By The Cold, Hard Football Facts "staff"
There are 11 official NFL awards handed out at the end of each season, from the well known (MVP, Coach of the Year) to the less well-known (Assistant Coach of the Year, Golden Toe, Most Improved Player).
After immersing ourselves in the numbers and letting the Cold, Hard Football Facts be our guide, here's our look at who should win all 11 of them.
While New England is on pace to capture more than its share (well-deserved, most would agree), there is room for the league's lesser lights to take home hardware.
If it were up to us, we would give awards to a Buccaneer, a 49er, a Titan, a Bronco and a Viking.
Those teams won't be taking home Lombardi Trophies, but at least they've got something.
Still, like an all-time classic movie -- Titanic, The Godfather, Debbie Does Dallas VI -- the New England Patriots should take home almost all of the big honors this year. Great acting, great script, great camera work ... the 2007 Patriots had it all.
In addition to the winner in each category, we list a top 5 (or top 10, for the big ones) to reward the players squeezed out by a deserving No. 1.
Without any further blather, the CHFFies, honoring the best in the business from the 2007 season.
1. Tom Brady, NE. Fifty touchdown passes (to just 8 INT) for a 16-0 team. A debate-ender, to be sure.
2. Brett Favre, GB. We never would have believed it, but there he is. Favre had 12 "Quality Starts" (80+ passer rating) in 16 games, and led the Pack to 13-3. In the last eight games of the season, he was sacked only twice.
3. Peyton Manning, IND. For overcoming the loss of his two security blankets (WR Marvin Harrison and LT Tarik Glenn), Manning deserves huge kudos. His final passer rating (98.0) was right in line with his career numbers, despite not having a full cache of weapons, and the Colts went 13-3 with three close losses.
4. Randy Moss, NE.
In most years, 23 receiving TDs would be a solid MVP winner. Not this time.
5. Terrell Owens, DAL. From Week 7-13 (six Cowboy wins), T.O. caught 44 passes for 796 yards and 10 TDs.
6. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD.
Tomlinson ended up with a rushing title (1,474 yards), 1,949 yards from scrimmage, 18 total TDs and a 4.7-per-carry average. Not bad for an "off" year.
7. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT. He finished with the No. 2 passer rating in the league (104.1) despite sporadic protection and a down year from Hines Ward.
8. Bob Sanders, IND. The unquestioned leader of the best defense (262 points allowed) in the league.
9. Tony Romo, DAL. He had a great season, but also had a gazillion Pro Bowlers around him (and 22 turnovers).
10. Albert Haynesworth, TEN. The Titans were dominant with him, soft without him.
1.Randy Moss, NE.
Who made the Patriots' offense one of the best ever, Brady or Moss? It's a chicken or the egg proposition, and since the egg will win the MVP, Moss deserves the Offensive POY honor (which he has never won). And no, we're not calling him chicken.
2. Tom Brady, NE. It's fairly unlikely that Brady sweeps with a win here, as QBs have won only three of the last 14 OPOY awards. But did we mention 50 touchdown passes and just 8 INT for a 16-0 team?
3. Terrell Owens, DAL. 81 catches, 1,355 yards, 15 TDs, Cowboys 13-2 with him in the lineup.
4. LaDainian Tomlinson, SD. Seven straight years of unbelievable production.
5. Brett Favre, GB. He produced more passes of 40+ yards (16) than he did sacks (15).
6. Brian Westbrook, PHI. He generated 18 plays of 20 yards or more, 2,104 yards of total offense, 12 total TDs and 104 first downs.
7. Reggie Wayne, IND. Finished as the league's receiving yards leader (1,510), adding 104 catches and 10 TDs for the second-best team in the league.
8. Adrian Peterson, MIN. His 1,341-yard rushing season with 13 TDs and a 5.6 yard per-carry average is a hell of a start.
