Just in case Sunday night did not make it clear, defense rules the NFL in 2016. The best teams in overall DVOA all combine top-five defenses with below-average offenses. The Eagles now lead the league in both defense and special teams and are back to No. 1 overall.
10 Feb 2009
comments by Aaron Schatz
This is our sixth year of doing the Football Outsiders awards. Every year we get a great mix of the expected and the unexpected, and this year is no exception. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who voted on the awards.
This year's awards are somewhat slanted thanks to some innocuous ballot-stuffing. The Seattle Seahawks blog "Field Gulls," which won our "best independent team blog" award last year, asked its readers to come over to our awards, in particular to vote for Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane as "most underrated defensive player." As a result, you'll notice that a lot of the open awards have a strong Seattle flavor. (I believe a "strong Seattle flavor" resembles beer-battered salmon dipped in black coffee.) I'm not quite sure how to deal with "ballot stuffing" in the future. What, are we going to tell Seattle people to go away? We love Seattle people! Seattle is the West Coast headquarters of Football Outsiders. What we need are more people from places like Tampa and St. Louis. Where the heck are you guys?
Anyway, on to the awards. For those curious about past years, you will find links to each of the previous FO Awards articles on this page.
|32.6% Drew Brees
25.1% Peyton Manning
14.5% Kurt Warner
7.9% New York Giants offensive line
|7.9% Philip Rivers
4.0% DeAngelo Williams
3.0% Matt Ryan
2.0% Denver Broncos offensive line
Looks like a plurality of the Football Outsiders readership took "Most Valuable" literally, voting for the player who led the NFL in DYAR for 2008.
|27.8% Ed Reed
24.4% James Harrison
18.2% Albert Haynesworth
13.0% Nnamdi Asomugha
8.8% DeMarcus Ware
|2.7% Joey Porter
1.9% Justin Tuck
1.5% Jared Allen
1.2% Trent Cole
0.7% Jon Beason
Good split of the votes here, as there were a lot of strong defensive players this year.
|62.1% Matt Ryan
10.6% Chris Johnson
8.3% Ryan Clady
8.3% Joe Flacco
|3.2% Steve Slaton
3.2% Chris Long
3.0% Jerod Mayo
1.2% Jeff Otah
The best rookie quarterback season in NFL history -- maybe. It depends on how you count the AFL. One of the things I would like to do this offseason is revisit the "Best Quarterback Seasons Ever" study from Pro Football Prospectus 2005, adding in some information we have now that I did not have then (such as fumbles). Based on the formula from PFP 2005, however, Ryan comes out around 200th. The only rookie higher was Greg Cook with the 1968 AFL Cincinnati Bengals, who now ranks around 185 after adding in quarterbacks from the last few years. Ryan was ahead of Cook until he struggled against St. Louis in the final game of the regular season.
|15.2% Ryan Clady (LT, DEN)
13.5% Chris Snee (RG, NYG)
11.3% Michael Roos (LT, TEN)
9.2% Steve Hutchinson (LG, MIN)
7.8% Walter Jones (LT, SEA)
5.2% Jordan Gross (LT, CAR)
|4.1% Kevin Mawae (C, TEN)
3.4% Joe Thomas (LT, CLE)
3.2% David Diehl (LT, NYG)
3.2% Jeff Saturday (C, IND)
2.5% Jake Long (LT, MIA)
1.8% Alan Faneca (LG, NYJ)
I take nothing away from the fabulous rookie season of Ryan Clady, but the time has come to think of offensive line performance in terms of multiple seasons. This is the third straight year this award has gone to a rookie left tackle and the first two (Marcus McNeill and Joe Thomas) both declined in their second seasons. Hopefully, that doesn't happen to Ryan Clady. I'm very happy to see all the votes for Michael Roos, who has been a total unknown for most of his career. Walter Jones honestly doesn't belong on this list anymore, and that's probably a bit of our overly high Seattle vote there.
|28.2% Tony Sparano
25.1% Michael Smith
15.6% Jeff Fisher
12.0% Bill Belichick
|7.5% John Harbaugh
7.2% Mike Tomlin
2.5% Ken Whisenhunt
1.9% Tom Coughlin
The real NFL Coach of the Year award always goes to some guy who turned around a terrible team, and Sparano and Smith definitely did a great job of coaching this year, but there's something to be said for coaches who can keep their teams consistently good year after year. Did you think the Titans were going to have the best record in the AFC this year? Did you think the Patriots could go 11-5 without Tom Brady? OK, a lot of us actually agreed with that second one, but it was still a really good coaching job.
|62.9% Plaxico "The Lone Gunman" Burress
11.4% Chad Ocho Cinco or whatever he calls himself these days
9.2% Chris Perry
6.6% J.T. O'Sullivan
5.1% J.P. Losman
4.8% Roy "The Wide Receiver" Williams
I'm guessing that all the votes for J.P. Losman came from either angry Bills fans or angrier Patriots fans.
