2017 Football Outsiders Awards

2017 Football Outsiders Awards
2017 Football Outsiders Awards
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

comments by Vincent Verhei

Welcome to the results of the 15th 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 for Offensive MVP for 2017? (Last Year's Winner: Matt Ryan)

37.7% Tom Brady, QB, NE
16.9% Todd Gurley, RB, LARM
14.0% Carson Wentz, QB, PHI
12.4% Antonio Brown, WR, PIT
12.2% Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
3.3% Drew Brees, QB, NO
2.0% Case Keenum, QB, MIN
1.6% Philip Rivers, QB, LACH

Tom Brady led the league in passing yardage for the third time and passing DYAR for the fifth time. The Patriots rallied from a 2-2 start to win 11 of their last 12 regular-season games and home-field advantage in the playoffs, which went a long way in getting Brady to his eighth Super Bowl. So it's not shocking that our readers voted him league/offensive MVP for the third time since 2007. Todd Gurley led the league in total touchdowns and yards from scrimmage while finishing second second in rushing yardage; he was also second among running backs in both rushing and receiving DYAR. Antonio Brown led the league in receiving yardage despite missing two games and led all wide receivers in DYAR for the third time in four years. As you have probably heard by now, Russell Wilson either ran or threw for 37 of Seattle's 38 offensive touchdowns this year. For all of that, though, this almost certainly would have been Carson Wentz's award if he had stayed healthy. Wentz finished eighth in passing DYAR despite missing three starts, and by the time he tore his ACL against the Rams, the Eagles had realistically already clinched home-field advantage. Wentz also finished second in the league in touchdown passes despite those three missed starts -- Wilson didn't pass him in that category until the fourth quarter of Week 17.

Who is your choice for Defensive MVP for 2017? (Last Year's Winner: Khalil Mack)

43.3% Aaron Donald, DT, LARM
20.8% Calais Campbell, DE, JAC
12.1% Fletcher Cox, DT, PHI
6.7% Bobby Wagner, MLB, SEA
5.6% Cameron Jordan, DE, NO
5.4% Harrison Smith, SS, MIN
2.7% Chandler Jones, OLB, ARI
1.8% Melvin Ingram, DE, LACH
0.9% Demarcus Lawrence, DE, DAL
0.9% Jimmy Smith, CB, BAL

Here's a case where the on-field performance didn't necessarily show up in individual statistics. Donald had only 19 defeats (plays that resulted in a loss of yardage, turnover, and/or third-/fourth-down stop), which didn't rank in the top 40 overall defenders. However, it was tied for most among defensive tackles, and he also was the only player at that position with double-digit sacks. And even when Donald wasn't sacking the quarterback, he was still delivering a beating, finishing second among all players in quarterback hits. Calais Campbell got a bit lost in the shuffle amongst all of Jacksonville's stars this year, but he finished second in the league in both sacks and defeats; Chandler Jones, his old teammate in Arizona, was first in both categories. Cox, like Donald, didn't put up individual numbers that blew you away, but he was likely the best defensive player on the Super Bowl champs. Bobby Wagner was one of seven inside linebackers with at least a dozen defeats against the run and the pass. Cam Jordan was the best player in New Orleans' monstrous improvement on defense.

Who is your choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2017? (Last Year's Winner: Ezekiel Elliott)

70.7% Alvin Kamara, RB, NO
14.0% Kareem Hunt, RB, KC
11.5% Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU
1.8% JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT
1.6% Pat Elflein, C, MIN
0.4% Cooper Kupp, WR, LARM

We covered Alvin Kamara's rookie season in great detail in Quick Reads this year -- suffice to say that by total DYAR it was the best rookie running back season we've ever measured. This race really wasn't a contest after Deshaun Watson was injured after Week 8 though. In only seven games, though, he finished 14th in passing DYAR and threw 19 touchdown passes -- that's more than Joe Flacco, Josh McCown, Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett, Marcus Mariota, DeShone Kizer, or Mitchell Trubisky, each of whom started a dozen times or more.

Who is your choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2017? (Last Year's Winner: Joey Bosa)

63.7% Marshon Lattimore, CB, NO
14.0% Tre'Davious White, CB, BUF
6.4% Myles Garrett, DE, CLE
5.7% Reuben Foster, MLB, SF
4.1% T.J. Watt, OLB, PIT
2.3% Jamal Adams, SS, NYJ
1.6% Marlon Humphrey, CB, BAL
1.1% Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, CIN
0.7% Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, NYG
0.2% Jarrad Davis, MLB, DET

Between Kamara and Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans' 2017 draft class was obviously something special. (And that's not even considering the 31 total starts for offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk and defensive back Marcus Williams.) Tre'Davious White actually had better coverage stats than Lattimore and started two more games, though it must be said that New Orleans' pass defense was much better than Buffalo's. Myles Garrett managed 7.0 sacks in only 11 games, and it's reasonable to expect him to hit double digits in 2018. T.J. Watt also had 7.0 sacks, though it took him 15 games to get there. As for Reuben Foster, he had an excellent rookie season, but now finds himself facing some heinous off-field accusations.

