2016 Football Outsiders Awards

2016 Football Outsiders Awards
2016 Football Outsiders Awards
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

comments by Vincent Verhei

Welcome to the results of the 14th 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 2016? (Last year's winner: Cam Newton)

59.1% Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
11.4% Tom Brady, QB, NE
8.6% Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
7.2% David Johnson, RB, ARI
4.7% Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL
4.5% Le'Veon Bell, RB, PIT
3.9% Derek Carr, QB, OAK
0.6% Matthew Stafford, QB, DET

Matt Ryan set an all-time record for yards per pass among quarterbacks with at least 500 passes this season, and also led the league in both passing DYAR and DVOA, with a top-ten all-time season in the former category, and a top-20 season in the latter. Nobody else came close, but Tom Brady might have over a full season. In just 12 games, he was second behind Ryan in DVOA and in the top five in DYAR, with 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions and 15 sacks. Aaron Rodgers led the league with 40 touchdown passes, including 18 (and no interceptions) in Green Bay's last seven games. David Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and went over 100 such yards in each of Arizona's first 15 games.

Who is your choice for Defensive MVP for 2016? (Last year's winner: J.J. Watt)

27.4% Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, OAK
16.8% Von Miller, OLB, DEN
12.8% Landon Collins, SS, NYG
12.8% Aaron Donald, DT, LARM
10.8% Eric Berry, FS, KC
6.6% Jadeveon Clowney, DE, HOU
4.3% Bobby Wagner, LB, SEA
3.7% Vic Beasley, OLB, ATL
3.7% Sean Lee, OLB, DAL
1.1% Fletcher Cox, DT, PHI

J.J. Watt had won this award three times in the prior four seasons, with 75.1 percent, 89.8 percent, and 37.1 percent of the vote, respectively. With Watt sidelined for virtually the entire season, the race was wide open this year -- only Luke Kuechly in 2013 has ever won this award with a lower share of the vote (24.0 percent) than Mack had this year. Mack, who also won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award, was just eighth in sacks, but he was more than just a pass-rusher. His 29 defeats was tied with Tampa Bay's Lavonte David for the league lead behind the 31 of Buffalo's Preston Brown. Mack was the only player in the league to hit 14 defeats against both the run and the pass, and one of ten players with at least a dozen defeats in each category.

Meanwhile, Von Miller had 28 defeats (including 13.5 sacks); Landon Collins led all defensive backs with 24 defeats; and Aaron Donald was tied with Miami's Ndamukong Suh with 24 defeats, most among interior linemen.

Who was the best offensive lineman of 2016? (open question, two votes per ballot, top 12 listed) (Last year's winner: Joe Thomas)

14.4% Tyron Smith, LT, DAL
14.1% Alex Mack, C, ATL
10.4% Travis Frederick, C, DAL
9.9% Zack Martin, RG, DAL
8.5% Joe Thomas, LT, CLE
8.5% Marshal Yanda, LG/RG, BAL
5.3% David Bakhtiari, LT, GB
5.3% Kelechi Osemele, LG, Raiders
5.1% Trent Williams, LT, WAS
1.6% Andrew Whitworth, LT, CIN
1.6% David DeCastro, RG, PIT
1.3% Marcus Cannon, RT, NE

Tyron Smith's vote share of 14.4 percent was the second-lowest we have ever measured for a winner in this category. That's partly because he had not one, but two teammates splitting the Dallas vote, but Smith still impressed enough readers to win this award for the first time. That says a lot about how dominant he played -- and about how many great players the Cowboys have on their line. Alex Mack, the top non-Cowboys finisher, was a key cog in the best offense in the league this year.

Who is your choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2016? (Last year's winner: Todd Gurley)

46.8% Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL
39.2% Dak Prescott, QB, DAL
4.2% Jordan Howard, RB, CHI
3.1% Tyreek Hill, WR, KC
2.8% Jack Conklin, RT, TEN
2.5% Michael Thomas, WR, NO

How astonishing is it that Dak Prescott was perhaps the best rookie quarterback of all time, and yet he wasn't even the top rookie in his own backfield? But Elliott led the league with 1,631 rushing yards (better than anyone else by more than 300 yards) and was first in rushing DYAR, second in success rate. And he added 363 receiving yards to finish second in yards from scrimmage too. The two Cowboys combined for 86.0 percent of the vote, rendering everyone else an afterthought.

Who is your choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2016? (Last year's winner: Marcus Peters)

70.6% Joey Bosa, DE, SD
11.0% Jalen Ramsey, CB, JAC
7.1% Deion Jones, OLB, ATL
3.9% Chris Jones, DE, KC
3.3% Leonard Floyd, OLB, CHI
1.8% Javon Hargrave, DT, PIT
1.8% Vernon Hargreaves, CB, TB
0.6% DeForest Buckner, DE, SF

Despite missing four games due to a contract snafu, Bosa finished with 10.5 sacks, one of the top 15 players in the league in that category, and 1.5 more than any other rookie. Per Pro Football Reference, the list of players with double-digit sacks in 12 games or less in a season is short and impressive, which bodes well for Bosa's future. No defensive rookie came close to Bosa's production.

