It’s that time of year folks, the end of the NFL regular season, and time to decide who will be recognized for their individual accomplishments. As always, there are more than a few players deserving to be mentioned and considered in each category, but only one (or two) can take home the hardware. Without any further ado, here are my picks for the most prestigious individual awards the NFL has to offer.
Offensive Rookie of the Year:
The Defensive Rookie of the Year was announced yesterday so no prediction necessary there, but what about on offense? When you look at this award the automatic question you have is what rookie stood out the most this season? When I look back 10 years from now who will I remember bursting onto the scene and creating an impact from his very first game? To me there is only one rookie who stands out among the pack, and that is Minnesota’s Percy Harvin. Harvin has made an immediate impact on the Vikings from the day he was drafted, being used as a punt returner, a kick returner, a deep threat and a guy with blazing speed who can turn any short play into a long one, opening up the playbook for the Vikings and making them that much more dangerous. Yet another great draft pick by Minnesota, who two years ago drafted a fellow by the name of Adrian Peterson and struck gold again this year with the pick of Harvin.
Winner: Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
Comeback Player of the Year:
This is actually a very competitive award this season. A lot of times people think comeback player and they assume it means a player who came back from injury, but that is not the case. This year’s candidates include Tom Brady, who came back from a devastating injury suffered in the first game of the season last year. Or Alex Smith, the San Francisco QB who had reconstructive elbow surgery, was a back up and forgotten by many, only remembered as a colossal bust as the number one pick in a draft that produced fellow quarterback and Pro-Bowler Aaron Rodgers. But the one comeback story everyone will remember when looking back on this year is Vince Young’s. Young was forgotten, backing up an aging Kerry Collins and relegated to sitting on the sidelines as one of the biggest busts of all time. One of the most hyped quarterback prospects coming out of college, Young had failed to do anything in his tenure as a starter and was replaced and forgotten last season. But this year the Titans started 0-6, and inserted Young in to see if he had anything left. Young finally showed the reason he was a number three pick and played to his potential, starting 5-0 and finishing 8-2 as a starter leading the Titans to an unfathomable 8-8 record after their 0-6 start. Young has finally put his career on the right track.
Winner: Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
Defensive Player of the Year:
There’s a lot of competition in this one. Because a defense has so many facets to it, it’s difficult to pinpoint one player who made the biggest impact on defense. To be honest, if I was going to pick a player who was the most valuable to their defense I would probably pick Troy Polomalu, because the Steelers entire team completely collapsed after he went down. But this award is to the player who stood out the most defensively this season, and I think very few can argue that that man was Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers. This season completed a stunning turn-around in Woodsons career, and was almost completely unexpected. Woodson came into the league a Heisman winner with the Raiders who almost instantly became the best lock-down corner in football. Then all of the sudden the Raiders start regressing and so does Woodson, who turn into a shell of himself. Fast-forward a couple years, he signs with the Packers and now Woodson is back to his dominant self. Tying for the lead-league with nine interceptions, Woodson also had 74 tackles (66 solo), two sacks, four forced fumbles and three pick returns for touchdowns. He cemented himself once again as one of the top three corners in the game, and the fact that he’s doing it at an age where 99% of cornerbacks begin to greatly decline is a testament to how incredible that turn-around has been.
Winner: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Player of the Year:
Keep in mind, this award is different from the MVP Award. And for this award there really is only one candidate, Chris Johnson of the Titans. Johnson exploded onto the scene this season as arguably the best running back in football, setting an NFL record with over 2500 yards from scrimmage, becoming just the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards (2,006 to be exact) and single-handedly carried the Titans with his faster-than-the-cameras-can-follow speed. Johnson was the main offensive threat on a team that finished 8-2 after a disappointing 0-6 start. It’s sad that a team with the expectations the Titans had missed the playoffs, but the fact that they even came close after an 0-6 start is absolutely incredible, and they owe it to Johnson’s amazing season. This award is Johnson’s and nobody else is even close.
Winner: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Most Valuable Player:
This is easily one of the most competitive seasons we’ve had in a long time when it comes to the MVP award. And because (for the most part) this is a race between a group of elite quarterbacks you have to basically throw stats out the window, they are all similar to each other. So by that token you have to look at what player made the biggest difference for their offense. So in reverse order from fifth to first, here’s how my MVP vote shakes down.
5. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings – Despite the lazy/dramatic finish to the season, we can’t forget what Favre did this season. Coming back at 40 he had arguably his best season of his career, which is saying something of a three-time MVP. The threat of Adrian Peterson running down teams throats opened up the field for Favre and he took full advantage of it. It says something about this MVP race that he finishes fifth in perhaps his finest season.
4. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – Johnson had what was one of the top five seasons all-time for a running back in 2009, I’ve already told you the stats, but that wasn’t what made him so important to the Titans. Johnson was such a big play threat that it completely opened up the field for Vince Young. His blazing speed means that the second he hits any type of opening he can be gone, and his speed is not the type where he needs to hit a corner then burst, he can just burst through a hole instantly and go 70 yards untouched. If the Titans had made the playoffs I think the award would be his for sure, regardless of what anyone above him had done, but missing it drops him to fourth in these rankings.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints – Brees is the ring-leader of the most explosive offense in the league and one of the most dangerous in league history. Behind the hard-throwing quarterback, the Saints exploded to a 13-0 start and became the type of instant-scoring threat that we rarely see in the NFL today. But stumbling in the last two games that mattered by playing subpar football dropped Brees from his perch atop these rankings. Although to finish third in the MVP rankings probably won’t bother Brees much if his Saints go as far as many think they can.
1B. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
1A. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts –Okay so I cheated a little bit, but there is no way I can pick between these two. The quarterbacks of what are undoubtedly the two best teams in football; both of these men are responsible for their teams success this season. While all the hype as been heaped onto Manning for what he has done (and rightfully so) you can’t overlook what Rivers did this season. After the Chargers got off to a disappointing 2-3 start, he threw them on his back and literally carried the Chargers to 11 straight wins and a 13-3 record. Rivers has become the most accurate deep-ball QB in the game, and is on the short list of two or three quarterbacks you want leading your team on a last second drive to win the game. Manning, meanwhile, has come back this season and had what could be his best season of his career. Leading a team with a new coach and an inexperienced group of receivers to a 14-0 start and the best record in the NFL. Both of these men are equally important to their teams and without them neither team would even be close to where they are right now. That’s why I can’t pick between the two and am going to have to give co-MVPs here.
Winners: Peyton Manning, Colts/ Phillip Rivers, Chargers