Julian Edelman had a big game on Sunday and was named the Super Bowl LIII Most Valuable Player, but some have raised questions about why an offensive player got the award after the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. Those voices included Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell, who wrote on Twitter that awarding the MVP to an offensive player showed “no respect” for the Patriots’ defense.
But before blaming the voters for any lack of respect for defense, it’s important to understand that the NFL makes it hard on Super Bowl MVP voters by not giving them time to reflect on the game and look at their notes before submitting their votes. In fact, the voting starts before the game is even over.
Super Bowl MVP voting is determined by 16 members of the media who are at the game, and by fans voting on SuperBowl.com. The fan voting, which counts for 20 percent of the vote total, begins at the start of the fourth quarter and ends just as the game is ending, which means many, possibly most, of the votes were cast while Sunday’s game was still a 3-3 tie. Allowing votes that early in the game is a great way to get fans to just vote for the most recognizable name who’s putting up good stats, and for most of Sunday’s game, that was Edelman.
The media voting, which counts for 80 percent of the total, also begins before the game is over: NFL employees go around the press box asking the voters who they’re going to pick while the game is still going on. The voters are allowed to change their minds if something significant happens in the final minutes, but the reality is those media voters are busily working on their primary jobs, which is covering the game for the outlets they work for, and if a game-changing play happens in the final minutes, they’re more focused on writing their game stories than reconsidering their MVP votes.
PFT reached out to the league office to ask why the NFL doesn’t wait until a few minutes after the game to collect the votes. We were told that the reason the fan vote opens early in the fourth quarter is so that voting can be promoted on the TV broadcast, informing fans that they can vote and providing time to consider who they would like to vote for. The league also said that while media voters are asked to vote with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, they can wait until the game ends to turn in their votes, and some voters who vote late in close games give two names, one from each team, with instructions that the MVP vote should go to the player on the winning team.
What would make more sense is to open the voting after the game. Fans could be given 15 minutes to vote online as soon as the game ends, with votes counted instantly, and the media voters could turn in their ballots after having a few minutes to check their notes. It only takes a minute or two to count 16 ballots, and on Sunday night Jim Nantz didn’t call Edelman up to the stage to be recognized as the MVP until 26 minutes after the game ended, so there’s really no reason to rush the voters.
Perhaps with some more time to reflect, voters would have chosen an MVP from the Patriots’ defense, like Stephon Gilmore or Dont'a Hightower. At the very least, the Super Bowl MVP — one of the signature awards in the sport of football — would be awarded based on a more thoughtful process.