When it comes to predicting the MVP of the Super Bowl, picking a quarterback is a fairly safe bet. 21 of the 41 Super Bowl MVP's have been quarterbacks, the most of any position. Tom Brady has two Cadillacs sitting in his garage thanks to the award (OK, maybe one -- He donated the second one to his high school in San Mateo, Calif.), but for all of you expecting the Patriots quarterback to run away with his third Super Bowl MVP, here are five previous winners that few could have forecasted.
Desmond Howard, KR-PR, Green Bay Packers - Super Bowl XXXI
While the The former Heisman Trophy winner never really lived up to his potential as a wide receiver, Howard made his mark in Super Bowl lore by single-handedly putting a stop to New England's comeback in Super Bowl XXXI with a Super Bowl record 244 total return yards, including a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Patriots RB Curtis Martin brought New England within 27-21 with an 18-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but Howard immediately answered, taking Adam Vinatieri's kickoff the distance for the game's final score.
Ironically, Howard didn't think he had a chance at winning the MVP. "I really didn't expect them to be kicking the ball that much," he said.
Deion Branch, WR, New England Patriots - Super Bowl XXXIX
Another clutch performance by Tom Brady appeared worthy of a third MVP award for the quarterback, but voters may have been swayed by the weight of history. Branch led all receivers with 11 receptions for 133 yards. His 11th catch in the third quarter tied him with Jerry Rice and Dan Ross for the most receptions in a single Super Bowl. It also gave him a combined 21 receptions in two Super Bowls, setting another record.
If Branch's impact on the game's outcome surprised anyone, they must not have been watching the previous season when Branch recorded 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots' win over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Joe Namath, QB, New York Jets - Super Bowl III
Namath might have won the Most Valuable Player award without even throwing a pass. His "guarantee" of victory -- and his determined leadership to back up his boast -- cemented the reputation of the AFL and excited football fans around the country. The upstart Jets of the AFL defeated the Baltimore Colts of the NFL 16-7 in one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Completing 17-of-28 passes for 206 yards, Namath directed a Jets attack that rolled up 337 yards of total offense.
Namath's famous run off the field after the game, his index finger waving to let the world know who was "No. 1," is one of the enduring images of the Super Bowl.
Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Oakland Raiders - Super Bowl XI
Eye-black blazing and wristbands flashing, Biletnikoff helped Oakland win its first NFL title with a 32-14 victory over Minnesota. Biletnikoff's numbers that day (4 receptions, 79 yards) may have been relatively pedestrian (considering that RB Clarence Davis recorded 137 yards rushing on 16 attempts and QB Ken Stabler went 12-of-19 for 180 yards and 1 touchdown), but three of his four catches set up all three of Oakland's offensive touchdowns.
Dexter Jackson, FS, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Super Bowl XXXVII
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' free safety won the award after intercepting two Rich Gannon passes in the first half of Super Bowl XXXVII-- a Super Bowl record -- as the Buccaneers rolled to a 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
The decison to name Jackson MVP was not an easy one, as the Buccaneers intercepted Gannon five times -- twice by Jackson, twice by CB Dwight Smith and once by LB Derrick Brooks.