Who was the best offensive lineman of 2017? (Last Year's Winner: Tyron Smith)

17.7% Jason Kelce, C, PHI
14.0% Lane Johnson, RT, PHI
11.7% Andrew Whitworth, LT, LARM
11.7% David DeCastro, RG, PIT
5.0% Zack Martin, RG, DAL
4.5% David Bahktiari, LT, GB
2.7% Alex Mack, C, ATL
2.5% Shaq Mason, RG, NE
2.2% Max Unger, C, NO
2.0% Travis Frederick, C, DAL

How do you win a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback? It helps to have what might be the NFL's best pair of offensive linemen blocking for him. Between his on-field performance, his post-game and parade speeches, and his impeccable fashion sense, it's hard to imagine an offensive lineman ever having a higher positive profile than Kelce is enjoying right now. Kelce still only be 31 in 2018, Johnson 27, so it's not unthinkable that we could see a Philly double-dip at the top of these tables again next year.

Which is your choice for Unit of the Year in 2017? (Last Year's Winner: Dallas offensive line)

36.7% Jacksonville secondary
25.7% Philadelphia defensive line
18.2% New Orleans running backs
5.9% Los Angeles Rams defensive line
4.6% New England offensive line
3.2% Los Angeles Chargers defensive line
2.7% Minnesota secondary
2.1% Pittsburgh offensive line
0.7% Baltimore secondary
0.2% Carolina linebackers

The folks at Pro Football Reference track a stat they call adjusted yards per pass, which is simply how many yards a defense allows on an average throw, with a penalty for allowing touchdowns and a bonus for collecting interceptions. The Jaguars allowed only 4.9 adjusted yards per pass this year. Only one defense since 2010 allowed less than 5.0 adjusted yards per pass: the Legion of Boom Seahawks in 2013, who won the Super Bowl in part because they also had Russell Wilson. The 2017 Jaguars had Blake Bortles, and so they missed out on an opportunity to play for a Lombardi Trophy.

The other leaders here should be familiar. The Eagles defense led the league with just 2.99 adjusted line yards allowed. We already talked about what Alvin Kamara did for New Orleans, but let's not forget that Mark Ingram had 1,540 yards from scrimmage too. The Rams had the NFL's best defensive player in the middle of their line. The Patriots' offensive line was first in the league in adjusted line yards and fifth-best in pressure rate -- they blocked for both Tom Brady, who led the league in passing DYAR, and Dion Lewis, who led the league in rushing DYAR.

Who is your choice for 2017 NFL Head Coach of the Year? (Last Year's Winner: Bill Belichick)

38.7% Sean McVay, LARM
24.2% Bill Belichick, NE
22.2% Doug Pederson, PHI
6.4% Doug Marrone, JAC
4.7% Mike Zimmer, MIN
1.3% Sean Payton, NO
1.1% Sean McDermott, BUF
0.7% Andy Reid, KC
0.7% Mike Tomlin, PIT

A year ago at this time, the Rams were coming off a streak of 11 losses in their last 12 games. The defense offered reason for optimism, but the offense was worst in the league in both passing and rushing DVOA. Their quarterback, the first overall draft pick that season, had just finished one of the worst passing campaigns we've ever seen. Expectations were justifiably low for 2017, but in his first season McVay engineered a mighty turnaround, winning 11 games and getting the franchise back into the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Seahawks and 49ers could make it difficult to repeat as NFC West champs, but all things considered it's unlikely that McVay's Rams will hit 11 losses in two years, let alone 12 games.

As for McVay's competition, you've got the coach who lost the Super Bowl, the coach who won it, and the two coaches who lost in the conference championship games. Seems reasonable enough.

Who is your choice for the 2017 Bill Arnsparger Award for Coordinator of the Year? (Last Year's Winner: Kyle Shanahan)

23.3% Pat Shurmur, Offense, MIN
16.7% Jim Schwartz, Defense, PHI
15.1% Wade Phillips, Defense, LARM
12.9% Dennis Allen, Defense, NO
11.1% Todd Wash, Defense, JAC
10.6% Josh McDaniels, Offense, NE
5.0% John Morton, Offense, NYJ
2.5% Matt Nagy, Offense, KC
1.8% James Bettcher, Defense, ARI
1.1% Dean Pees, Defense, BAL

Minnesota's starting quarterback was a former first overall draft pick; their backup was a former first-round draft pick himself. But Pat Shurmur only got 50 total dropbacks out of Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater this year. Instead it was Case Keenum, an undrafted journeyman playing in his fourth different city in four years, taking most of the snaps. Shurmur had other issues too -- rookie running back Dalvin Cook was limited to four games due to his own injury, and the Vikings had four new starters on the offensive line. And somehow Shurmur made it all work. The Vikings finished fifth in offensive DVOA (third passing, 18th rushing), and Keenum led all quarterbacks in passing DVOA.

While Shurmur's resume is clearly a strong one, it helps that he was the readers' clear favorite among offensive coordinators. Meanwhile there was a real logjam of defensive coordinators behind him. Had any one of Jim Schwartz, Wade Phillips, Dennis Allen, or Todd Wash had a less successful season, then those votes might have gone to another defensive coordinator, perhaps pushing him ahead of Shurmur in the voting.

