After every season, people look back at what just happened and try to figure out who was the best player, which one man had the biggest impact, and who had the best season. Of course, any of this is just a single person’s (or a small group’s) opinion and surely has somewhat of a bias. Here is the best that I can do at an unbiased look at who should win the awards.
Winner: Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts – Some argue about the Colts poor start. Some argue that he is only in this spot because of his name, but the real question is how many games would the Colts have won this year with another quarterback? With their offensive line being injured most of the season, Peyton came off an injury and led the Colts to 12 wins while passing for over 4,000 yards for the ninth time in his career. While he may not have had the best numbers this season, Peyton got those numbers while his best running back, most of his offensive line, his favorite tight end, and many other players on the offense were missing games with injuries. Actual winner: Peyton Manning
Runner-up: Chad Pennington – Miami Dolphins – Last year Pennington was losing his starting job in New York to Kellen Clemens. After the Jets traded for Brett Favre and Chad was the odd man out in New York, he joined a Dolphins club that won only one game last season. Granted that he was not the only new player on that squad, Chad was a big part of the difference for the Dolphins and he while he may not have been the best player in the league, he was one of the most valuable.
Honorable Mentions: Kurt Warner (ARI), Drew Brees (NO), Adrian Peterson (Min)
Offensive Player of the Year
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints had the best season of any quarterback this season and the best of any offensive player, nearly breaking Dan Marino’s single season passing record and becoming only the second player in league history to eclipse 5,000 yards. Though his team didn’t make the playoffs, this was through no fault of Brees’ as he completed 65% of his passes for 34 touchdowns to tie for the league lead. If Brees had a healthy offensive line as well as Reggie Bush and Marques Colston and a defense that didn’t allow more than 24 points per game, they could have made a run at the division title. Actual winner: Drew Brees
Defensive Player of the Year
The defensive player of the year is difficult to choose. Is it the guy with the most sacks? Or interceptions? Or tackles? These stats sometimes are skewed as the best defensive lineman is probably double teamed on most plays, quarterbacks throw away from the best defensive backs, and sometimes tackle totals don’t represent a players true impact on the field as teams run away from good line backers. Taking all of that into consideration, James Harrison, a linebacker for Pittsburgh, played on the league’s best defense. He was a dominate force recording 101 tackles, 67 of those by himself. He also registered 16 sacks (4th most in the league). He forced 7 fumbles and was voted team MVP by his teammates. Linebackers don’t defend a lot of passes, but Harrison managed an interception which he returned for 33 yards. Harrison’s dominate presence intimidated many offenses this year and helped the Steelers be the best defense in the league. Actual winner: James Harrison
Offensive Rookie of the Year
This year saw one of the best crops of rookie running backs ever with 3 different rookies breaking 1,000 yards and over a dozen starting at a game for their team. Two rookie quarterbacks led their team to the playoffs. A number of offensive linemen made huge differences for their teams while tight ends became primary targets in New York (Jets) and Seattle (Seahawks). We saw wide receivers making big differences in for many clubs, not only in the passing game, but also on returns. In all, this rookie class was very talented, making this a very difficult decision. Which player made the biggest impact? The edge goes to Steve Slaton, RB for Houston. Slaton won the rookie rushing title averaging 4.8 yards per carry and 80 yards per game. He scored 9 rushing touchdowns and became a big part of the Texans passing game, both in pass blocking and receiving. While he didn’t start every game for Houston, he made the difference down the stretch in helping the Texans go 8-8 after losing their first four. Actual winner: Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
Defensive Rookie of the Year
The defensive rookie class this year was very talented, but also featured some guys who were less than impressive. Though this was another difficult choice, the winner has to be Jerod Mayo, a linebacker for the New England Patriots. He recorded 128 tackles while anchoring a solid Patriots defense.
Drew Brees, NO – piled up over 5,000 passing yards this year with a banged up offensive line, backfield, and receiving corp.
Adrian Peterson, Min – Led the league in rushing (1,760 yards) while scoring 10 touchdowns.
Andre Johnson, Hou – 1,575 receiving yards makes him the NFL’s most productive receiver.
Tony Gonzalez, KC – A mainstay in the Chief’s offense again this year, breaking 1,000 yards receiving.
Kevin Mawae, C, Ten – The leader of the line of one of the NFL’s best rushing teams.
Albert Haynesworth, Ten – Anchored a Tennessee defensive line being an unstoppable force.
James Harrison, Pit – One of the best players on the best defense in the NFL.
Ed Reed, Bal – One of the leaders of the Ravens dominate defense, teams shied away from this opposing Free Safety
John Carney, NYG – While he didn’t have many game winning field goals with no time left on the clock, he was very accurate and consistent this season.
Shane Lecher, OAK – Only two other punters had more attempts this season, but Lecher had more yards than either of those. He averaged 48.8 yards per attempt with a long of 70 yards.