The PFT Super Bowl LVI MVP: Aaron Donald

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals
Getty Images

The Super Bowl MVP award is a big deal. The NFL needs to start acting accordingly.

As explained on Monday, the voting process is flawed. There are too few voters, too little transparency (or none), and too much fan input. Most importantly, the process is too rushed.

While I have a distinct feeling that the powers-that-be don’t appreciate this bit (I’m used to it), the system needs to change. It’s slapped together so that the name can be disclosed as the confetti is falling.

Sometimes, the winner is obvious. Sometimes, it requires some thought. Some study. Some reflection. For Super Bowl LVI, the process would have benefited from giving the voters a chance to study the stat sheet, re-watch the game, absorb some of the quotes and stories and other information that would shape which player was truly the most valuable to the outcome.

Here’s a question. Why does it have to be done right after the game? Why not delay it until Tuesday? The game already owns Monday. An announcement of the Super Bowl MVP on Tuesday would own that day, too.

More importantly, it would represent a more careful and nuanced reflection of the MVP question. We’ve done that here at PFT. And our consensus Super Bowl LVI MVP, based on conversations among the PFT staff and with Chris Simms getting a vote, too, is that Aaron Donald is the true MVP.

Put simply, the likelihood of an L.A. win would have been impaired the most without the efforts of Aaron Donald. In addition to the plays he made to seal the game — the harassment of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on fourth and one preceded by the tackle of Cincinnati running back Samaje Perine on third and one — Donald kept the game from potentially collapsing with a pair of sacks after the interception thrown by the Rams on their first drive of the third quarter.

His presence fueled the seven-sack performance, with linebacker Von Miller getting two of them. For those reasons, Donald is the true MVP. If the voters had been given the opportunity to ponder and study and reflect, they quite possibly would have come to that conclusion, too.

Or maybe not. Regardless, the current process is too hurried. There’s no good reason for it. It’s too important to those who win it, and to those who don’t. More time won’t increase the possibility of getting it wrong. It will enhance the likelihood of getting it right.

72 responses to “The PFT Super Bowl LVI MVP: Aaron Donald

  1. Disagree – that Cincy O-line is horrible. Donald should have dominated the entire game. It took second half adjustments to start to make a difference. No dice for Donald.

  2. Kupp wasn’t a crazy pick for MVP. He deserved it, yes Donald deserved it a bit more but it’s not a big deal.

    I mean Brady hilariously won MVP in Super Bowl 36 when he had less than 100 yards passing until 2 minutes left in the game and ended up with 145 yards and an 86 passer rating. He shouldn’t have even been in the top 3 for game MVP on his own team lol.

  3. Dolphins defensive lineman Manny Fernandez wishes PFT would have been
    around in Jan 73 for SB VII.

  4. Literally every Ram made a mistake that game, except Donald. Jalen Ramsey was actively trying to lose the game until Donald decided he had to do it himself. Kupp while very deserving still didnt have the singular impact that Donald did, he won the game for them.

  5. Agreed. Aaron Donald should have been the winner of the award, and it didn’t even require reflection on my part. Cooper Kupp had a tremendous day on the other side of the ball, but there’s no way the Rams win without Donald.

  6. “Put simply, the likelihood of an L.A. win would have been impaired the most without the efforts of Aaron Donald.” I completely disagree. Cooper Kupp had to carry the receiving load after Beckham went out. Donald had plenty of help from Miller and others.

  7. Well, now that Donald has won the coveted PFT MVP, he can finally retire with some peace of mind.

  8. Aaron Donald was shut down most of the game, one of his two sacks was pushing Joe Burrow out of bounds for a 1 yard loss. And the Bengals offensive line was average to below average.

    Cooper Kupp was the Rams only offense once OBJ went down. The Rams don’t score on the game winning drive without Kupp. The Rams may not have won without Aaron Donald. The Rams definitely do not win the Super Bowl without Cooper Kupp.

