2015 Football Outsiders Awards

2015 Football Outsiders Awards
2015 Football Outsiders Awards
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

comments by Vincent Verhei

Welcome to the results of the 13th annual Football Outsiders Awards -- the best and worst players of the year, as voted on by you, our readers. For those curious about the FO Award winners in 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 2015? (Last year's winner: Aaron Rodgers)

59.8% Cam Newton, QB, CAR
28.0% Carson Palmer, QB, ARI
7.5% Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
4.7% Tom Brady, QB, NE

This has been considered a two-horse race for most of the season. I broke down the cases for MVP candidates late in the season, but for most onlookers it appeared to a case of numbers vs. environment. Carson Palmer, the league leader in DVOA and DYAR, had the better numbers, but Cam Newton clearly had a lot less with which to work. In what I would consider a mild upset, the readers voted for Newton, recognizing that he was producing touchdowns with guys who should have been fourth and fifth receivers as starters. That's not to say I disagree with the decision -- I would have voted for Newton too, though other FO writers would strongly disagree -- but I am surprised how many voters determined that our numbers, in this instance, weren't painting an accurate picture of what was going on on the field. Only two other players received votes. Russell Wilson threw 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions in the second half of the season and likely would have won the post-Halloween MVP if such a thing existed, but nine touchdowns and six interceptions in the first half of the year basically torpedoed his campaign. And Tom Brady, though he had an excellent season, paled in comparison to each of the other finalists in one way or another. He was second to Palmer in DYAR, but it was a distant second -- he was closer to seventh-ranked Kirk Cousins than he was to Palmer. He had better weapons in the passing game than Newton, at least early in the year. And his season was the opposite of Wilson's, as he cooled off down the stretch: 22 touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half of the year, and 14 and five in the second half.

Who is your choice for Defensive MVP for 2015? (Last year's winner: J.J. Watt)

37.1% J.J. Watt, DE, HOU
26.7% Von Miller, OLB, DEN
18.1% Aaron Donald, DT, STL
11.4% Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, OAK
5.7% Josh Norman, CB, CAR
1.0% Patrick Peterson, CB, ARI

This is the second year in a row and the third time in four seasons that Watt has won this award, though the voting margin was closer this year than usual. Watt again led the NFL in defeats with 42, tying for the league lead in run defeats (with St. Louis' Mark Barron, of all people) and tying for second behind Arizona's Tyrann Mathieu in pass defeats. Oh, and he led the league in sacks, and led all down linemen in passes defensed too. Von Miller "only" had 11.0 sacks in the regular season, but then had 5.0 in the regular season and won the Super Bowl MVP award, making it clear he was the best player on the league's best defense. Aaron Donald had the most defeats of any non-Watt lineman in the league. Khalil Mack's 32 defeats put him in fourth place in that category. We wrap up with two cornerbacks. Both were excellent, but when we had a chance to check charting numbers after the season, Patrick Peterson blew away Josh Norman and any other corner in the league.

Who was the best offensive lineman of 2015? (open question, two votes per ballot, top 10 listed) (Last year's winner: Marshal Yanda)

24.0% Joe Thomas, CLE
15.4% Tyron Smith, DAL
10.6% Marshal Yanda, BAL
8.6% Andrew Whitworth, CIN
8.2% Ryan Kalil, CAR
3.9% David DeCastro, PIT
3.0% Trai Turner, CAR
2.5% Josh Sitton, GB
2.5% Zach Martin, DAL
2.0% Mike Iupati, ARI
2.0% Trent Williams, WAS

Thomas and the Browns were covered extensively in Word of Muth this year. So were Smith and the Cowboys. Yanda and the Ravens were featured last year. Is this a case where FO readers are subconsciously favoring linemen who have gotten more coverage on this site? Probably not -- Yanda, Smith, and Thomas finished 1-2-3 last year, and Thomas won the award the year before that. More likely, Ben Muth likes watching really good linemen, and picks out those teams with the best blockers for his heaviest focus.

Who is your choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2015? (Last year's winner: Odell Beckham)

31.4% Todd Gurley, RB, STL
22.9% Amari Cooper, WR, OAK
19.0% Jameis Winston, QB, TB
9.5% Thomas Rawls, RB, SEA
4.8% Marcus Mariota, QB, TEN
4.8% Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA
3.8% Brandon Scherff, G, WAS
3.8% Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN

Gurley had 276 more rushing yards and 227 more yards from scrimmage than any other rookie, so this was a fairly obvious choice. Cooper was even more dominant among receivers, with 11 more catches and 350 more yards than any other freshman. Winston was 15th in DYAR and 16th in DVOA in his first year, giving Tampa Bay an average starter at the game's most important position right out of the gate. And Rawls, despite carrying the ball only 147 times last year, led all running backs in DYAR and success rate, and finished second in DVOA in what was a very weird year for the position.