Who is your choice for Unit of the Year in 2016? (Last year's winner: Carolina linebackers)

47.9% Dallas offensive line
10.4% Atlanta running backs
9.3% Denver secondary
7.6% New England quarterbacks (i.e. not just Tom Brady)
6.5% New York Giants secondary
5.1% Oakland offensive line
3.7% Pittsburgh offensive line
3.4% Kansas City secondary

Well, this should come as no surprise after seeing the results of the "best offensive lineman" voting. In this case, though, the numbers don't seem to back up the voting. The Cowboys were merely above-average in our offensive line stats this year, and per Sports Info Solutions, they actually gave up a higher rate of pass pressure than most teams. Further, NFL Penalties had Dallas offensive linemen with 30 penalties for 260 yards, more than average in both categories. Granted, the Dallas offense as a whole was very good this year, and Ezekiel Elliott didn't get all those rushing yards on his own. The second-place finisher here might have had better statistics though. Falcons running backs (mostly Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman) combined for 234 rushing DYAR, seventh-best in the league. (The Bills were way ahead of everyone with 524.) They were also first in the league with 298 receiving DYAR. Arizona was the only other team whose runners topped 200 DYAR receiving, and as we discussed earlier, that was mostly due to David Johnson.

Who is your choice for 2016 NFL Head Coach of the Year? (Last year's winner: Ron Rivera)

57.0% Bill Belichick, NE
13.4% Dan Quinn, ATL
7.8% Adam Gase, MIA
7.5% Jack Del Rio, OAK
7.3% Jason Garrett, DAL
3.6% Andy Reid, KC

One of these years, Bill Belichick will retire, and when he does, we will probably re-name this award after him. Belichick has been named coach of the year by FO readers six times in the last 14 years, and has never gone more than two years without winning. This year his challenges were unique, as he had to manage the team through a four-game suspension of its Hall of Fame quarterback, while also deal with a midseason trade of one of its biggest defensive stars in Jamie Collins. Keep in mind this voting was conducted before the Super Bowl -- otherwise, the gap between Belichick and his opponent in that game, Atlanta's Dan Quinn, might be even larger.

Who is your choice for the 2016 Bill Arnsparger Award for Coordinator of the Year? (Last year's winner: Wade Phillips)

66.3% Kyle Shanahan, ATL OC
8.2% Josh McDaniels, NE OC
4.8% Romeo Crennel, HOU DC
4.5% Scott Linehan, DAL OC
4.5% Steve Spagnuolo, NYG DC
4.0% Jim Bob Cooter, DET OC

We have been bestowing this award for 11 years now, and only one assistant has received a higher share of the vote than Kyle Shanahan this year: Wade Phillips last year, with 72.0 percent of the vote. In his second year as offensive coordinator, Shanahan's offense went from 23rd in DVOA to first place with the same quarterback, same top rushers, same top wide receiver, and most of the same linemen. We'll see what he can do with a whole crew of new talent this fall in San Francisco.

Who is your choice for the 2016 Art Rooney Jr. Award for Executive of the Year? (Last year's winner: John Elway)

27.8% Bill Belichick/Nick Caserio, NE
23.0% Reggie McKenzie, OAK
15.7% Thomas Dimitroff, ATL
14.6% Jerry Jones/Stephen Jones, DAL
6.7% Jerry Reese, NYG
3.4% Jon Robinson, TEN

Bill Belichick the executive, of course, had to deal with many of the same issues as Bill Belichick the coach. That included the Brady suspension and the Collins trade, but also the offseason trade of the team's top pass-rusher in Chandler Jones; the drafting of impact rookies such as Joe Thuney, Jacoby Brissett, Vincent Valentine, Malcolm Mitchell, and Elandon Roberts; and the decision to ride with Jimmy Garoppolo and Brisett rather than bringing in a veteran quarterback during Brady's suspension.

Several readers pointed out that we goofed on our ballot by not including Chargers general manager Tom Telesco. Though his team only won five games this year, Telesco came out of the draft with quite a haul, including Bosa; tight end Hunter Henry (top-five at his position in both DYAR and DVOA); punter Drew Kaser (tenth in gross punting average); and linebacker Jatavis Brown (63 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in only 600 snaps). Telesco's last draft in San Diego should set the Chargers up for success in Los Angeles.

Who is your choice for the 2016 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: Derek Carr)

42.8% Vic Beasley, OLB, ATL
40.8% Landon Collins, SS, NYG
13.8% Melvin Gordon, RB, SD
1.4% Andrus Peat, G/T, NO

Well this certainly turned into a two-horse race. Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles, though nearly half of those sacks came in two games against Broncos and Rams, and he was a non-factor in the playoffs (no sacks, no solo tackles and only two assists in three games). Collins, as noted earlier, led all defensive backs in defeats with 24 -- that's just as many as Beasley had, but Beasley didn't even make the top 10 amongs outside linebackers. And the Giants' defense was much, much better than Atlanta's too.