9. Logan Mankins, NE. Mankins' ability to pass protect on Brady's blind side and blast open holes for the running game from the left guard spot was pivotal to New England's record success. The best lineman on the best line in the league (on one of the great offenses ever).
10. Jason Witten, DAL.
A great blocker, he helped the Cowboys stand as the top offensive power in the NFC and added 96 catches for 1,145 yards in the bargain. Plus, he produced the league's best Bronko Nagurski imitation this year, sprinting down field without a helmet.
1. Bob Sanders, IND
2. Albert Haynesworth, TEN
3. DeMarcus Ware, DAL
4. James Harrison, PIT
5. Jared Allen, KC
6. Aaron Kampmann, GB
7. Lofa Tatupu, SEA
8. Patrick Willis, SF
9. Mike Vrabel, NE
10. Marcus Trufant, SEA
COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Bill Belichick, NE. It seems a bit ridiculous that you could coach a team to 16-0 and not win Coach of the Year, but that's exactly what could happen for Belichick. We'd be happy enough if he lost out to Tony Dungy, who was also incredible this year, but they'll probably both lose to Green Bay's Mike McCarthy. Why? First, because the award should be named the "Coach of the Team That We Thought Would Suck But Didn't" award. And second, because enough jackhole media types will avoid voting for Belichick just because they spoke loudly (and too soon) against him in the heat of Spygate. But obviously, he's been spot on – he's got everyone on that team ready to run through brick walls for him, and 16-0 speaks pretty loudly about the quality of coaching. Mike Ditka was Coach of the Year in 1985 for the Bears, the last team to generate this much excellence/hype.
2. Tony Dungy, IND. Not only did Dungy avoid the Super Bowl ease-off that plagued many champions (i.e. the Steelers in 2006), but he got them to produce their best all-around season in the Peyton Manning Era. Despite losing several starters to free agency, Booger McFarland in preseason, Marvin Harrison for almost the whole year and Dwight Freeney for the second half, the Colts are poised for a possible repeat. With one of the youngest teams in the league, the Colts would have been forgiven for taking a step back. Instead, the defending champs took a step forward. Remarkable.
3. Mike McCarthy. McCarthy would win in a breeze in any other year, and he's certainly deserving of praise. But while the Packers have certainly exceeded all expectations, they were a team on the rise that stayed healthy on both lines all season and have a franchise QB in Brett Favre.
4. Jeff Fisher, TEN. Tennessee got a terrible year from Vince Young ... and 10 wins + a playoff berth? We believe the Titans are the first team in a long time with more wins (10) than TD passes (9). Kudos to the bearded one.
5. Wade Phillips, DAL. The Cowboys certainly assimilated all of their talent nicely, and Phillips deserves plenty of credit.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN. We love Joe Thomas of Cleveland, but Peterson's season was just too good to not acknowledge it.
2. Joe Thomas, T, CLE. Peterson will breeze to victory here, but Thomas has had an incredible impact on the Browns. Their offensive line was probably the single most compelling reason they won 10 games, and Thomas stepped in instantly to be a great pass blocker (19 sacks allowed for CLE, third-fewest in NFL) and run-blocker (5.2 yards YPA to the left).
3. Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC. He fell five yards shy of 1,000, but it was still a great first effort from Bowe on a team with no offensive line and rotating QBs.
4. Arron Sears, G, TB. A starter from the get-go for Tampa's O-line, which rose from 28th in the Hog Index of 2006 to 13th heading into the Week 17 finale (and the playoffs).
5. Trent Edwards, QB, BUF. His final passer rating was fairly poor (70.4), but Edwards had just eight total turnovers over 10 games and nine starts, and went 5-4 as a starter.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Patrick Willis, LB, SF. It isn't just Willis' numbers (league-high 135 solo tackles, plus four sacks) that give him the edge. Despite playing on a team whose offense couldn't even remotely move the ball, the Niners won five games -- four of them by allowing less than 20 points. Without Willis, this team might have gone winless. Despite all of their struggles, the San Francisco defense was in the middle of the pack in yards-per-play allowed (5.1), and ranked in the top five in rushing yards per attempt 3.8. Whatchoo talkin' bout, Willis?
