Skip to content

PFT’s 2012 postseason awards

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Associated Press now unveils its postseason awards the night before the Super Bowl, weeks after most people have stopped caring about the winner.

So we announce ours immediately after the regular season ends.

At a time when you still actually are interested in these matters and not, you know, you’ll win the Super Bowl, here are the men who, in our opinion, deserve special recognition for their accomplishments in the freshly-completed regular season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Winner: Russell Wilson, Seahawks.

Runner-up: Robert Griffin, III, Redskins; Andrew Luck, Colts.

Honorable mention: Alfred Morris, Redskins; Doug Martin, Buccaneers.

The AP award likely will go to either of the top two picks in the draft, but it shouldn’t.  Wilson entered the league short on height and long on smarts and talent and determination.  Russell Wilson commanded the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in Seattle, beating out big-money free-agent Matt Flynn and incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson, and Wilson then began to prove week-in and week-out that he is as good as his more famous counterparts who were selected much higher.

Despite the 11-5 record for the Colts, Luck had too many turnovers (contributing to a mediocre passer rating of 76.5), and Griffin missed a game and crunch time in another due to an inability to avoid contact.  While Luck broke Cam Newton’s rookie passing yardage record, Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes by a rookie — and Wilson showed that he could run the ball effectively (489 yards, four touchdowns) without getting hit or, in turn, hurt.

The best news is that the three rookie quarterbacks all made it to the playoffs, and they’ll all make their postseason debuts on the same day.

Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Winner:  Luke Kuechly, Panthers.

Runner-up:  Janoris Jenkins, Rams.

Honorable mention:  Bobby Wagner, Seahawks; Lavonte David, Buccaneers; Casey Heyward, Packers; Harrison Smith, Vikings.

The ninth overall pick in the draft, Kuechly led the NFL with 164 tackles, finishing 10 short of the rookie record set in 2007 by Patrick Willis.  Kuechly also had 10 games with 10 or more tackles.  In Week Five, he slid from outside linebacker to the middle, where he participated in every snap on defense for the rest of the season.

Jenkins, a second-round steal, instantly became a dangerous cover man and return specialist.  He could soon be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.  Some may say he already is.

Coach of the Year.

Winner:  Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano, Colts.

Runner-up:  Leslie Frazier, Vikings.

Honorable mention:  Mike Shanahan, Redskins; Pete Carroll, Seahawks; John Fox, Broncos; Mike Smith, Falcons.

The best coach routinely is determined based on a team’s actual performance relative to its expected performance.  This year, no team exceeded expectations more than the Colts, who won 11 games a season after winning only two.  Pagano and Arians combined to generate a wild-card berth despite Pagano’s three-month absence due to leukemia treatments, as part of a run that included seven come-from-behind wins.

Frazier and the Vikings improved their win total by seven, going from 3-13 to 10-6 and a playoff berth secured on the last day of the season against the Packers.  Shanahan and the Redskins reeled off seven straight to secure the NFC East after Shanahan seemingly threw in the towel on the 2012 season.  (And all future coaches whose teams are 3-6 after nine games will do the same.)

In all, three of the six worst teams from 2011 have vaulted to the playoffs only one year later, providing real hope to every other non-playoff team, in 2013 and beyond.

Comeback Player of the Year.

Winner:  Peyton Manning, Broncos; Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

The two greatest comebacks in NFL history came in the same year.  For Manning, the return from multiple neck surgeries was unprecedented.  For Peterson, his performance following a Christmas Eve 2011 ACL tear was equally stunning and unlikely.  Both deserve the recognition, and it’s only fair for them to share it.

It’s also only fair that there be no one else mentioned as the runner-up or otherwise.  Manning and Peterson are in their own class on this one, and no one else comes close.

Executive of the Year.

Winner: John Elway, Broncos.

Runner-up: John Schneider, Seahawks.

Honorable mention: Ryan Grigson, Colts; Rick Spielman, Vikings; Les Snead, Rams.