Who is your choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2015? (Last year's winner: Khalil Mack)

43.5% Marcus Peters, CB, KC
17.4% Leonard Williams, DE, NYJ
13.0% Ronald Darby, CB, BUF
7.6% Eric Kendricks, MLB, MIN
5.4% Markus Golden, OLB, ARI
4.3% Malcom Brown, DT, NE
2.2% Damarious Randall, CB, GB
2.2% Danielle Hunter, DE, MIN
2.2% Kwon Alexander, OLB, TB
2.2% Stephone Anthony, ILB, NO

All Peters did as a rookie was lead the NFL in interceptions and passes defensed. This is partly because he was thrown at a lot -- 23 more times than anyone else, according to Sports Info Solutions -- but few rookies would have fared so well under such heavy attack. Leonard Williams finished fourth in the league among down linemen in successful run tackles, and was also in the top ten for run defeats. With 96 targets, Darby was tied for second behind Peters, and he gave up fewer yards per target (though Peters had the better success rate). Statistically, those four players really stick out from their peers.

Who is your choice for Unit of the Year in 2015? (Last year's winner: Dallas offensive line)

28.0% Carolina linebackers
25.2% Denver defensive backs
22.4% Pittsburgh receivers (WR/TE)
9.3% New York Jets defensive line
8.4% Arizona receivers (WR/TE)
3.7% Cincinnati offensive line
1.9% New England linebackers
0.9% Seattle defensive line

Luke Kuechly (the last player besides J.J. Watt to be voted defensive player of the year by FO readers) and Thomas Davis helped Carolina finish second overall in defensive DVOA, second against the pass and sixth against the run. They were also first in coverage against tight ends and seventh against running backs. We had a hard time deciding which unit on Denver's defense to nominate. We like to keep it to one unit per team to avoid splitting the vote, but given the way they played in the post season, Denver's line or linebackers might have won this award. Pittsburgh's receivers, led by the incomparable Antonio Brown, put up spectacular numbers again despite getting five total starts from Landry Jones and Michael Vick. The Jets' defense led the NFL in run defense DVOA and adjusted line yards; Damon Harrison led all defensive linemen in run tackles, and Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams also made the top 15. There's a chicken-or-egg question to be asked about Arizona's quarterback and receivers, but Larry Fitzgerald and company deserve credit for raising Carson Palmer's game from above-average to MVP-caliber. And Cincinnati's offensive line got 13 starts from Andy Dalton and three more from A.J. McCarron and still finished first in offensive DVOA.

Who is your choice for 2015 NFL Head Coach of the Year? (Last year's winner: Bruce Arians)

41.9% Ron Rivera, CAR
24.8% Bruce Arians, ARI
10.5% Bill Belichick, NE
10.5% Mike Zimmer, MIN
5.7% Andy Reid, KC
3.8% Todd Bowles, NYJ
1.9% Gary Kubiak, DEN
1.0% Marvin Lewis, CIN

The Panthers went 6-1 in games decided by eight points or less despite obvious gaping holes at wide receiver and offensive tackle, holes that Rivera and his crew were able to mask for 18 games. And of course, his defense finished second in DVOA. Arians' Cardinals went 5-1 in one-score games; his record in close games as an NFL head coach in Arizona and Indianapolis is now an unfathomable 23-5. Bill Belichick posted double-digit wins for the 13th year in a row and very nearly got back to the Super Bowl, while Mike Zimmer won four more games with Minnesota than the Vikings had the year before. I'm assuming everyone who voted for Andy Reid did so before his Chiefs were huddling with the clock running down two scores against New England in the playoffs.

Who is your choice for the 2015 Bill Arnsparger Award for Coordinator of the Year? (Last year's winner: Todd Bowles)

72.0% Wade Phillips, DEN defense
8.4% Hue Jackson, CIN offense
6.5% Sean McDermott, CAR defense
5.6% Greg Roman, BUF offense
2.8% Bob Sutton, KC defense
2.8% Josh McDaniels, NE offense
0.9% Darrell Bevell, SEA offense
0.9% Jerry Rosberg, BAL special teams

Welp. Phillips took a defense that was merely good in 2014 (ranking fourth in DVOA), added zero new faces (aside from player like Malik Jackson who were promoted from within), and turned them into one of the best Super Bowl defenses we've ever measured. No other coordinator came close in the voting, though a scattered few were impressed with Jackson's ability to produce the league's top offense; McDermott's effort in leading the second-best defense; and Roman's skill in taking a career backup quarterback and turning him into a viable starter, guiding the Bills to their best offensive DVOA since Doug Flutie was running the show in 1999.

