Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
04 Mar 2010
comments by Aaron Schatz
This is now the seventh time we've done the Football Outsiders awards. Pretty crazy that we've been online this long, and doing these awards after every season, trying to get right what the official voters get wrong. (Oh, yeah, Jets fans, you know what I'm talking about there.) 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. My apologies for taking a little bit longer than usual to post the winners. Congratulations to the three readers who won free DVD copies of the movie Big Fan: Zach Feffer, William Guinn, and Philip Scott.
For those curious about past years, you will find links to each of the previous FO Awards articles on this page.
Who is your choice as Offensive MVP for 2009? (Last year's winner: Drew Brees)
|50.2% Peyton Manning
19.6% Chris Johnson
19.5% Drew Brees
|5.6% Philip Rivers
3.5% Brett Favre
1.7% Andre Johnson
Last year, Brees got the Football Outsiders MVP award. This year, he got a Super Bowl ring. I think I know which one is more important to him. Peyton Manning won the first two Offensive MVP awards in 2003 and 2004, but had not finished first in the voting since.
Who is your choice as Defensive MVP for 2009? (Last year's winner: Ed Reed)
|66.4% Darrelle Revis
9.4% Charles Woodson
6.7% Jared Allen
5.9% Patrick Willis
|5.4% Darren Sharper
2.6% DeMarcus Ware
2.3% Elvis Dumervil
1.4% Brian Cushing
OK, here are the winners of the Defensive MVP award with their percentage of the vote, each year since we began doing this in 2003 (technically, in January 2004):
Does any number jump out at you there? We had never seen one candidate get over half the vote, and then Revis wins the award with two-thirds of reader votes. And yet the actual NFL writers who vote on the official Defensive Player of the Year award gave the majority of their votes to Charles Woodson. What, because he had a couple more turnovers than Revis? The guy shut down everyone he played this year (except, maybe, Reggie Wayne in the first half of Week 16). I'm not sure what the guy had to do to actually win Defensive Player of the Year, maybe kill Randy Moss with his bare hands on national television while simultaneously picking off a Tom Brady pass using only his teeth.
Who is your choice as NFL Rookie of the Year for 2009? (Last year's winner: Matt Ryan)
|34.3% Brian Cushing
26.9% Percy Harvin
13.2% Clay Matthews
10.0% Michael Oher
|5.1% Brian Orakpo
4.9% Jarius Byrd
3.1% Mark Sanchez
2.5% Ray Maualuga
I wrote about Brian Cushing's amazing rookie season in November; the numbers didn't get any less awesome over the second half of the year. Cushing was the first rookie to lead the league in Defeats, going back to at least 1997. My gushing over Cushing isn't meant to take away from anyone's appreciation of Percy Harvin, who had an excellent rookie season and helped completely turn around the Minnesota special teams. By the way, before this year, weren't we all talking about how recent USC players had a poor track record in the pros? That didn't seem to be a problem in 2009, although somebody still needs to kick Dwayne Jarrett in the ass.
Who was the best offensive lineman of 2009? (open question, two votes per ballot, top 12 listed) (Last year's winner: Ryan Clady)
|15.6% Nick Mangold (C, NYJ)
13.1% Joe Thomas (LT, CLE)
11.9% Ryan Clady (LT, DEN)
10.4% Jahri Evans (LG, NO)
10.1% Jeff Saturday (C, IND)
5.4% Jake Long (LT, MIA)
|3.8% Alan Faneca (LG, NYJ)
3.8% Steve Hutchinson (LG, MIN)
2.2% Michael Roos (LT, TEN)
1.9% Michael Oher (RT, BAL)
1.8% Kris Dielman (LG, SD)
1.1% Carl Nicks (RG, NO)
This is the fourth straight year that our winner for best offensive lineman wasn't even in the top dozen the year before, but at least this time we've got a guy with a track record of success instead of an impact rookie destined for a sophomore slump. On the other hand, last year's winner Ryan Clady breaks the sophomore slump streak, and Joe Thomas had a strong third season (the "junior rebound?").
