Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 NFL Awards and Musings

As the 2012 NFL regular season comes to a close, I thought I would hand out my year end awards and also mention a few other tidbits.  So sit back and enjoy as we hand out my first ever awards!

League MVP: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

This is probably the most difficult award this season as there was some major competition.  Peyton Manning was brilliant and did not seem like he lost a step at all. Tom Brady was his usual excellent self.  However, when you look at their teams, is there a team that relied more heavily on one guy than the Vikings did?  Minnesota pounding AP down people’s throats and because of this, they overachieved and made the playoffs.  The quarterback play of Christian Ponder was inconsistent, at best, so the fact that Peterson put up a 2,000 yard season with defenses focused solely on him is amazing.  We also can’t forget that he was just returning from an ACL injury that would keep normal players out for this entire season.  It is truly mind blowing what he’s done, and made me legitimately reconsider my stance that Barry Sanders is the best running back I’ve ever seen.

Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts

There were some awful coaching jobs, and some excellent ones, but no one deserves this award other than Arians.  As an interim coach, while head coach Chuck Pagano battled Leukemia, Arians led a 2 win team with a rookie quarterback to 11 wins and a playoff berth.  I am blown away by the leadership he’s shown over the season.  Holding a team together as an interim coach is tough enough (looking at you New Orleans), but incorporating a rookie quarterback and leading the worst team in the league to 11 wins is a true reflection of great coaching.

Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

The race for this award had to be the most intense I’ve witnessed.  We’re looking at four legitimate candidates; Luck, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.  I went with Luck for a few reasons:

- He led a 2 win team to 11 wins and a playoff berth.

- He broke rookie passing records.

- He didn’t miss any games.

- His supporting cast, outside of Reggie Wayne, is young and inexperienced.

Griffin and Morris essentially cancel each other out of the race, splitting the vote.  Wilson pushed for a close second, but he took over a team that won 7 games the year before.  While he did improve them, he also had a much better cast around him.  A rookie quarterback’s best friend is a running game.  Wilson had Marshawn Lynch.  Luck had a roulette wheel of players behind him, eventually settling on Vick Ballard.  The offense was all Luck, and he showed why he was so highly touted.

Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller, Denver Broncos

The race between Miller, Aldon Smith and JJ Watt was tight, but I don’t think anyone meant more to their defense than Miller did.  He has transformed a mediocre Denver defense into a dominant group.  They are following his lead and have become one of the elite groups in the league.  Watt and Smith are important cogs in their defenses, but aren’t the focal point the way Miller is.

Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

We all know my distaste for Peyton Manning.  I’ve been cheering against him for 15 years and it’s been a weird feeling seeing him in Denver.  That said, I’ve been amazed to watch him come back from 4 neck surgeries and missing an entire season, to playing at the level he has this year.  The first few games were a bit choppy, but he clearly righted the ship after their early season bye week and has been spectacular ever since.  I don’t think even John Elway thought he’d get such an immediate return on the investment.  The Broncos went from a playoff team that people weren’t sure about, to a team that everyone in the league fears.  That’s clearly on Manning’s presence and the continued emergence of their young talent.  His leadership and skills can never be questioned and from a fan standpoint, there’s just something great about having him back in the league.  Not having Manning vs Brady last year made us feel lost.  We’ve had that match up once already, and could be heading to a collision in the AFC Championship game.

The reason I did not consider Adrian Peterson for this award is the fact that he didn’t miss any time due to his injury last season, which by the way, is a medical miracle.


Just a few musings to end the season…

- I realized why I love sports yesterday.  I was watching Chuck Pagano run on to the sidelines in Indianapolis yesterday and, while it was an awesome football story, it was also a reminder why sports is so great.  We witnessed a man who embodied inspiration, perseverance and the joy of the human spirit.  Sure he inspired his team and fans, but we may never know how impactful his story could be to someone struggling through something similar.  When we’re at our lowest points, sometime you just need someone or something to push you in a positive direction.  Watching Pagano return to the job he loved, cancer free and full of energy, was a glorious moment.  Sports provides us so many of these moments and inspirations.  Sometimes it is something obvious like this story, and sometimes it’s something you have to look deeper into.  Regardless, it’s one of the joys of sports.

