Another Unpopular Essay on Sports History.
Some time before yours truly enters that great podcast production booth in the sky, there is one feat in sports I'd like to see accomplished: Namely, for an offensive lineman to be named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.
Unfortunately, as Super Bowl LVII quickly retreating in the collective metaphorical rearview mirror, it seems as if this dream will never come to fruition. Because if what left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. did for his NFL champion Kansas City Chiefs wasn't enough, one wonders what would be for an OL to take the MVP...
Tangentially speaking, the simultaneous appreciation and discounting of offensive line play among the official football cognoscenti is bizarre. The left tackle in particular can be recognized as the literal most valuable player on his offense – think Trent Williams or Tyron Smith – yet go unmentioned in the pre-game hype and post-game highlights.
Many may find it difficult to compare the contributions of an offensive linemen to those of the so-called “skill position” players. Okay, here are some stats:
• Number of quarterback sacks in the 2022 regular season by the Philadelphia Eagles: 70. That’s the third-most in a single regular season by an NFL team ever. Okay, that was over 17 games, but still – 70 is a lot of sacks.
• Blitz rate by the Eagles defense in the Super Bowl, expressed as percentage of Patrick Mahomes dropbacks: 33.33%. Granted, Mahomes had only 27 attempts in the game, but that one-third is a higher rate than in any Eagles regular-season or postseason game.
• Number of turnovers generated by the Eagles defense: zero.
• Number of quarterback sacks taken by Mahomes: zero.
• Number of times Mahomes was touched by an Eagles defensive player in the second half before getting the pass off: zero.
• Number of times Chiefs were tackled for a losses: one, by Javon Hargrave who was lined up against the right, non-Orlando Brown side of the offensive line.
As for other candidates for MVP of Super Bowl LVII, we begin with the premise that a player on the losing team cannot win the award, so Jalen Hurts (along with his three TDs plus more passing and rushing yards than Mahomes) is out of consideration.
As part of a defense which allowed 35 points, eliminate Nick Bolton as well – despite the eight solo tackles and fumble-six.
Meanwhile, no Kansas City offense player scored more than one TD; tops in all-purpose yards was Travis Kelce with 104.
As for Mahomes, his 21-of-27 for 182 yards make great stats – for the 1970s. Mahomes’s numbers were the weakest for a Super Bowl MVP since Tom Brady’s 16-of-27 for 145 against the St. Louis Rams in 2001. The clincher for Brady (over, say, Ty Law or Adam Vinatieri) was the final scoring drive.
Same for Mahomes.
Fair enough, but Orlando Brown would have been the far more scintillating choice for Super Bowl LVII MVP.
The dream is still alive, though fading…