The 50th Super Bowl is just one week away, and that means that there is plenty of talk about the history and legacy of football's biggest game. We've seen the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team announced, rankings of the best Super Bowls, and rankings of the best Super Bowl MVPs, among other lists.
That ranking of the Super Bowl MVPs caught the attention of some Colts fans, as ESPN's Mike Sando put together his list of the top MVP performances in the history of the Super Bowl and ranked the Colts' lone MVP, Peyton Manning, quite low. Of the 49 Super Bowls that have taken place (and, therefore, 49 Super Bowl MVPs), Manning's performance in Super Bowl XLI was ranked 40th.
Manning completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and one interception during the Colts' 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Miami rain. Manning carried the Colts for years, but his defense shouldered much of the load during the playoffs that season. Chicago scored on the opening kickoff and then intercepted Manning to end the Colts' opening drive. Manning rebounded to find Reggie Wayne for a 53-yard touchdown on third-and-10. The Colts intercepted Rex Grossman twice and rushed for 191 yards on 42 carries.
To be honest, Manning wasn't anything special in that Super Bowl performance. He completed 25 of 38 passes (65.8%) for 247 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) and a touchdown along with an interception for an 81.8 quarterback rating. The Colts won handily over the Chicago Bears 29-17, but that was largely due to their defense and run game in a game played in a steady rain. The Colts' defense held the Bears to just ten points (the other seven came on special teams) and returned and interception 56 yards for a touchdown. Furthermore, the running back tandem of Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai helped pave the way for Indy's offense. Rhodes rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown while averaging 5.4 yards per carry (he also caught one pass for eight yards) while Addai rushed for 77 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry, and caught ten passes for 66 yards. Combined, the two backs accounted for 264 total yards and a touchdown.
This list isn't taking anything away from the greatness of Peyton Manning, but it's right to rank his Super Bowl MVP performance lower on the list because there's a very strong argument to be made that he wasn't even the best choice in the game - that would go to Dominic Rhodes. The award was given to Manning, however, and it was as much for the culmination of nine seasons of seeking a Lombardi Trophy as it was for his play on the field. That's perfectly fine - when looking at the big picture, nobody could have possibly been more deserving than Manning. But when looking at the play on the field for that one game - which is what the Super Bowl MVP award is designed to do - it's fair to say that Manning's performance, while good, wasn't close to being among the best performances in the biggest game of all time. In fact, it wasn't even close to Manning's best performance in the Super Bowl, either (that would belong to the 2009 Super Bowl, though Manning didn't win the MVP since he was on the losing team).
Peyton Manning is one of the best players in NFL history and he isn't nearly as bad of a playoff quarterback as many think he is (more on that is coming this week), but his lone Super Bowl MVP award was more about history and the culmination of circumstances than for his actual performance on the field, and so it's no surprise to see him ranked so low on this list.