- I feel bad for Tony Romo.  No matter what, he will never get the respect he deserves.  The analysts will tear him apart and never mention that his top receiver had one hand and limped off the field early.  They won’t mention that his second receiving option was gimpy and hardly moving.  They won’t mention the lack of a consistent running game.  They also won’t mention how awful the defense has played.  It all goes back to him because quarterbacks get too much praise and too much blame.  If I were Romo, I would seriously consider a move out West to Arizona.  Larry Fitzgerald would love a real quarterback again.

- There’s a good buzz around Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy for head coaching gigs that will be opening up.  With the reports that Tim Tebow will end up in Jacksonville, I would call McCoy first thing to come in as coach.  He had success with him at quarterback and could be the shot in the arm Jacksonville needs.

- I was annoyed by a poll on ESPN regarding Adrian Peterson’s season.  They asked if the bigger story is Minnesota in the playoffs or AP coming up 9 yards shy of the all-time record.  This is the complete antithesis of what I love in sports.  The fantasy football stats mindset is obnoxiously prevalent.  I hate to be the only one who keeps saying it, but team accomplishments trump individual ones every time.  For example, Drew Brees threw for 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns this season, so the current mindset is that he had a great season.  Well guess what he threw 19 interceptions, fumbled 5 times and lead his team to a 7-9 record.  You can take all the stats in the world.  The only one that matters is wins, and that is a team stat.

- There are quite a few firings right now and how Rex Ryan still has a job is unreal.  The thing that is surprising me, though, is how upset people are that Lovie Smith was fired in Chicago.  If you start 7-1 and miss the playoffs, something is wrong.  I don’t want to hear the injuries excuse.  Everyone in the league has injuries.  Deal with it.  He didn’t coach his team up.  He didn’t make adjustments when they needed to.  Jay Cutler (who everyone knows I am not a fan of) has been running for his life since coming to Chicago and they have yet to address the offensive line.  There comes a time when it’s time to move on.  Since making the Super Bowl, the Bears have only been to the playoffs once.  That is one appearance in six years.

- The “player safety” thing is getting out of hand.  They are handing out fines and suspensions for hits that aren’t illegal.  Ed Reed was fined $55,000 for a clean hit on Victor Cruz.  He hit him with his shoulder to the shoulder/chest area.  Where else is he supposed to hit him?  You want him to go low and destroy the knees of Cruz?  It’s getting ridiculous.  I hate to break it to you, but football is violent in nature.  It is impossible to remove the violence from the sport.  It’s crazy to see the NFL fine guys…but then use the hits on a highlight package.  Gotta love hypocrisy!

- While speaking of the league office, I have to say that I am tired of the Saints fans whining about Goodell “screwing them over”.  Your team ran a program that is not league approved and could have injured players.  Stop playing the victim card.  Sit and enjoy your *Super Bowl* win.  Those asterisks look good on you.

- The Eagles quickly became the joke of the league.  They removed Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook only to remove any chance of winning.  I’ve been saying it since he was at Virginia Tech and I’ll say it again, if Michael Vick is your quarterback, you will never win a Super Bowl.  I’ve said it since he was in Oakland, Nnamdi Asomugha is more hype than skill.  He’s Dre Bly 2.0.

- The Detroit Lions proved to be the fluke team I expected them to be.  Last season they were the “Fortunate Bounce” team, which is that one team each season that wins games in spite of themselves.  This season they came back to reality.  Calvin Johnson had a great season, but really how great was it.  I want to throw something at you.  Would you rather have Calvin Johnson’s record season or Jerry Rice’s previous record season?

Calvin Johnson: 122 receptions, 1,964 yards, 5 TD’s, 4-12 team record

Jerry Rice: 122 receptions, 1,848 yards, 15 TD’s, 11-5 team record

Yet again, you have to look at this as a team game and not get so hung up on individual stats.  I’d rather be in the playoffs on an 11-5 team than have a record breaking season on a 4-12 team.  Congrats.  You broke a record, but did you really help your team win?

Enjoy the playoffs!!!