Confession: In our eyes Tom Brady can do very little wrong. He’s the definition of not only a living legend, but a living legend still playing. Tom Brady’s Super Bowl MVP odds stand at 8/5. Not a bad bet for the quarterback of the Super Bowl favorite, right? Wrong. He might be the favorite, but it’s a bit of a bad bet.
While the Super Bowl MVP has the reputation of being a quarterback’s award, it’s actually even more of a young man’s award. And despite Brady’s otherworldly conditioning regimen, he’s still 37 years old. If he were to win the award, he’d be the second oldest Super Bowl MVP, behind only the 38-year-old John Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII. In fact, no other player older than 34 has ever won it. (Tom Brady photo courtesy of the New England Patriots / David Silverman)
Of course, football itself is a young man’s game, so simply stating that there hasn’t been an MVP older than 31 in 15 years doesn’t tell you too much. Aside from Brady, the only player of consequence on either team who is older than 31 is 32-year-old Vince Wilfork. As a defensive tackle, he isn’t even individually listed on Odds Shark’s odds. But looking at the AV-adjusted average age of Super Bowl winning teams and comparing it to the Super Bowl MVP gives some better perspective. (H/T: Football Perspective, which uses the approximate value of each player and calculates that into the team’s average age; otherwise every team would skew younger with undrafted rookies filling third-string roles.)
If you look at the previous 48 Super Bowls, even including the days when impact players played longer (think Bart Starr and Len Dawson), the MVP skews to a young player rather than a quarterback. There have been 26 quarterbacks named MVP in the previous 48 Super Bowls. But there’s been 29 players named MVP who were younger than or the same age as their team’s average age.
When you narrow the focus into a more current time period, such as the past 25 Super Bowls, 16 MVPs have been younger than or the same age as their team’s average age. During that same time period, 15 MVPs were quarterbacks. The past 15 years? Same slight edge for younger players: Young guns with 10 of 15 MVPs, while quarterbacks were 9 of 15 MVPs.
A quarterback is actually more likely to win the season MVP than the Super Bowl MVP. One simple explanation is that the quarterback’s greatness is likely to even out during the entire regular season more than during one fluky game. But consider another reason. Former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light told The Improper last week that the bigger your family, the more responsibilities you have during the lead up to the Super Bowl.
“It’s a real rat race to get everything figured out. If you’re married, it’s a whole other set of circumstances because you’ve got your wife’s family and your family. And you’ve got to make sure your wife has everything she needs,” Light says. “If you’ve got kids, god forbid you got little criminals running around like I did, you’ve got to make sure they’re all taken care of.”
If that were true, then it would hold true that single players with no kids were more likely to have less outside distractions before the Super Bowl—and possibly have a better game. But there’s no real data available for players’ familial status. The closest you can get to breaking out single nonparents is to generalize that younger players are more likely to be single and without kids—unless you’re Antonio Cromartie.
So rather than thinking the quarterback is the favorite to win the award, it’s actually slightly more likely that the MVP crowned on Sunday is a player who is younger than his team’s average age. Knowing that, you might want to look past Brady in the MVP betting odds on Sunday. One player who still falls in the young’uns category? Twenty-five-year-old Rob Gronkowski.