Who is your choice for the 2016 Kurt Warner Award for a low-drafted (or undrafted) backup who finally has a breakout year as a starter? (Last year's winner: Tyrod Taylor)

41.0% Terrelle Pryor, WR, CLE
21.4% Lorenzo Alexander, OLB, BUF
11.4% Taylor Gabriel, WR, ATL
7.7% Zach Orr, ILB, BAL
6.0% Adam Thielen, WR, MIN
3.7% Rishard Matthews, WR, TEN
3.7% Spencer Ware, RB, KC
2.8% Matt Barkley, QB, CHI

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What a weird career it has been for Terrelle Pryor. After five years trying and failing to make it as a quarterback (of the 66 quarterbacks with at least 300 passes since 2011, Pryor ranks next to last in Pro Football Reference's adjusten net yards per attempt metric), Pryor's career was at a crossroads. He was traded or cut four times between April of 2014 and June of 2015, and worked out with four other teams who opted not to offer him a contract. With one-quarter of the NFL's teams saying thanks but no thanks in just 15 months, Pryor finally decided it was time to do what many scouts have said he should have done since his days at Ohio State: give up at playing quarterback and make a full-time move to wide receiver. The Browns then gave him a try, and he made their 2015 roster out of training camp. He was then cut in September, but re-signed in December, catching one pass for 42 yards in the season's final game. The Browns brought him back for 2016, but also drafted four more wide receivers, which suggested they didn't have a lot of confidence in Pryor. But Pryor emerged as a starter, and excelled in his role, ending up 22nd in the league with 1,007 receiving yards. That's more than bigger names like DeSean Jackson or DeAndre Hopkins had this season, and Pryor did it with a quarterback situation so dire that the Browns were putting signed-off-the-street Charlie Whitehurst, undrafted free agent Kevin Hogan, or even Pryor himself behind center. Cian Fahey covered Pryor's remarkable development in October. Pryor is now one of five players in history (and the first in more than 40 years) with at least 1,500 yards passing and 1,000 yards receiving. And if he repeats his 2016 performance in 2017, he will be the only member of the 2,000-2,000 club.

Given all of that, it's easy to see why Pryor won the award. However, let's not overlook the amazing year by Lorenzo Alexander: nine sacks in his first nine seasons, then nine in his first seven games with Buffalo, finishing the season with 12.5.

Who is your choice for the 2016 Keep Choppin' Wood Award (player who most hurt his team, either on or off the field)? (Last year's winner: Johnny Manziel)

51.1% Brock Osweiler, QB, HOU
14.8% Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, NYJ
10.1% Blake Bortles, QB, JAC
9.8% Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF
3.9% Odell Beckham, WR, NYG
3.9% Jared Goff, QB, LARM
3.1% T.J. Clemmings, OT, MIN
1.7% Jermaine Kearse, WR, SEA

The Texans were so taken with Brock Osweiler's 2015 film that they signed him to a deal worth up to $72 million, including $30-plus million guaranteed -- without even meeting the quarterback face-to-face, according to Peter King at Sports Illustrated. What did they get for that money? Statistically, Osweiler was the worst full-time starting quarterback in the NFL in 2016 -- he finished next to last in both DYAR and DVOA ahead of Jared Goff, who only started seven games. By season's end Osweiler was benched for 2014 fourth-rounder Tom Savage, re-entered the lineup after Savage was injured, and played so ineffectively in the playoffs that we started naming bad games after him. This all made Osweiler an easy choice over Ryan Fitzpatrick, another quarterback who signed a multi-million dollar contract in the offseason only to be benched for bad play (repeatedly, in his case).

A number of readers were curious why we listed Odell Beckham Jr., but we figured there had to be an option for voters who feel strongly about "off-field distractions."

Who is your choice for the 2016 Keep Choppin' Game Film Award for the most ineffective coach (head coach or coordinator)? (Last year's winner: Rob Ryan, NO defensive coordinator)

43.1% Rex & Rob Ryan, BUF Twin Buffoons
21.4% Rob Boras, LARM OC
12.4% Gus Bradley, JAC HC
7.6% Tom Cable, SEA OL coach
3.9% Todd Bowles, NYJ HC
3.4% Larry Izzo, HOU ST
2.8% Mike McCoy, SD HC
2.0% Teryl Austin, DET DC

Rarely if ever has the "Last Year's Winner" mention been so relevant. Rob Ryan has now "won" the award as the NFL's worst coach in back-to-back seasons. He's the first man to ever win this award twice, partly because coaches this bad usually lose their jobs and don't get a second chance. Fortunately for Rob, good ol' brother Rex made a nepotistic hire, hiring Rob as "assistant head coach/defense," though Dennis Thurman retained the title of defensive coordinator. Regardless of job titles, the man who built the worst defense we have ever measured arrived in Buffalo and took the Bills from an 8.6% DVOA in 2015 … to an 8.0% DVOA in 2016. Both Castor and Pollux were sent packing after Week 16, and it falls on former Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to turn the Bills around next year.