Elway wanted Peyton Manning in large part because it gave Elway cover to dump Tim Tebow.  The gamble (in light of Manning’s recent medical history) paid off in a major way, making other teams (like perhaps the Texans) wish they’d done more to land one of the greatest players in NFL history.  Though making the move for Manning is enough on its own, hiring coach John Fox in 2011 after a two-win season in Carolina, picking linebacker Von Miller in last year’s draft, and not giving up on Knowshon Moreno are icing on a cake that Elway has been masterfully baking for the past two season — even though Elway entered the job with fry-cook credentials.

Schneider found a quarterback who could become one of the best current signal-callers in the league in round three of the draft, five spots after the Jaguars picked a punter.  Schneider likewise rolled the dice in round one on Bruce Irvin, a controversial pick who panned out as a rookie.  Throw in linebacker Bobby Wagner in round two and the prudent decision to re-sign Marshawn Lynch, and Schneider had a lot to do with the team’s unexpected success in 2012.

Grigson quickly turned around a talent-challenged roster with a strong draft and the ability to make good decisions about who should stay and who should go, bringing back Reggie Wayne and keeping Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.  His success will make more owners opt for young, grinding scouts.

Offensive player of the year.

Winner:  Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

Runner-upCalvin Johnson, Lions.

Honorable mentionDrew Brees, Saints; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks.

Peterson is the easy and obvious choice, given that he rushed for 2,097 yards, the second most in NFL history.

Johnson set the single-season record for receiving yardage with 1,964, and Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards for the third time in his career.  Lynch’s performance gets lost in Peterson, but the guy the Bills gave away has become one of the best running backs in the league.

Defensive Player of the Year.

WinnerJ.J. Watt, Texans.

Runner-up:  Von Miller, Broncos.

Honorable mention: Aldon Smith, 49ers; Charles Tillman, Bears.

Watt was a wire-to-wire disruptive force for the Texans.  Beyond his league-leading sack total (20.5), Watt has shattered the mold for 3-4 defensive ends.  Miller is becoming one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL, and Smith has emerged as the top 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker.

Amazingly, all three players are in only their second seasons in the NFL.

MVP.

Winner:  Adrian Peterson, Vikings.

Runner-up: Peyton Manning, Broncos.

Honorable mention: J.J. Watt, Texans; Aaron Rodgers, Packers; Tom Brady, Patriots; Matt Ryan, Falcons.

Many have wrestled with this one for weeks, determined to give it to Manning but keeping an open mind for Peterson.  It would have been easy to say Peterson gets it only if he sets the single-season rushing record.  It’s harder to accept that he missed it (by 27 feet) but still deserves it.

In the end, Peterson’s value to his team simply outweighs Manning’s — even though Peyton once again has had a season to remember, shrewdly picking a talented team with an easy schedule and pushing the franchise to the top seed in the AFC.  Last year, however, the Broncos made it to the final eight without Manning.  This year, the Vikings would have been nothing without Peterson, a man who overcame a serious knee injury to become better than he ever was.

Moreover, at a time when we are more sensitive than ever before to the damage inflicted on the bodies of NFL players, Peterson earned every yard, foot, and inch that he gained.  Even the long runs came after he ran through a potential tackler.  Or two.  Or five.

So that’s the full list.  Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

Permalink 102 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
yo

Report: Seahawks trading Norwood to Panthers

Kevin Norwood AP

The Seahawks will trade wide receiver Kevin Norwood to the Panthers, according to a report from Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

A fourth-round pick in 2014, Norwood caught nine passes in games as a rookie. Earlier Monday, Wilson reported that the Seahawks were going to waive Norwood.

The Panthers didn’t have a stellar receiving corps even before the loss of Kelvin Benjamin for the season to a torn ACL, so this move makes sense. Per Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the compensation is an undisclosed draft pick. This is the the kind of trade that happens often at this stage of the preseason and often involves a conditional draft pick — and generally a seventh-rounder — based on how much Norwood eventually contributes to the Panthers.

The emergence of rookie Tyler Lockett and presence of young receivers Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams made Norwood expendable in Seattle.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Martavis Bryant suspension becomes official

Martavis Bryant AP

We still don’t know whether the Patriots will have quarterback Tom Brady for the regular-season opener. But we now know that the Steelers won’t have two key offensive weapons due to suspension.

