We’ve all fallen into that trap of trying to get too cute when it comes to betting. Perhaps the best example of that, at least at this time of the year, is the prop betting for Super Bowl MVP.
The chance at hubris often outweighs common sense. To be able to stand up and say that you were on that long shot that came in and won the award or that you were savvy enough to stay away from the favorites.
There are a few really quick things to keep in mind as we handicap the MVP picture for Super Bowl LIV. The first is that a running back has not won the award since 1998 when Terrell Davis was the MVP of Super Bowl 32 for the Denver Broncos. The second is that only four wide receivers have won the MVP since Super Bowl 23 when Jerry Rice won as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Those four wide receivers – Julian Edelman, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, and Deion Branch – won in 2019, 2009, 2006, and 2005, respectively. That means that Edelman was the first in 10 years to win it and last year’s Super Bowl was a total dud.
Third, QUARTERBACKS. In 53 previous Super Bowls, quarterbacks have won the MVP 29 times. Beginning with Joe Montana in 1990, quarterbacks have won the award 17 times in 30 Super Bowls. There have been six defensive players to win it, Von Miller, Malcolm Smith, Dexter Jackson, Ray Lewis, Desmond Howard, and Larry Brown. That means that running backs and wide receivers combined have only won one more Super Bowl MVP in the last 30 years than defensive players.
When you look at the 49ers, you have to ask yourself who can actually win the award. A running back hasn’t won the MVP in over 20 years. A tight end has never won the MVP award. Perhaps Raheem Mostert or George Kittle make history, but they’d be going up against a precedent that has favored quarterbacks and defensive players. If Mostert has a great game with over 100 yards and a couple touchdowns in a 49ers win, it seems almost impossible to see Jimmy Garoppolo or one of the pass catchers doing enough to take the award away from him.
That being said, can we really say that there is value in Mostert at +550 or +600 in the marketplace? Do we have to view each Super Bowl as an independent event and just look at the running backs’ opportunities within that vacuum?
In Super Bowl 51, James White had six carries for 29 yards, 14 catches for 110 yards, and three touchdowns. The MVP went to Tom Brady, who did have a record 466 yards, but also did so on 62 passing attempts.
In Super Bowl 50, CJ Anderson had 90 yards on 23 carries with one of the game’s two offensive touchdowns. The MVP went to Von Miller.
In Super Bowl 41, Dominic Rhodes had 21-113-1 and one catch for eight yards. Joseph Addai had 19-77 and 10-66. Peyton Manning was 25-of-38 for 247 with a TD and a pick. He won the MVP.
To me, the only surefire MVP call at running back would have been Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl 49 if Pete Carroll hadn’t inexplicably tried to throw it in. The Patriots won, so Tom Brady won the MVP.
Here’s the thing, though. As I’m going through Super Bowl by Super Bowl, I’m not finding many big running back stat lines. Think about the teams that often go to the Super Bowl. They have world-class quarterbacks. You can find a few instances to the contrary, but not many. In the biggest game of the season and the biggest game of most of these guys’ lives, they’re putting it in the hands of that quarterback.
Are the 49ers uniquely positioned to make history in that this is a run-first football team with a QB in Jimmy G that won’t be the focal point of the offense?
Obviously Patrick Mahomes is the favorite on the other side and the likely recipient of the award if the Chiefs win. The MVP has only gone to a member of the losing team once and that was Chuck Howley for his two interceptions in Super Bowl V. Mahomes won’t win it unless the Chiefs are the champs, so he won’t impact Mostert in any way.
What are the chances that Garoppolo makes enough plays or even has enough chances to win the MVP? After all, if Garoppolo has that kind of workload, is it fair to assume that things went badly for the Niners?
Furthermore, if Garoppolo’s services are required, will it be Emmanuel Sanders? Deebo Samuel? Kittle? Kendrick Bourne? Those guys are likely to share yards, touchdowns, and receptions, so we can’t really look at any pass catchers for the 49ers, can we?
By process of elimination, are we simply down to Mostert to break a 22-year drought? What if Mostert ends up sharing carries with Tevin Coleman? What if the dust is shaken off of Matt Breida? With Coleman’s injury and Breida’s two offensive snaps in the NFC Championship Game, it does seem like it will be the Raheem Mostert show, but can we really bet him to win the MVP?
It seems like we can’t really bet anybody else except Garoppolo at a price that is not the least bit consistent with his outlook for the game.
Maybe everything is just aligned for a running back to have his big moment for the first time in a long time.