In the 53-year history of the Super Bowl, only once has a player from the losing team been selected MVP. In 1971, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley received the honor in a sluggish, 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts that was dominated by both defenses. Can history repeat itself in the 2020 Super Bowl?

Patrick Mahomes
The styles of both Super Bowl teams indicate the possibility of a rare outcome, and a potential bonanza for bettors. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes could have a huge day in a Kansas City loss, and still win the MVP award. (Image: AP)

Of the hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Super Bowl propositions, betting on who will win the Most Valuable Player award (otherwise known as “Super Bowl MVP”) is among the most popular wagering options.

Typically, the MVP ends up being the quarterback or running back from the winning team. Occasionally, wide receivers win the award. There have even been instances of defensive players winning the honor. However, the MVP has gone to a player on the losing team only once.

In 1971, at Miami’s Orange Bowl, the former-Baltimore Colts won a messy 16-13 game over the Dallas Cowboys on a last-second field goal. No offensive player from either side played a good game. Hence, the award was likely to go to a defensive player. That seemed logical.

Chuck Howley played 15 years in the NFL (1958-1973), and was an anchor on Dallas’ famed “Doomsday Defense.” He played a monster game that day, intercepting two passes, forcing a fumble, and leading the Cowboys in tackles. Howley (#54, shown in the photo) clearly deserved the award. Unfortunately, since that oddity of a game, MVP voters appear to have abandoned all objectivity under some false pretense that the “Most Valuable Player” must be a member of the winning team. Perhaps that will change this year.

chuck howley mvp of super bowl v
Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley (#54) was the MVP of Super Bowl V, even though the Cowboys lost the game. (Image: Getty)

The 2020 Super Bowl provides the possibility that the cycle of MVP winners from victorious teams could finally be broken. Here’s why.

49ers are Offensively-Balanced, Defensive-Minded

San Francisco wins as a team. The 49ers’ offense scores points by committee, meaning that many players are involved. The lack of any standout player on the offense decreases the chance that one “skill position” player will generate enough stats to be a consensus MVP pick.

First, let’s examine quarterback Jimmy Garopollo. He posted a 102.5 passing rating in the 2019 regular season, which is impressive. However, his playoff stats have been lackluster. To be fair, Garopollo didn’t have to throw many passes.

Incredibly, Garopollo was just 17-27 for 208 in two playoff games! Those are nowhere near the normal stats of an MVP QB. Those aren’t even the stats of a losing quarterback. One expects the 49ers will stick with a similar game plan in the Super Bowl. Hence, Garopollo looks to be a longshot choice, even if the 49ers triumph.

The most likely 49er to win MVP is running back Raheem Mostert. He gained only 772 yards rushing during the regular season. However, Mostert came alive in the playoffs, rushing for 278 yards in two games, good for a 6.8 yard-per-carry average. If Mostert repeats these numbers, he’s probably going to win MVP, especially if San Francisco wins.

Since the Niners aren’t much of a passing team, it’s not surprising that none of the wideouts have made many headlines. Aside from the tight end, none of the receivers surpassed 1,000 yards in catches — and tight ends don’t win Super Bowl MVP awards.

The other possibility which bears consideration is that a San Francisco defensive player becomes MVP. If the 49ers shut down Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense, there’s a good chance one of the defensive standouts could get picked as MVP.

49ers MVP Betting Favorites

Jimmy Garopollo (QB) +275

Raheem Mostert (RB) +600

George Kittle (TE) +1000

Chiefs Dominated by One Superstar Player

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the overwhelming, odds-on favorite to win the MVP award. He’s close to even money (+105), putting him in esteemed, Tom Brady-like territory as both the popular fan choice, and oddsmakers favorite. His public adoration is well justified as Mahomes is certainly a game-changer. He’s a dual-threat as both a passer and a runner. Mahomes also won the 2018 NFL MVP award as an overwhelming choice, last season.

Recent history also favors Mahomes (and Garopollo) as the top two betting favorites. Seven of the last 10 MVPs have been won by quarterbacks. If the Chiefs win, it seems a near certainty Mahomes will hoist at least a couple of trophies — namely, the Lombardi and MVP.

Other Chiefs players are barely noticeable on the MVP odds sheet. This stacked situation usually provides some value on dark horses, who can be attractive longshots. However, it’s very difficult to conceive of how a running back or receiver would generate exemplary stats without much of the credit going to the quarterback.

Chiefs MVP Betting Favorites

Patrick Mahomes +105

Damien Williams +1200

Travis Kelce +2000

Prop Bet: Will the MVP be from the Losing Team? — Yes

The most likely scenario to produce a 49ers win and Mahomes MVP is simple — the 49ers win an exciting, high-scoring game.

How this plays out would be as follows. San Francisco’s offensive players divide up lots of yardage, with no one player scoring more than a single touchdown. That makes it difficult for the MVP voters — comprised of football writers/broadcasters and an electronically condcuted public vote — to pick a standout 49ers player. At the same time, Mahomes enjoys a monster game.

It’s happened before. In games that Mahomes started and Kansas City lost (2018-2019 seasons), he still threw for nearly 400 yards per game on average, and the Chiefs scored nearly 30 points, even in defeat.

San Francisco beating Kansas City by something like 34-30 in a game where offensive production is spread out evenly across one roster versus another dominated by a superstar player who’s wildly popular with the public all makes sense.

Proposition wagers which will include this unusual betting option are being released now. Instead of backing the favorite to win the MVP award, Mahomes doing something that hasn’t happened in 49 years could be the more attractive longshot.

Here’s a link to many of the betting propositions and odds available at the Westgate Las Vegas.

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