|25.4% Rod Marinelli
18.6% Brad Childress
18.1% Romeo Crennel
11.8% Scott Linehan
|9.5% Herman Edwards
7.9% Norv Turner
6.3% Mike Nolan
2.4% Tom Cable
Yeah, going 0-16 will sort of win you this award, won't it? And by the way, Tom Cable? We understand. It isn't your fault.
|36.7% Dick LeBeau, PIT defense
11.9% Rex Ryan, BAL defense
10.8% Dan Henning, MIA offense
8.9% Jim Schwartz, TEN defense
8.1% Jim Johnson, PHI defense
|6.8% Josh McDaniels, NE offense
6.6% Steve Spagnuolo, NYG defense
6.2% Mike Mularkey, ATL offense
3.0% Bobby April, BUF special teams
0.9% Brian Schneider, OAK special teams
That may not seem like a huge percentage, but the first couple years, the winner of this award got less than 20 percent of the vote. If they are ever going to put someone in the Hall of Fame due to his work as a coordinator, Dick LeBeau is going to be that guy and this year puts the finishing touches on his resume. (By the way, if they put LeBeau in, Monte Kiffin really should follow.)
|44.9% Bill Parcells, MIA
30.7% Thomas Dimitroff, ATL
8.5% Bill Polian, IND
|8.2% Ozzie Newsome, BAL
5.1% Mike Reinfeldt, TEN
2.6% Jerry Reese, NYG
The Tuna once said that if you're gonna cook the dinner, they at least should let you shop for the groceries. Apparently, as long as the Tuna shops for the groceries and writes up the recipe, it doesn't matter if someone else cooks the dinner.
|38.0% LaMarr Woodley (LB, PIT)
17.8% Levi Brown (OT, ARI)
12.4% Gaines Adams (DE, TB)
9.5% Steve Smith (WR, NYG)
|7.2% Brandon Meriweather (SAF, NE)
6.9% Greg Olsen (TE, CHI)
5.5% Jamaal Anderson (DE, ATL)
2.6% Chris Houston (CB, ATL)
I came up with the idea for this award when I saw Gaines Adams playing well early in the season, but like most of the Tampa Bay defense, he seriously faded late. Woodley is an excellent choice for the first version of this award.
|20.0% Brett Favre
15.4% Terrell Owens
9.9% Tony Romo
6.7% LaDainian Tomlinson
5.5% Eli Manning
3.9% Adrian Peterson
|3.7% Ben Roethlisberger
3.2% Tom Brady
3.0% Matt Cassel
3.0% Willie Parker
2.9% Reggie Bush
2.5% Chad Johnson
Wait, Tom Brady is overrated? As far as I know, the conventional wisdom about Tom Brady is "one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but nobody is sure how he will recover from the injury that cost him the entire season." How does that differ from reality?
Brett Favre, on the other hand, is totally overrated -- except, oddly enough, among the Jets fans who six months ago thought he was the savior come down from the mountain to take them to the promised land.
|18.8% Ray Lewis
8.3% Brian Urlacher
7.1% DeAngelo Hall
4.9% Roy Williams
3.8% Joey Porter
3.0% Champ Bailey
|2.8% Pacman Jones
2.8% Julius Peppers
2.8% Troy Polamalu
2.6% Bob Sanders
2.4% Jason Taylor
2.3% Dwight Freeney
Ray Lewis has now won this award for five straight seasons, which really brings up the question of what the heck we mean when we say "overrated." The conventional wisdom is that Ray Lewis is a future Hall of Fame linebacker who is still above average at his position but no longer plays at the high level of his peak years. Do people who voted for Lewis as "overrated" disagree with that? Do they believe he's now a replacement-level linebacker, and the Ravens had one of the best defenses of the decade despite having to make up for his weaknesses? Or are people still stuck on the idea that Lewis is overrated because conventional wisdom in 2009 still has Ray Lewis as the best linebacker in the game? I haven't really heard any serious analyst put forward that idea this year, and I doubt you would find anyone outside of Baltimore who actually believes that. Well, maybe Shannon Sharpe or something.
Perhaps next year, we could get a better definition of "overrated" by changing this category to "least deserving of a Pro Bowl selection," and then listing all Pro Bowlers and asking you to choose three you feel are not the best in the conference at their positions.
|37.1% Devin Hester
21.9% Adam Vinatieri
6.6% John Carney
4.2% David Akers
2.9% Josh Brown
|2.6% Josh Cribbs
2.6% Sebastian Janikowski
1.8% Pacman Jones
1.5% Mike Scifres
1.3% Shane Lechler
Hey, remember when we kept saying that Devin Hester was special because he seemed to be the only kick returner in history whose peak actually lasted more than a year? Turns out that he's not that special, because his peak lasted a grand total of two years.