The appearances of Alan Faneca and, to a lesser extent, Steve Hutchinson show that even in Football Outsiders voting, just like in the Pro Bowl, reputation remains even after a player begins to decline in his later years.
As for the New Orleans Saints, how often do you have a team -- let alone a Super Bowl champion -- where the two best offensive linemen are the guards?
Who is your choice for NFL Coach of the Year in 2009? (Last year's winner: Tony Sparano)
|34.0% Sean Payton
22.7% Rex Ryan
17.2% Jim Caldwell
11.5% Marvin Lewis
|7.6% Norv Turner
3.8% Mike Singletary
1.7% Ken Whisenhunt
1.7% Brad Childress
Sean Payton and Rex Ryan: Not just the best coaches of 2009, but the most fun. Payton runs the most interesting offense in the league. Ryan runs the most interesting defense. Both of them give great quote. Now, who wants to hire Rob Ryan? Come on, someone out there wants to hire Rob Ryan as a head coach, right?
Who is your choice for the Bill Arnsparger Award for Coordinator of the Year? (Last year's winner: Dick LeBeau)
|35.7% Gregg Williams, NO defense
17.4% Mike Zimmer, CIN defense
16.3% Dom Capers, GB defense
14.0% Mike Nolan, DEN defense
|11.3% Mike Pettine, NYJ defense
2.7% Brian Murphy, MIN special teams
1.5% Cam Cameron, BAL offense
1.1% Jason Garrett, DAL offense
A fitting exclamation point to a season that will go down in NFL history as "The Year of the Defensive Coordinator." (OK, maybe not everywhere, but certainly around Football Outsiders it will.)
Who is your choice for the Keep Choppin' Wood Award for 2009 (player who most hurt his team)? (Last year's winner: Plaxico Burress and his magic sweatpants holster)
|42.4% JaMarcus Russell
35.5% Jake Delhomme
6.1% C.C. Brown
5.6% The corpse of Orlando Pace
|4.8% Kris Brown
3.5% Kerry Collins
1.1% Nick Folk
1.1% LaRon Landry
The conclusion: interceptions are bad, but the total inability to even complete a pass is even worse. Everybody who writes about the league is patting themselves on the back because we were all completely right about Oakland's fakakta decision to draft Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh. But at a certain point, when are all the talent evaluators in the media going to be honest about how wrong they were about JaMarcus Russell? We all make fun of the guy, and we make fun of Oakland because he's never developed, but almost everyone out there thought the Raiders were making the right pick when they took Russell number one. Folks like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay need to step back and say, "Hey, I was wrong about Russell, and this is why, and this is what it means for how we evaluate quarterback talent in the future." This is one prediction that the Lewin Career Forecast completely and totally nailed. (As for Brady Quinn, well... 1-for-2 isn't bad, right?)
Who is your choice for the Keep Choppin' Game Film Award for the worst coach of 2009? (Last year's winner: Rod Marinelli)
|22.0% Bill Sheridan, NYG defense
19.8% Jim Mora, SEA head coach
18.0% Ron Turner, CHI offense
|17.1% Jim Zorn, WAS head coach
11.9% Bob Ligashesky, PIT special teams
11.1% Dick Jauron, BUF head coach
I had a hard time coming up for nominees for this award in 2009, because how much do you really want to blame the head coaches of bad teams? Is Jim Schwartz to blame after he took over a Detroit franchise in tatters? Is Steve Spagnuolo responsible for the lack of talent in St. Louis? You have to be on crack to blame Tom Cable for the mess in Oakland. So we went with the idea of adding assistant coaches to the voting; it seemed like we had a number of teams in 2009 where one unit in particular underperformed, but you don't want to fully blame the head coach. Sure, Tom Coughlin is the one who promoted Bill Sheridan after Spagnuolo left for St. Louis, but whose fault was the Giants' defensive faceplant really?