Who is your choice for the 2015 Art Rooney Jr. Award for Executive of the Year? (Last year's winner: Bill Belichick)

18.6% John Elway, DEN
16.7% Dave Gettleman, CAR
13.7% Bill Belichick, NE
12.7% Steve Keim, ARI
9.8% Scot McCloughan, WAS
8.8% Reggie McKenzie, OAK
7.8% Mike Maccagnan, NYJ
4.9% John Schneider, SEA
3.9% Rick Spielman, MIN
2.9% John Dorsey, KC

Save for some new faces along the offensive line, Elway didn't do much on the player acquisition side of things this year (though of course Denver's Super Bowl championship roster was mainly built by Elway over the last five years). Instead, Elway's biggest moves this year were on the sideline, bringing in Gary Kubiak to mold his zone blocking schemes and bootlegs with Peyton Manning's preference for shotgun sets, and also bringing in Wade Phillips to guide the defense. The former was a work in progress up to and including the Super Bowl; the latter was an unqualified success. It's a similar story for Gettleman, Belichick, and Keim, whose decisions and strategies in years past paid off in 2015.

And now, we go from an award won by John Elway, to an award named after John Elway.

Who is your choice for the 2015 John Elway Award, given to the highly-drafted player (rounds one and two) who improved the most between his first and second seasons? (Last year's winner: Jamie Collins)

50.0% Derek Carr, QB, OAK
22.6% Blake Bortles, QB, JAC
18.9% Ryan Shazier, ILB, PIT
7.5% Teddy Bridgewater, QB, MIN
0.9% Demarcus Lawrence, DE, DAL

In his rookie season, Carr threw 21 touchdowns, but averaged only 5.5 yards per pass. One year later, he threw 32 touchdowns and averaged 7.0 yards per pass, while throwing only one more interception (from 12 to 13). Bortles actually made a bigger improvement (improving from a TD-INT ratio of 11-17 as a rookie to 35-18 in 2015), but Carr was the better player both seasons. Shazier was a non-factor as a rookie, with only five defeats in 2014. That number jumped to 20 last year, second-most on the team.

Who is your choice for the 2015 Kurt Warner Award for a low-drafted (or undrafted) backup who finally has a breakout year as a starter? (Last year's winner: Justin Forsett)

48.1% Tyrod Taylor, QB, BUF
31.1% Gary Barnidge, TE, CLE
15.1% Malik Jackson, DE, DEN
2.8% Travis Benjamin, WR, CLE
1.9% Kamar Aiken, WR, BAL
0.9% Mike Harris, RT, MIN

[ad placeholder 3]

And now, a full list of quarterbacks who had a better passing DVOA than Tyrod Taylor in 2015: Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, and Drew Brees. Yes, six of those seven players led their teams to the playoffs. Taylor was also second behind Cam Newton in quarterback rushing DYAR despite missing two games. This after he threw only 35 passes in his first four NFL seasons. Barnidge had a career-high 13 receptions in 2014... and then shattered that number with 79 in his eighth season in 2015. Malik Jackson's individual numbers weren't especially stellar, but in playing time he was the No. 1 defensive lineman on the best defense in football. Benjamin had more catches for more yards in 2015 than he had in his first three seasons combined. Aiken had no catches in his first three seasons, then 24 in 2014 and 75 in 2015. Mike Harris started 16 games for the Vikings after three years on and off the bench in Minnesota and San Diego.

For those who asked: we didn't include Malcolm Butler for this award because he was only in his second year, rather than being a long-time player who finally broke through in 2015.

Who is your choice for the 2015 Keep Choppin' Wood Award (player who most hurt his team, either on or off the field)? (Last year's winner: Adrian Peterson)

44.9% Johnny Manziel, QB, CLE
21.5% Brandon Browner, CB, NO
8.4% Greg Hardy, DE, DAL
8.4% Mario Williams, DE, BUF
6.5% Nick Foles, QB, STL
4.7% DeMarco Murray, RB, PHI
4.7% Eddie Lacy, RB, GB
0.9% Drew Nowak, C, SEA

We might have to re-name this award in "honor" of this year's winner. There have been bigger screw-ups and way worse human beings than Johnny Manziel to play in the NFL, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a player who made more stupid mistakes over and over again in just two seasons. Browner was flagged for 24 penalties, most by any player in a season since the NFL started keeping track in 1999. In that sense, he literally did more to hurt his team on the field than anyone ever has before. Save for one embarrassing interview, Hardy's bad behavior really came in prior seasons, not in 2015. And Williams, one of the NFL's highest-paid defenders, disappeared in Rex Ryan's system, falling from 14.5 sacks and 36 tackles in 2014 to 5.0 sacks and 15 tackles in 2015.

Who is your choice for the 2015 Keep Choppin' Game Film Award for the most ineffective coach (head coach or coordinator)? (Last year's winner: Marc Trestman)

50.9% Rob Ryan, NO defensive coordinator
20.8% Jim Tomsula, SF head coach
17.9% Chip Kelly, PHI head coach
7.5% Ken Whisenhunt, TEN head coach
2.8% Mike Pettine, CLE head coach

When your defense sets all-time records for worst DVOA and most touchdown passes allowed, you win this award. It's just a rule. Tomsula made the worst of a bad situation as the 49ers nearly finished as the worst team in the league; two of their five wins came in overtime, and two more came by a combined six points. Chip Kelly the coach seems like a scapegoat for the failings of Chip Kelly the GM. Whisenhunt and Pettine, like Tomsula, were thrown into lousy situations with terrible rosters and failed to make any kind of positive impact.

