Super Bowl History Of MVPs Over The Years

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and New England Patriots' Tom Brady with the Pete Rozelle MVP Trophy during the Super Bowl Winner and MVP press conference on February 6, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
Bob Levey / Getty Images

Could this be the year that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pulls further away from previous record holder Joe Montana and wins an unprecedented fifth Super Bowl MVP award? At this writing, we’re still hours away from finding out the answer to that question, but for now, he’s a four-time MVP in the “Big Game,” and the record is all his.

While it would take up too much time to elaborate on every man who won MVP honors since the first Super Bowl in 1967, we shall now be looking back at some of the most notable Super Bowl MVPs through the years. And it all started with Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, who, much like Brady did several decades later, became a superstar despite being the 200th pick in the 1956 draft, as shown on his Pro Football Reference player page.

A complete list of Super Bowl MVPs through the years can be found in this article from CBS Sports.

The Earliest Super Bowls

From 1967 to 1970, the Super Bowl was a battle between the champions of both major football leagues at the time — the NFL and the AFL. With the NFL widely perceived as the superior league, as recalled by Sports Illustrated, the Packers won the first two Super Bowls, with the aforementioned Starr winning MVP honors on both occasions. The AFL, however, would end up winning Super Bowls III and IV, as quarterbacks Joe Namath (New York Jets) and Len Dawson (Kansas City Chiefs) respectively took home the MVP trophy.

With the NFL and AFL merging in the 1970 season, linebacker Chuck Howley then became the first defensive player and first non-quarterback to win the award. Howley also remains, to this date, the only Super Bowl MVP from a losing team, as the Cowboys failed to overcome the then-Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V.

The 1970s: Cowboys, Dolphins, And Steelers Dominate

With the exception of Oakland Raiders wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff (XI), the award exclusively went to players from the Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers between 1971 and 1980. The Steelers, who have won a record six Super Bowls, per 247Sports, were especially dominant, with quarterback Terry Bradshaw (XIII, XIV), running back Franco Harris (IX), and wide receiver Lynn Swann (X), combining to win four MVP awards in the Super Bowls in question.

The Cowboys pulled off another first-and-only achievement in Super Bowl XII, as defensive linemen Harvey Martin and Randy White became the only co-MVPs in Super Bowl history for leading a Dallas defense that forced the Denver Broncos to commit eight turnovers.

The ’80s And ’90s: Joe Montana, Three-Time Super Bowl MVP

In 1982, Joe Montana was a young quarterback wrapping up his third NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers. And when he led his team to a close 26-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI that year, he won the first of what would turn out to be a record-setting three Super Bowl MVP awards.

Montana, who won his second MVP trophy in Super Bowl XIX, became the first three-time winner in Super Bowl XXIV when he threw five touchdown passes for 297 yards and helped the 49ers pull off a record 55-10 victory over John Elway’s Denver Broncos. As noted by ESPN, this remains the most lopsided Super Bowl in the game’s five-decade-plus history.

As for Elway, the legendary Broncos quarterback had to wait nine years before he won his first and only MVP award in Super Bowl XXXIII, taking home the trophy one year after his teammate, running back Terrell Davis, earned it in Super Bowl XXXII.

Other notable MVPs during the ’90s include 49ers quarterback Steve Young, who, per his Pro Football Hall of Fame page, passed for a record six touchdowns in Super Bowl XXIX, and Packers kick returner Desmond Howard, who returned a kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown to win MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI.

The 21st Century: The Patriots Dynasty Takes Over

It all started with the New England Patriots’ 20-17 win over the then-St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI — Tom Brady helped his team to victory, won Super Bowl MVP, and launched an NFL dynasty. While the Patriots have won five NFL championships with Brady behind center, the 41-year-old quarterback did once miss out on winning MVP honors, as wide receiver Deion Branch’s 133-yard performance in Super Bowl XXXIX earned him the award in 2005.

After winning the award again for his play in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XLIX, it was in Super Bowl LI where Brady broke Joe Montana’s record for most MVP trophies. During that game, Brady went 43-for-62 for two touchdowns and 466 yards passing and led the Patriots to an amazing comeback from 25 points down as they defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in overtime.

Meanwhile, Brady’s top rival in his 19-season NFL career, Peyton Manning, only won Super Bowl MVP honors once, claiming the trophy in Super Bowl XLI for helping the Indianapolis Colts defeat the Chicago Bears. Younger brother Eli Manning, on the other hand, won the award twice with the New York Giants, doing so in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.