Friday, January 4, 2013

2012-13 NFL Awards

I'll be doing my single season awards, but not just the big 5 or 6. I've got many categories to spotlight that I think deserve to be mentioned that don't tend to get recognition around the league. Remember, these are MY awards. I speak only for myself and nobody else.

Special Teams Player of the Year

Lorenzo Alexander, Washington Redskins. Homer right off the bat? No. Lorenzo Alexander is one of the most fearless men in all of football. Granted, his story of coming in as a DT really boost his case for the award, he's still going out and performing better than any other special teamer in the league, and he takes great pride in his hits or eating blocks that free his teammates to make those hits. Washington's coverage units are annually good, and while I don't know where they rank all time, they're usually one of the best units every single year. That's in large part due to Alexander who helped keep the unit on track this year. There are many unsung heroes on many teams in the league and kickers and punters deserve recognition too, but Lorenzo's contributions are extraordinary.


Reserve Player of the Year

Casey Hayward, Green Bay Packers. I was very tempted to throw this one over to Rob Jackson, who contributed huge to the Redskins defense in the turnaround. But I have to recognize real with this Hayward kid, who filled in for a Charles Woodson who went down early in the year as well. Hayward played strong all season long, and did it without the greatest pass rush after Clay Matthews was sat down a few weeks for injury. Hayward posted some terrific numbers this year and while he was no match for Charles Woodson's production, he was still better than most and that's what is most impressive.


Assistant Coach of the Year

Bobby Turner, Washington Redskins. Running backs coach Bobby Turner is historically good and productive. He has been with Mike Shanahan his entire head-coaching career and has never once taken available, deserved opportunities to move up to offensive coordinator, because he simply loves his job. All of those great running backs Mike Shanahan gets credit for finding and producing, go through Bobby Turner before they ever hit the field. Turner has done it again, and this time turned out his most productive rookie runner in Alfred Morris (yes, better on the ground than Terrell Davis' outstanding rookie season). The Redskins ranked first in the league on the ground, and Morris 3rd overall. Bobby Turner is clearly as much a part of that success as any position coach in the league.


Defensive Coordinator of the Year

Jack Del Rio, Denver Broncos. There are some guys out there who did good in many ways with their defenses, and some guys who stymied some offenses that Del Rio couldn't. But Del Rio's unit was the most consistent in terms of not allowing points, yards through the air, or yards on the ground. They also weren't one of the most penalized units. I love what Del Rio was able to do this year. He took a very good defense, and made them better. His team gave Peyton Manning more opportunities with the football as well, and when you can do that for a guy who doesn't need them, you're doing your job.


Offensive Coordinator of the Year

Kyle Shanahan, Washington Redskins AND Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots. I thought Josh McDaniels deserved this award outright as his team finished 1st in total offense, 4th in passing, and 7th in rushing (!!!) but Kyle Shanahan's innovation at this level earned him the right to sneak in and share this award as the Redskins finished 5th overall in total offense, 1st in rushing. While Washington finished 20th in passing, they finished 1st in yards per play in passing. Both offenses also protected the football very well. Both were also top 4 in the NFL in scoring. I could have also thrown Peyton Manning's name in the share of this award, but I figured I'd stick to just two.


Quarterback of the Year

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers. This award is going to a guy who won't be MVP or Offensive Player of the Year. Rodgers quietly had another brilliant season and most of his struggles came from going through player after player due to injury, either at running back or wide receiver. Rodgers also didn't have a run game he could turn to for most of the season and had to do it himself, and got his team in position for a bye late in the year before ultimately failing to lock it, in large part due to the Packers' inability to slow down Adrian Peterson.


Defensive Rookie of the Year

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers. Kuechly came in as a rookie and led the NFL in tackles. He picked up some serious slack on his defense. The Panthers didn't win many games as a result of Kuechly making impact plays, but he did just enough every play to be an impact. The Panthers were also very undisciplined on offense, which contributed to their not competing this season, so Kuechly can brag that he held up his end of the bargain.