Who was the least deserving pick for the Pro Bowl (not including injury replacements)? (Last year's winner: John Kuhn)

36.9% LeSean McCoy, RB, BUF
23.6% Mike Pouncey, C, MIA
16.5% Malcolm Butler, CB, NE
13.5% Joe Staley, LT, SF
6.2% Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR
3.3% DeMarcus Ware, OLB, DEN

McCoy missed four games and finished 12th in the league in rushing yards, 16th in yards from scrimmage. Pouncey missed two games, and the Dolphins were 28th in adjusted line yards. Butler was tied for second in the league with 96 targets, and gave up an average of 8.5 yards on those throws. Staley played all 16 games, but the 49ers were last in adjusted line yards and next to last in adjusted sack rate. Stewart was just ninth in rushing yards and 25th in yards from scrimmage, while Ware missed five games and only had 7.5 sacks before adding 3.5 more in the postseason.

Who is the most deserving offensive player left off the original Pro Bowl roster? (Last year's winner: Odell Beckham)

26.3% Allen Robinson, WR, JAC
24.8% Doug Baldwin, WR, SEA
7.4% Gary Barnidge, TE, CLE
6.5% Amari Cooper, WR, OAK
6.5% Delanie Walker, TE, TEN
4.5% Matt Forte, RB, CHI
3.7% Andy Dalton, QB, CIN
2.7% Jared Veldheer, OL, ARI
1.7% Jordan Reed, TE, WAS
1.2% Drew Brees, QB, NO

Two wide receivers separated from the field in this category. It's the third year in a row that a wideout has won here (Alshon Jefferey won in 2013), so perhaps this is the position where it's most difficult to pick out Pro Bowl players. Robinson and Baldwin tied for the league lead in touchdown catches with 14. Robinson outgained Baldwin by more than 300 yards, though Baldwin trumped him in DYAR and DVOA. (Playing with Russell Wilson instead of Blake Bortles helps, of course.) We've talked about Barnidge and Cooper already, but let's not forget that Walker was fifth at his position in DYAR despite spending a good chunk of the season trying to catch passes from Zach Mettenberger.

Who is the most deserving defensive player left off the original Pro Bowl roster? (Last year's winner: Lavonte David)

24.9% Lavonte David, LB, TB
10.5% Cliff Avril, DL, SEA
9.5% Anthony Barr, LB, MIN
7.5% Sean Lee, LB, DAL
6.2% Derrick Johnson, LB, KC
4.2% Malcolm Jenkins, S, PHI
4.2% Ndamukong Suh, DL, MIA
4.0% Vontae Davis, CB, IND
3.7% Jurrell Casey, DL, TEN
2.5% Dont'a Hightower, LB, NE

OK, this is now ridiculous. David wins this award for the third year in a row. David was second in the NFL in defeats for the second year in a row after leading league in that category in 2013. Dude makes more defensive plays than anyone this side of J.J. Watt and nobody ever seems to notice. Avril was overshadowed by teammate Michael Bennett, but he was among the top five defensive ends in defeats. Barr, Lee, and Johnson, like David, are outstanding linebackers who don't get a ton of sacks, and therefore have little chance of making the Pro Bowl. There really does need to be a distinction between "interior linemen," "edge rushers," and "linebackers," because current positional nomenclature results in apples-to-oranges comparisons where it's impossible to evaluate everyone fairly.

Who is the most deserving special teams player left off the original Pro Bowl roster? (Last year's winner: Justin Tucker)

21.0% Justin Tucker, K, BAL
19.8% Pat McAfee, P, IND
17.3% Steven Hauschka, K, SEA
10.8% Dwayne Harris, KR/PR, NYG
10.5% Jeff Janis, ST, GB
9.3% Cordarrelle Patterson, KR, MIN
1.2% Cedric Peerman, ST, CIN
1.2% Craig Dahl, ST, NYG
0.9% Branden McManus, K, DEN
0.9% Chris Boswell
0.9% Joe Webb, ST, CAR
0.9% Marquette King, P, OAK

As usual, strong kickoff men get overlooked. Eighty-five percent of Tucker's kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, the second-highest rate in the league -- behind Pat McAfee, who was also second in gross punting average. Hauschka was below average on kickoffs, but he went 29-of-31 on field goals, including a 16-for-16 mark inside of 40 yards. Harris and Tyler Lockett were the only players in the league this year to score on both a kickoff return and a punt return. Janis was tied for the NFL lead in punt return stops and also showed that special teams gunners should be the targets on Hail Mary passes more often.