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

18.5% Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
13.1% Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, GB
11.9% Brian Orakpo, LB, TEN
10.1% Reggie Nelson, S, OAK
9.5% Luke Kuechly, LB, CAR
8.6% DeMarco Murray, RB, TEN
8.0% Matthew Slater, ST, NE
7.7% Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI
3.6% Dont'a Hightower, LB, NE
3.6% T.J. Lang, G, GB

The initial Pro Bowl rosters were awfully good this year -- by and large, the voting process did a fine job of finding the best players in the NFL in 2016. With slim pickings of obvious candidates who didn't belong there, our voters were very split. Ben Roethlisberger won the award with just 18.5 percent of the vote, by far the lowest voting share to win this award since we went with this format in 2010. And even there, it's hard to say any AFC quarterbacks clearly deserved Roethlisberger's spot. He was third among AFC quarterbacks in both DVOA and DYAR, and the two players above him -- Tom Brady and Derek Carr -- were also named to initial Pro Bowl rosters. You could make a case that Philip Rivers or Andrew Luck should have gone ahead of Roethlisberger due to some higher totals, but neither has an open-and-shut case.

Some readers mentioned that Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert should have been a candidate, and they've got a point -- Tolbert only produced 186 yards from scrimmage this year, and if he had value as a run blocker, it didn't show in the Panthers' 22nd-ranked rushing offense.

Who is the most deserving offensive player left off the original Pro Bowl roster? (Last year's winner: Allen Robinson, WR, JAC)

35.8% Drew Brees, QB, NO
11.7% Andrew Luck, QB, IND
10.4% Jordy Nelson, WR, GB
8.3% Jordan Howard, RB, CHI
4.6% Jimmy Graham, TE, SEA
4.6% Michael Thomas, WR, NO
4.6% Philip Rivers, QB, SD
2.5% Cole Beasley, WR, DAL
2.5% Julian Edelman, WE, NE

The biggest mistake on the original Pro Bowl rosters was pretty clearly the absence of Drew Brees. It's hard to argue that Matt Ryan didn't deserve to go, but over all 16 games Brees had slightly better numbers than Dak Prescott, and much better numbers than Aaron Rodgers. With his fifth 5,000-yard season, Brees led the NFL in passing yards for the third year in a row and the seventh time overall. The Saints were second in scoring behind Ryan's Falcons, and it's not Brees' fault they were next-to-last in points allowed. Just an average performance by the New Orleans defense would almost certainly have put the Saints in the playoffs, and Brees in the Pro Bowl.

For the readers whose response was "who cares about the Pro Bowl," we'll note that these questions replaced our old questions about "most underrated players" because the Pro Bowl gives us a good baseline of which players are overrated or underrated.

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

32.5% Sean Lee, OLB, DAL
12.7% A.J. Bouye, CB, HOU
10.1% Calais Campbell, DE, ARI
7.5% Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, NYG
6.6% Brandon Graham, DE, PHI
5.7% Leonard Williams, DT, NYJ
4.4% Cameron Jordan, DE, NO
3.9% Malcolm Jenkins, SS, PHI

In the past four years, Lavonte David has finished first, second, second, and tied for second in defeats. He was not named to the Pro Bowl in any of those years. Three of those years he won this award. This year, apparently FO readers just gave up or got bored and voted for someone else -- David didn't even make the top 10. To be fair, Lee was also a good selection. He had 28 defeats, one less than David, and was the key defender on Dallas' eighth-ranked rush defense.

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

19.9% Tyler Lockett, KR/PR, SEA
15.5% Jamison Crowder, PR, WAS
12.2% Ryan Allen, P, NE
11.0% Dustin Colquitt, P, KC
6.6% Justin Bethel, Gunner, ARI
5.5% Marqise Lee, PR, JAC
3.3% Marquette King, P, OAK
3.3% Nate Ebner, Gunner, NE

Though he didn't score on any kick returns this year, Lockett was sixth in kickoff return yards; fourth in kickoff return average; tenth in punt return yards and punt return average; and fifth in total kick return yardage. Still, it's hard to see how he should have gotten in ahead of Tyreek Hill, who had three kick return touchdowns, had better averages than Lockett, and had higher totals too except for kickoff return yards -- largely because the Chiefs defense gave up fewer scores than Seattle's did.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry, we had brainlock when we wrote this comment. Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs play in the AFC, while Lockett and the Seahawks play in the NFC. Duh. The NFC Pro Bowl kick returner was Minnesota's Cordarrelle Patterson, who led the NFL with 31.7 yards per kickoff return and one touchdown, but had just one punt return, the first of his career, for 9 yards.)

