Grid Iron Audible—And The Winner Is?
2012 Season Awards
After a brief mourning period for my hapless San Diego Chargers (approximately my fortieth such episode), I am finally able to look back and say: “what a season.” We’ve seen records broken, nearly broken, epic collapses, stunning turnarounds and the best crop of rookies that I can recall ever seeing come into the league (that’s right 1983, you’ve been bested).
Even as I write this, some coach somewhere is being served his walking papers from the executive version of ‘The Turk’, and perhaps a few G.M.’s are as well. Still others are preparing their teams for the show, because they did their jobs better than at least 20 others this year. While this Monday is black for some, it is merely gray for others, and even lily white to a fortunate few.
In what promises to be a controversial effort, here are my Inaugural Audible Awards.
MVP: Adrian Peterson (The Peyton Manning Trophy)
What a classic year for the man they call All Day. He played this season carrying a team on his back, and he still came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing mark. He ran for over 100 yards 10 times, with 9 of those games coming in the last 10 that he played. And it wasn’t like he gained all of his yards against chump defenses either; in 5 games against the four best defenses in the league (Chicago twice, San Francisco, Seattle, and Houston), Peterson compiled 616 yards. Although his team was picked to finish last in just about every preseason poll, he will lead them onto the frozen tundra next week to play the Packers in the Wild Card round. This was an easy decision for me, in spite of Peyton’s popularity. Simply put, Adrian is the best player in football for 2012.
Also Considered: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt
Best Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (The Joe Montana Trophy)
After a bit of a slow start (especially by 2011 standards), the discount double check dude turned it on and made a run for a second straight MVP award. He came up short there, but he once again led the league with a 108.0 QB rating. His 39-8 TD to INT ratio was the best in football, and I believe that he has done much to quell the debate of who the best QB in the NFL is, despite the fact that he has no run support from his backfield and that his best receivers battled injuries for much of the season. Still, this was a tight race and he barely edged Peyton for the award.
Also Considered: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees
Best Running Back: Adrian Peterson (The Walter Payton Trophy)
Even easier than the selection for MVP, Peterson out-distanced the other candidates by nearly 500 yards. In a season that saw 6 running back’s gain in excess of 1,400 yards, A.D. left them all behind and walked into the end zone to claim his award.
Also Considered: Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, Marshawn Lynch
Best Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson (The Jerry Rice Trophy)
Despite Megatron breaking Jerry Rice’s yardage record, this was a tough call, if only because of so many candidates clouding the waters. In the end, it simply came down to who I believe is the best, and in that regard it is no contest. Calvin cannot be defended. He only scored 5 TD’s, and that made this a little more difficult, but Matt Stafford played horrific all season long, which makes Johnson’s numbers all the more impressive. He dominated in yardage, big plays (20+ yards), and first downs, not to mention leading the league in receptions.
Also Considered: Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker, Andre Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Reggie Wayne
Best Tight End: Tony Gonzalez (The Tony Gonzalez Trophy)
I had no idea that Tony would be in the running for this trophy when I decided to name the award after him, and truth be told, Rob Gronkowski was on pace to run away with it when he went out with an injury. Still, Gonzo played this season more like a man in the prime of his career than like a man on his farewell tour. He hauled in 93 balls for a 10.0 yard average and 8 touchdowns. He outplayed younger men and veterans alike in bringing home the award that bears his name. Congrats Tony and good luck chasing Lombardi.
Also considered: Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham
Best Pass Rusher: J.J. Watt (The Reggie White Trophy)
Like Reggie White, J.J. was pure disruption to the flow of offenses on the line. Not only did he lead the league in sacks and batted balls, but he netted the second most tackles (81) of any of the top twenty leaders in sacks. He also forced 4 fumble and recovered 2. He is a lot for offensive coordinators to plan for, and he makes the entire Houston defense much better.
Also Considered: Von Miller, Aldon Smith
Best Linebacker: NaVorro Bowman (The Lawrence Taylor Trophy)
Perhaps the hardest choice for me of all the awards, NaVorro wins this by a hair over the several of the other contenders. He is a leader and a driving force behind one of the best defenses in all of football, and he played the inside backer position consistently all year long. Whether playing against the run, rushing the passer or dropping into coverage, Bowman could be counted on to do his job in spectacular fashion. This is a well-deserved award for a blue-collar player, on a blue-collar team.
Also Considered: Chad Greenway, Jarod Mayo, Luke Kuechly, London Fletcher, Daryl Washington
Best Pass Defender: Charles Tillman (The Rod Woodson Trophy)
This one is perhaps a bit of a surprise (even to me) because Tillman only had 3 picks, but he also scored 3 times and forced 10 fumbles in route to his 85 tackles. That is 3 more than any other player in the league for the ten year vet, and from the corner position (I wonder how many Dionne had in his career). A much earned award for a hard working player.
Also Considered: Tim Jennings, Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson
Comeback Player: Adrian Peterson (The Tommy John Trophy—Soon to be renamed The Manning-Peterson Trophy)
This has been a two horse race from the beginning. The deciding factor was the nature of the injuries, rather than their location. Peyton suffered nerve damage in his neck, and although we’re talking about a pretty significant obstacle here, Adrian had damaged cartilages and ligaments, which are even more serious. Manning had a great year, Peterson had his best year. Peyton will have to settle for a second award being named after him.
Also Considered: Peyton Manning
Best Rookie Offensive Player: Robert Griffin III (The Earl Campbell Trophy)
Rookies have had better seasons (See Earl Campbell and Randy Moss), but RG3 was the best out of a stellar class that produced five starting QB’s, several quality tailbacks, and a few wide receivers who are sure to light up the league leader boards for years to come. The award isn’t indicative of who may or may not have the better career, just who had the best rookie campaign in the regular season. He edges Seattle’s Russell Wilson for the trophy, based on a league low seven turnovers, compared to Wilson’s thirteen.
Also Considered: Russell Wilson, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris
Best Rookie Defensive Player: Luke Kuechly (The Derrick Thomas Trophy)
Luke led the NFL in tackles this season with 164, 15 more than NaVorro Bowman, and 24 more than the next best rookie defender, Bobby Wagner. He added a sack, 2 picks, 10 passes defended and recovered 2 fumbles. Carolina has a lot of young talent, and Kuechly proves that it’s not all on the offensive side of the ball.
Also Considered: Janoris Jenkins, Casey Hayward, Bobby Wagner
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians (The Tom Landry Trophy)
The job that Bruce Arians did when Chuck Pagano went out cannot be overstated. Working with a plethora of rookies, Arians took the reins of young team and guided them back to the playoffs after last season dramatic collapse. Pagano is back, but it won’t be long after the Colts season ends when Bruce starts fielding head coaching calls. Look for him to be the head coach somewhere in the next month.
Also Considered: Pete Carroll, Mike Shanahan
That’s a wrap on the Audible Awards. Some people will not agree with some of my choices, some will not agree with any of my choices. Some will even hate the names that I’ve tagged to the trophies. To them I would say…well, I don’t know how to spell a Bronx cheer, but you get the picture.
As always, I welcome your comments or retorts with great anticipation.
I’ll see you in the playoffs.
About the Author
Written by Steve Massey
Steve Massey is the author of Grid Iron Audible, a column covering all things NFL, at Pro Sports Blogging. Like a great QB led team, he is sometimes down, but never out of the game. He is always networking, and would consider any and all efforts to procure his talents. Just ask him. He was educated at Fort Scott Community College (Kansas), and now lives in Northern Arkansas with his beautiful wife, Debbie. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMassey9