The NFL regular season is far in rear view mirror now, but it’s just now coming around time to hand out the accolades for the efforts during it. The All-Pro team has already been announced and the Pro Bowl is right around the corner. However, it’s time for me to hand out the awards as see by I for the season. This year, we’ll do this elementary school science fair style, with Blue, Red and White ribbons for efforts, just so there’s clarity on those that came up short.
Let’s get ready to debate, I’ll go first.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: MICHAEL VICK-Eagles
The Eagles went as Vick did for most of the year, and while they were a good overall team, they were excellent when Vick was. His 400 total yard, 5 touchdown Monday Night Football effort versus the Redskins in week 10 was his trademark effort, but he had great moments all season of this sort. From going from a Pro Bowler, to prisoner, to third-string gimmick player, all the way back to starting the Pro Bowl again, Vick deserves this easily.
Red Ribbon: Brian Urlacher, Bears WHITE RIBBON: Wes Welker, Patriots
COACH OF THE YEAR: TODD HALEY-Chiefs
In a year where there was a lot of great coaching around the league, Haley takes the cake here barely. He took a Chief team that had been floundering in AFC West for years behind the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, and made them into a tough running club, that took control of the division and held on to it, despite a hard charge at the end of the year from the Chargers. He reinvigorated an entire fan base in the process, and smartly unleashed Jamaal Charles and off set him with an underrated Matt Cassel season.
RED RIBBON: Raheem Morris, Buccaneers WHITE RIBBON: Steve Spaguolo, Rams
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: NDAMUKONG SUH-Lions
This isn’t much of a race in my book. Suh hit the ground running, and stopped mostly anybody else from doing the same. He quickly became a rock for an extremely needy Lions defense, and proved to be the greatest talent in the 2010 rookie class, as he was predicted to be. He starting the Pro Bowl already, and may be the best defensive tackle in the game already, as his 10 sacks where tops of any defensive tackle in the game.
RED RIBBON: Devin McCourty, Patriots WHITE RIBBON: Eric Berry, Chiefs
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: SAM BRADFORD-Rams
Not only did Bradford live up, and perhaps surpass, all expectations of being the top pick, he put up a record-setting season for a rookie passer. Of all single player impacts in the NFL this year, the Rams 23-year-old QB’s debut effort deserves as much mention as anybody. With his effort steadying a franchise in a free fall for the last 3 years, Bradford put the Rams within 1 game of the playoffs while taking every snap for the club all year. His season was mentioned among Peyton Manning’s debut in the league in the rookie record books, and if he continues on that trend, there will be a lot longer football seasons on the regular in St. Louis.
RED RIBBON: Mike Williams, Buccaneers WHITE RIBBON: LaGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: CLAY MATTHEWS-Packers
It was a tale of two seasons for Matthews, as he broke out in his second season in Wisconsin with ridiculous back-to-back three sack games to start the season, and totaled 10.5 QBs taken down in the first nine weeks. After that he slowed to 3 over the next seven weeks. However, this isn’t due to a drop in his effort or play, its evident of entire offensive lines and fullbacks being singled out to stop him and his manic rushes to the pocket. In the process his total tackles actually rose as well, helping the entire Green Bay effort even more. The result of this benefited the rest of the Packers defense, and allowed them to play better down the stretch than any other defense in the league. Less was truly more for the He-Man of the NFL.
RED RIBBON: Julius Peppers, Bears WHITE RIBBON: Ed Reed, Ravens
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: PEYTON MANNING-Colts
This seems like old hat, with Manning being eligible for this honor every year. However, usually he takes the MVP instead (of which he has four, compared to one OPOY), but this season was perhaps his most spirited effort of his career. After losing his favorite target in Dallas Clark, and having Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Addai out of the mix for parts of the season (and sometime simultaneously), he still managed to reach 4,700 passing yards and get in the endzone 33 times through the air with the Colts backups, save for Reggie Wayne. Bottom line is he less to work with than he ever has, and he still finished with 200 more yards than he had ever thrown for in his historically great career. I’m sold.
RED RIBBON: Phillip Rivers, Chargers WHITE RIBBON: Arian Foster, Texans
And now, the drum roll please….the best of the best is….
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: TOM BRADY-Patriots
He could easily win Most Hated (at least in St. Louis…still) as well for a variety of reasons, but I see very little rational reasoning why Brady isn’t the league’s best this year. He was the best player on the best team in the regular season. Despite losing his most dangerous target in Randy Moss, Brady had perhaps his best season of his career, including his record re-setting 2007 campaign. He directed his revamped receiving corps to being the most effective offense in the NFL, averaging a league best 32 points per game. The Pats won 14 games on the year, while he didn’t bother to thrown an interception after week six, a streak of over 300 passes which broke the previous NFL record and set yet another record for Brady in the NFL history books with a 9:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (36 to 4) on the year.
Add in his 350 yard, four touchdown game on the road against the league’s best defense in Pittsburgh, and a 42 point win over the Jets and the League’s golden boy takes home MVP honors for the second time in his career. As the (temporary) highest paid QB in the game, he earned his pay more than ever before this season.
RED RIBBON: Peyton Manning, Colts WHITE RIBBON: Phillip Rivers, Chargers