Adam Vinatieri has now passed into the realm of "so accepted to be overrated that he's actually underrated." Vinatieri was below average on field goals, but not too far below average, and he was actually one of the league's top kickoff men -- although that was hard to notice since the Indianapolis coverage teams were so busy screwing up the nice field position Vinatieri was giving them.
|5.1% John Carlson
4.9% Leonard Weaver
3.5% Philip Rivers
3.5% Madison Hedgecock
3.3% Andre Johnson
3.1% Derrick Mason
|2.6% Chad Pennington
2.2% DeAngelo Williams
2.0% Jeff Saturday
1.8% Kevin Faulk
1.8% Heath Miller
1.8% Lorenzo Neal
Seattle Effect, Part I. I dig those Madison Hedgecock votes, and I especially dig those Andre Johnson votes. Listen, for all that Larry Fitzgerald did in the playoffs, Andre Johnson has now put up a higher DVOA for two straight seasons, even though he doesn't get the benefit of Kurt Warner throwing him passes or Anquan Boldin playing on the other side of the field. It isn't Andre Johnson's fault that he did not get the chance to have an awesome postseason because Mario Williams was the only player on the Houston defense to significantly improve, while Fred Bennett was stolen by aliens and replaced with an immobile wax duplicate.
|30.5% Brandon Mebane
5.6% Nnamdi Asomugha
5.6% Haloti Ngata
3.2% Aaron Smith
3.0% Shaun Rogers
2.2% Adrian Wilson
|2.1% Robert Mathis
1.9% Barrett Ruud
1.7% Gary Brackett
1.7% Stewart Bradley
1.7% Trent Cole
1.7% London Fletcher
Seattle Effect, Part II. Big time. Although, in defense of the Seattle fans, Mebane's level of play is in fact much higher than his level of press coverage. I don't think Nnamdi Asomugha and Adrian Wilson really qualify as "underrated" anymore.
|10.4% Mike Scifres (punter, SD)
8.4% Josh Wilson (returns, SEA)
6.4% Olindo Mare (kicker, SEA)
4.5% Josh Cribbs (returns/gunner, CLE)
3.4% Darrell Reid (gunner, IND)
|3.1% Jason Hanson (kicker, DET)
2.5% Johnnie Lee Higgins (returns, OAK)
2.2% Jeff Reed (kicker, PIT)
2.0% Danieal Manning (returns/gunner, CHI)
2.0% Quentin Demps (returns/gunner, PHI)
Remember, players who made this season's Pro Bowl did not qualify for this category.
|5.9% Anthony Gonzalez
3.8% John Carlson
3.8% Brady Quinn
3.6% DeSean Jackson
3.4% Aaron Rodgers
3.2% Darren McFadden
|2.5% Felix Jones
2.5% Rashard Mendenhall
2.1% Steve Slaton
1.9% Ray Rice
1.7% Joe Flacco
1.7% Limas Sweed
We've never had quite so many different players listed in this category, with nobody getting more than five percent of the vote. Can we all agree that the Marvin Harrison Era is over? The Colts are probably gonna end up cutting him, and I love Anthony Gonzalez for you fantasy football dynasty leaguers. I'm definitely in agreement with the people who picked Mendenhall and, a little below the top 12, St. Louis defensive end Chris Long. Remember, a lot of recent highly-drafted defensive ends haven't really made their mark in the league until year two, most notably Mario Williams.
By the way, you guys did a good job of calling guys with this category a year ago.. The top two were Cutler and Calvin Johnson. Jerious Norwood, Anthony Gonzalez, and Michael Turner rounded out the top five.
|14.7% Kurt Warner
10.0% LaDainian Tomlinson
9.4% Michael Turner
7.0% Terrell Owens
4.9% Matt Cassel
4.0% Ray Lewis
|3.0% Kerry Collins
3.0% Matt Ryan
2.8% Chad Pennington
2.6% Tom Brady
2.6% Brian Westbrook
2.4% Clinton Portis
I think this is the first time we've had a running back hit the Curse of 370 and not win this category, but then again Turner didn't go that far over the line and his performance (per carry) wasn't as good as people think anyway. Next year, the conventional wisdom might say he's declining more than he actually is.
One of the Tom Brady entries wrote what all the other Tom Brady voters were probably thinking -- they were voting for a decline from his 2007 numbers, not from his 2008 numbers.
I am personally worried by the drop in Brian Westbrook's receiving numbers this year. When an older running back sees his receiving numbers decline, a drop in rushing numbers is usually coming in a year or two.
|32.3% Green Bay
6.1% San Francisco
4.0% Kansas City
0.6% St. Louis
Houston is popular for the second straight year. Last year, they won this category and... didn't come anywhere near the Super Bowl. Well, at least they came on a bit at the end of the season. Buffalo was your second choice last year, and that didn't happen either. Coming in third was... Arizona, with 19.5 percent of last year's vote. Let's hear it for the wisdom of crowds!