  9. Aaron played against a terrible offensive line that all teams the Bengals played against in the playoffs sacked Joe Burrow. Also this really bad offensive line held Aaron in check for the first half. Cooper Kupp was double team throughout the game and Kupp was the teams only hope with Odell out and he stepped up in a big way. Yes there is a good argument for Aaron, but the one that truly should have gotten the award got it.

  10. BS, with no Cooper Kupp, LA had no offense (after OBJ went down). Cincy doubled Kupp and he ate them up that last (most important) drive. Taking NOTHING away from Donald, they don’t win that game if Kupp is simply “good”.

  11. No Kupp, no win. Took brutal hits and still hung onto ball. Everybody knew he was getting ball and he still got winning TD. MVP

  12. How about Kupp and Donald share it? Both worthy. I half expected Kupp to call Donald over on the podium and say he shared it, at least in spirit.

  13. They were both deserving enough that I had no problem with either choice. Co-MVPs would have been ideal.

  14. Kupp and Donald were both stellar in that game and you can’t really go wrong with either for MVP.

  15. I 100% agree. Just like when Edelman won over Gilmore. What more do they expect the defensive guys to do? They don’t have the chance to get the ball in their hands play after play like these receivers.

  16. Totally agree. Donald dominated the 2nd half and was the biggest factor in the win. Kupp was huge too but I feel like there is a bias towards offensive players for the SB MVP. Aaron Donald was the difference maker in that game.

  17. I’ve long thought the voting should be played up and done by former players. Each NFL team could send one of it’s great former players (either older or recent) to the Super Bowl and those players vote at the end who should be MVP. This will produce a more diverse opinion about offense and defense. They vote at end of game and gather on the field for the ceremony and present the award after the Lombardi is awarded. The TV guys could do quick interviews with them during the game and they could point out certain players they have their eyes on who are having a good game.

  18. Aaron Donald had 4 tackles all game. He had 1 sack before the last drive. He was a nonfactor for the majority of the game. Even if you compare AD’s last drive to Kupp’s, Cooper had far more of an impact. On his last drive Kupp had the 4th down conversion on the end around, he drew two penalties that gave the Rams 1st downs, and he caught 4 passes for 39 yds and the game winning TD. It’s a joke to argue he wasn’t MVP. Stafford even has a better argument than AD as the MVP as Stafford became the only winning QB in NFL history with 3 TD passes to not win the MVP.

  19. The game, while close, really felt like it could have been any 1:00 time slot game on a Sunday afternoon. Waiting two days for the MVP??? I really couldn’t care less who won the MVP, but that’s just me. I can’t imagine I’d care more two days later…

  20. Definitely more of a co-MVP situation. Really, a coin flip. They needed the best effort of both players to secure the win.

  21. With today’s NFL, if an offensive player and defensive player both stand out as having had an extraordinarily large impact on the game, the award will usually go to the offensive player. I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s just the way it is. It isn’t like the Von Miller SB MVP win where there wasn’t any one offensive player on the Broncos who took over the game.

  22. nite2al says:
    February 15, 2022 at 2:41 pm
    I 100% agree. Just like when Edelman won over Gilmore. What more do they expect the defensive guys to do? They don’t have the chance to get the ball in their hands play after play like these receivers.

    —-
    Agreed but I thought there was a good argument for both. It was a defensive game and Gilmore was the best player on the field for the Patriots on that side of the ball. When you hold the other team to 3 points there’s not much the offense needs to do.

    On the other side Edelman was the only offense the Patriots had for most of the game. Brady was terrible and the running game didn’t really do a lot until late in the game. Edelman caught 3 balls on third down for something like 60 yards.

  23. You quarterback your team on a 15 play game winning touchdown drive and throw a perfect back shoulder pass for the score. Sorry guys – the MVP choice is easy – and it isn’t Kupp or Donald.

  24. Yeah this game could have been an argument for co-MVPs. There’s a good argument for both guys and they don’t have to be at the expense of each other.

