Roughly 24 hours before Super Bowl LI kicks off on Feb. 5, the NFL will announce the winner of the 2016 MVP award. Winning the award might sound like an honor, but it’s actually been a curse for the past 16 years: Since 2000, no NFL MVP has gone on to win the Super Bowl.
Basically, if you’re a Atlanta Falcons fan, you should be hoping that Matt Ryan doesn’t get named the league MVP when the NFL makes the official announcement on Feb. 4. On the other hand, New England Patriots fans should also be hoping that Tom Brady ‘s name doesn’t get called.
It’s hard to say why an MVP hasn’t won a Super Bowl this century, but there are several possible explanations. For one, winning the award definitely adds some pressure. From 2000 to 2009, the winner of the MVP was announced before the playoffs started, which means the newly crowned Most Valuable Player was going into the postseason with a target on his back.
Another possibility is that the MVP actually needs some help during the playoffs. Peyton Manning won four MVP awards while with the Indianapolis Colts , and a large part of that was because he was able to carry Indy through the regular season. However, the quality of play goes up considerably in the postseason, which makes it harder for one guy to carry the team.
LaDainian Tomlinson had that exact problem after the 2006 season. After winning MVP in 2006, Tomlinson had a huge game against the Patriots in the playoffs (123 rushing yards with two touchdowns, 64 receiving yards), but the rest of the San Diego Chargers weren’t good enough as San Diego lost 24-21 to New England.
Let’s get back to Manning though. He’s also the poster child for theory No. 3 on why an MVP hasn’t won a Super Bowl this century: If the NFL MVP is on your team, and he has one bad game during the playoffs, that probably means you’re going to lose. In three of his four playoff losses as MVP, Manning arguably played his worst game of the season.
After winning the MVP in 2003, Manning played two brilliant playoff games before having a four-interception clunker in a 24-14 AFC title loss to the Patriots that year. After winning MVP in 2004, Manning played one brilliant playoff game before an ugly divisional loss (24-3) to the Patriots where the Colts didn’t even score a touchdown.
It’s not just Manning though; Tom Brady has two MVPs under his belt (2007, 2010) and was unable to win the Super Bowl in either year.
Anyway, the final — and most likely — possibility that’s keeping MVPs from winning the big game is that it’s nearly impossible to win the Super Bowl whether the MVP is on your team or not.
Since 2000, only seven of the 16 MVPs have even made it to the Super Bowl, and they’ve combined to go 0-7 in the NFL’s biggest game. Since 2011, the NFL has handed out the MVP the night before the Super Bowl, and since then, only Manning and Cam Newton were getting ready to play in the game after they found out they were the MVP.
Both went up against a historically good defense, and both quarterbacks struggled in ugly losses. If Ryan takes home the award on Saturday, he could end up in the same category as Newton and Manning: a quarterback of a high-powered offense that got shut down in the Super Bowl by a great defense.
The good news for Brady and Ryan is that it’s not impossible for an MVP to win the Super Bowl — it just hasn’t happened this century.
There have been a total of 10 players in NFL history who have won the MVP and Super Bowl in the same season, with the last one coming in 1999.
Here’s the full list of MVP winners who also took home a Lombardi Trophy: Kurt Warner ( Los Angeles Rams , 1999), Terrell Davis ( Denver Broncos , 1998), Emmitt Smith ( Dallas Cowboys , 1993) Steve Young (49ers, 1994) Brett Favre ( Green Bay Packers , 1996), Joe Montana (49ers, 1989), Lawrence Taylor ( New York Giants , 1986), Mark Moseley ( Washington Redskins , 1982), Terry Bradshaw ( Pittsburgh Steelers , 1978) and Bart Starr (Packers, 1966).
That’s 10 times in 50 years, so the odds aren’t exactly in favor of the player who wins MVP. At this point, Patriots fans and Falcons fans probably agree that Aaron Rodgers should just get the award.
Here’s a look at the Super Bowl drought that MVP winners are currently in
- 2015: Cam Newton ( Carolina Panthers lost in Super Bowl 50)
- 2014: Aaron Rodgers (Packers lost in NFC title game)
- 2013: Peyton Manning (Broncos lost in Super Bowl XLVIII)
- 2012: Adrian Peterson ( Minnesota Vikings lost in wild-card round)
- 2011: Aaron Rodgers (Packers lost in divisional round)
- 2010: Tom Brady (Patriots lost in divisional round)
- 2009: Peyton Manning (Colts lost in Super Bowl XLIV)
- 2008: Peyton Manning (Colts lost in wild-card round)
- 2007: Tom Brady (Patriots lost in Super Bowl XLII)
- 2006: LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers lost in divisional round)
- 2005: Shaun Alexander ( Seattle Seahawks lost in Super Bowl XL)
- 2004: Peyton Manning (Colts lost in divisional round)
- 2003: Peyton Manning/Steve McNair (Colts lost in AFC title game, Tennessee Titans lost in divisional round)
- 2002: Rich Gannon ( Oakland Raiders lost in Super Bowl XXXVII)
- 2001: Kurt Warner (Rams lost in Super Bowl XXXVI)
- 2000: Marshall Faulk (Rams lost in wild-card round)
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Tom Brady, Matt Ryan beware: NFL MVP is in the middle of an ugly Super Bowl drought