Who is the player most likely to breakout in 2016? (Last year's winner: Teddy Bridgewater)

7.9% Thomas Rawls, RB, SEA
4.3% Teddy Bridgewater, QB, MIN
4.0% Marcus Mariota, QB, TEN
3.7% Blake Bortles, QB, JAC
3.7% Devin Funchess, WR, CAR
3.0% David Johnson, RB, ARI
3.0% Jameis Winston, QB, TB
3.0% Tyler Lockett, WR/KR, SEA
2.4% Sammy Watkins, WR, BUF
2.1% Amari Cooper, WR, OAK
2.1% Melvin Gordon, RB, SD

[ad placeholder 4]

The "We have no idea what is going to happen" award. An astonishing 126 players received at least one vote in this category, which means about four guys on every team are due to break out soon. Some of the weirder choices: Jimmy Graham, Golden Tate, Allen Hurns, and Allen Robinson. Apparently it is possible to have a breakout campaign even after you have gained 1,000 yards receiving in a season. And this really is the problem, as "breaking out" is a vague term that clearly means different things to different people. Even among the top ten vote-getters, it seems like most of them already have broken out. Rawls has only started seven NFL games, but he had the most rushing value of any running back in football last year. Then you've got Bridgewater, Bortles, and Winston, three quarterbacks who started 16 games in 2015, and Mariota, twice named AFC Offensive Player of the Week as a rookie. Watkins and Cooper went over 1,000 yards in 2015. The guys here who seem most like breakout candidates are Funchess and Johnson (who only started ten games between them) and Gordon (who started 13 games, but left plenty of room for improvement). At some point we all need to sit down and sort out just what a breakout season really is.

Who is the player most likely to significantly decline in 2016? (Last year's winner: Peyton Manning)

17.6% Carson Palmer, QB, ARI
15.0% Tom Brady, QB, NE
9.3% Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
8.0% Drew Brees, QB, NO
5.2% Kirk Cousins, QB, WAS
3.4% Cam Newton, QB, CAR
2.1% Gary Barnidge, TE, CLE
2.1% Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI
2.1% Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, NYJ
1.8% Andy Dalton, QB, CIN
1.8% Matthew Stafford, QB, DET
1.8% Tony Romo, QB, DAL

Can't argue with any of these choices. Palmer turns 37 in December and is coming a season far better than any he has ever had before. Brady and Brees (and Romo, for that matter) are also quarterbacks in their late 30s, and as Peyton Manning will tell you, Father Time is undefeated. Peterson is also getting older, turning 31 in March, and has plenty of room to decline after leading the league in rushing yards and touchdowns. And then you've got three young quarterbacks (Cousins, Newton, and Dalton) who each put up their best seasons, with very degrees of pessimism about whether they will ever be that good again.

Which of the following teams is most likely next year's surprise Super Bowl contender? (Last year's winner: Atlanta Falcons)

28.5% Oakland Raiders
13.9% Atlanta Falcons
10.8% Jacksonville Jaguars
10.1% New York Giants
7.7% Los Angeles Rams
7.3% Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4.7% Chicago Bears
4.6% San Diego Chargers
3.6% Miami Dolphins
2.6% New Orleans Saints
2.3% Detroit Lions
2.1% San Francisco 49ers
1.0% Tennessee Titans
0.8% Cleveland Browns

The Raiders certainly have a lot going for them -- promising young quarterback, game-breaking wide receiver, and one of the most dominant pass rushers in the game. And while neither Kansas City nor Denver are pushovers, both seem at least vulnerable. People still believe in Atlanta, because it's easy to have faith in Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Jacksonville, like Oakland, has paired a dynamic young quarterback with electric receivers, and they also benefit from playing in the worst division in football. It's a similar story for the Giants, whose division rivals are not intimidating in the slightest. Which brings us to our next award...

Which playoff team is most likely to miss the postseason in 2016? (Last year's winner: Arizona Cardinals)

44.0% Washington Crimson Potatoes
31.5% Houston Texans
7.4% Denver Broncos
5.8% Minnesota Vikings
2.4% Cincinnati Bengals
2.1% Arizona Cardinals
1.6% Pittsburgh Steelers
1.5% Kansas City Chiefs
1.3% Carolina Panthers
1.3% Green Bay Packers
0.6% New England Patriots
0.5% Seattle Seahawks

Washington made the playoffs by going 4-2 in a terrible division and 5-5 outside of it, while Houston went 5-1 against the AFC South and 4-6 against all other teams. And then they went a combined 0-2 in the playoffs by a combined score of 65-18. The pessimistic outlook for the Super Bowl champs concerns an almost-certain switch at quarterback, plus potential free-agent losses to the league's best defense.

Which ad wins the "Get Your Story Straight" Award for best commerical during NFL games this season? (Last year's winner: Geico "Ickey Woods cold cuts")

24.5% Miller Lite Troy Aikman "I Live in the Past"
22.1% Pepsi Marshawn Lynch "celebrity voiceover"
20.1% Nike "Snow Day"
10.1% DIRECTV "The Settlers"
9.9% DIRECTV "High-Voiced Peyton Manning"
6.6% Kia "Participation Trophy"
4.6% Verizon J.J. Watt "Woodchopping"
2.0% Sonic Drive-In "Wing Ring"

I liked the Settlers, but overall this seems like an underwhelming group of ads this season.