2. Ed. Johnson, DT, IND. He stepped right in to overfill the shoes of the injured Booger McFarland, finished with 37 tackles as an every-game starter but more importantly helped the Colts go from laughingstocks of the run-stopping world (dead last with 5.33 YPA against in 2006, worst the NFL had seen in 45 years) to the top 10 (3.77 YPA in 2007).
3. Jon Beason, LB, CAR. While the rest of the Panthers were going down with injury, he was arriving as a star. Beason had 68 solo tackles over the last nine games of the year, finishing with 106 solos for the seasoon (No. 2 in NFL) and seven passes defensed.
4. LaRon Landry, S, WAS. Landry held it together for the Redskins, proving the team right for giving up the majority of its 2007 draft to get him. A starter from Day 1, he finished with 95 total tackles and five picks. In Washington's closing stretch (four wins), they allowed a total of 13.3 PPG despite the tragic loss of Landry's fellow safety Sean Taylor.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Randy Moss, NE. Maybe this is overstating it, but it seemed that Moss played better with New England in 2007 than he did with Oakland in 2006. We'll check the numbers and get back to you.
2. Patrick Kerney, SEA. He totaled 11 sacks in 25 games for ATL from 2005-06, had 14.5 this year with his new team in Seattle.
3. Brett Favre, GB. Old dogs
do learn new tricks.
4. Jamal Lewis, CLE. Lewis was remarkably poor his last two years in Baltimore (3.6 YPA in 2006, 3.4 YPA in 2005), but he bounced back with 4.4 YPA and 1,304 total for the Browns.
5. Greg Ellis, DAL. The 32-year-old converted DE had 12.5 sacks over the past two seasons – and had 12.5 sacks as an OLB in 2007, despite missing three games with injury and coming off the bench in three others.
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
1. Scott Pioli, NE. A no-brainer. Despite the fact that New England's draft class was more or less a washout, getting Wes Welker and Randy Moss for 2nd, 4th and 7th-round picks makes it all irrelevant. Plus, they will draft in the top 10 thanks to their fleecing of the 49ers (a late 2007 No. 1 for SF's 2008 No. 1). They also picked up Oakland's third-round pick in this year's draft – even with the forfeited Spygate pick, the Patriots will have plenty of draft power in 2008. Pioli has some tough work ahead (Moss' expired eal being the toughest), but his partnership with coach Bill Belichick is as good as it gets in the NFL.
2. Phil Savage, CLE. Savage made the best pick of the draft, taking tackle Joe Thomas and adding him to FA guard Eric Steinbach to create a great offensive line. He lost his 2008 No. 1 in the deal to get Brady Quinn, but can now get top value for RFA QB Derek Anderson in the offseason if he chooses to go that way. Plus, the freaking Browns almost made the playoffs.
3. Bill Polian, IND. The Colts lost several FAs, didn't replace them, and suffered significant injuries. Still, they won 13 games, re-upped their two best defensive players (Sanders and Freeney) during the season and are right back in the Super Bowl chase. The guy is a genius
4. Bruce Allen, TB. The Bucs didn't stand pat after their 4-12 disaster, making as many FA moves as anyone (including adding Jeff Garcia) and getting instant impact from their top 2 picks (Gaines Adams, six sacks, Arron Sears impact starter on the O-line). And the best move Allen made was not getting an itchy trigger finger after a bad year in 2006 and keeping his top-notch coaching staff intact.
5. Jerry Jones, DAL. He made the right hire in Wade Phillips while keeping Jason Garrett in the fold as offensive coordinator, added Leonard Davis to the O-line and Ken Hamlin to the secondary, plus got laughs in that Pepsi ad. On draft day, he got Cleveland's No. 1 in 2008 for moving down 14 spots in the first round, then moved back up anyway. Plus, isn't he building a new stadium that's going to make the Taj Mahal look like a Bangkok whorehouse? Thumbs up, Jerry.
