The writers and media members with actual votes that count towards the NFL post season awards have a very difficult job this year. Look at the votes for comeback player of the year and rookie of the year, how can one decide with absolute certainty on who should win those awards? In the rookie vote, you have three quarterbacks who led their team to the playoffs and all posted solid numbers this season, along with two running backs (Alfred Morris and Doug Martin) who will likely finish fourth and fifth this year respectively, but would win the award in almost any other year. There aren't as many candidates for comeback player of the year, but the decision is just as tough. We're left to choose between a running back who rushed for the second most yards in a single season after tearing his ACL last December, and a quarterback who threw for over 4,600 yards after having four neck surgeries last year. Both guys put up monster stats, both led their team to more wins than the previous year and into the playoffs, and both guys overcame major injuries most people thought would hold them back; how do you choose one over the other? I don't have an official vote on any of these awards, but here is who I would pick.
Rookie Of The Year:
Andrew Luck - Colts
4,374 yards, 23 TD/18 INT
Tough choice, but the situation he stepped into was set up for him to fail with his coach having to leave the team, having no offensive line to protect him, and having other rookies starting around him at running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Yet, he overcame all of it and set the NFL record for passing yards from a rookie and led his team to the playoffs.
Runner Up - Robert Griffin III
Comeback Player of the Year:
Adrian Peterson - Vikings
2,097 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns
You can make the argument that the injury Manning suffered was more serious, but he had a whole year to rehab compared to Peterson who had eight months. Don't forget, when Peterson went down in late December last year, most people thought he'd come back around week six at the earliest. He not only came back quicker than we assumed, but he came within nine yards of breaking a nearly 30 year old record. Also, running backs get hit nearly every play with carries, receptions, and pass blocking; the physical pounding they take is much greater than a quarterback. They both had amazing seasons, but I was more amazed by what Peterson was able to do.
Runner Up - Peyton Manning
Defensive Player of the Year:
J.J. Watt - Texans
20.5 sacks, 39 tackles for loss, 16 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles
This was by far the easiest of all the awards to decide on. He not only was the most dominate defensive player in the league this season, it can be argued he had the most dominate season ever by a defensive player. Watt led the league this season in sacks, tackles for loss, and led all non-cornerbacks in passes defensed. Football Outsiders has a great stat for defensive players called "Defeats". A Defeat is any tackle for loss, turnover or tipped pass that leads to a turnover, or tackle/pass defensed that prevents a conversion on 3rd or 4th down. Basically, a measure of how many big plays a player makes that impact games and lead to wins. Watt smashed the record this season with 56 defeats; the previous record was held by Ray Lewis with 45 from the 1999 season. Von Miller and Aldon Smith had great seasons, but there shouldn't even be a conversation as to who is the defensive player of the year.
Runner Up - Von Miller
Tom Brady - Patriots
4,827 yards, 34 TD/8 INT
I know, I'm supposed to pick either Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, or J.J. Watt, but let me explain. This award is not a best player in the league award, the word valuable means a lot to me when deciding on who to pick. The other three guys I mentioned might be better players than Brady at this point, but I believe that Brady is the most valuable or to look at it another way, the most difficult to replace if his team were to lose him. The Broncos have a great defense and made the playoffs last season with a fullback pretending to be a quarterback. The Texans still have an offense and other good (but obviously not great like Watt) players on defense to lean on and I believe would still win 10 games and make the playoffs without Watt. On Peterson, he had an amazing year, but I think saying he carried the Vikings to the playoffs by himself would be unfair. The Vikings actually rank two spots lower (18th to 20th) this season compared to last year in offensive yards gained. Not saying that Peterson doesn't deserve credit, but I think the biggest reason they improved by seven wins is because their defense jumped from 31st in points allowed last season, to 14th this season. Peterson was historically great, but it can be argued that their defense that allowed nearly seven fewer points per game deserves more credit for their trip to the playoffs. On the other side, the Patriots would fall apart without Brady. The Patriots rank 1st in offensive yards gained and 25th in defensive yards allowed; they live and die with their offense and Brady is the best quarterback in the league. On top of having to carry a weak defense, Brady has also had to carry along an offense that was missing one or both of their start tight ends for most of the season. Brady threw for more yards and fewer interceptions than Peyton Manning and the Broncos without a doubt would have a better chance to make the playoffs without their quarterback in comparison to the Patriots. Tom Brady is the rightful MVP for this season.
Runner Up - J.J. Watt
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