Running back Le’Veon Bell previously was suspended two games for violating the substance-abuse policy. Receiver Martavis Bryant has now been suspended four games for violating the substance-abuse policy.

“We are disappointed in Martavis’ actions that has led to his four-game suspension,” Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert said in a team-issued release. “It is a disappointment to our entire organization as well as our fans, but we will continue to support Martavis during his suspension. It is very unfortunate his actions have put our team in this situation to begin the year, but we are confident he will learn from his mistake and return in excellent shape in Week Five.”

It was more than a mistake; it was a series of violations of the substance-abuse policy that culminated in the four-game suspension, with Bryant consistently choosing a banned substance over football. Now, he’ll have to unequivocally choose football, or he’ll eventually face a 10-game suspension and, in time, a full-year banishment.

The Steelers apparently have chosen to stick with Bryant. Five years ago, they abruptly dumped receiver Santonio Holmes onto the Jets after Holmes was suspended four games under the substance-abuse policy.

Permalink 11 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

49ers to put center Daniel Kilgore on reserve/PUP

Daniel Kilgore AP

The 49ers hope to get center Daniel Kilgore back on the field this season, but it won’t be for at least the first six weeks.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the 49ers informed Kilgore he’d be placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which will be part of their roster moves to get to the 75-man limit by Tuesday’s deadline.

The move makes Kilgore ineligible for at least the first six weeks of the season. There’s then a five-week window for him to begin practicing, and from the day he starts, the team has three weeks to make a roster decision.

Kilgore suffered a broken leg last season, but needed follow-up surgery in June, and is still wearing a walking boot, so he doesn’t appear to be close to a return.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Fred Jackson would have “done anything” to retire with Bills

Fred Jackson AP

We’ve heard from Bills G.M. Doug Whaley regarding the decision to part ways with running back Fred Jackson after 10 years with franchise. We’ve yet to hear from Jackson.

But here’s what PFT has heard, given that Whaley didn’t really say much regarding the decision to move on from Jackson.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jackson would have “done anything” to retire with the Bills. Jackson, however, wasn’t given that chance.

In meeting with the media, Whaley answered questions but said nothing, citing “competitive reasons” for not elaborating on the decision to move on from Jackson.

Whaley declined to say whether the Bills tried to trade Jackson, but he acknowledged that the salary cap was part of the decision. If so, the cap number could have been reduced. Again, Jackson wasn’t given that chance.

The question now becomes whether Jackson will get that chance elsewhere. The Browns make plenty of sense, given the fact that coach Mike Pettine spent time in Buffalo as defensive coordinator. Other teams with needs in the top two spots of the depth chart make sense, too.

Still, Jackson would have more options if the decision had come earlier. While Whaley tried to paint the timing of the decision as a favor to Jackson in his effort to find a new team, the real favor would have been to let Jackson go in March, so that he could land on a team has already made other plans based on the players who were available in March.

And April. And May. And June. And July. And August 1 through August 30.

Permalink 46 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dave Zastudil, Lorenzo Alexander part of early cuts in Arizona

Dave Zastudil AP

Punter Dave Zastudil missed 14 games last season after suffering a groin injury in September and it looks like the two games he did play with the Cardinals will be his last with the team.

The Cardinals announced that they have released Zastudil on Monday, leaving Drew Butler as the only punter on the roster heading into the 2015 season. Zastudil spent four years with the Cardinals and has also played for the Ravens and Browns during a 12-year NFL career.

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander was also cut loose on Monday. Alexander spent the last two seasons in the desert and appeared in all 16 games for the team last year. He was listed as a second-teamer during the preseason, but his departure is a good reminder of how unofficial those charts are at this time of the year.

Linebacker Glenn Carson, guard Nate Isles, linebacker Edwin Jackson, linebacker Andrae Kirk, cornerback Shaq Richardson, tight end Gannon Sinclair, cornerback Darren Woodard, wide receiver Ryan Spadola and wide receiver Travis Harvey have also been dispatched, leaving the Cardinals with one move to make to get to 75 players.