GOLDEN TOE AWARD
1. Rob Bironas, K, TEN. Not only was Bironas huge on field goals (35 of 39, with a 40+ yarder in 10 of the Titans' last 13 games), but his average on kickoffs was second only to Kansas City's Dave Rayner. Overall, he was 13 of 15 from 40+. One of the best kicking seasons of all time, and a main reason the Titans are in the playoffs.
2. Shane Lechler, P, OAK. No surprise here – Lechler has been spectacular for his entire career. He ended up leading the league in gross punting (49.1 yards per punt) and net punting (41.1), and will be strongly supported by the Cold, Hard Football Facts when his Hall of Fame argument comes up. His career punting average is No. 1 all time and has been for a couple years now.
3. Andy Lee, P, SF.
What the hell got into this guy? He went from being a pretty good NFL punter to Ray Guy on crack. He added more than five yards to his career gross average with a 47.3 yard per boot average, and his net went from an average of 36.3 over three seasons to 41.0. He also nailed 42 punts inside the 20.
4. Jason Hanson, K, DET. One of the most consistent kickers in NFL history, Hanson was 14 for 17 from 40+ this year and fifth among full-time kickoff men.
5. Kris Brown, HOU. He went 5-for-5 from 50+, a remarkable feat, and was 25-of-29 for the season.
ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Monte Kiffin, TB. The longtime defensive coordinator might go down in history as the greatest assistant ever. All he did this year was coax a No. 3 scoring defense out of a team that looked too old and slow a year ago. With the exception of 2006, the Bucs have been in the top 10 in scoring defense every year since 1996 -- the year Kiffin became defensive coordinator.
2. Jason Garrett, DAL. How did his first season calling the plays for Dallas work out? Not bad, to the tune of 28.4 PPG and 13 wins.
3. Josh McDaniels, NE. Belichick and Tom Brady get the credit, but McDaniels was the one calling the plays for the best offense of our generation.
4. Howard Mudd, IND. For a decade now, Mudd's offensive lines have been keeping Peyton Manning healthy and happy -- and this year he did it with a rotating cast of characters.
5. Dante Scarnecchia, NE. New England's offensive line got a lot of credit for not getting credit -- but no one gets less credit than their longtime coach. Scarnecchia could walk unnoticed into any bar in Boston, but just
as Mudd has kept Manning clean, Scarnecchia has done the same with Tom Brady.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
1. Brandon Marshall, DEN. After a disappointing rookie season (20 catches) and an offseason where he was on the scene for the deaths of two teammates (Darrent Williams, Marcus Nash), Marshall didn't exactly figure to be successful. But he finished with 102 catches for 1,325 yards and 7 TDs, and looks to be a fixture in Denver for years to come.
2. Chris Harris, CAR. The Bears thought so little of this guy that they kept Adam Archuleta and sent Harris to Carolina for a fifth-round pick. He had been in and out of the lineup in Chicago. In Carolina, he had 76 solo tackles (fourth among safeties) and forced a league-high eight fumbles.
3. James Harrison, PIT. The Steelers drafted OLBs in the first AND second rounds, then watched Harrison make the Pro Bowl after three years as a thinly-used reserve.
4. Mario Williams, HOU. Williams will win this one easily because, well, most "pundits" are hacks, but he is at least a worthy candidate. Rising from 4.5 sacks in one season to 14 sacks the next is a big leap, for sure. Still, it's not exactly a big leap forward for the No. 1 overall pick to emerge in his second year.
5. Roddy White, ATL. From 29 catches as a rookie and 30 as a second-year man, White came through with 83 catches and 1,202 yards for the Vick-less Falcons.
Comment on the CHFF awards and make a case for your own deserving candidates on our Fabulous Forum.