Who is your choice for the 2017 Art Rooney Jr. Award for Executive of the Year? (Last Year's Winner: Bill Belichick/Nick Caserio, NE)

31.2% Howie Roseman, PHI
17.1% Bill Belichick/Nick Caserio, NE
15.7% John Lynch, SF
15.5% Mickey Loomis, NO
8.9% David Caldwell, JAC
6.2% Les Snead, LARM
4.3% Rick Spielman, MIN
1.1% Kevin Colbert, PIT

Roseman's most important and most successful move in building a Super Bowl champion actually happened in 2016 when he traded up in the draft to select Carson Wentz, but he definitely earned his paycheck in 2017 as well. To wit:

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  • Not satisfied with Chase Daniel backing up Wentz, Roseman went out and got Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld. Foles, as you know, went on to win Super Bowl MVP.
  • At running back, he added LeGarrette Blount in free agency, then made a midseason trade for Jay Ajayi after Darren Sproles went down with an injury.
  • He totally rebuilt the team's wide receiver corps, jettisoning Jordan Matthews and Dorial Green-Beckham and bringing in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.
  • He traded for starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan in April, then signed him to a four-year extension in November.
  • He took a gamble on cornerback Patrick Robinson, who had just been released one year into a three-year deal with Indianapolis. Robinson played in all 16 games with eight starts, and produced a crucial pick-six in the conference championship win over Minnesota.
  • Roseman's first-round draft pick, Derek Barnett, chipped in 5.0 sacks as a regular part of Philadelphia's defensive line rotation.

Who is your choice for the 2017 John Elway Award, given to the highly-drafted player (rounds 1-2) who improved the most between 2016 and 2017? (Last Year's Winner: Vic Beasley)

66.1% Jared Goff, QB, LARM
26.7% Carson Wentz, QB, PHI
5.2% Myles Jack, OLB, JAC
1.1% Xavien Howard, CB, MIA
0.4% Josh Doctson, WR, WAS
0.4% Reggie Ragland, ILB, KC

An obvious winner here. It was obvious by midseason that Jared Goff's improvement was unlike anything we had ever seen before. We honestly had trouble thinking of any other candidates, and were pretty shocked this voting was even as close as it was. Consider: in their rookie seasons of 2016, Wentz was substantially better than Goff, with a -12.0% DVOA in 16 games, compared to Goff's -74.8% in seven. In 2017 it was basically a dead heat -- Wentz had a 24.3% DVOA in 13 games, while Goff had a 24.0% DVOA in 15. Considering where they started and where they finished, we're at a loss to explain how anyone could say Wentz improved more this year than Goff did.

Who is your choice for the 2017 Kurt Warner Award for a low-drafted (or undrafted) backup who finally has a breakout year as a starter? (Last Year's Winner: Terrelle Pryor)

77.8% Case Keenum, QB, MIN
14.3% Dion Lewis, RB, NE
2.7% Ryan Jensen, C, BAL
2.0% Kayvon Webster, CB, LARM
1.6% Daryl Williams, OT, CAR
0.9% Shelby Harris, DE, DEN
0.5% Dexter McDonald, CB, OAK
0.2% Bryan Witzmann, G, KC

Another no-brainer. An undrafted free agent in 2012, Keenum only had 24 touchdown passes in his first five seasons, but threw for 22 in 14 starts in 2017. It was a similar story for Dion Lewis -- 1,191 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in his first six NFL seasons, 1,110 and nine in 2017, when he led all players in rushing DYAR.

Who is your choice for the 2017 Keep Choppin' Wood Award (player who most hurt his team, either on or off the field)? (Last Year's Winner: Brock Osweiler)

28.1% Eli Apple, CB, NYG
22.4% Joe Flacco, QB, BAL
11.8% Nathan Peterman, QB, BUF
8.4% Martellus Bennett, TE, GB/NE
7.9% Germain Ifedi, OT, SEA
7.9% Adrian Peterson, RB, NO/ARI
6.6% Tom Savage, QB, HOU
2.9% Kenny Britt, WR, CLE/NE
2.3% Terrelle Pryor, WR, WAS
1.8% Doug Martin, RB, TB

You'll forgive me if I just copy and paste what the Scramble guys wrote when they named Eli Apple to their All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team two weeks ago, won't you?

Eli Apple has been publicly described this season as "a cancer" who "needs to grow up" ... and that was by a teammate, safety Landon Collins. Apple has variously feuded with said teammate, fans on social media, Giants coaches, and (more understandably) the New York media. He reportedly threatened to walk out in November after being criticized in one of the team's film sessions. He was ultimately suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, reportedly as a result of an argument with cornerbacks coach Tim Walton. While Apple has faced major challenges in his personal life -- his mother had brain surgery in November -- it is extremely rare to see a player have this many off-field issues, this publicly, for this long. The Giants are able to void Apple's contract this offseason, and are widely expected to do so -- it certainly looks from the outside like a fresh start would be best for both parties.

Joe Flacco also had a strong case, taking snaps for one of the league's worst offenses despite the highest cap hit in the league.

Who is your choice for the 2017 Keep Choppin' Game Film Award for the most ineffective coach (head coach or coordinator)? (Last Year's Winner: Rex & Rob Ryan, BUF Twin Buffoons)

39.8% Ben McAdoo, head coach, NYG
32.7% Hue Jackson, head coach, CLE
8.3% Steve Sarkisian, offense, ATL
7.6% John Fox, head coach, CHI
6.3% Chuck Pagano, head coach, IND
2.7% Ken Norton, defense, OAK
1.6% George Stewart, special teams, LACH
1.1% Matt Cavanaugh, offense, WAS

Again I refer you to our fine Scramble writers:

In perhaps the most controversial move of this year's column, our 2017 All-KCW Team does not see Hue Jackson take over from Jeff Fisher as head coach. Jackson's Browns were expected to be bad -- not that bad, admittedly, but bad. Ben McAdoo, however, took the Giants from the playoffs last season to the second overall pick this. Some of that was injuries, most notably to his entire starting receiver corps, but plenty of teams have dealt with injuries before. McAdoo, however, (mis)managed to suspend all three of his starting cornerbacks at various points in the season; spent the year battling criticism of his approach from both inside and outside the building; and finally, utterly botched the benching of franchise legend Eli Manning so badly that he became the first Giants coach fired during the season since 1976.