Which ad wins the "John Mellencamp Must Die" Award for worst commercial during NFL games this season? (Last year's winner: NFL Shop "Vikings/Bengals/Eagles/Cowboys/Steelers family")

32.6% FanDuel "One-Week Leagues"
27.7% Geico "Peter Pan"
20.1% DraftKings "Giant Check"
19.6% Bose Macklemore/Russell Wilson

We close this awards column just as we began it, with an upset. I figured the most unlikeable Peter Pan ever (and as we have learned on Once Upon A Time, Peter Pan can be a right bastard sometimes) would run away with this. Perhaps, you've heard though -- more people are playing daily fantasy leagues and winning real money every day! As for the fourth-place finisher, I must withhold comment. I live in the Seattle area, and if I say anything bad about Russell Wilson or Macklemore, my neighbors get cranky.

Thanks to everyone for participating in our 13th annual awards balloting!


72 comments, Last at 29 Feb 2016, 10:18am

56 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I like the Pan, too. Maybe you guys have seen it millions of times? Once it's funny. I liked the Peyton, the Lynch and the Wing Ring ads. Also one that wasn't on the list and was brought up by a poster here. I guess it must have been pretty memorable!

Who, me?

64 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I have a pretty broad sense of humor and am usually ready to laugh at anything that is even marginally funny. And Geico's multitude of ads are usually pretty funny - with a few bad ones thrown in, of course. The Peter Pan ad has never even so much as generated a chuckle out of me. Maybe it's because I like the character of Peter Pan and I think that "young" =/= "obnoxious" which is all the character in the commercial is.

68 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Only Raiderjoe could have a thought on Peter Pan in commercials versus "in real life".

I'm guessing that Raiderjoe doesn't like Peter Pan because Captain Hook is likely a Raiders fan ("in real life"). Pirate, can't catch, always losing, . . .

2 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Free Lavonte David!

I'm guessing the Mellencamp Must Die votes had at least as much to do with what was being advertised as it did the quality of the ad. I'm all in favor of legalizing gambling (I honestly think it's ridiculous that we treat it any differently than, at worst, alcohol), but the fact that they lie about it being gambling with their holier-than-thou pretentiousness infuriates me.

While Justin Tucker may not have been the best kicker in the league this year, unlike other years, watching the early-season Steelers-Ravens game where Suisham lost his job pretty well summarizes Tucker's significance.

I'd have probably taken Browner over Manziel for "hurt the team" simply because Manziel started the season as Josh McCown's backup. There's only so much that the backup quarterback can do to make the Cleveland Browns worse than you'd expect the Cleveland Browns to be when starting their backup quarterback. Though it does take a pretty special talent (and some serious personal psych problems) to not meet the low expectations of "Browns backup." Browner actually was called for about as many penalties as anti-Seattle conspiracy theorists claim he committed in his Legion of Boom days.

5 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I think there's also a 3rd option for what gets people to vote for an ad as the worst: how frequently it's shown. The daily fantasy ads seemed to be in every single commercial break. Even if they had been the most entertaining, artfully made ads ever I would have been sick of them by midseason.

Regarding Manziel, I think it depends on how you define the "hurt the team" award. Are we strictly talking about 2015, or expanding it into future years? Because if we're talking about 2015, I agree with you, it's not Manziel. The Browns weren't doing anything anyway. If you look at it as, the Browns spent a first-round pick on a QB who will not be on their team after his 2nd year and will get them nothing in return, then that's more damaging.

7 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Joe Thomas' run of consistent excellence for pretty much his entire career is simply unfathomable. He gets 0 press nationally for such achievements because he plays for the browns and hes a left tackle who puts up 0 stats. In some sense, he deserves more than money and a gold jacket for the career hes had.

6 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Manziel butt-fumbled away a lot of chances, but I think it's hard to argue he demonstratively made the Browns worse. If anything, he provided a distraction from the pit of woe that is the Browns under the best of circumstances.

51 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Or even Derek Carr. In addition, the Browns will likely have to draft yet another QB this year. At least with the second pick they should have their choice of QBs unless one turns out to be clearly the best at the combine. Johnny Football is the mistake that keeps on taking.

8 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Regarding what constitutes a breakout season, I have always thought of it as a significant step forward in production, but not necessarily that it has to be a player getting a big boost in playing time. So I would say that any of the QBs mentioned should be eligible. If Bridgewater was a top 3-5 QB in 2016 (either by traditional stats or advanced metrics, take your pick), I would consider that a breakout because it would represent such a rise in production even though he was already a starter.

The only players I would disqualify from breakout consideration would be players who were already considered elite (whether or not they were in 2015) - Jimmy Graham could never be a breakout player of the year in my world.