Permalink 6 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cowboys waive five players

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

None of the first five cuts the Cowboys made were especially notable or surprising.

Waived Monday were wide receiver Phil Bates, cornerback Robert Steeples, defensive tackle Carlif Taylor, punter Tom Hornsey and long snapper Casey Kreiter. The team still has to make more moves to meet Tuesday’s deadline for cutting the roster to 75.

All 32 teams close the preseason Thursday and must trim their rosters to the regular-season size of 53 by Saturday.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Mike Pouncey: Everything came back good on MRI

Mike Pouncey AP

When center Mike Pouncey was forced from last weekend’s Dolphins game with a knee injury, it looked like 2015 might turn out to be a bad year for the Pouncey family.

Mike’s twin Maurkice will miss much of the Steelers season after breaking a bone in his ankle and it looked like it could be bad when the Dolphins center had someone crash into his leg while he was standing up during a play. Sunday’s release of J.D. Walton seemed to signal the news wouldn’t be too negative, however, and Pouncey confirmed that the MRI of his knee showed no serious damage.

“Yeah, definitely, it always is [a relief] when you go through evaluations on stuff like that,” Pouncey said in comments distributed by the team. “Everything came back good, so I’m ready to go.”

Pouncey practiced on Monday, so the level of concern about aggravating the injury is pretty low and all is on track for Pouncey to be snapping the ball in Week One.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cullen Jenkins: Giants don’t respond well to adversity

Tom Coughlin AP

With safeties getting injured at a fantastic rate, Jason Pierre-Paul away from the team while his fireworks injuries heal, left tackle Will Beatty out with a pectoral injury and Victor Cruz battling a calf injury, the Giants have had a fair amount of negative turns in 2015.

One member of the team’s defensive line thinks that kind of adversity could be setting the team up for another disappointing season. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins says he has seen the team “freeze up a little bit” in the face of tough situations over the last two years and that they need to develop a confidence that “won’t be denied” if they are going to do a better job this year.

“This is the NFL,” Jenkins said, via Newsday. “No one team is just going to go out there and not have its fair share of adversity. That comes along with the game. If you know that, you know it’s required that you have to be able to respond to it. That’s what we need to do a better job with. When we get hit in the mouth or go through adversity, we don’t respond as well as we should.”

Jenkins isn’t wrong about the need for NFL teams to shrug off adversity if they are going to succeed, but talent and scheme can’t be ignored as major factors in the team’s 13-19 record over the last two years.

The Giants have seen mediocre or worse performances from their running backs, offensive line and across the defense in those 32 games which has led to changes of coordinators on both sides of the ball. They’ve also seen the last four drafts produce few high-level contributors to a roster that hasn’t found quality replacements for many of the key players from their 2011 Super Bowl championship team. Add it all up and you get three seasons out of the playoffs and increased pressure to change their fortunes this year lest sweeping changes hit the team.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Lions activate Joique Bell, Haloti Ngata

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Two of the Lions’ most important players are finally ready to go.

The Lions announced today that they’ve activated running back Joique Bell from the physically unable to perform list and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from the non-football injury list.

Bell was the Lions’ No. 1 running back last year and is expected to be the No. 1 running back again this year, although the Lions have liked what they’ve seen in the preseason from their other runners. Veteran Theo Riddick and second-round rookie Ameer Abdullah are both expected to get significant playing time, and undrafted rookie Zach Zenner has played so well in the preseason that he’s likely to get a role in the offense as well.

The acquisition of Ngata this offseason was extremely important for the Lions after defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley all left in free agency. The Lions need Ngata to be healthy for Week One and stay healthy.

Today’s move indicates that both players will be on the field when the Lions open the season at San Diego in 13 days.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Taking a look at the financial implications of benching RGIII

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

So Kirk Cousins is not only the Week One starter for Washington but also the starter for the 2015 season. Which means he’ll hold the job until he loses the job.

