 NFL seasons, Desmond Howard caught just 123 passes, so special teams were his modus operandi. In those 12 years, aside from three punt return touchdowns scored in 1996, Howard only reached the end zone five other times in the other 11 seasons. Ironically, he never scored a touchdown on a kick return in his career.
Most of the time in the Super Bowl game, a quarterback, running back or wide receiver will win the MVP award. A year after Scott Norwood’s terrible field goal error, the Bills returned to the big dance this time to face the Washington Redskins. Buffalo would lose again, this time by a not so close score of 37-24 and the biggest prize of the game went to Washington quarterback Mark Rypien. Rypien’s stats in Super Bowl XXVI were not revealing with 18 completions on 33 good attempts for 292 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception. But he was named MVP and that 1991 season led Washington to a 14-2 record.
The following season, the Redskins fell to 9-7 and Rypien’s numbers began to fall. In 1993, it was his last season in Washington that began in 1988 and he played in just 12 games as a starter. He threw for just over 1,500 yards and just four touchdowns after never having fewer than 10 in a season.
In 1994, Rypien went to the Cleveland Browns, where he played in just six games and started just three. Trying to stay in the league, he moved to the St. Louis Rams in 1995, where he played in 11 games, but again started only in three with minimal numbers. They followed two more seasons with the Eagles and back with the Rams before retiring in 1998 only to try to return with the Indianapolis Colts in 2001, where he played in just four games without a starter and had changed his uniform number from 11 to 16 and then, when the season ended, Rypien retired permanently.
Finally, we have Super Bowl XLIII where the MVP went to Santonio Holmes of Pittsburgh in the Steelers’ 27-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The season leading up to the big show was 2008 and Holmes had been with the Steelers for just three seasons, including the championship year. He was establishing himself as a top-tier wide receiver and against the Cardinals he made one of the biggest touchdown takes in Super Bowl history, perhaps the best ever.
Holmes would play one more season with the Steelers and while he was productive on the field with Pittsburgh, his off-field issues raised red flags with the Steelers coaching staff and front office and by 2010 he was a former Steeler and a new member. of the New York Jets. Santonio Holmes caught 103 passes in his first two seasons wearing green and white, but then his numbers dropped dramatically from 2012 when he played in just four games and caught just 20 passes. In 2013 he would start 13 games, but had only 23 receptions and only 456 receiving yards. 2014 would be his last season and it was with the Chicago Bears that he played in just nine games and caught just eight passes.
Most Super Bowl MVPs are players who had great and stellar careers. Among the most valuable players in the Super Bowl are Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, Drew Brees, and Jerry Rice of yesteryear, just to name a few. But then there are a handful of players like the ones named in this story who will leave their legacy in that one trophy they have in their home, the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award.