Who was the least deserving pick for the Pro Bowl (not including injury replacements)? (Last Year's Winner: Ben Roethlisberger)

24.8% Richie Incognito, G, BUF
17.4% Jimmy Graham, TE, SEA
11.6% Kyle Juszczyk, FB, SF
11.1% Aqib Talib, CB, DEN
8.4% Matthew Slater, ST, NE
7.7% Chris Boswell, K, PIT
6.3% Alejandro Villanueva, OT, PIT
4.9% A.J. Green, WR, CIN
4.4% Reshad Jones, SS, MIA
3.5% Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI

Incognito started all 16 games at left guard for Buffalo in 2017, as he did in 2016 and 2015 before that. But that doesn't mean he played well. The Bills were 27th in adjusted line yards overall, including 30th on runs to left end, 31st on runs to left tackle, and 24th up the middle.

Who is the most deserving offensive player left off the original Pro Bowl roster? (Last Year's Winner: Drew Brees)

27.2% Jason Kelce, C, PHI
13.1% Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN
10.3% Philip Rivers, QB, LAC
9.7% Case Keenum, QB, MIN
9.3% Alex Smith, QB, KC
5.9% Shaq Mason, OL, NE
4.5% Davante Adams, WR, GB
4.1% Brandin Cooks, WR, NE
3.8% Marvin Jones, WR, DET
1.0% Four Players Tied

From Week 1 to Week 21, you could certainly make the case that Kelce was the best offensive player on the Super Bowl champions, but that apparently wasn't enough for Pro Bowl voters. Which is probably just as well, since it helped feed Philadelphia's underdog mindset that worked so well for them in the playoffs.

Who is the most deserving defensive player left off the original Pro Bowl roster? (Last Year's Winner: Sean Lee)

41.4% Harrison Smith, FS, MIN
11.2% Yannick Ngakoue, DE, JAX
10.8% Melvin Ingram, LB, LAC
5.8% Lavonte David, LB, TB
3.7% Michael Bennett, DE, SEA
2.7% Jamal Adams, SS, NYJ
2.4% Keanu Neal, FS, ATL
2.0% Jimmy Smith, CB, BAL
1.7% Chris Harris, CB, DEN
1.7% Kevin Byard, FS, TEN

The Vikings finished second in defensive DVOA this year, giving up a league-low 15.8 points per game. Harrison Smith led the team with five interceptions and 12 passes defensed, finishing second in tackles. He's also a big reason the Vikings finished first in pass coverage against running backs and second against tight ends. Defensive backs dominated here, with six of the top ten defenders coming from the secondary.

Who is the most deserving special teams player left off the original Pro Bowl roster? (Last Year's Winner: Tyler Lockett)

49.6% Justin Tucker, K, BAL
10.9% Harrison Butker, K, KC
9.5% Robbie Gould, K, SF
6.9% Ryan Allen, P, NE
3.6% Jamal Agnew, PR, DET
2.6% Michael Thomas, ST, MIA
2.2% Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB/K, PHI
2.2% Rigoberto Sanchez, P, IND
1.5% Chris Jones, P, DAL
1.1% Three Players Tied

Tucker connected on 34-of-37 field goal attempts this year. Of the three misses, one was a blocked 46-yard try; the others came from 58 and 62 yards away. He was also perfect on extra points, and the Ravens were fourth in total value on kickoffs.

Who is the player most likely to breakout in 2018? (Last Year's Winner: Carson Wentz)

12.0% Patrick Mahomes, QB, KC
8.4% Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, SF
5.6% Mitchell Trubisky, QB, CHI
4.4% Chris Carson, RB, SEA
3.2% Corey Davis, WR, TEN
3.2% Myles Garrett, DE, CLE
2.0% JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT
1.6% Seven Players Tied

Mahomes was a first-round draft pick in 2017 who failed to throw a touchdown pass as a rookie, but is apparently going to be a starter for the Chiefs in 2018 after Alex Smith is traded to Washington once the new league year officially begins. For the sake of everyone in Kansas City, here's hoping Mahomes does indeed break out, because a failure to do so will lead to a bunch of people losing their jobs. Readers are also expecting big things from Jimmy Garoppolo and Mitchell Trubisky, two other young quarterbacks who will get a full offseason as first-string quarterbacks for the first time next year.

