When the big boss man asked me to do a write up with end-of-season awards to close out the Airing it Out column for the 2013 season, I really had to sit down and take some time to figure out which direction to go with this.
I can’t imagine caring who one random bozo (yes, I’m the bozo) thinks should win the awards, so why should you?
So, to make this more interesting, this is what I have decided to do:
In the first half of this article I’ll go through the winners of the Associated Press awards, heaping praise when deserved, and critiquing when I feel like using the word “critique”; it makes me look clever.
In the second half, I’ll be covering some awards that aren’t dished out, but ought to be. It should be pretty awesome.
And here’s what the East Coast thinks …
Most Valuable Player: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos – AGREE
So, Manning received 49 of 50 votes, with some clown accidentally writing Tom Brady in on his ballot. OK, I see where they were trying to go with this. Brady won 12 games with a less-than-star-studded team, and took them to the AFC Championship.
But come on, Manning broke more or less every single passing record in NFL history. In some alternate hipster universe we might want to go with a more artsy pick here, but that’s not how this works. Peyton had the best year in his Hall-of-Fame career; this award was his any way you shake it.
Manning’s trophy case now boasts an incredible five MVP trophies for every championship ring.
Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers – DISAGREE
Not to take anything away from what the Panthers were able to accomplish this year, but I felt that Andy Reid’s turnaround in Kansas City was simply too great to overlook.
The Chiefs won two bloody games in all of 2012 and then came roaring out of the gates this season to go (9-0) before falling to Denver 27-17 in week 11. Sure, they trailed off at the end of the campaign, going (2-5) in their last seven games. And nearly every single one of their victories was over a sub .500 team, but in the NFL, a 9 win turnaround is absolutely unheard of, and even the crappy NFL teams are far from being crappy.
Reid was second in voting, so it’s not like he was totally snubbed here, but I don’t think that I was the only one who was a wee bit surprised to see Rivera named Coach of the Year over big Andy and his 70s porn mustache.
Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos – AGREE*
*Conventional wisdom tells us that nobody played better on offense, but how about sharing the love? He’s already the MVP.
LeSean McCoy was a one-man wrecking ball in 2013. Not only did he pile up 1,607 rushing yards, he did it on only 314 attempts, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He also tacked on 539 more yards on 52 receptions, averaging 10.4 yards per catch.
I think that only scoring 11 total touchdowns (9 rush, 2 rec) kind of hurt him in the voting here. Tough to beat out #18 when Manning tossed 5 TD passes for each time LeSean crossed the goal line.
Defensive Player of the Year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers – AGREE
I had originally intended on making a case here for Earl Thomas, based on the leadership skills he brings to the Seahawks’ #1 defense and the fact that he probably lost out voting wise, splitting the pro-Seattle vote with Richard Sherman.
But looking at Kuechly’s stat line, it’s hard to come up with a reasonable argument, especially when you take into consideration that he doesn’t have the same supporting cast that Thomas does in Seattle.
Tallying up 156 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 interceptions, all while being the centerpiece for the NFL’s #2 defense in both total yards and scoring, there is no question that Kuechly has the potential to retire as one of the greatest of all time at his position. He’s the kind of player that completely shuts off a portion of the field to the opposing team’s offense.
Comeback Player of the Year: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers – AGREE
Rivers led San Diego to the playoffs with a clutch four game win streak to finish out the season. He then went on to win the Wild Card game on the road at Cincinnati 27-10, and made the Divisional Round game in Denver more interesting than expected.
Rivers quietly led the league with a 69.5 completion percentage and threw for 32 TDs against 11 interceptions.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers – DISAGREE
I actually like WR Keenan Allen of the Chargers for this.
Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards but he only averaged 4.1 yards per carry. This is a respectable number, but ranks him at 24th in the league. Eleven touchdowns as a rookie, however, is commendable.
Allen topped the thousand-yard mark receiving, with 1,046 and scored eight times through the air.
Many will disagree with my assessment here, but I just think that it’s much more difficult to have breakout numbers like this at the receiver position than at running back. Clearly we’re splitting hairs here, though, with this one. Lacy kicked ass and the Packers have to like their chances next year in a topsy-turvy NFC North that anyone could win save for the Vikings.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets – AGREE
Dude is a defensive end and he scored two touchdowns his rookie year coming in as a fullback. ’Nuff said.
Unforgettable, that’s what you are …
Dumbest Way to Lose: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: allows safety in OT
OK, if you watch the replay you could easily place a lot of blame on the Bengals’ offensive line for allowing Cameron Wake to get to the quarterback so quickly, but when you’re backed up against your own goal line, in overtime, you’ve simply got to be more aware than that. You’re better off throwing it somewhere, anywhere … it’s sudden death; if you take the sack, you lose!
There are certainly worse QBs in the NFL, but despite Dalton’s hot streaks, plays such as these have the Bengals’ brass skeptical about Andy being “the guy ” in Cincy.
Worst Coach of the Year: Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions: drops final four games in first to worst slide
There’s no better job to be fired from than an NFL head coach. No matter how poorly you perform, someone will snatch you up straight away off the open market and plug you into a lesser position. For Jim, he’s now the Defensive Coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.
Schwartz could have (and should have) been the hero of Detroit, taking the city’s historically disappointing football franchise into the playoffs with their first NFC North crown since Barry Sanders was still circling around the backfield.
Instead, the Lions lost their final four games, fell to (7-9), and weren’t even in the Wild Card race come week 17 after securing themselves into the driver’s seat late in the season.
Most Disappointing Season: Atlanta Falcons: from NFC Championship to the toilet bowl
One game removed from the Super Bowl, the Falcons appeared to have plugged in the final piece to the puzzle when they signed Steven Jackson from the Rams in the off-season.
Instead, the Falcons struggled all season and finished with a dismal record of (4-12). Some analysts predict that they are in the strongest position to do a Kansas City-esque turnaround in 2014, but I am skeptical. Tony Gonzales is gone, and even with a healthy Roddy White and Julio Jones, I don’t see this Atlanta squad getting back into the playoffs in the tough NFC South.
Carolina and New Orleans are legitimate Super Bowl contenders and the Bucs played a lot better than a four-win team in 2013.
Matty Ice plays well when the going is good, but he showed this season that he’s not nearly the same leader when things go sour.
Quote of the Year: Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: “I’m just ’bout that action, boss.”
Deion Sanders found #24 hiding in the corner on Super Bowl media day and the interview soon went viral on social media. In a week where Richard Sherman had every utterance looked at under the microscope, it was ironic to see the generally hush-hush Lynch win the sound-bite Olympics.
Douchebag Move of the Season: Colin Kaepernick, SF 49ers: mocking Cam Newton’s Superman celebration in NFC Divisional Round
Whether you love or hate Richard Sherman for all the trash talking he directed at Michael Crabtree, one thing is for sure, and that’s at the very least he was taunting a player with whom he directly competes.
In all the discussions about class and sportsmanship, I was really surprised that more analysts didn’t bring up Colin Kaepernick taunting the opposing team’s QB! It totally makes sense to talk trash to a member of the defense, but to taunt a player that never lines up against you? Uncalled for.
Personally, I like it. I think it adds flavor to the game, but nevertheless I’m giving #7 my Douchebag of the Year award for failing to talk trash to the right players.
And that’s a wrap …
Now that the 2013 season has come to a close, we’ll pack away our Airing it Out column until the games pick up again in the fall.
But stay tuned, Commentary Box Sports will still be covering all major off-season happenings in the NFL. From free agency, to the combine, to the draft, and beyond.