≡ Menu

On Monday, I looked at the Defensive Player of the Year voting in every year from 2000 to 2006. Today, the last eight years.

2007: Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts

AP voting: Sanders (31), Patrick Kerney (4) (Seattle), Albert Haynesworth (4) (Titans), Antonio Cromartie (3) (Chargers), DeMarcus Ware (3) (Cowboys), Mike Vrabel (2) (Patriots), James Harrison (1) (Steelers), Ronde Barber (1) (Buccaneers), Patrick Willis (1) (49ers), Mario Williams (1) (Texans)

Sanders picked up 62% of the vote, yet nine other names split the remaining ballots.  It is weird to think of a player like Kerney as being the runner up for DPOY. But in his first year in Seattle, Kerney had 14.5 sacks, forced five fumbles, and recorded an interception, good enough to get him the KC101 NFC Defensive Player of the Year award.

But Sanders was the clear choice for DPOY. Only a couple of random places (like the Kansas City Star, which went for Ware, the New York Daily News (Cromartie), or the Miami Herald, which went for Vrabel because LBWINZ) didn’t select Sanders as the top defender that season.

Verdict: A worthy DPOY season for Sanders. And the first of back-to-back DPOY-caliber seasons that would land Haynesworth a $100M contract.

2008: James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers

AP voting: Harrison (22), DeMarcus Ware (13) (Cowboys), Ed Reed (8) (Ravens), Albert Haynesworth (5) (Titans), Troy Polamalu (2) (Steelers)

This was another close vote: Harrison didn’t quite get half of the AP voting, but did win by a healthy margin. This was far from a unanimous seletion: Peter King at Sports Illustrated, John Clayton at ESPN, and Mark Gaughan at the Buffalo News all chose Ware, Rick Gosselin at the Dallas Morning News and Leonard Shapiro at the Miami Herald selected Reed, while the Sporting News poll of players, coaches, and general managers landed on Haynesworth. The KC101 awards went to Harrison and Ware as the top defenders in each conference.

The Steelers defense was outstanding in 2008.  It finishes two standard deviations above average in points allowed, and ranked as the 10th best pass defense ever.  And Pittsburgh ranked 1st or 2nd in yards per carry allowed, rushing yards allowed, and rushing touchdowns allowed. Harrison, of course, cemented his play in ’08 with one of the greatest plays in NFL history, a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII.

Verdict: Harrison’s 16 sacks finished 4th in the NFL, and he was second on the team in tackles.  A very deserving choice for the award. As for Ware, this was the closest he ever got to winning the DPOY award.  In fact, he received just 3 other votes over the remainder of his career from AP writers, all in 2007 (although he did have a DPOY-caliber year in ’11, too).

2009: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers

AP voting: Woodson (28), Darrelle Revis (14) (Jets), Darren Sharper (3) (Saints), Elvis Dumervil (3) (Broncos), Jared Allen (2) (Vikings)

One of the more interesting DPOY races, as the top two players played the same position — but in very different ways. Revis was a dominant shutdown corner, having one of the greatest individual coverage seasons in recent history. Woodson was a great coverage corner who also played in the slot, or at safety, and was a pretty effective blitzer, too. The AP voters preferred Woodson’s all-around game at a 2:1 ratio, but there were dissenters.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King selected Revis, as did the New York Daily News. USA Today had Revis winning by the narrowest of margins over Woodson and Dumervil. But Woodson did take home the majority of the hardware, including from Pro Football Weekly / Pro Football Writers of America and the Sporting News and the majority of sources out there. There were a couple of straggler votes — Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer chose Dumervil, Leonard Shapiro of the Miami Herald selected Sharper — but this was largely a two-man race.

Verdict: The ’09 Jets led the league in net yards per attempt allowed, points allowed, yards allowed, first downs allowed, passing yards allowed, and passing touchdowns allowed. Revis was the main reason for the defense’s success, and I’m not sure he had a finer year. Both he and Woodson appear to be future Hall of Famers. Of note: Woodson was named the Defensive Back of the Year by the NFL Alumni voting, and each player took home the Defensive Player of the Conference award from he KC101 organization.