Who is your choice for the Art Rooney Jr. Award for Executive(s) of the Year? (Last year's winner: Bill Parcells)
|44.5% Bill Polian, IND
16.6% Mickey Loomis, NO
12.0% Ted Thompson, GB
|10.9% Mike Tannenbaum, NYJ
8.2% Ozzie Newsome, BAL
7.8% Rick Spielman, MIN
Polian does a great job every year, of course, but this year seemed particularly remarkable, as the Colts started two rookie cornerbacks for most of the season and replaced not only Marvin Harrison but also the replacement for Marvin Harrison with a second-year receiver from the sixth round and a rookie receiver from the fourth.
Who is your choice for the John Elway Award for disappointing highly-drafted rookie who turns things around with an impressive sophomore season? (Last year's winner: LaMarr Woodley)
|63.4% Ray Rice
15.2% Rashard Mendenhall
9.5% Michael Jenkins
3.4% Felix Jones
|2.8% Fred Davis
2.5% Calais Campbell
2.2% Aqib Talib
1.1% Terrell Thomas
This one was pretty easy. It's hard to believe that Ray Rice had just 454 rushing yards and no touchdowns as a rookie.
Who was the least deserving pick for the Pro Bowl on offense (not including injury replacements): (open question, top 10 listed) (Last year's "most overrated": Brett Favre)
|37.0% Bryant McKinnie
8.9% Jason Peters
8.4% Brandon Marshall
4.5% Tom Brady
3.6% Alan Faneca
|3.4% Steve Hutchinson
3.0% Wes Welker
1.8% Andre Gurode
1.8% Adrian Peterson
1.8% DeAngelo Williams
This question replaces our old category of "most overrated." We always had a problem figuring out what the qualifications were there, so the votes would be all over the map. This makes more sense. I've disqualified votes for players who were not original Pro Bowl picks, such as David Garrard (who would have finished sixth). McKinnie is an excellent choice, as the whole Minnesota offensive line was completely overrated this year.
Who was the least deserving pick for the Pro Bowl on defense (not including injury replacements): (open question, top 10 listed) (Last year's "most overrated": Ray Lewis)
|15.4% Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
11.2% Ray Lewis
9.5% Brian Dawkins
8.3% Asante Samuel
5.4% Champ Bailey
|4.6% Julius Peppers
4.4% Lance Briggs
4.2% Ed Reed
2.7% James Harrison
2.2% Jarius Byrd
Ladies and gentlemen, we have broken the streak. Ray Lewis won this award for five straight seasons, but this year he comes in second to pick-happy but not-quite-polished Arizona cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. We had to change the wording of the question to do it, but we did finally get a different winner. Of course, our game charting stats now suggest that DRC may not be as overrated as we once thought, as he improved over the second half of the season.
The most overrated special teams player in the NFL is: (open question, top eight listed) (Last year's winner: Devin Hester)
|21.7% Devin Hester
16.5% Adam Vinatieri
12.4% Nate Kaeding
11.5% Reggie Bush
|3.8% David Akers
3.2% Jeff Feagles
3.2% Johnny Knox
2.9% Shane Lechler
Hester's longest punt return this year went 33 yards, and he had only one kickoff return before Week 17. It really is astonishing how quickly the best return men come back to earth.
The most deserving offensive player left off the original Pro Bowl roster is: (open question, top 10 listed) (Last year's "most underrated": John Carlson)
|33.2% Vincent Jackson
9.6% Matt Schaub
3.5% Cedric Benson
3.5% Randy Moss
3.2% Thomas Jones
|2.4% Ben Roethlisberger
2.1% Brent Celek
1.9% Ryan Grant
1.9% Kurt Warner
1.9% Roddy White
Yes, Matt Schaub eventually won Pro Bowl MVP even though he was not originally supposed to be in the game. He was fourth on the AFC's quarterback list, behind Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Philip Rivers. Which is, let's be honest, exactly where he belongs. He didn't really deserve to make the Pro Bowl ahead of those three guys, despite an excellent season. Vincent Jackson, on the other hand, got screwed by the Pro Bowl. Can't someone give this guy an endorsement deal or something to raise his level of fame? Vincent, if you are reading, we'll pay you fifty bucks to let us use your picture on the cover of Football Outsiders Almanac 2010. You deserve the exposure. E-mail your response to info-at-footballoutsiders.com.