Who is the player most likely to breakout in 2017? (Last year's winner: Thomas Rawls)

6.6% Carson Wentz, QB, PHI
6.1% Malcolm Mitchell, WR, NE
4.4% Jared Goff, QB, LARM
4.4% Paul Richardson, WR, SEA
3.9% C.J. Prosise, RB, SEA
3.9% Josh Doctson, WR, WAS
3.3% Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, NE?
2.8% Derrick Henry, RB, TEN

As usual, votes in this category were all over the map. Carson Wentz narrowly ended up on top of the heap, which sounds like good news -- until you look back at past winners of this award. I'm grateful for each and every person who reads anything on Football Outsiders, but man, you guys have had some rotten luck picking breakout stars. The best of the lot was probably Jay Cutler, who won this award in 2007, or maybe 2009 winner Michael Crabtree or 2010's Sam Bradford. Otherwise, you've got names like Matt Leinart, Anthony Gonzalez, LaMichael James, and Cordarrelle Patterson. And then there was 2011:

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

21.4% Tom Brady, QB, NE
13.0% Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
9.7% Dak Prescott, QB, DAL
5.9% Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
5.0% Drew Brees, QB, NO
4.6% DeMarco Murray, RB, TEN
3.4% Philip Rivers, QB, LACH
2.9% Kirk Cousins, QB, WAS

Tom Brady will be 40 years old in 2017. Only twice have quarterbacks in their 40s thrown for more than 20 touchdowns in a season: Warren Moon had 25 with Seattle in 1997, and Brett Favre had 33 with Minnesota in 2009. Brady has shown no signs of slowing down, but the fact is that he is well past the age when most quarterbacks are washed up, and it's not like he could get much better. Speaking of which, Matt Ryan was better in 2016 than he ever had been before. That makes him an obvious candidate for regression as well.

Who would you rather have as your team's quarterback for the next five years?

36.2% Marcus Mariota, TEN
32.5% Dak Prescott, DAL
14.8% Jameis Winston, TB
10.5% Jimmy Garoppolo, NE
5.4% Carson Wentz, PHI
0.3% Cody Kessler, CLE
0.3% Paxton Lynch, DEN
0.0% Jared Goff, LARM

A special question this year to gauge the opinions on the league's current crop of young starters. Marcus Mariota gets the edge over Dak Prescott partly due to his higher draft stock, partly because he has two years' experience to Prescott's one, and partly because he is probably the best player on his own offense, while Prescott is perhaps the fourth or fifth-best offensive player in Dallas.

Also -- zero votes for the first overall draft pick in 2016, a player for whom the Rams traded six draft picks, including two first-rounders. Ouch.

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

42.1% Philadelphia Eagles
17.6% New Orleans Saints
15.9% Los Angeles Chargers
6.9% Buffalo Bills
5.8% Chicago Bears
5.5% Jacksonville Jaguars
2.6% Cleveland Browns
2.6% Los Angeles Rams

The Eagles finished fourth in DVOA in 2016, and went just 1-6 in games decided by eight points or less. With just a little better performance on offense -- and remember, Carson Wentz was tabbed as the player most likely to break out next year -- Philadelphia would easily be a playoff team next year, even in a tough division like the NFC East.

Which playoff team is most likely to miss the postseason in 2017? (Last year's winner: Washington Crimson Potatoes)

38.6% Detroit Lions
25.0% Houston Texans
19.0% Miami Dolphins
6.5% New York Giants
2.3% Pittsburgh Steelers
2.0% Atlanta Falcons
2.0% Dallas Cowboys
1.4% Oakland Raiders

The Lions were behind in fourth quarter 15 times in 16 games in 2016, and only made the playoffs because Matthew Stafford had an NFL record eight fourth-quarter comebacks. Their margin for error was razor-thin, and it's hard to see them getting that much late-game success two years in a row. As for the Texans, the fact that they were not the runaway winner in this category tells you all you need to know about the sorry, sorry state of the AFC South.

Which ad wins the "Get Your Story Straight" Award for best commerical during NFL games this season? (Last year's winner: Miller Lite Troy Aikman "I Live in the Past"

26.9% Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl for Kia
17.2% Catholic priest and Muslim imam "Kneepads" for Amazon Prime
12.7% "I Am Fenwick" for Southwest Airlines
11.7% Bored Peyton Manning for Direct TV Sunday Ticket
11.0% Russell Wilson/Von Miller/Antonio Brown "Xbox Connection" for Madden 17
9.7% Von Miller "Start Me" for Madden 17
6.2% "Any Way You Want It" at Southwest Airlines
4.5% Boy's First Date presented by Mercedes Benz

The Bo Jackson ads were perfect nostalgia bombs for the 40-year-old football fans who are most likely to be shopping for new SUVs.

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")

26.2% All of Aaron Rodgers' douchey commercials with his douchey friends for State Farm
20.4% Peyton Manning sings everything for Nationwide
15.2% Clay Matthews "I'm the Best" for Verizon
15.2% "Any Way You Want It" at Southwest Airlines
11.9% "You Don't Own Me" for Toyota
11.0% Frankenstein's Monster sings Christmas Carols for Apple

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I hate those Aaron Rodgers commercials. I hate them. The worst is the one where Rodgers and Clay Matthews give a fiery pregame speech that has about a dozen teammates jumping and shouting and screaming -- and then, I guess, they turn back to their lockers and silently continue to get dressed.

Meanwhile, I'm a big fan of "Any Way You Want it." I laughed every time that came on, particularly the guy on the right in the blonde wig who felt the need to snap his head on every downbeat. However, I was well aware that others passionately disagreed with me. I think this is the first time we've ever listed one commercial in the "best of" and "worst of" categories. And it got votes in both, showing how polarizing it was, but it must be said that by the voting, it was closer to the worst commercial than the best.