Who is the player most likely to significantly decline in 2018? (Last Year's Winner: Tom Brady)

26.3% Tom Brady, QB, NE
21.0% Case Keenum, QB, MIN
5.7% Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
3.9% Alex Smith, QB, KC (for now)
3.9% Carson Wentz, QB, PHI
3.6% Philip Rivers, QB, LAC
3.2% Jared Goff, QB, LAR
2.1% Eli Manning, QB, NYG
1.8% Five Players Tied

Well, let's see. Brady threw for a league-high 4,577 yards at age 40, adding 32 touchdown passes. In NFL history, no quarterback age 41 or older has ever thrown for more than 3,678 yards or 25 touchdowns (both by Warren Moon with Seattle in 1997). So yes, either Brady's numbers are going to decline sharply, or he is going to make history (again). Readers also expect Case Keenum to return to the journeyman status to which we are all so accustomed.

Which quarterback do you want for the next 10 years?

32.0% Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma/Texas Tech
23.4% Josh Rosen, UCLA
16.8% Sam Darnold, USC
15.5% Lamar Jackson, Louisville
8.1% Josh Allen, Wyoming
4.2% Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

With several strong options at quarterback but no sure-fire prospects, the 2018 draft figures to be a fun one (and the QBASE projections that come out before the draft should be fun as well). Our readers are most confident in Mayfield, who put up big numbers in four seasons as a starting quarterback at a pair of Big 12 schools and is your reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Which of the following teams is most likely next season's surprise Super Bowl contender? (Last Year's Winner: Philadelphia Eagles) (No, Really)

36.1% Houston
36.1% San Francisco

5.6% Indianapolis
5.4% Denver
5.4% Oakland
3.8% Chicago
2.0% New York Giants
1.8% Cleveland
1.6% Tampa Bay
1.1% Miami
0.9% New York Jets

We have a tie! The Texans and 49ers went a combined 8-3 with Deshaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo starting at quarterback in 2017 -- with anyone else, they went 2-19. With both players expected to play a full season in 2018, the defenses in the AFC South and NFC West are officially on notice.

Which playoff team is most likely to miss the postseason in 2018? (Last Year's Winner: Detroit Lions)

57.9% Buffalo
17.6% Tennessee
5.6% Kansas City
3.8% Jacksonville
3.2% Minnesota
2.9% Los Angeles Rams
2.7% Atlanta
2.7% Carolina
1.6% Pittsburgh
0.9% New England
0.7% Philadelphia
0.5% New Orleans

In the history of Football Outsiders Awards, only one other team has gotten more than 50 percent of the votes in this category: the 2011 Broncos, who made the playoffs with Tim Tebow at quarterback. The readers didn't think Tebow could get Denver back to the season, and apparently John Elway agreed, getting rid of Tebow and bringing in Peyton Manning. That proved to be a wise decision. As for Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor is no Tim Tebow, but he's not Peyton Manning either. The Bills' 9-7 record included a 6-2 record in games decided by eight points or less, a mark they're going to be hard-pressed to match in 2018. The schedule looks tough too, with four games against the rapidly improving AFC South and four more against the NFC North.

Which of these turnaround units is most likely to keep its improvement and fight off regression to the mean in 2018?

30.0% Jacksonville defense (12/1)
23.9% Philadelphia offense (20/8)
21.6% Los Angeles Rams offense (32/6)
9.4% New Orleans defense (31/8)
8.3% Los Angeles Chargers offense (18/7)
3.4% Minnesota offense (26/5)
2.5% Washington defense (25/11)
0.9% Carolina special teams (25/6)

We already talked about how good the Jacksonville defense was this season, but we didn't mention how young they were -- eight of 11 starters will still be less than 30 years old in 2018. Calais Campbell, Paul Posluszny, and Barry Church are the exceptions. Campbell and Church are still going strong, and Posluszny was just the third linebacker in 2017 anyway. There's no obvious reason to expect decline here.

Which ad wins the "Get Your Story Straight" Award for best commercial or ad campaign during NFL games this season? (Last Year's Winner: Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl for Kia)

35.3% Bud Light "Dilly Dilly"
30.4% NFL Shop "Raiders fan at Chiefs Xmas"
16.2% State Farm "Neighbors" with Aaron Rodgers/Clay Matthews
5.4% Pepsi NFL celebration ads
4.4% Volkswagen "Meteor Escape"
4.4% Wonderful Pistachios Richard Sherman/Clay Matthews campaign
3.6% Virginia Black whiskey "Drake and Dad"
0.3% Burger King "Too Legit for Six"

Which ad wins the "John Mellencamp Must Die" Award for worst commercial or ad campaign during NFL games this season? (Last Year's Winner: All of Aaron Rodgers' douchey commercials with his douchey friends for State Farm)

31.5% Bud Light "Dilly Dilly"
22.3% Nationwide Peyton Manning/Brad Paisley ad campaign
17.1% iPhone X "animoji" ad
14.1% Verizon Thomas Middleditch ad campaign
5.2% Honda "Holiday Road"
4.5% Pepsi NFL celebration ads
3.5% KFC "Christmas Presents"
1.7% NFL Playoffs "Cavemen in the Snow"

Yes, Dilly Dilly was the best and worst ad of 2017. We got a lot of feedback from readers saying that our nominations for best commercial were terrible -- but adding that they couldn't think of any good ones we missed. And so Dilly Dilly won, because it struck a chord with those of us who watch Game of Thrones, read Lord of the Rings, and still get a tingle down our necks when we hear the words "Roll for initiative."

Mind you, a lot of readers aren't into fantasy, and they did not like that ad one bit. (And I'm sure a good number of fantasy fans hated the ad too.) We must admit we screwed up here, and should have included Apple's "What's a computer?" spot. A good number of you hated it enough to call us out for omitting it from the ballot.