9 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

You explained why Malcolm Butler wasn't eligible for the Kurt Warner award, but why wasn't Kirk Cousins? As I mentioned in the comment thread on the voting post, it seems to me like he was a good candidate for that category.

10 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

The best thing that can happen for Todd Gurley is for Jeff FIsher to be fired. I feel like Fisher is going to run gurley into the ground before he gets close to his second contract. That coupled with Fisher's general lack of imagination on offense is going to mean a string of 1500 yard and 8-8 seasons.

12 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

"with St. Louis' Mark Barron, of all people".

Once ogletree got hurt and barron moved to lb he actually put together a very solid season. I know he was awful in tampa and not many people watch the rams but he started looking like he could be a good player.

14 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

So is the 'Funniest Moment' award gone forever? I thought for sure the various coin toss shenanigans would have won it (though maybe there should be a 'worst officiating call' award next season).

16 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Surprised the Jets got no votes in the Surprise Super Bowl contender award. Would they not be a surprise, or is everyone assuming they take a step back?

21 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Maybe; if they expect Fitzpatrick to decline and Carr to improve, that accounts for part of it.

On the other hand, the West is way tougher than the East. Denver might well improve in the offseason, KC is still rising, and Rivers makes SD dangerous in any single game. The Jets have one contender (NE), one weak but improving team (Buffalo), and Miami.

25 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I think the west is more of a muddled mess than the east. Who knows what state teh chargers will be in next year. I could see with better injury luck and some quality FA. The chiefs are sure to regress and Smith is still a game manager that won't elevate the roster. And lost in the raiders success was the tailspin to end the season. We expect a huge step forward from them, but that may not happen.

In terms of raw talent, I prefer the afc east but their qb situations all scare me.

To me, the two divisions are a wash.

17 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Shazier was #2 in Defeats on the Steelers defense.

I'll throw it to the readers; who was #1?

My best guess would be Cameron Heyward.

24 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I don't think Andy Reid's clock mismanagement in the Patriots game even comes close to discrediting the idea that he did the best job of coaching this year. The Chiefs overcame injuries that you figured would cripple them and finished as one of the best teams in the league. It was surely an extremely impressive overall coaching job, and a little botched clock management doesn't change that. Clock management gets way too much attention anyway, since it's something fans can easily see, while most of what coaches do is more behind the scenes.

26 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Nevertheless, its been a perpetual weakness for Reid that he simply hasn't fixed over the entire course of his coaching career. And in the playoffs agaisnt good opponents, its a recurring problem. It may not be a prohibitive flaw, but its definitely a problem that you can't simply ignore.

29 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I think he makes up for it by taking over bad franchises and turning them into perennial playoff contenders. The Chiefs had three 10-win seasons in the 15 years before he arrived, and 2 out of 3 since he's been there.

He also turned around a bad Eagles team (but one that had a little more success 7+ years before he arrived.

40 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I don't agree.

Look, it's easy to point to those situations and say "OMG hurry up!", and then when they lose, you feel justified.

But that's confirmation bias, and the Chiefs were already in a losing position at the time. I think we overemphasize those decisions, forgetting that honestly, there's no *good* decision in that situation, just less bad ones.

50 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Put me firmly in the Reid is a very good coach who deserves accolades category. That said, you're not going to comeback and win when behind late playing the way the Chiefs did against the Patriots. There might not be a good option, but that's taking low odds and turning them into 0% odds.

57 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Reid was an excellent choice here, but Arians and Rivera were very strong options, too. Personally I voted Arians because he's been doing it for a while now -the bit about surprising everyone. With Rivera, who knows, maybe it was just a one-year deal. But Reid, hats off to the job he pulled off this year.

Who, me?

62 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I just can't understand the absolute certainty of saying "oh, that way's never going to work." It's not the normal way that situation's approached, no. But look at PFR's Win Probability Calculator. Down 27-13, after they went for it and failed on 4th and 10, they had less than 0.1% chance to win. Basically no one wins in that situation. At all.

Taking as long as they did for the touchdown took those crazy odds and turned them into 6% odds. That's the point. Taking your time to get the touchdown gives you a chance. Hurrying and rushing through it might not.

I'm just not sure that Reid's "clock management problems" aren't completely perceptual. In fact, there's an obvious bias here: if Reid, taking his time, does better on that first drive than an average coach, he'll get criticized for not leaving enough time on the clock. As opposed to an average coach, hurrying, who never gets close enough to be criticized.

I mean, the Patriots and the Eagles were in a similar game earlier in the season, and Brady took 4:43 to score the TD to get within 1. Smith took 5:11, and the Chiefs had an extra timeout. It's really not that much different.

65 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Reid did essentially say this, that in both the Divsional game and the Super Bowl, his #1 priority was to actually make sure the Chiefs score.

As you said, scoring slowly is better than going quickly and not scoring. However, he probably should have been quicker after the throw down to the 1-yard line. The amount of time they used after that play was crazy. Up until that point, I thought the drive was OK.