Thanks to everyone for participating in our 14th annual awards balloting!


76 comments, Last at 18 Feb 2017, 12:20pm

1 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

I can't believe that you didn't give us a choice for the Geico raccoons. To me, that was by far the best commercial of the football season.

2 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Still, it's hard to see how [Lockett] should have gotten in ahead of Tyreek Hill...

It would be impossible for Lockett to have gotten in ahead of Tyreek Hill now that the Pro Bowl's gone back to AFC v. NFC; it was Lockett versus Cordarrelle Patterson.

4 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

"3.7% Pittsburgh offensive line"

I know Bell gets all the attention, but this line made this season happen for the Steelers. They dragged the Steelers past the Chiefs, and covered up for lots of suspect play from Ben all year.

The Dal/Pit game was the best Oline play I can ever remember seeing, and I thought they were pretty evenly matched.

Yes, I'm a Pittsburgh homer, but I don't think the recognition they deserve.

6 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

I'm also a big of "Any Way You Want it."
They jumped the shark with their second commercial though (TI's You can have whatever you like), but the Any Way You Want It is really good.

7 That Mercedes Benz Boy's First Date Commercial

is roughly everything I hate about American culture distilled into 60 seconds. One could work a thousand millennia in the deepest bowels of hell and not conceive and execute a more insincere, manipulative, smug, tone-deaf, exclusionary, insufferable, treacly, privileged, inhuman, thudding, craven, self-satisfied, detestable, contrived, shrill, out-of-touch, hollow, bloodless and false slag of kitsch, even with the help of Leviathan, Beelzebub, Mammon and Don Draper.

That it is somehow "presented" by Mercedes Benz as if it's a work of art makes me think I have died and awoken in some sort of Kunderian hellscape.

Dear Lord. The one. with the lily white little percival. being driven to the abandoned megaplex. who is heartbroken because snow makes it hard to drive. who exists in a world without phones or other forms of electronic communication. who is saved from this heartbreak by his date's family also owning a Mercedes. which i guess is the only car that can drive thru snow? so the two little lizard people* can watch a movie all by themselves. was nominated for commercial of the year.

* I do not believe in lizard people but this ad certainly challenges that disbelief. As it's best appreciated by those lacking a limbic system. !?!?!?!?!?!

33 Re: That Mercedes Benz Boy's First Date Commercial

"who exists in a world without phones or other forms of electronic communication."

That's the first thing I thought of when I saw this commercial. Aren't kids that age supposed to be glued to their phones? There is no way there wouldn't be 800 texts sent back and forth between the two kids confirming the date.

Agreed that this is a truly terrible commercial -- my pick for worst of the football season, hands down.

8 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

"Well, this should come as no surprise after seeing the results of the "best offensive lineman" voting. In this case, though, the numbers don't seem to back up the voting. The Cowboys were merely above-average in our offensive line stats this year, and per Sports Info Solutions, they actually gave up a higher rate of pass pressure than most teams."

Pressure is highly dependent on QB play. I don't think rate of pressure is an effective way to measure offensive lines. Time to pressure, maybe. What's that look like for Dallas?

10 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

The worst thing about the Rodgers commercial where he's firing up the guys is that everyone is smiling and practically laughing even. A strange sight to behold.

11 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

I actually kept a list from Training Camp up until the Super Bowl of my picks for best/worst commercials:

Best: Ice T/Lemonade (How was this not an option?), "I bet this is what Bill felt like when he finally got Katie's number", Lego Batman Chevy parody, I am Fenwick

Worst: Gatorade's "Let's run that whole thing back", Gatorade (I think) one where the camera cuts from locker room to locker room and everybody is yelling some indecipherable yet unlistenable song/chant, Any Way you Want it, The Non-stop Chevy focus group commercials that the Lego Batman ad parodies, and that one where Bill Cowher tells us that watching a football game on a cell phone at a birthday party is the perfect balance of football and life (What???).

12 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

took me coupel of listens of that ad before realized they were singing "all of the lights" by Kanye west, rihanna, kid cudi, Elton john, Alicia keys, Fergie, The-Dream, john legend amd some others. song was from a Kanye west album. is a grwat song.


18 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

"where Bill Cowher tells us that watching a football game on a cell phone at a birthday party is the perfect balance of football and life (What???)."

Yeah but the line "this is football...maybe not enough life" is gold! Come-on now, we're all guilty as charged sometimes.

20 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Agree with most of this. But the whole series of "I bet this is what xxx felt like when ..." ads rival the Rodgers ads for suckitude. Although I still think the CM3 ad is worse than anything I've seen in years. (And I'm a Packers fan.)

24 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Good call on the Ice T ad. That was great.

I also agree about the Gatorade "run that whole thing back" abomination, although I'm a bit irked at you for mentioning it, and thus reminding me of it. They seem to have mercifully stopped running it, and I had hoped to permanently expunge it from my memory.

