For This MVP, It Was Easy Pickings

Times Staff Writer

Dexter Jackson confessed Monday he had one thought as he watched Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson pass his way up and down the field in the second half of Super Bowl XXXVII against Oakland: There goes my MVP award.

Jackson, a Buccaneer safety, set the tone for the 48-21 victory with two interceptions in the first half.

"We came out in the third quarter and Coach [Jon] Gruden was still throwing the ball," Jackson said. "I said, hey, he's trying to get Brad Johnson the most valuable player. But that's the West Coast offense. And that's what they do. We throw short passes to stimulate the run."

Jackson was voted the game's MVP in large part because he was pushed over the top by fan voting on the Internet. The media pick was defensive end Simeon Rice, and reserve cornerback Dwight Smith was a strong candidate too, with two interception returns for touchdowns.

At times, Jackson has felt somewhat disconnected from the rest of Tampa Bay's defense because he lines up so deep as a free safety and so much of the action happens up front. The Buccaneers have such a fierce pass rush, opposing quarterbacks often look to complete short passes, giving Jackson relatively few chances to pick off the long throws. He said Rice has been encouraging him.

"He said, 'Just wait; your time will come,' " Jackson said. "And last night was my time. He was one of the first guys to come and congratulate me."

As the winner of the award, Jackson got his pick among five Cadillacs -- he chose an Escalade -- but he did not receive the traditional "I'm going to Disneyland" (or DisneyWorld) endorsement. That was shared by Gruden and Johnson.

"I'm a little disappointed," Jackson said. "I always wanted to hang out with Mickey Mouse and the guys. But I wasn't selected. But that's fine. I can ride to Disneyland in my new Cadillac on my own. So it will be great. I'll just toot my horn when I ride by Disneyland.

"I'll go to Six Flags."

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