What was your favorite touchdown celebration of 2017?

12.8% Duck Duck Gray Duck (MIN)
12.6% Bowling Strike (PHI)
10.9% Gronk Spike (NE, perennial)
10.4% JuJu Smith-Schuster's Bike Lock (PIT)
9.9% Potato Sack Race (KC)
8.7% Home Run Swing (PHI)
8.5% Zay Jones-Andre Holmes Lightsaber Battle (BUF)
7.0% Super Bowl Shuffle (PHI)
5.8% People's Elbow (DET)
5.3% Group Photo (NO)
4.4% Olympic Racewalk (GB)
3.6% Leapfrog (MIN)

The question here isn't really which celebration is best, it's whether that celebration should be called "Duck Duck Gray Duck" or "Duck Duck Goose." The appropriate Wikipedia page (which includes an animated diagram of how the game is supposed to work for those of you who really have trouble keeping up with such things) says that "Gray Duck" is the Minnesota variant, and so it's appropriate to use that term for the Vikings' celebration.

Who do you want as the next color commentator on Monday Night Football?

22.3% Bruce Arians
21.1% Peyton Manning
12.8% Randy Moss
7.7% Matt Hasselbeck
7.7% Joe Thomas
6.3% Jay Cutler
5.8% Kurt Warner
4.6% Louis Riddick
4.6% Rex Ryan
3.7% Steve Young
1.9% Boomer Esiason
1.6% Dan Fouts

The top two finishers here provide a fascinating contrast. Bruce Arians is known for being gruff and honest, and would likely require a steady watch on ESPN's seven-second delay button. Peyton Manning is a more polished speaker who has already shown a knack as a showman in several dozen advertisements of various quality. Both have extensive football knowledge and would bring value to any football broadcast. Matt Hasselbeck, who will likely get the job, finishes tied for fourth.

Thanks to everyone for participating in our 15th annual awards balloting!


54 comments, Last at 20 Feb 2018, 8:17am

1 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

While I voted for both McVay as coach and Goff as the John Elway award, I feel like maybe things for that team were just generally slanted by no longer having the most apathetic and/or incompetent coach in NFL history. Just not sure how you factor in a Fisher Coefficient in the DVOA calculations.

3 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

The idea of Smokin'Jay Cutler broadcasting games still makes me chuckle. Sean: "Jay, do you think punting or trying to covert makes the most sense?"
Smokin' Jay: "Who do ya hafta' screw to get a beer served up in this booth?".

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And so Dilly Dilly won, because it struck a chord with those of us who watch Game of Thrones, read Lord of the Rings, and still get a tingle down our necks when we hear the words "Roll for initiative."

I love Game of Thrones (and A Song of Ice and Fire -- at least the first three books before his editor presumably Tommenned herself at the sight of the fourth), can't abide reading Tolkien but could lose myself in Sapkowski or Le Guin for weeks at a time, and lost probably about five full years of my twenties to Dungeons & Dragons in its various incarnations. I did not recognize any of those things in the Dilly Dilly adverts. The one that aired during the Super Bowl seemed more like a Thu'um from Skyrim than anything else.

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Veering off topic yet again, but D%D 5th edition is fantastic, and my favorite tabletop RPG system of all time. My entire youth was spent playing RPGs (mostly D&D 1st edition), but 5th has dragged me back into the hobby after a long break. Highly recommended.

5 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

I'm surprised, with this audience, that Josh Allen got as many votes as he did for the QB you'd want for the next 10 years. I'd be interested to read any positive evaluations of Allen from an analytics friendly (or at least analytics curious) perspective. I'm also curious to see just how high Mayfield's Lewin score turns out to be.

53 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

I don't think there should even be a "best ad" every year, unless something actually earns it.

What about those NFL ads with goal posts on a beach and other places, with a beat by Miguel playing? I liked that one. But it wasn't ubiquitous enough I guess. Or it was subtle, and so no one paid it any attention. Guys, this in-your-face-is-the-only-way-to-get-your-attention thing isn't a precedent we want to be setting.

Oh! Then there were those Pepsi ads with end zone celebrations. "It's an awkward prom dance," or "and here's Deion Sanders from like 1996. Okay." Those were approaching the theoretical limit for how good a corporate ad can be.

What a surprise that the best ads during football games had something to do with football.

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I've actually taken to keeping track of ads I thought we're particularly bad or good for the express purpose of this column.

First of all, I thought the Manning/Paisley ads were great. "Basically....almost. But you're doing great."

Other favorites not listed: Josh Norman/Dez Bryant series, Honda trophies, and the Geico one where the guy loses his keys on the silver carabiner.

Slow, agonizing death to all KFC, all Verizon, all iPhone (8 plus and 10 equally sucked, but the 8 plus had the decency to be shorter), the Progressive box, the Randy Moss/Charles Woodson ticket ads, Ice cold Bud Light heeeah!, NFL shop with the Jets fan ordering a Beckham jersey (why spend hundreds of dollars for a shirt if you're afraid to be seen in it?), and I jotted down "H2 and 0", but I'll be buggered if I can remember what I meant. It's last on the list though, so must be more recent.

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H2 and O is one of the Thomas Middleditch Verizon adverts, where he rides up to the tech desk on a scooter and proceeds to witter at them in ways that make anybody who's ever encountered a guy like that want to reflexively defenestrate him.