66 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

You want to be prudent with your offense on the downs you have, but you also need to be aware of time so you can give yourself as many chances to score as you can. The way Reid played it, Ne effectively ended the game w one first down. Hell, even a Ne punt leaves u very little time. Thats why hurrying up is important and why teams practice 2 min drills.

28 Re:Peter Pan

Peter Pan geico ad betst ad shown during nfl games last season. 1980 Raiders of ads. Ony of truly gerat ones. Not the grratasst but up there.

Peter pan kid even favorites and rwteets soem of my tweets abotu ad.

35 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Some of these picks...jesus.
Seriously,out of all the elite defensive players that were great they think Lavonte David was the biggest snub ?
Literally more than half of the Broncos defense deserved in before Lavonte.
Broncos front seven was also the best group in the NFL,ahead of their own secondary.
Also don't think Manziel should be blamed that much.He is a retard,that's granted,but remember the Browns paid a guy to be their number 1 receiver and he had like 2 catches all year.
Some of the picks are interestingly right though.

39 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Who are the snubbed Denver players who deserved a pro bowl spot more than David? You are going to have to name names if you are so vehemently against the result.

Manziel might not have cost the Browns too much directly with bad play, but he has cost them two years of suffering with Brian Hoyer and Josh McCown at QB whilst they tried to 'develop' him. It's been a complete waste of time, along with all the resources they used to acquire him.

59 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Here's the Pro Bowl rosters including original rosters and all replacements:


Literally more than half of the Broncos defense deserved in before Lavonte.

For what it's worth, Chris Harris, Von Miller, Aqib Talib and Demarcus Ware were all selected for the original roster in the Pro Bowl, but couldn't play because they made it to the Super Bowl. In fact, Demarcus Ware was *literally* in before Lavonte David, as David was his designated replacement.
Who else? Trevathan had a great year, but it's hard to argue that he should have gotten a spot over any of the five ILBs that were on the rosters at one point or another. I could see an argument for Malik Jackson, he was really a force all season long, but as mentioned in the article, his individual stats don't really jump off the page.
Honestly, it seems to me that the Broncos probably got a bonus defender into the Pro Bowl. It's hard to look at Ware's regular season stats (11 games played, 10 started. 17 solo tackles, 8 assisted, 7.5 sacks and one forced fumble) and say he should have been there.
As a Bronco fan who desperately loves this defense, I agree with you that this is a great defense. But in my opinion, it wasn't built on the backs of 6+ Pro Bowl caliber seasons. It was built on a few Pro Bowl caliber seasons and a lot of excellent, but not best at their position, seasons.

60 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

" It was built on a few Pro Bowl caliber seasons and a lot of excellent, but not best at their position, seasons."

Which the Pro Bowl is! Seeing that most Pro-Bowlers are players having excellent seasons and not necessarily the best at their positions just one of the best playing. With that said a few Pro-Bowlers playing in your defense specially if they are distributed across the 3 levels will have synergistic effects on the other defensive players by making their assignments easier IMO.

41 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I'm kinda surprised Chris Ivory wasn't mentioned as a pro bowl snub -he did lead the AFC in rushing, correct?
He did have better numbers than McCoy -who did get in. & as far as the pro bowl - I read a lot of negative stuff about the game- and ppl claim it's silly & should go away, etc. But my 11 year old kid & his buddies were so stoked about the pro bowl, so I think we need to think of the children for God's sake! :)
Realistically - they're the future fans - so the league needs to consider how important it is for these little guys, and they all wanted an AFC / NFC showdown - not this silly system they currently use. (For what it's worth).

54 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

It's an exhibition game, that's why they should:
a) make it a skills contest
b) not make it and exhibition game and put something on the line, which will never happen because injuries.
c) middle of the road: make one 3-4 team and one 4-3 team and take the game serious. Now they just blow it dead before contact happened.

42 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

I wanted to vote for the NYJ as next year's surprise Super Bowl contender. Also, I'm really surprised that Tom Brady got so little love from the voters after he was on pace to match his 2007 numbers before people started dropping like flies. Seems to me like he would be the "compromise" for voters who can't decide whether they should value states or supporting cast more heavily.

55 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Can we just name it the Lavonte David award at this point?

4-3 OLB in a small market, on a bad team, and having to compete for Pro Bowl votes with 3-4 OLBs who get all those, hot, sexy sacks.

I kind of thought Brandon Browner would run away with the KCW award. Johnny Manziel wasn't around enough to actually really hurt his team, while Browner was a constant source of failure for his taem.

58 Re: 2015 Football Outsiders Awards

Can't remember if I voted Manziel, but Mario Williams was very deserving. When the guy who's supposed to be your best pass rusher doesn't even try, that hurts, it hurts a lot. He was key in the Bills disappointing season on defense. What I really don't understand is why he wasn't benched. Any hard-motor scrub would have added more value than he did.

Who, me?