Super Bowl XLII: Big Game MVPs

PHOENIX – Quarterbacks often are the Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl. In 41 games, a quarterback has been chosen as the MVP 21 times. What's intriguing about that figure, however, is that only 11 of the 21 were first-round draft choices.

Eli Manning of the Giants was a first-round pick, like his brother, Peyton, last year's MVP.

Tom Brady of the Patriots, already a two-time Super Bowl MVP, was a sixth-rounder.

Joe Montana of the 49ers, the only three-time MVP, was a third-rounder.

Why do lower picks so frequently thrive at quarterback while high picks do not? At least in part, it may have something to do with expectations.

"I think as a sixth-round pick, you slide under the radar. Nobody expects anything from you," Brady said Wednesday. "You just show up and you're trying to make the team. You're trying to bring your playbook to the meetings and not forget that in the room.

"When you're a first-round pick, everybody's counting on you to come in and save the franchise, and I think that's an incredible amount of pressure. I look at guys who have been those first-round picks, and have taken their teams to this point in the season, and I think that's a great statement about what they're all about."

Manning understands the expectations of a top pick first overall in the draft – especially after forcing a draft-day trade from San Diego to the Giants. Manning was the first top pick to force a trade since John Elway did it in 1983 when Baltimore picked him and he went to Denver. In 1986, top pick Bo Jackson refused to sign with Tampa Bay, played baseball for a year and went back into the draft in `87, when the Raiders chose him.

Scrutiny is particularly tough for a first overall pick, heightened when he forces a trade and then heightened even more by the suffocating attention he gets in New York.

QB Eli Manning
Harry How/Getty Images

"You can't get caught up in it," Manning said. "Especially early on, you're not going to be able to fill everybody's expectations of what you're supposed to do. ... You just have to believe in yourself."

There was, of course, tremendous irony in the Manning deal.

Ernie Accorsi, who retired after the 2006 season as the Giants general manager, swung the deal with San Diego for Manning, and many believed he overpaid. But Accorsi wasn't about to let Manning get away, and for good reason. Accorsi was the Baltimore GM who drafted Elway, only to have owner Robert Irsay trade him away without consulting Accorsi, who felt he could have been able, eventually, to sign Elway.

Manning's statistics throughout his four-year career have been consistently mediocre, but starting with the season-ending game against the Patriots, he has been on a good run. Manning says the defense deserves a lot of credit because he hasn't been forced to play from behind and has been able to play smart.

"We haven't been put into a bind where you have to force something to happen," he said.

In fact, however, the Giants have trailed at some point in each of their three playoff victories, but never by more than seven points. For that matter, the last game in which the Giants never trailed was a 16-10 victory over Detroit in mid-November. Their resilience in coming from behind and in winning 10 consecutive road games is what got them here.

And Manning has been especially resilient.

"He plays under some pretty intense scrutiny in New York," said Brady, who has learned a thing or two about scrutiny, too, lately. "You come into this league, fresh out of college with all the experiences you had leading up to that and thinking you know a hell of a lot more than you do know.

"You get into the NFL and you're humbled by how good everybody is and the level of preparation you need. I think we all grow a lot because you're forced to. I know the intensity of the scrutiny that he's been under, even at the beginning of this season. So the way he's handled that, never said a word and just gone about his business, says a lot."

Odds are also that one of the quarterbacks will be chosen on Sunday as the Super Bowl MVP. As with most years.

Ira Miller is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange.

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