Super Bowl LVI will feature four NFL Honors Awards winners: Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase (OROY) and Joe Burrow (CPOY) as well as the Rams’ Cooper Kupp (OPOY). Rams’ offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth also won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, but that’s not important for the context of this piece.
Without Whitworth being taken into consideration, this year’s Super Bowl has the most end-of-year award winners since 2016 in terms of total awards won (Cam Newton — MVP, OPOY; Ron Rivera — COY) and the most since 2000 in terms of total award winners (Kurt Warner — MVP; Marshall Faulk — OPOY; Dick Vermeil — COY; Jevon Kearse — DROY). Basically, no matter what happens in the Super Bowl tomorrow, at least one person who won an NFL Honors Award will hoist the Lombardi Trophy, and that’s a much rarer occurrence than you might think.
Since the 2005 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, there have been 11 players and two coaches in the Super Bowl to have won an award, and only one has actually won the Super Bowl: Pittsburgh’s James Harrison — 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Here’s the list everyone else who won an award in that span but lost the final game of the postseason:
2005 Shaun Alexander (MVP, OPOY)
2007 Tom Brady (MVP, OPOY)
2007 Bill Belichick (COY)
2009 Peyton Manning (MVP)
2010 Troy Polamalu (DPOY)
2013 Peyton Manning (MVP, OPOY)
2015 Cam Newton (MVP, OPOY)
2015 Ron Rivera (COY)
2016 Matt Ryan (MVP, OPOY)
2017 Tom Brady (MVP)
2018 Aaron Donald (DPOY)
2019 Nick Bosa (DROY)
This wasn’t always the case though in the five years prior to that 2005 Super Bowl, NFL award winners were constantly winning the Super Bowl. Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, and Dick Vermeil all won the Super Bowl in 2000 while being honored with awards in 2000. A year later, Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis helped lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title. In 2003, MVP Rich Gannon might have lost the Super Bowl, but Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks helped lead Tampa Bay to their first ever Super Bowl victory, and a year later, Bill Belichick won his second Super Bowl as well as the Coach of the Year Award.
So, why has the tide suddenly shifted away from award winners? I really couldn’t tell you. Maybe it has something to do with the glorification of the Associated Press’s award decisions and the NFL Awards Show as a whole which started in 2012, but like I said, I don’t have any real idea.
With that in mind, which of this year’s award winners can we expect to flounder in the Super Bowl? The most obvious answer is Ja’Marr Chase. The guy is a rookie. He’s going to be shadowed by All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and while I love the confidence he’s displayed when questioned on the matchup, he’s still a rookie. That being said, he did go off for nine receptions, 221 yards, and two touchdowns the last time he found himself in a championship game, so who am I to say what he can and can’t do because of his age? Albeit, he wasn’t going up against Ramsey in that game, but he showed that the spotlight does not affect him. I wouldn’t bet against Burrow or Kupp ever.
Burrow is a winner. That’s all he does. If he was able to convince the world that Ed Orgeron was a worthy adversary to Nick Saban, he can do anything. Meanwhile, Kupp has gone off for at least 100 yards or a touchdown in all but four games this season. He won’t be matched up with the Bengals’ top corners and, of every playoff team this year, the Bengals allowed the fourth-most yards to slot receivers. Only Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Dallas allowed more.
Where normally one Super Bowl team is burdened with having an award winner on their squad, the burden is carried by both teams this year. That should make for a much fairer fight than we’ve seen in years past. And hopefully, once one award winner hoists the Lombardi Trophy, the curse will be lifted and we can start seeing more MVP’s and DPOY’s win the Super Bowl the same year.