The most deserving defensive player left off the original Pro Bowl roster is: (open question, top 10 listed) (Last year's "most underrated": Brandon Mebane)
|16.7% London Fletcher
6.6% Leon Hall
5.5% Clay Matthews
4.6% Gary Brackett
4.6% Justin Smith
|4.3% Jon Beason
4.3% Jabari Greer
4.3% LaMarr Woodley
3.4% David Harris
3.4% Michael Jenkins
So I'm in Indianapolis last week and I sit down with the folks from NFL Films to tape some bits for the upcoming season of Top 10. One of the shows is going to be "best undrafted players." I look at the list. No London Fletcher. He's not even listed under "Best of the Rest." Another one of the shows is "best short players." I look at the list. No London Fletcher: not in the top ten, not in the "Best of the Rest." Come on, people. Suffice it to say, I made sure they taped me saying that it was ridiculous not to have Fletcher in the top ten for both categories. Maybe that will help put him (and video of me) in the "Best of the Rest" portions of both shows. Fletcher did eventually make it to the Pro Bowl this year, finally, as a "Super Bowl replacement" for Jonathan Vilma.
The most underrated special teams player in the NFL is: (open question, top eight listed) (Last year's winner: Mike Scifres)
|11.7% Sebastian Janikowski
9.3% Johnny Knox
7.8% Mike Scifres
4.3% Ryan Longwell
|3.5% Courtney Roby
3.1% Donnie Jones
2.7% Pat McAfee
2.7% Brian Moorman
Sea Bass was 26-for-29 on field goals in 2009, and his only misses were from 45 (hard), 57 (extremely hard), and 66 (three yards longer than the NFL record).
Player most likely to breakout in 2010 (open question, top 12 listed): (Last year's winner: Anthony Gonzalez)
|7.4% Michael Crabtree
5.8% Shonn Greene
5.8% Matt Leinart
3.6% Jamaal Charles
3.1% Devin Aromashodu
3.1% Anthony Gonzalez
|2.9% Jerome Harrison
2.9% Beanie Wells
2.1% Steve Slaton
1.9% Ray Rice
1.7% Joe Flacco
1.7% Limas Sweed
By break out, we did not mean "break himself and fall out of the lineup," but that's what Anthony Gonzalez did after readers picked him a year ago. As for this year's winner, Crabtree should hit that 1,000-yard projection that we made for him in FOA 2009 before we knew he was going to hold out like an idiot. But seriously, Devin Aromashodu? Dude does nothing for three and a half years, and some readers are excited about a couple games at the end of his fourth season? I don't really see it.
By the way, what would Ray Rice have to do to break out more than he already has broken out? Fly?
Player most likely to significantly decline in 2010 (open question, top 12 listed): (Last year's winner: Kurt Warner)
|19.6% Brett Favre
8.4% Chris Johnson
7.3% Thomas Jones
7.1% Randy Moss
4.9% Tom Brady
4.9% Ray Lewis
|4.2% Adrian Peterson
2.7% Donovan McNabb
2.2% Cedric Benson
2.2% Darren Sharper
2.0% Wes Welker
1.8% LaDainian Tomlinson
When you have the best numbers of your career at age 40, yeah, that's usually not going to be repeatable.
Which of the following teams is most likely next year's surprise Super Bowl contender? (Last year's choice: Green Bay)
|43.5% San Francisco
4.5% Kansas City
2.0% Tampa Bay
1.4% St. Louis
We picked San Francisco as our favorite in the NFC West back in 2008, but apparently we were just a couple years too early. With Seattle and St. Louis rebuilding, San Francisco will make a popular pick in 2010, especially for all the Leinart doubters out there. Chicago could be a nice bounce back candidate if Mike Martz can fix Jay Cutler's head without getting him creamed in the process. I'm sick and tired of trying to figure out Jacksonville. Screw 'em. (Well, except MJD, he's awesome.)