Surprising to see that many more people expect a rebound from Green Bay or Seattle than from Jacksonville or Cleveland.
5.4% San Diego
2.1% New York Giants
Speaking of the wisdom of crowds, last year the team that finished 12th out of 12 playoff teams in this category was... Jacksonville. Whoops! However, the other teams in the bottom five were the four teams that repeated in the AFC (Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Tennessee.
|19.5% NFC Championship: Cardinals 32, Eagles 25
13.3% Week 16: Giants 34, Panthers 28 (OT)
11.0% Week 2: Cowboys 41, Eagles 37
9.6% Wild Card: Chargers 23, Colts 17 (OT)
8.9% Week 11: Jets 34, Patriots 31 (OT)
|8.8% Week 2: Broncos 39, Chargers 38
8.2% Week 5: Colts 31, Texans 27
7.9% Week 15: Steelers 13, Ravens 9
7.3% Week 6: Cardinals 30, Cowboys 24 (OT)
5.5% Week 6: Falcons 22, Bears 20
Wow, lots of good games this year, with each one getting at least five percent of the vote. NFL Films should put out a DVD set of these ten games, tossing on the Titans-Ravens AFC playoff game and the Super Bowl to make a nice even dozen of 2008 classics.
|38.5% Mastercard Peyton Manning in San Diego, Cleveland, and New England
27.6% Nike "Troy Polamalu/LaDainian Tomlinson"
11.9% Old Spice "Brian Urlacher Swagger"
9.6% NFL.com Playoff Fantasy Football
9.0% State Farm "LeBron James on Cleveland Browns"
3.4% Reebok "Migration to Training Camp"
Peyton Manning can not be stopped! He may not have won the Football Outsiders MVP award this year, but he wins "Best Commercial" for the second straight season. The next step would be a buddy sitcom with Manning and, let's say, Demitri Martin. That would be pretty good. However, let us not forget how cool that Reebok "Migration to Training Camp" ad was after we had gone months without any football.
|37.2% Toyota "Saved by Zero"
20.9% "Subway "Five Dollar Footlong"
10.2% Coors Light ruins Jim Mora "Playoffs!" news conference
10.1% Ford F-150 with Denis Leary
9.2% McDonalds "Nuggnuts"
6.0% Progressive Insurance "Help Desk"
5.7% UPS "White Board"
0.9% Budweiser with Rob Riggle
Saved by Zero: the ad so annoying it spawned its own Facebook group. I didn't like it either, but it doesn't freak me out like a bunch of construction workers singing about how much they love a five-dollar footlong. And seriously, what the hell is up with the married couple with a wedding cake made of Chicken McNuggets? That's very, very wrong.
This now becomes an interesting category because I don't know how many sites other than Field Gulls mentioned our awards and sent readers over here to vote. Hey, if I had my choice, all the good team blogs would mention our awards and send readers over here to vote (while the blogs that suck would ignore us and not dilute the voter pool, heh). Anyway, here were your leading team websites and blogs:
The Seattle ballot-stuffing rears its head again, but it's probably not such a bad thing considering that this year's winner is about to lose his job. (Yes, yes, "Clare" is a guy's name.) The real surprise is our second writer, who I don't think has ever gotten more than one vote. Once again, we get so few votes on this one that it seems silly to give percentages; here's a list of all the writers who received at least four votes, in order of popularity:
|30.7% Dan Orlovsky absent-mindedly rolls out the back of the end zone for a safety.
29.3% Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the leg.
18.1% Mike Singletary drops his pants.
15.5% Tampa Bay defensive end Greg White, inspired by the movie Teen Wolf, changes his name to "Styles G. White."
6.4% Pacman Jones attacks his own bodyguard.
Wow, massive upset! We just assumed that Mike Singletary dropping trou would win this one, but Dan Orlovsky's brain freeze beats Singletary and Plaxico Burress' lesson in gun safety (Lesson 1: "Sweatpants are not a holster.")
Thanks to everyone for participating in the awards again this year. Each year we get more votes than the year before, a nice sign of our growing readership. We also want to thank everyone who gave us feedback on the redesign with those last couple questions. Responses were split roughly 50-50 between "nested comments" and "numbered comments," so we didn't really get a definitive answer on how people want the discussion threads, but we'll be working on a way to tweak the redesign to combine the best elements of the old design and the current design in order to once again grow the Football Outsiders community.
Here's a look at some of the other things you can expect from us in the next few months:
107 comments, Last at 15 Feb 2009, 1:55am by BigCheese