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Oh yes. It's level of annoyance only matched by it's frequency. Nobody need answer, because I'm about to look it up, but I'm assuming, based on his first and last name given in the survey, that this guy is at least a little bit famous somehow? Never seen or heard of him before.

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Agree about the "Captain loses his keys" commercial. There was also one from an
outfit called Tire Rack that starts out like it's for one of those oversized pickups, then goes to hilarity (it's on youtube). But it also may have been regional.
Was wr

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I learned who the other guy in the ads with Peyton Manning was from this awards ballot. I had gathered that he must be a musician and guessed from his clothing that he was a country singer, but I had no idea who. I didn't think they were great or bad--they were rather innocuous.

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I have two kids in the public schools in the Twin Cities area and am a Cub Scout leader. The preferred nomenclature is Duck-Duck-Moose.

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my vfaotire ads of 2017 nfl season were:
pit of misery bud light ad (subsequent ads in "dilly dilly:" series were nto a s great; they were just okay until long super bowl one with Bud Knight which was tota l disaster)

and regional one for New York lottery when lady in planetarium asks,
“Anyone wanna give it up for Cassiopeia?”

Wine geek goingt o pit of misery reminds opf an old friend who fancied himself budding wine connoisseur.
"ohh this has a slight oaken taste with a hint of cantaloupe blah blah blah."
Also reminds of time went wine tasting in Napa Valley andn went into wineries wearing old Mets t-shiort with holes in it. there were iother people twirling their wine glasses and talking about hints of this and hints of that and there si me with holey shirt on and druinking wine like it was water

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Theres an academic paper that tried to see how well the taste of wine correlated with the cost. I think the general pattern was - anything below 10 dollars and even the amateurs could tell. 15-20 and it was a lot more muddled. Anything above 20, from 21 to 2000 and no one but seasoned experts could reliably tell the difference(but that appears to be a very hard learned skill).

That lesson is instructive as I don't tend to buy wine above $20 unless it has some nostalgic value.

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Remind me to bring the wine if I ever come over to dinner. Comparing a $50 bottle to twenty others you will end up with many opinions, including some that are "ick--waste of money" and some that are "glorious! I want a whole case!" but comparing those 20 $50 wines to 20 random $20 wines, I am pretty sure that a dozen randomly chosen wine drinkers would be able to categorize them pretty accurately.

I approach wine (and most everything) like FO approaches football--if I can break it down to a granular level, figure out what works, what doesn't, and why, maybe I can predict what will make me happy and where I can find value. Jeez, and I thought I wasted time with football! But wine season is 12 months long. I need serious help.

Though you reminded me of the time my father and older brother had a bet about being able to tell rotgut vodka (Dad's) from Stoly (my free-spending collegiate brother in 1982). I was the witness. Dad poured three shotglasses, two of X and one of Y, insisting that Rick would not be able to tell.
I was not a drinker at that point, but just by smell I said "Dad, you're gonna lose this one." And he did, to his great surprise.

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People can discriminate between what's drinkable and what's not (there exists a floor below which wine becomes undrinkable). They mostly can't judge expensive from cheap drinkable wines.

Trained tasters can usually tell varietal (if they are familiar with it) and sometimes country of origin.

They are almost universally terrible at consistent scoring or even blinded identification of red versus white.


54 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

Thank you for debunking that myth. It wasn't even long ago when Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck--literally a $2 bottle of wine--won first place in a blind taste test against some fancy-pantsy competition, as voted by professional wine reviewers. It was a sad, sad day for the 1%ers.

It's the same way in the "audiophile" world. I know of one company that claims their capacitors and resistors need 100 hours of on time to "burn in" when brand new. The reason is to make you spend that 100 hours anticipating and looking forward to listening to your new expensive toy. If you try to use their return policy, they'll tell you their DACs require 72 hours of warm-up before becoming stable, so try leaving it on for a few days. That way a rube is going to say "oh 72 hours will fix it!" By expecting it to sound better, it subjectively does to them!

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I recall reading some article where someone had a bunch of Wine Spectator reviewers rate wines blindly. The blind ratings turned out to be widely at variance with the published ratings (which were highly correlated to price and brand, natch.)

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Time will tell how the Saints draft compares to some of the other famous team drafts - the Ravens 1997 draft, the Bucs 1996 draft, or the seahawks 2011 draft. But man, did the saints seem to land a top flight corner, left tackle, and running back. Even their safety played well this year.

It may not translate to two hall of famers, but its the kind of class that can completely change your trajectory as a franchise.

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Same here--great passion, insightful of course, and way more articulate than I expected. A few challenges with the English language, but all in all, pretty damn good. And he'd have to be better than Dennis Miller! Though I have to confess that I used to like (or at least not hate) Dan Dierdorf, who was pretty much reviled back in the day.

And of course, old FO stalwarts all remember this booth announcer, because he was spoofed in threads weekly for his smarmy name-dropping mannerisms. "You know, player X and I were at dinner the other night and he was telling me how his high school coach used to..." That turned into "Randy Moss and I were hot tubbing this morning and he told me about a folk remedy for toenail fungus...." Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the one, the only, Joe Theisman.

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I went with Wentz over Goff for the John Elway Award. My thinking was:

1. Going from average to great is more award-worthy than going from terrible to average.

2. Wentz was significantly better than Goff this year. Wentz was in a close MVP race before his injury; Goff didn't even make the original Pro Bowl rosters. They may have been close in DVOA, but Wentz was way ahead in QBR (2nd vs. 18th).