2010: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

AP voting: Polamalu (17), Clay Matthews (15) (Packers), James Harrison (8) (Steelers), Julius Peppers (6) (Bears), Brian Urlacher (2) (Bears), Haloti Ngata (1) (Ravens), Ed Reed (1) (Ravens)

The Steelers safety received just 34% of the vote, narrowly edging Matthews for the AP honor.  Was Polamalu the best defender in 2010? Well, in the Sporting News poll, Matthews took home the award with the voting going 188-148; the Packers outside linebacker was also the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers choice. As you would suspect, Peter King was again an outlier, going with Peppers as his top choice. Polamalu received the AP nod by a tiny margin, but

Verdict: Matthews deserves at least as much credit as Polamalu for what he did in 2010. The fact that the AP Trophy is considered “official” is kind of silly, but that goes double when the voting was this close. The Packers outside linebacker may be building a Hall of Fame career, and it would be ridiculous to think that two out of 50 votes from certain AP writers in one season would make a difference in that outcome. Then again, while Polamalu seems like a HOF lock, if he came in second place in ’10, would his case be any different?

2011: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

AP voting: Suggs (21), Jared Allen (14) (Vikings), Justin Smith (6) (49ers), Jason Pierre-Paul (5) (Giants), Patrick Willis (2) (49ers), NaVorro Bowman (1) (49ers), Charles Woodson (1) (Packers)

Suggs was also the Pro Football Weekly / Pro Football Writers of America DPOY and the choice of a panel of 8 writers at Sports Illustrated.  The Sporting News chose Allen as its top player, with DeMarcus Ware as the runner up there.  The KC 101 chose Suggs and Allen as the top player of each conference. This wasn’t unanimous, and it wasn’t a runaway win, either, but Suggs was a legitimate winner. The Ravens defense ranked in the top 3 in points, yards, net yards per pass attempt, yards per carry, and rushing yards, while Suggs had 14 sacks.

Verdict: Allen had 22 sacks, making it the second most impressive sack season since ’82. Suggs was a worthy choice, but Allen — who is a borderline HOF candidate — deserves a ton of credit for his monster season while playing for a 3-13 team.

2012: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

AP voting: Watt (49), Von Miller (1) (Broncos)

This was one of the most dominant defensive seasons in NFL history, and that is reflected in the voting. Consider this: over the course of their careers, Reed (29) and Polamalu (22) combined for 51 DPOY votes from the AP. Meanwhile, Watt had 49 just this year.  Aldon Smith was named the KC 101 NFC DPOY and the runner up according to The Sporting News, but Watt was basically a unanimous choice here.

Verdict: J.J. Watt is the man.

2013: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

AP voting: Kuechly (13), Robert Mathis (11.5) (Colts), Earl Thomas (7.5) (Seahawks), Robert Quinn (6) (Rams), Richard Sherman (4) (Seahawks), J.J. Watt (2) (Texans)

Sandwiched in between Watt’s two scorched-earth campaigns was one of the closest DPOY races in NFL history.  Mathis actually received more All-Pro votes than Kuechly, although the Colts star wasn’t the only one with a good case for the award.

The Pro Football Writers of America and Sports Illustrated chose Quinn, although the Sporting News also went with Kuechly. Pro Football Focus chose Watt, while the KC101 went with Kuechly in the NFC and Mathis in the AFC.  Oh, and the Seahawks had a historically dominant pass defense and two very deserving candidates, too.

Verdict: There were a number of great candidates during the ’13 season. Kuechly may be building a HOF career: he was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, the DPOY in 2013, and has been a first-team All-Pro by the AP in 2014.   Last year may have been his best season, and he was Pro Football Focus’ top inside linebacker. But I’ll still always remember him as this guy.