  25. League is falter under the inconsistency of the yellow flags. Let’s focus on the SB MVP process!

  26. Too much fan input? We pay for the product. As for the media making the choice we know from the Washington emails some of them are in the owner’s pockets.

  27. GoodellMustGo says:
    February 15, 2022 at 2:18 pm
    Kupp wasn’t a crazy pick for MVP. He deserved it, yes Donald deserved it a bit more but it’s not a big deal.

    I mean Brady hilariously won MVP in Super Bowl 36 when he had less than 100 yards passing until 2 minutes left in the game and ended up with 145 yards and an 86 passer rating. He shouldn’t have even been in the top 3 for game MVP on his own team lol.

    —-
    Everyone watching that game knows Ty Law was the MVP of that Super Bowl not Brady. Unlike Brady Law was dominant from start to finish. The famous pick 6, 7 tackles, 1 TFL and he hit Ram players so hard he broke someone’s ribs. Might have been Bruce? I can’t remember. Law was a difference maker.

    Why they gave it to a guy who just managed the game and did nothing special other than that is a head scratcher. The Kupp/Donald debate is not a head scratcher you could make convincing arguments for both.

  28. Aaron Donald was offsides on the last play, every bit the same as Dee Ford was in the 2018 Championship Game. Cost us a Super Bowl; shoulda cost L.A. too. Lousy line calls down the stretch as the officials swallowed their whistles, Sara Thomas, et. al. Missed illegal procedure calls late.

  29. It should have been co MVPs, Donald & Kupp. They can wait until the entire game is played before they vote with at least 50 voters though. An electronic vote is usually instantaneous in most situations.

  30. It’s not a big deal. Without Googling it, who was Super Bowl MVP in 2013?

    See, not a big deal.

  31. People who think Donald got shut down are hilarious. Burrow was literally doing 1 step and 2 step dropbacks for 30% of the plays to get the ball out before there was even an initial push. Any other time the Rams were clearly in the backfield causing him problems. People love to spit out numbers but didnt actually watch the game.

  32. Aaron Donald is a tremendous player who had a massive influence on the Rams win. That said consider the Rams win probabilities of a scenario in which Kupp and been unable to play compared to Donald being unable to play. Although they likely lose either of those scenarios, I think the Rams would be in better shape with Kupp and Donald’s replacement compared the Kupp’s replacement and Donald. Defensive players can justifiably win, but I do not think that Donald had the same impact that Von Miller had for the Broncos against the Panthers.

  33. I get it there was a feeling here that Donald should get it. I even think you guys have a good argument. But really its not like there was some huge injustice or travesty with Kupp getting it either. Both guys seriously balled out when the team needed it. If Donald had gotten it over Kupp there would have been differences of opinion on that too, but it still would be too close to get excited about. So no, I don’t think we have had some major gaff that calls for any changes.

  34. He must have been wearing his invisible uniform (like on the commercial) because none of the refs saw him lined up completely off sides on the last play. REFS WERE THE MVP’s!!!

  35. footballbaby says:
    February 15, 2022 at 2:41 pm
    Totally agree. Donald dominated the 2nd half and was the biggest factor in the win. Kupp was huge too but I feel like there is a bias towards offensive players for the SB MVP. Aaron Donald was the difference maker in that game.

    And up until the final 4 minutes of the game how were the Rams doing with Donalds domination, They were losing.

  36. His dirty but legal hit on Joe should have drawn a 15 yard unsportmanlike penalty – he didn’t need to do what he did – but he went there. There is no way a player who made exactly two plays in that game should beat someone who rose up and played like a maniac – Cooper Kupp. If it weren’t for him, the Rams would not have even been in the game.

  37. Donald doesn’t need to get 4 or 5 sacks to be the MVP. So much of his impact doesn’tshow up in the stat sheet. Ask anyone who ever played beside him.

    The Rams pass rush saved them. Kept it a one score game while the Rams offense scuffled all second half. Bengals only needed one more TD to put the game out of reach. They never got it.