Offensive Rookie of the Year

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins. Griffin is the only offensive rookie that I feel faced real adversity this year. Luck came in to a 2-14 team, but the Colts last year didn't even have a bad quarterback with experience. They had a horrible quarterback with no experience. Russell Wilson played his ass off, but it wasn't until late in the year when he became really relevant, and his defense did help make his life easier. Griffin's Redskins were 3-6 heading into their week 10 bye and he promised things would change after the bye, and helped the Redskins rattle off 7 straight wins (including 5 division wins) to help his team win their division and get into the playoffs. My question is, if you gave Griffin the offense/field Luck had, or the defense that Wilson had, how much more impressive would he have been? That's why he's my Offensive Rookie of the Year.


Coach of the Year

Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts. It's not so much that other guys weren't clearly more deserving for generating on-field success. It's the matter in which Arians had to conduct himself all year. Colts' Head Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia early in the year and took a sabbatical while he dealt with treatment, which has sent the leukemia into remission. Arians stepped up and kept his team motivated and focused and went out and helped them earn a playoff spot. Nobody wants to be in that position under those circumstances, but Arians handled himself with class and dignity, all while maintaining that the Colts are still Chuck Pagano's team.


Comeback Player of the Year

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos. Manning missed ALL of last season after undergoing multiple surgeries to his neck. The injury itself shouldn't have been career-ending, just an annoyance until the surgery, which should have been career ending. Manning had a reported three surgeries on his neck between the end of the 2010-11 season and the 2012-13 season. Manning at first didn't look terrific, in fact, he looked to be what everyone feared, done. But Manning sparked the Broncos into a huge streak to take the first seed in the AFC, and he did it with long throws down both sides of the field, reading defenses before the snap, and making safe and smart throws (smart throws for Peyton Manning are some of the best throws football has ever seen, btw).


Offensive Player of the Year

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings. What Peterson did this season was incredible. For Peterson to do it this season, was even more incredible. Peterson went down in Week 16 last season with what experts and doctors say is the "worst injury imaginable" for a football player, especially a running back. Peterson returned this year and went off. Whatever Mutant X-Gene Peterson has, it worked. He produced his best season of his career. 2,000 yards used to seem like it was in reach but out of the realm of possibility for Peterson who always fell just short of the mark. But Peterson did it, and did it in exciting fashion. He fell just 9 yards short of breaking Dickerson's single-season rushing record, but he did manage in the last month to direct his team with less-than-average QB play to the playoffs.


Defensive Player of the Year

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans. There are a lot of guys who did a lot of amazing things this season in the NFL. Any other year, I might have to bump Watt up higher than this. The young beast is a 3-4 defensive end, which is very close to being like a 4-3 defensive tackle. Usually, ends in a 3-4 are there to consume blocks, push the pocket back, and help free up the gaps and edge for the linebackers to get all the glory. The great ones get a few sacks and pass deflections. For the year, Watt swatted 16 passes down, registered 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. Everyone is very split on how many tackles he had for a loss/no gain, but they all agree it's anywhere from 25-55% of his tackles, which is an unreal number considering it's from 20-45 tackles. Granted he had 20.5 sacks, we can assume the number is much higher than 25%.


Most Valuable Player

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos. Yes, the Broncos made the playoffs last year. They did it with Tim Tebow making 2 plays a game and going 8-8 in one of the league's worst divisions. Yes, they won a playoff game, with the defense making plays to make up for Tebow's shortcomings until he could finally make the play or two he needed. Peyton Manning came in and made everything easier. While he fell to some teams who are very good, those were early in the year before his confidence was picking back up. Manning didn't just go 8-8 and sneak into the playoffs in Week 17 because of a terrible division. Manning went out and outright won his division, and the conference, to gain homefield throughout the playoffs with the Broncos now favored in the AFC.

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