2014: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

A unanimous winner, the first of its kind since the AP began giving out this award.  Watt also received 13 votes in the MVP voting, so it was that sort of season.  Everyone chose Watt as the league’s best player, although it’s worth noting that Richard Sherman did get chosen by the KC101 as the top defender in the NFC.

Verdict: J.J. Watt is the man.

{ 18 comments }

Defensive Player of the Year Award: 2000-2006

Every year, the Associated Press names a Defensive Player of the Year.  But not all winners are chosen by the same margin (the ’14 winner received 100% of the vote, while the ’13 winner had just 26%), and the AP is hardly the only authority.  I thought it would be fun and informative to take a closer look at the selections in some prior years.  Let’s begin with the 7-year period from 2000 to 2006.

2000: Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens

The AP voting: Lewis (30), La’Roi Glover (11) (Saints), Warren Sapp (4) (Buccaneers), Keith Hamilton (2) (Giants), Derrick Brooks (2) (Buccaneers), Jason Taylor (1) (Dolphins) [click to continue…]

{ 6 comments }

It is not a reach to predict Beckham taking home OROY despite missing three games.

It is not a reach to predict Beckham taking home OROY despite missing three games.

Odell Beckham was the best rookie in the NFL this year despite missing a quarter of the season. Over the last eleven weeks of 2014, he led the NFL in receiving yards, and finished second in receptions and receiving touchdowns. He will very soon be named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, which made me wonder: how often has a player won a major award despite missing at least three games in a season?

If we exclude the Walter Payton Man of the Year, the Super Bowl MVP, and Comeback Player of the Year awards,1 my database identifies six players who have won an award despite missing at least three games.2 Four of them won the defensive rookie of the year award, while the other two were quarterbacks.  In reverse chronological order… [click to continue…]

  1. For those curious, Tedy Bruschi, Greg Ellis, Doug Flutie, Tommy Kramer, Jim McMahon, Joe Montana, Jim Plunkett, and Michael Vick have all won that award despite missing games — or, perhaps in some cases, because of missing those games. []
  2. This excludes the 1987, when just about every player missed three games due to the players’ strike. []
{ 0 comments }

Sid Luckman did it twice. Two Packers quarterbacks, Arnie Herber and Irv Comp, did it with help from Don Hutson. Sammy Baugh did it as a rookie in 1937.

In five out of eleven seasons from 1936 to 1946, the league leader in passing yards also won the NFL championship. Otto Graham led the AAFC in passing yards in ’47, ’48, and ’49, and the Browns won the championship each of their four seasons in the AAFC. But since then, only two quarterbacks have led the league in passing yards in the same season as winning a title. Can you name them?

Click Show for Answer Show

Want to take a look at the list of all 95 players to lead their league in passing and their team’s final results? Click the “Show” button below:

All Passing Leaders Show

Of course, you already knew that passing yards wasn’t strongly correlated with winning. But what about being the league’s most valuable player? This year, the Miami Heat won the NBA title and LeBron James was the MVP (for the second straight year). But in the NFL, it’s much rarer for a player to pull off that feat: Adrian Peterson won MVP, but the Minnesota Vikings weren’t very close to winning the Super Bowl. Can you name the last player to win the MVP and the Super Bowl in the same year?

Click Show for Answer Show


One more bit of trivia. To really be like LeBron, an NFL player would need to win the MVP, the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl MVP. That’s happened six times in NFL history, but only once by a non-quarterback. Can you name him?

Click Show for Answer Show

{ 5 comments }

Here are the selections:

Some quick thoughts: [click to continue…]

{ 13 comments }

NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 17

At the New York Times Fifth Down Blog this week, I explain my choices for the major awards this season.

Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Generally, the Most Valuable Player award is given to the best quarterback, while the Offensive Player of the Year is usually the player with the most impressive statistics. In the last five years, Tom Brady — first in 2007, and then again in 2010 — is the only player to take home both awards in the same season. Last year, Drew Brees won the award while Aaron Rodgers took home the M.V.P., but running backs Priest Holmes (2002), Jamal Lewis (2003), Shaun Alexander (2005), LaDainian Tomlinson (2006), and Chris Johnson (2009) have all won the award in the last decade. While Calvin Johnson will probably get some support for breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards, Adrian Peterson has had this award locked up for a month, and finishing the season with 2,097 yards was the icing on the cake.

I don’t think you’ll find too many people arguing about this one. Peterson’s story is outstanding, and it’s hard to argue that he didn’t provide the single most impressive performance by an offensive player this year. Quarterbacks may be more valuable, but it’s hard not to just sit back and admire what Peterson’s done. Johnson’s also had a magnificent season, but he was greatly aided by the Lions also breaking the record for pass attempts in a season.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

The shine is off the Texans, but there’s no denying that their star lineman has been outstanding this year. If the stars were aligned slightly differently — say, the Texans were streaking towards the end of the year, and Watt had a monster primetime game late — he’d have a legitimate chance at the M.V.P. award. Last month, I talked about how this award was a three-man race with the stars all coming from the 2011 Draft. In that article I also mentioned Geno Atkins as a possible darkhorse, and he’s been ever better since. But Watt has 20.5 sacks and the national reputation as the Sultan of Swatt, so this award is pretty easy to predict.

And well justified. Watt’s production as a 3-4 defensive end is remarkable. He now owns the single-season record for sacks by a player at that position, but he’s far from one dimensional. We know that he is fantastic at tipping passes at the line of scrimmage and is excellent in run support. He’s a complete player in every respect, a dominant force at a position that rarely receives media attention.

I’d select Von Miller as my runner-up and give Atkins the bronze. While Aldon Smith gets more attention because of his lofty sack totals, he’s a one-dimensional player. While he’s outstanding at that one dimension, just being a dominant pass rusher only makes him the fourth best defensive player this year. He also disappeared down the stretch, which not coincidentally began when star defensive end Justin Smith went down with a triceps injury.

Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season, but as soon as he took the field in 2012 he became the favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year. A quarterback has won this award each of the last four years — Chad Pennington (2008), Tom Brady (2009), Michael Vick (2010), and Matthew Stafford (2011) — and the trend should continue in 2012. Comeback Player of the Year is a two-man race, and there’s no wrong answer when choosing between Manning and Peterson. If the voters could, surely the majority would pick that Manning and Peterson split the award. If ever an award called for a split, this was it.

Peyton Manning’s neck injury was considered career-threatening this time last year. Many questioned his arm strength in the pre-season and in September, but by the end of the year he was once again the best quarterback in the league. It’s simply splitting hairs picking between Manning and Peterson, who tore two ligaments in his knee just over a year ago and rebounded to rush for 2,000 yards. And let’s at least recognize Jamaal Charles, who in any other year would likely take home the award. The Kansas City running back tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season, and rebounded to rush for over 1,500 yards in 2012. My guess is that those voters looking for a tiebreaker focus on the fact that Manning missed the entire 2011 season while Peterson ran for 970 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, making Manning more of a “comeback” story.

You can view the full post here.

{ 3 comments }

Trivia of the Day – Sunday, December 16th

Manning finds the last empty spot on his trophy case.

What do you give to the man who already has everything? How about a Comeback Player of the Year Award?

Right now, the choice for AP Comeback Player of the Year is a two-horse race between Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson. If Manning wins the award, it will put him in pretty rare territory: he’d be just the fourth player to, over the course of a career, be named by the Associated Press as the Most Valuable Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Super Bowl MVP. Can you name the first three?

Below is one hint for each of the three players who have won all three awards.

Trivia hint for Player 1 Show


Click 'Show' for the Answer for Player 1 Show

Trivia hint for Player 2 Show


Click 'Show' for the Answer for Player 2 Show

Trivia hint for Player 3 Show


Click 'Show' for the Answer for Player 3 Show

{ 6 comments }