Rams receiver Cooper Kupp won the Super Bowl LVI MVP award. It’s hard to argue that he didn’t deserve it. However, it’s fair to wonder whether Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald deserved it more.
This post isn’t about debating Kupp vs. Donald or Donald vs. Kupp. It’s about a voting process that needs to be overhauled, dramatically.
The NFL currently hand-picks 16 media members to vote on the Super Bowl MVP awards, with each voter casting a single all-or-nothing ballot. Fan voting through NFL.com ultimately counts as four additional votes, with first place counting as 2.5 votes, second-place counting as one vote, and third-place getting 0.5 votes. The fans therefore consist of 20 percent of the total voting, more than enough to decide the outcome in a close contest.
The league won’t disclose the names of the 16 media voters. That’s the first spot where change needs to come. There’s no reason for no transparency. And if someone in the media doesn’t want to have his or her vote scrutinized publicly, he or she should decline to vote.
Another problem arises from the relatively small number of voters. There are far more than 16 media members qualified to cast a ballot. The more the votes, the less likely a bad outcome will happen.
The biggest problem relates to the timing of the vote. The NFL doesn’t wait until the game is over to ask for ballots.
As one source with knowledge of the procedures tells PFT, the NFL wants the votes before the two-minute warning, if possible. Obviously, after Kupp’s second touchdown catch of the night (which came after the two-minute warning), he became the logical choice.
But then Donald saved the game, twice. First, he stopped Bengals running back Samaje Perine on a third-and-one running attempt. Next, Donald harassed Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow into throwing an incomplete pass on fourth down, securing the win.
“We are in touch with the panel during the fourth quarter, and often with the game in the balance, media will wait until the winner of the game is clear before giving us the final vote,” the NFL told PFT in response to an inquiry about the voting process. “There is not a hard deadline. If voters want to wait until immediately after the game concludes, that is fine.”
But the league wants to get the votes tabulated as quickly as possible, so that the MVP award can be announced quickly after the game ends. With only 16 voters, however, how long would it take?
And while we’ve got no problem with the fans having a voice, how meaningful is it to let fans vote before the game has been decided? The voting will be skewed by how things are going at different stages of voting. And then, if the game becomes extremely compelling in the final minute, clicking NFL.com to cast a ballot for the true MVP potentially becomes an afterthought. It seems like too much randomness for one fifth of the total votes.
So here’s our suggestion. Expand the panel. Accept no ballots before the game has ended. Then, minimize the relevance of fan voting, or harvest fan votes immediately after the game ends, maybe for 10 or 15 minutes.
Who cares if it takes 30 minutes or so for the MVP to be named? It’s a legacy-defining honor. It shouldn’t be rushed. And it shouldn’t be determined by a select handful of secret voters who are hand picked by the NFL.
There should be full transparency. Names. Votes. Everything. These aren’t state secrets. And the secrecy the league employs opens the door for criticism and suspicion. What does the league really gain from that?