51 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

The Chevy "focus group" ads are the worst. I hate everything about them. They are so lazy, so hackneyed, so implausible... everything. The worst.

They were 2% redeemed by the Lego Batman parody version. I will pretend I live in a world where all of the previous ads were just a long setup for the Batman joke.

13 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

"Who is the player most likely to breakout in 2016? " Shouldn't that be 2017? Wentz did break out in 2016, that may be why he was picked in this category.

19 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

As someone who thought the Lions were the least likely to make the playoffs again, it was more to do with my belief that both the Packers and Vikings (when healthy) have far more potential than the Lions (meaning only one more team needs a better NFC record) than the pathetic quality in the AFC South.

25 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

To buttress of the vote of BB. I will add - how many people think Ne is all that talented a team without Gronk? HOw many of their players would be great on other teams? Ever since Jamie collins amounted to nada on the browns, I'm convinced the answer is practically. ALl hail Tom Brady and BB.

10 years ago I found the explanation of Brady and BB trite. Now...its probably appropriate. Sad face!

31 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Jamie Collins looked terrible for about 5 weeks before being traded - he was basically running around randomly instead of playing his position - so I wouldn't read too much into that. He also did put up 50 tackles in 8 weeks in Cleveland, so it seems like he might have actually been playing his position there.

I don't know that the Patriots have any Julio Jones type players who would be elite anywhere they played (other than Gronk), but they have a TON of players who, if used correctly, would be great. Edelman isn't going to threaten a team like Jones, for instance, but there are very few teams in the league whose offense wouldn't be improved with him.
They have a lot of good-to-very-good players who get used efficiently.

48 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

TBH, I'm not convinced any of these players would be good on other teams, though I can see an argument for Hightower and McCourty.

BB has made a secondary with ellis hobbes, earth wind moreland, and even wr troy brown work. They've had revolving doors on the dline for years. Somehow it still works. Alan Branch was cut by the cardinals and graded poorly by pff for years. He does well in NE.

I use to think Edleman was a good player because he just finds the seams so well. But now I'm not convinced he is. I am convinced Hogan is no better than Jeff Janis.

So how to explain what's going on? I suppose we can say its Brady, but that's a pretty unsatisfying answer in the same way saying its all Rodgers or all Manning, etc etc.

I do really think BB - through scheme and teaching gets way more out of the talent than anyone else.

27 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Prescott ahead of Elliot would be my only strong disagreement. I don't understand how anybody can look at that situation and decide the running back's accomplishments are more impressive/valuable than the quarterback's.

30 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Agreed. Elliot's numbers were great but Prescott played extremely well at a position with a much higher learning curve...you just don't expect rookie QBs to perform that well. Elliot performed as I expected (if not exceeded) while I figured Prescott would struggle to learn to play the position in the NFL especially since he wasn't even going to be the starter until late in training camp. The fact that he didn't struggle made him the easy choice for me.

34 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

I agree that Prescott is more valuable and going forward I would rather have Prescott than Elliott. But for the sake of an award, I think it's fine to pick Elliott under the rationale that Elliott was better relative to other running backs than Prescott was to other quarterbacks.

If you don't somehow adjust in this way, then I think a QB would win every award every time. And what fun is that?

36 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

I agree with your general point about not just giving the award to the best QB, but we aren't talking about a run-of-the-mill rookie QB season. Prescott, by most measures, had one of the best rookie QB seasons of all time (perhaps the best). Elliott even had a rival for 'best rookie at his position' in Jordan Howard. To me it simply isn't close who's achievement is best.

40 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Well, Zeke did lead the NFL in rushing yards and DYAR. You could make the case that he was the best running back in the game last year (either him or David Johnson, in my opinion). Dak was terrific but I don't think you could make a case that he was the best QB in game. (Clearly Ryan was better, at least, and possibly Brady, Brees, and Rodgers too.)

Whether or not this is enough to put Zeke ahead Dak just depends on how much you weigh the importance of the QB position in deciding end-of-season awards. Mileage may vary, I suppose. For what it's worth, Zeke and Dak both had a value of 16 on the season according to Pro Football Reference's AV stat.

I don't think there is a "wrong" choice here. As Paul Erdos, the great mathematician once said about the Fields Medal (math's top prize, which he never won), as long as somebody good is getting it, nobody has any grounds to complain. That's how I feel about this ROY race.

29 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

I think the Defeat numbers in this article need another look. Sean Lee "had 28 defeats, one less than David", while David is listed earlier in the article as having 28 defeats himself. Plus this sentence: "[Mack's] 28 defeats was tied with Tampa Bay's Lavonte David for the league lead behind the 29 of Buffalo's Preston Brown." That makes it sound like only Mack and David had 28 defeats, but the next paragraph says that Miller had 28 as well and then later Sean Lee is listed with 28.

68 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

OK, to make it clear:

Most defeats, 2016:

31 - Preston Brown, BUF

29 - Khalil Mack, OAK; Lavonte David, TB

28 - Sean Lee, DAL; Kwon Alexander, TB; Von Miller, DEN; Lorenzo Alexander, BUF

Will double-check all the mentions in the article.

