Life thrums with joy when teamwork elevates each person’s individual contribution to an orchestrated magnificence impossible for any one person. We rejoice at exceptional performances ranging from scores of youth and musicians at Wenatchee High School musicals to ad-hoc cooks in crowded kitchens for family celebrations.
Choosing a Most Valuable Player like a Super Bowl does would diminish the joy of those experiences by focusing on an individual at the expense of the community of players.
The NFL recognizes an MVP by votes from fans online during the game and a panel of football writers and broadcasters after the game. The online ballot lists individual names, so I’m proposing to add options to vote for defensive teams, offensive teams, special teams and even the whole team.
The synchronicity of the Seahawk players was outstanding. Even the twelfth man deserves credit because fan noise on the first play caused Denver’s center to snap the ball too early, giving the Seahawks a safety and some Broncos an ominous feeling.
Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider’s team scheme requires every person to commit to a limited role and be loyal to the team. Seattle saves money because they draft lower cost players for roles where they can make great contributions.
“The real MVP of Seattle’s Super Bowl then, was a front office willing to take risks and some really good accounting,” said Schuyler Velasco, a writer for the Christian Science Monitor.
Seattle’s strategy is radical in the NFL. Richard Sherman, for example, was selected in the fifth round, earns less than $1 million per year, yet is considered to be the best cornerback in the NFL by Hall of Fame players, including the diamond-studded-earring-celebrity, Deion Sanders.
Sherman always plays the left cornerback position, but Sanders and others have said to be the greatest, he should match up against the greatest receivers on the opponent’s team wherever they line up. But that strategy forces everyone in the defensive backfield to adjust to a different location on every play.
Sherman explained to Sanders that his responsibility is to play cornerback so well opponents limit their options by avoiding him. Seattle’s defenders played so well, Denver’s NFL-best offense found options for only one touchdown.
MVP Malcom Smith is a role model for the team concept. He was drafted in the seventh round in 2011 and played special teams until this year when he started in eight games after suspensions and injuries to three other players.
His statistics show he played a great game. His interviews show he understands his role.
At the press conference he said, “I’m just here to represent the defense, honestly. I played a role tonight and just had a couple opportunities to make plays. Tonight was my turn and I’m here, but it’s definitely on behalf of them.”
ESPN asked if he was surprised to be MVP. ”Oh definitely. Being a defensive player I was kind of feeling I was a piece of the game and not really doing too much.”
He explained the teamwork during his interception. “I had the running back, there was great coverage on the back end, Cliff Averil got to the quarterback, I got a couple of good blocks and the next thing I know, I’m in the end zone.”
He explained why the defense dominates: ”It’s just our commitment to each other, a commitment to a greater goal of how we want to play and our product on the field, and the aggressiveness and the attitude we want to play with, and the fact we don’t back down from anybody.”
He’s right, he played a minor role on a great team. He directly contributed only seven of Seattle’s 43 points, only nine tackles out of 73 tackles and none of the 55 offensive plays.
While he is a humble, engaging Seahawk representative, the team was more important than any individual performance.
Writers, broadcasters and fans should be able to vote for teams as the most valuable contributor in games when they deserve it.
Let’s celebrate teamwork when it’s exceptional.