By Zac Bellman
It’s Pro Bowl week, and as players head to Hawaii to celebrate their achievements this year, I thought it was only fitting to give out season awards. Check back next week for the Super Bowl edition of Whole Nine Yards: Playoff Matchups.
MVP- Adrian Peterson
Peterson had a season that will go down as one of the greatest a running back has ever had. He finished the season nine yards short of the all-time record for most rushing yards in a season, amassing 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. He also led the Vikings to ten wins in a division that many experts had them bringing up the rear. This alone is impressive, but then when you consider the fact that he did all of this on an ACL that he tore in the last game of the previous season, this award is a no brainer.
Offensive Rookie of the Year- Robert Griffin III
The three way race between Andrew Luck, RG3, and surprisingly Russell Wilson was fierce, but RG3 takes home the hardware because of his all-around dominance. Luck took a miserable team to the playoffs, but didn’t have an outstanding statistical season, throwing 18 picks. Wilson had a better statistical season, but also had better pieces around him. Griffin had the best touchdown to interception ratio, throwing 20 to 5 respectively, and led his team to a playoff appearance while heroically battling through injury.
Defensive Rookie of the Year- Luke Kuechly
The Panthers’ defense has a solid building block for the future in Kuechly, who led the NFL in tackles with 164, including 59 in the final four games. As the defense improves he will have to be a leader and make sure he and the rest of the defense are in position to make plays. Head Coach Ron Rivera will be expecting big things from him in the coming years, and with this kind of effort and a few more game changing plays, Kuechly could be looking at a Defensive MVP in his future.
Offensive Player of the Year- Peyton Manning
Adrian Peterson gets a lot of attention for his short turnaround after his ACL injury, but Peyton Manning also deserves credit for the neck surgeries he was able to bounce back from. Not only did he bounce back, but he threw for 37 touchdowns, which was more than he had thrown since his record-setting performance in 2004. Manning also threw the lowest number of interceptions in his career since 2006, only getting picked 11 times. The future Hall-of-Famer was back to his old self, leading the Broncos to an impressive 13-3 regular season record.
Defensive Player of the Year- J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt may just be putting the first of many of these awards on his mantle after this season, because he looks as dominant as any defensive player in the league. His 20.5 sacks came just short of the record of 22.5, and his 16 pass deflections were a just a sample of how disruptive he was to the passing game. His massive frame allows him to get around blockers with ease, and when he doesn’t get to the quarterback, he is adept at deflecting passes, which takes remarkable concentration and timing.
Coach of the Year- Bruce Arians
Arians didn’t start the year as the head coach of the Colts, but when Chuck Pagano left after being diagnosed with leukemia, the team needed a leader. He responded by leading a motivated group of men who were fighting for Pagano to a 9-3 record in his absence. Without his leadership this team might have crumbled under the circumstances, but he kept them focused and called the right plays to get them in position to win. This team displayed remarkable resiliency in a situation that few can succeed in, and Arians was a big part of that.
Comeback Player of the Year- Adrian Peterson
Again, nine yards short of the all-time rushing record after sustaining an injury that has ended more than a couple NFL careers over the years. Peyton Manning is worth mentioning after his comeback, but he did lead a team that Tim Tebow was able to take to the playoffs the year before. Peterson was the end-all be-all for the Viking offense and teams still couldn’t stop him. The real scary thing is that many doctors say that the second year after an ACL injury is usually when you’re back to 100%.