Super Bowl 56 MVP Cooper Kupp, once ignored, dominates biggest moment of biggest game | Opinion
Years ago, when coming out of high school, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had no college scholarship offers after his season ended. He was mostly incognito to big-time football. He was an afterthought.
He'd go on to Eastern Washington. Not exactly an SEC football factory. His journey is often talked about in terms that aren't always accurate. He's been described as scrappy and gritty, when in actuality he's physically talented and fast. He's often viewed as a blue-collar worker when he's truly a thoroughbred.
Maybe now, maybe that he dominated a talented Cincinnati Bengals defense, from start to finish, but especially the finish, and was named the MVP Sunday night, he'll be seen as he truly is: one of the most dominant receivers of his generation. Not a flash in the pan, but The Flash. Not gritty and witty but slick and dangerous.
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The MVP award could have also gone to teammate Aaron Donald, who had key stops in the final minutes of the game. But Kupp was as he has been all season: unstoppable for the entirety of the contest.
Kupp had eight catches for 92 yards and two scores, one of them the game winner. His first touchdown came when he faked like he was blocking, and then bolted to the right corner of the end zone. The move worked because Kupp is such a good and persistent blocker, he can easily sell it.
Watching Kupp do interviews after his huge moment was in itself fascinating. He was excited but there was also a sort of normalcy to his energy. It was like he expected this or, at the very least, knew he was capable of it.
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Lots of NFL players say they are prepared for the moment, but many aren't, and even fewer have the chance to prove it. Kupp did both.
The thing with Kupp is to be careful about how he's portrayed. You see him cast as a plucky upstart and there's a smidge of truth to that. What Kupp mostly represents, however, is how the football's scouting ecosystem can get player evaluations wildly wrong.
How else to explain Kupp? This year he won a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl MVP, and this past season led the league in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
The only other wide receiver to do that over his career was Jerry Rice. He was pretty good.
Kupp was unstoppable in the postseason and while quarterback Matthew Stafford and Donald were also formidable, all acting as support structures for the Rams team, it was Kupp who did that while also providing consistent explosiveness. In the first round against Arizona, he had five catches and a score. In the divisional round against the Buccaneers, he had nine catches for 183 yards and one touchdown. His 44-yard catch set up the game-winning field goal.
You'll notice a pattern with Kupp. In key moments, at key times, he's open. He's there.
In the conference title game against the 49ers, he had 11 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
Kupp's 33 catches in the playoffs is a post-season record.
The Super Bowl also displayed what is one of the most remarkable aspects of Kupp's game. Everyone knows he's getting the football and still he manages to get open. He's double teamed, zoned, all kinds of mixes of both, and still, he runs past someone. Or several someone's. It's like he has a cloaking device.
But he doesn't. You know what he has? Just pure, outstanding talent.
The guy who didn't have a scholarship offer when he finished high school. The guy, for a number of reasons, few saw coming.
Can't ignore him now. He's the MVP.