"Man, that MVP Trophy feels so much better when you don't deserve it." - actual Eli Manning quote*
Last week I defended Eli Manning, saying that with a second ring, he should not be considered just Peyton’s little brother anymore. That he should be considered an elite quarterback, and that sports journalism is lazy when putting him in a box in the middle of the pack.
And this week I’m crushing him. So goes the life of the Prisoner of the Moment blogger.
Okay, to be fair, I’m not really crushing him. It’s not really his fault he got the Super Bowl MVP trophy. And by no means am I saying that Eli did not have a good game. He had a very solid game, and his clutch play in the closing minutes should not go unnoticed.
But, taking into account the Giants performers in this game, the sports media was lazy once again. For years they’ve been lazy in a way that harmed Eli Manning, and last night they were lazy in a way that benefitted him.
Once more, I must state that Eli Manning did not have a bad game. He played very well. However, this was not a cut-and-dry case of Eli Manning playing better than anyone on his team. In fact, this Giants win was a complete team win. But I think an alarming trend is happening in the Super Bowl MVP race every year: the default winner is the winning quarterback.
It is understandable that the quarterback be the first considerable MVP on a winning Super Bowl team. In Super Bowl 42, 44, and 45, there was no doubt that the quarterback was the team’s most valuable player that day. Eli Manning in 2008, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers were deserving of the trophy. More importantly, there weren’t other players who could make a better case for being the MVP.
Last night, I think there were.
Many people are saying Mario Manningham should have been considered for the MVP. There are a few reasons I could see this happening. A Super Bowl MVP can be given the award based on total performance, but there are also a number of people who believe the MVP can be given based on seminal moments in the game. Santonio Holmes had a very productive day of 9 catches, 131 yards in Super Bowl 43, but it was his fantastic end zone catch that gave him the trophy. Manningham’s catch certainly gave the Giants a lot of momentum on that final drive.
However, the arguments against Manningham are just as strong. For one, his final stat line isn’t particularly impressive. Five catches, 73 yards, no scores. Cruz had one touchdown (Eli’s only passing TD), and Nicks, while also not scoring, caught 10 balls for 109 yards. It would be hard to argue that Manningham deserved the award over the other receivers, even with his fantastic catch. Also, what gets overlooked in that amazing catch is how well Eli threw that ball. Manningham showed a lot of concentration, focus, and toughness, but damned if that ball wasn’t nearly perfect. So I can’t say confidently that Manningham deserved the MVP over his hamless quarterback.
I can say with confidence that Justin Tuck deserved it more, though.
I know it’s not the popular thing for a defensive player to win MVP, and counting on the sports journalists to look on the other side of the ball is an exercise in futility. But Tuck did some amazing things on the field last night. Let’s stop and look at them.
His stat line was productive. Two sacks and 3 QB Hits. And there’s not a stat for “caused Tom Brady to intentional ground which led to a safety,” but if that was a stat, he’d have one of them. But Justin Tuck did more than the stat sheet conveys. Let’s look at this game as broadly as possible.
The final score of the game was 21-17. Here’s the breakdown of the 21 points scored by the Giants: 6 by running the ball, 7 by throwing the ball, 6 by the special teams, and 2 by the defense. Obviously the 6 points from field goals are a result of the offense as well, but the bottom line is 20 points by the Giants offense was not very impressive, particularly against what some were calling the worst defense to ever make it to a Super Bowl. With as many weapons as he had, Eli Manning should have had more than one TD, and the offense should’ve had more than 14 points.
Now let’s look at the Patriots, who were third in the NFL in points scored. They averaged over 30 points a game. If you had told me before the game that the Giants were only scoring 21 points, with the offense only responsible for 14 of that, I would have assumed the Patriots enjoyed a comfortable 10 point victory.
But they didn’t. No, the Patriots only scored 17 points in the entire game, little more than half their average. And Justin Tuck was a big reason the defense held Brady in check. Despite what game Cris Collinsworth was watching, the Giants were pressuring Brady for most of the night, making him very uncomfortable. And at the end of the day, when the Patriots only score 17 points in the game, your most valuable player isn’t going to be on the offensive end of the ball.
So that’s my argument for Super Bowl MVP. It’s probably not a very strong one, or a very popular one. And that’s fine. I don’t really care about Tuck not winning, or Eli winning. My main problem is that it’s just another case of the sports journalists going with the easy/lazy choice. It bothers me because it shows no sign of changing, and because it made me serious enough to write a real article rather than a post just making fun of all the Eli Manning faces that were made last night.
Good enough. Now I feel a little better. So long, football season! Come back soon!
* Not an actual Eli Manning quote.