    I’m fine with Kupp as MVP but the Rams defense is what gave them a chance in the end.

  38. Kupp himself said he felt unworthy of the award when he was on the post-game podium. He’d probably say Donald deserved it. Both players were needed for the win.

    Curious there’s almost no buzz for Stafford. If Brady, Mahomes or Rodgers had QB’d the Rams to a Super Bowl victory they’d be MVP.

    Getting away from “automatically the QB” is great but favoritism isn’t nice.

  39. How about we stop giving out MVP awards. I think they’re stupid. Isn’t football a team game? Don’t all the coaches and players always talk about team, team, team? Why would we create an award that would drive a wedge between teammates?

  40. I wouldn’t have had a problem with either Kupp or Donald, but at least one thing is for sure and no one’s mentioned it; there’s no way Stafford should have won it.

  41. cardsgreat says:
    February 15, 2022 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve long thought the voting should be played up and done by former players. Each NFL team could send one of it’s great former players (either older or recent) to the Super Bowl and those players vote at the end who should be MVP. This will produce a more diverse opinion about offense and defense. They vote at end of game and gather on the field for the ceremony and present the award after the Lombardi is awarded. The TV guys could do quick interviews with them during the game and they could point out certain players they have their eyes on who are having a good game.

    —-

    That’s… a really good idea. Imagine how vexed the networks would get if the players picked an offensive lineman as Super Bowl MVP.

  42. Deservedly so, the Rams were going to lose that game until Donald started taking it over. In any case, this Rams team is not exactly one of the great Super Bowl champions of history. KC or the Bills would have beaten them if they had played instead of the Bengals.

  43. joedelaney37forever says:
    February 15, 2022 at 3:21 pm
    Aaron Donald was offsides on the last play, every bit the same as Dee Ford was in the 2018 Championship Game. Cost us a Super Bowl; shoulda cost L.A. too. Lousy line calls down the stretch as the officials swallowed their whistles, Sara Thomas, et. al. Missed illegal procedure calls late.

    ———————————————————————

    Absolutely, but the NFL officiating was garbage all season, so why should the Super Bowl be any different?

  44. well heck, if we are going to just make up rules…
    .
    let last years inductees into the hall of fame chose the SB MVP. each year it’s a different group of players and coaches.

  45. Tuesday is too late. The excitement of the game and getting the superbowl MVP accolades in that moment has more recognition.

  46. The true SB MVP is Andrew Whitworth. It was a brilliant move to leave the Bengals a couple of years ago, and in the process, decimate their offensive line. Then, Whit doubled-down by signing with the Rams and cashing in on a SB win. Very clever fellow!

  47. No the Kuspter was the SB MVP and should have been the league MVP. Your vote and opinion counts as much as mine.

  48. They were both deserving. Donald was the disrupter and Kupp was the only person on offense doing anything after OBJs exit. They were both deserving. Maybe instead of waiting a few days to think it over, why not have an offensive and defensive MVP. Then again someone will always be unhappy about that as well.

  49. Totally disagree. He went up against inferior OL. Burrow was sacked 7 times. In the playoff game against the Titans Burrow was sacked 9 times. Terrible OL. Donald under performed.

  50. So can we finally put to rest this idiocy that Donald disappears in big games? Probably not, being way too familiar with this crowd.

  51. This is an offense driven sport. No defensive player will win the MVP. I believe SB 5 or 6 a defensive player for Dallas won the SB MVP, perhaps the only one?

  52. Stafford should have got it – his early play laid the foundation of the win ,- after OBJ went out of the game he had only one target and no run game to help him. his throwing to Kupp WAS brilliant and he must be given a lot of credit- AD got into the game late,one of his sacks was when Burrow was running out of bounds , he played great in stages but Stafford was the MVP

  53. I don’t think there is an obvious winner. In fact, I believe LA would not have won without Donald and I also think they wouldn’t have won without Kupp. Those backup receivers were not the depth they hoped they’d be.

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