38 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Ads are always polarizing. One of my favorites was the one where Rodgers goes after the fly with a golf club, "not in my house!" And CM goes, "well, did you get it?" after he destroys both the window and the car.

So, yes, the one that won worst of the year. How could Manning not win this one? Just shut up already, Peyton.

44 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

One commercial that made me laugh out loud is a lite beer commercial that has the song "Nobody Speak" by DJ Shadow and Run The Jewels playing as a man takes a sip of beer. They just play the music not the lyrics. But the first lyrics of the song (timed with the sip) are "Picture this, I'm a bag of dicks, put me to your lips". Is this a great inside joke by the admen, complete obliviousness or counting on the obscurity of the song? I like the song a lot, but it is very profane (about half of the lyrics are bleeped out on commercial radio).

45 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

There have been a lot of commercials that received votes for both the best and worst of lists. Five in 2005, two in 2006, three in 2007, two in 2012, four in 2013 and two in 2014.

Man, that was a trip down memory lane. Cut! That! Meat! And the Jones/McDowell reading tweets ads were delightful.

I also miss the funniest moment category. Was it retired after the Buttfumble?

46 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

I'm not even sure what I would put down as the funniest moment of the season. Odell Beckham's fight against the field goal net was funny, but then it got tedious really fast as he spent a couple of weeks afterward doing dumb skits with the net.

2015 had a treasure trove, off the top of my head there was:
-Chuck Pagano presents the dumbest fake punt in the world
-Brandon Marshall laterals off of Connor Barwin's facemask. On just a normal play, not a hook-and-lateral
-Josh McCown's helicopter fumble-concussion on an ill-fated scramble against the Jets

I can't think of a moment from 2016 that matched any of those.

47 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Jon Ryan running 33-yards on a nicely executed fake punt before dropping the football Garo Yapremian-style and getting knocked out by a Rams defender was pretty funny. (He was okay.)

You can find the clip in the game recap at NFL.com (Seahawks-Rams Week 15). The spam filter won't let me link to it.

58 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

When all else fails, watch the Jaguars.

First, there was this awesome pass breakup by Tashaun Gipson against the Nick Foles Chiefs on November 6th: https://twitter.com/thejohnkerr/status/795329876588982277

The following week we had the Footerception against the Texans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-z8UCF16OM

Then the very next week we had the Footerception II against the Lions: http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2016/11/20/13692842/blake-bortles-foot-interception-jaguars-nfl-video

The latter two are probably objectively funnier, but I laughed hardest at the first.

55 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

Not sure why/how anyone would consider the Bears a surprise Super Bowl contender. Even if you take a look at injury luck and assume that they were much better this year than their record indicates, they are almost certain to be worse, not better, at quarterback in 2017 and while their defense is improving it's nowhere near good enough to carry a bad offensive team to the Super Bowl a la the 2006 Bears.

Also, Matt Barkley should not have qualified for the Kurt Warner award, because no one who owns a TV could think that he had a "breakout year as a starter." He played competently enough to be likely to get a backup job next year, which granted is a boost to his career trajectory. But nobody seriously thinks he's a starter in the NFL, do they? He played okay in games where the opponent had a big lead and was content to give up some short passes.

67 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

That's right. I am saying that the only way I could imagine the Bears being a SB contender next year is if a tragedy somehow wiped out the other 15 NFC teams. Okay, maybe that's a little pessimistic but I stand by my earlier comment. Even if I'm wrong and they actually sneak into the playoffs, they're not making the Super Bowl.

66 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

No, thank you, I had a big lunch.

Anyways . . .

I guess Garrapolo gets put in as an honorary first-year guy because he played his first real games this year, so the fact he got several years to hold a clipboard and watch Tom Brady do awesome things doesn't really count in terms of practical NFL experience.

My surprise in that list . . . there are people who looked at Cody Kessler and Paxton Lynch last year and said, "Yeah, I feel better about their odds than Mariota, Prescott, or Winston". Bwuh?

71 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

12% of the Massachusetts economy is Belichick turning draft picks into decent looking QBs and then back into draft picks. And in doing this, he is making it not matter when Brady retires or stops playing well - he'll have a replacement that came from the same 2005 7th rounder spent on Matt Cassel, recycled a dozen times.

74 Re: 2016 Football Outsiders Awards

*Haven't read the comments yet, but I'm interested to see uf I'm the only person here who remembers Lorenzo Alexander playing guard on offense early in his career in Washington. He was a reserve on both sides of the line for at least one season (can't remember if it was more than one or not).

I'll bet even RaiderJoe doesn't know that one!

*Do we really need to wait for Lavonte David to retire to name his award after him?

*I had thought that you guys had the same advertisements in botv the best AND worst categories EVERY year.

Also, I call shenanigans on the worst commercial award! OF COURSE that one won, you called it "douchy" right there on the ballot! OF COURSE that's going to influence voters!

I actually thought those ads were fairly funny. For as awful as Clay was in the "I'm the best" ad, he was pretty good in those.