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1. Goff did not go from terrible to average. He went from "worst starting quarterback in several NFL generations" to "pretty good." You are radically overrating his rookie performance and underrating his 2017 performance.

2. This is a good point -- QBR includes rushing data, and Wentz added a lot of rushing value because he had a ton of third- and fourth-down conversions (20, tied with Tyrod Taylor for second behind Cam Newton's 23).

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Wentz also went from Pederson to Pederson, whereas Goff went from the Dark Lord of Stagnation Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay.

Jeff Fisher Nick Foles was a lesser McCown.
Doug Pederson Nick Foles was a SB MVP and had the 4th best post-season in DVOA history.

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What Vince said, plus I would argue that given the scarcity of quarterbacks and the importance of the position, going from terrible to average is more significant than average to great in general.

And I really think you cannot overstate how bad Goff was as a rookie. It wasn't a question of can he bounce back and turn into a good QB, it was "will even be in the league in a couple years" and "will he be one of the all-time draft busts"?

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I don't really buy into this line of criticism. If it is that easy to pick apart a defense by the coach simply instructing the QB where to throw it pre-snap, then why aren't more teams doing it with outstanding success? Is McVay really that uniquely talented at reading defenses?

47 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

No, I think Goff is that poor at identifying defenses at this point in his career. Either that or McVay is one hell of a control freak.

I think this is an ever bigger reason for Goff's improvement than the lack of Jeff Fisher. If the QB simply calls a play in the huddle, then the team hurries to the line to give McVay a chance to read the coverage pre-snap, and tell the QB to throw the ball to Target X, how much credit are we going to give the QB for throwing the ball to Target X?

What I expect to see next year is that the opposing defense will either line up in one coverage and then switch pre-snap, or just stand around until the QB-Coach headset link is turned off.

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"For all of that, though, this almost certainly would have been Carson Wentz's award if he had stayed healthy."

I'm not sure that you can say that. Anecdotally, Wentz was never in my top 5 MVP candidates, even before getting hurt.

My money says that Brady wins even with a healthy Wentz, and if you deleted Brady from the space-time continuum it would have been Brees regardless of Wentz's health or the lack thereof.

"We must admit we screwed up here, and should have included Apple's 'What's a computer?' spot."

I'd have voted for it.

40 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

If Carson Wentz doesn't get hurt, he's clearly the MVP. The fact that he was the starting QB and budding superstar for the best team in the league that significantly outperformed their pre-season projection is like 99% of the way there.

Statistically, he would have compared favorably to any QB in the league. His rate statistics are top 5 (5th DVOA, 2nd QBR, 4th passer rating.) ANY/A is 6th. It is reasonable to expect to find him among league leaders in counting stats had he played a full season.

Wentz as MVP was a slam dunk as soon as the Eagles beat LA to (effectively) clinch NFC HFA.

44 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

He might have been a slam dunk as "high-performing quarterback that hasn't won MVP before on a top-two team", but I don't think he was a slam dunk in terms of deserving it.

Wentz, in 13 games, had 3296 yards, 33 TD, 7 INT, 28 sacks, 9 fumbles, and a 7.43 ANY/A.

Goff, in 16 games, had 3804 yards, 28 TD, 7 INT, 25 sacks, 8 fumbles, and a 7.72 ANY/A. (Through the first 13, he had 3383 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT, 22 sacks, and PFR doesn't make fumbles and ANY/A easily available in the gamelogs section).

Wentz was better - as mentioned above, he added 299 rushing yards - but he was far from a slam-dunk deserving candidate.

All this is why I thought Goff was the obvious Elway Award choice: he went from absolutely terrible to "nearly as good as Carson Wentz", whereas Wentz went from "way better than Jared Goff" to "a little better than Jared Goff".

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Before the injury, Wentz and Brady were neck-and-neck for MVP. Wentz's primary advantage was in TD passes (and fewer losses at the time), while Brady rated higher on pretty much all the other metrics (this was before his late season stretch where he threw a handful of picks over consecutive games). He was throwing for more yards per game with a higher completion rate, more yards per attempt and lower interception rate.

Honestly I think by the end of the season Brees was the real competition for Brady, not Wentz. But the mindset that credits QBs with wins seems to prefer Wentz.

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Honestly, I was surprised Brees was even listed as a candidate for the MVP. He had the same season he has had basically every year since he joined the Saints. The team's improvement this year seemed almost entirely based on playing much better defense and running the ball more effectively than they have in the past.

43 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

"What's a computer?" gets my vote for worst commercial of the decade. It's like they tried to combine all of the worst stereotypes about whatever-the-generation-after-the-millennials-is-called into one incredibly unlikeable character and then expect the viewer to think "yes, I want to buy Apple products because this is what I'd like to be like."

I wish her neighbor would have come over and snapped her iPad in two.

51 Re: 2017 Football Outsiders Awards

The best celebration this year didn't get much attention. After an interception, two guys from the Washington secondary staged a "drug bust," where the intercepting player got patted down and then "arrested" (much to his obvious displeasure) when they found the "drugs/stolen property" (the ball).

I don't remember who it was or even which game it happened in, but I'm pretty certain I commented about it in the gameday thread here.