Saturday, February 04, 2012

My 2011 NFL Awards

For This Given Sunday, we made our choices for a number of NFL awards, which were aggregated into this post. As my individual votes and writeups weren't included in the site, I'm re-printing my email here.

MVP: It's Aaron Rodgers, and for half of the year it was laughably not close. Rodgers cooled a bit the second half of the season, partly the result of some struggles at offensive tackle, partly some issues with the receivers, and partly because it's darned near impossible to play virtually mistake-free football for an entire season. Drew Brees of course put up more numbers, but he also dropped back to pass 138 more times. Brees' sheer volume includes a lot more short passes designed to get playmakers in space and to complement the Saints' running game, so it's no surprise he had a higher completion percentage than Rodgers. He still threw more than twice as many interceptions, and that's no surprise, because every week he gives defenses multiple opportunities for turnovers.

Rookie of the Year: Carolina went from a pathetic to competent and at times quite prolific offense primarily because of the tremendous upgrade Cam Newton represented over the vast abattoir of suck that was Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, and whatever else the Panthers called what they rolled out at quarterback in 2010.

Defensive Player of the Year: With all due respect to Jason Pierre-Paul's one man band effort for the New York Giants, Justin Smith was probably the key to the San Francisco 49ers' outstanding defense this year, lining up in different positions, soaking up blockers, and generally creating havoc from a 3-4 defensive end position where creating havoc rarely ranks high on the results list. As impressive as rookie Aldon Smith's 14.0 sacks were, he should probably give half of them to Justin for his role in creating them by disrupting protection schemes and drawing double coverage.

Offensive Player of the Year: Too often, the most outstanding offensive player of the year is the person who actually wins the MVP award, and some player who puts up outstanding numbers but either for a lesser team or just isn't as good as the person who wins MVP. It's nice to recognize the great year Drew Brees had, but Aaron Rodgers was both better and more valuable.

Comeback Player of the Year: Cam Newton reminded us that Steve Smith was still good, but Smith was also good in 2010. He was just hard to see amidst the dross in Carolina. I'll instead go with Matt Stafford, who after missing most of 2010 with shoulder surgery, started all 16 games en route to leading the Lions to the playoffs in 2011. Granted, it helps when you have a player like Calvin Johnson, but he came back from injury, answered questions about his health, and showed the promise that led the Lions to choose him first overall in the 2009 draft.

Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh instilled the San Francisco 49ers with the toughness Mike Singletary always talked about, and added more creative offensive play-calling, better management of quarterback Alex Smith, and a new defensive coordinator who brought better results. With the 49ers holding the #2 seed in the conference, you can't kick the NFC West champs around the way you've been able to the past couple years.

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