Which playoff team is most likely to miss the playoffs in 2010? (Last year's choice: Miami)
9.2% New York Jets
2.7% New England
1.1% Green Bay
1.1% New Orleans
0.6% San Diego
Ah, there are those Leinart doubters I just mentioned. Along with a lot of Cincinnati doubters. Count me in that second category, especially after watching Carson Palmer devolve in the AFC playoffs. Indianapolis may never miss another postseason until Peyton Manning retires around, oh, I don't know, age 50.
Which is your choice for Game of the Year in 2009? (Last year's choice: Arizona 32, Philadelphia 25 in the NFC Championship)
|34.6% Wild Card Round: Green Bay Packers 45 at Arizona Cardinals 51 (OT)
31.1% Week 10: New England Patriots 34 at Indianapolis Colts 35
12.8% NFC Championship: Minnesota Vikings 28 at New Orleans Saints 31 (OT)
6.2% Week 15: Green Bay Packers 36 at Pittsburgh Steelers 37
4.8% Week 11: Cleveland Browns 37 at Detroit Lions 38
3.2% Week 2: Indianapolis Colts 27 at Miami Dolphins 23
Five other games were at 1.5% or below.
Do you notice something about our top game? Yes, that's the one where the team featuring the official Defensive Player of the Year gave up51 friggin' points. (No, I'm not blaming Charles Woodson for that, but he wasn't exactly shutting anyone down that day, was he?) I'm surprised that "fourth-and-2" finished second. I would have thought most of you were sick and tired of Colts-Patriots games by now.
The "Get Your Story Straight" Award for best commercial during NFL games this year was (Last year's choice: Mastercard "Peyton Manning on the Road")
|30.3% Head and Shoulders Troy Polamalu
27.6% Snickers "Hungry German Guy"
14.9% Old Spice "Different Smelling Man"
14.2% Nike Adrian Peterson
13.0% Dr. Pepper Gene Simmons/Dr. Dre
The "John Mellencamp Must Die" Award for most annoying commercial during NFL games this year was (Last year's choice: Toyota "Saved by Zero"):
|28.1% Bud Light "Jimmy Football" (a.k.a. "Tailgate Tested, Tailgate Approved")
20.0% "I'm Steve and Windows 7 was my idea."
15.7% Toyota "Saved by Zero"
13.8% eTrade "Talking Baby"
11.4% Best Buy "Christmas Carolers"
5.2% Pepsi Super Bowl commercial comparing Will.I.Am to Bob Dylan
5.1% Pizza Hut "Jackpot!"
0.6% Pepsi Throwback
Whoops. I think I left Toyota's "Saved by Zero" ad on the list by accident, although it was so amazingly annoying that it probably does deserve votes in two separate years. I would really like to take one of those Toyotas and run over Jimmy Football with it. Oh, and Will.I.Am sucks, but I would have to buy a Pepsi or two if they could somehow put together a commercial where Bob Dylan covered "My Humps."
The funniest thing to happen during the 2009 NFL season was: (Last year's winner: Dan Orlovsky absent-mindedly rolls out the back of the end zone for a safety.)
|32.8% The ultimate Al Davis moment: drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree.
18.4% "Goddamit, Donald!"
13.7% Seahawks try out new long snappers on the sidelines during the game.
11.2% Mark Sanchezcriticizes Pete Carroll for leaving USC.
10.3% LaDainian Tomlinson's "Electric Glide" video
5.2% DJ Steve Porter's"You Play to Win the Game" Remix
4.8% Brett Favre's rendition of "Pants on the Ground"
3.7% Randy Moss fools around with fan in Randy Moss mask.
Hey, you know that YouTube montage of bad New York Jets draft picks? We're pretty close to getting one of those for the Raiders, right?
That does it for the 2009 Football Outsiders Awards. Once again, thanks to all the readers for participating.
186 comments, Last at 21 Mar 2010, 6:47pm by MisterSnrub