Which means Robert Griffin III has lost the job.

So what next? His $3.269 million base salary for the fourth year of his rookie contract is fully-guaranteed without offset. If they cut him, he gets the money — undiminished by anything he’d make with another team. Throw in his $3.449 million signing bonus proration and it’s a cap number of $6.719 million.

Washington can avoid the base salary only by trading Griffin. But who would trade for that contract, especially since the fifth-year option has an injury guarantee of $16.1 million?

Indeed, Griffin still hasn’t been cleared to play. No one would consider trading for a guy who has yet to receive full clearance from an indepedent neurologist.

And that’s where the concussion and the fifth-year option intersect. Until he’s cleared, Griffin is in theory eligible for the $16.1 million in 2016. And while it would be highly unusual for Griffin to have suffered a concussion that keeps him from playing in the 2016 season, Griffin suddenly has 16.1 million reasons to have a concussion that keeps him from playing in the 2016 season.

I’m not saying Griffin will milk his current concussion for $3.269 million in 2015 and another $16.1 million in 2016, but perhaps the best way to avoid potentially owing Griffin $16.1 million next year would be to cut him now, give him a parting $3.269 million gift. That would give him a much stronger incentive to obtain clearance to play, because then he’d be able to sign with a team that gives him the chance to play.

Permalink 42 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Texans begin whittling down roster

Reshard Cliett AP

The Texans added a player on Monday when they traded a seventh-round pick to the Broncos for tackle Chris Clark and followed that up by starting to cut their roster down to 75 players.

Sixth-round linebacker Reshard Cliett has been placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL. Cliett will rehab for the rest of the year and try his luck again in 2016.

The Texans released veteran defensive tackle Chris Neild, who missed last season after tearing his ACL during preseason with the Redskins.

They also parted ways with linebacker Jason Ankrah, wide receiver Jace Davis, defensive end Cam McLeod, wide receiver Travis Labhart, tackle Bryan Witzman, defensive tackle Cody White, tackle Aaron Adams and wide receiver Alan Bonner. They now have 80 players on their roster, leaving them with five more moves to make by Tuesday’s deadline.

Permalink 1 Comment Feed for comments Back to top

Mike Shanahan thinks Kirk Cousins is going to do just swell

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan paces on the sideline during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Florida AP

In case you were shocked/dismayed/confused when Washington named Kirk Cousins its starting quarterback for the season, rest assured — Mike Shanahan thinks it’s a great move.

Via Dan Hellie of the NFL Network, Shanahan the Elder declared that he loved his former fourth-round pick, you know the one that came after he presided over the drafting of the deposed Robert Griffin III.

Kirk Cousins is a franchise quarterback, he will be a top 10 quarterback in this league no doubt about it,” Shanahan said.

You can practically see him rubbing his palms together and giggling as he said it, too.

The RG3 dysfunction that ended today began when Shanahan was in charge, and the relationship between coach and quarterback deteriorated quickly.

So it’s no surprise that Shanahan wants to praise his own bargain find/stick it to his former boss/dump on RG3/passive-aggressively provide cover for his own reputation.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

T.Y. Hilton in concussion protocol

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptywnzrizja4mjbmogm2nzvlytflmtayogjiote2mtux1 AP

The Colts have 13 days until they open the regular season and they’ll spend part of that time hoping to hear that wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has been cleared to return to action.

Coach Chuck Pagano said on Monday that Hilton is in the league’s concussion protocol after reporting symptoms of the injury following Saturday’s game against the Rams. He was subsequently evaluated by team doctors and will be monitored in the coming days. Hilton had three catches for 44 yards during the game and was probably unlikely to play in this week’s preseason finale even without the head injury.

There’s no way to guess whether Hilton will be cleared in time to face the Bills in Week One, but having two weeks to get it leaves time before the Colts will have to seriously ponder alternatives in the offense.

The concussion brings Hilton’s August to an end on a painful note, although he’ll likely remember it as a happy month thanks to the five-year, $65 million contract extension he signed a couple of weeks ago.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Junior Galette placed on injured reserve as Washington drops to 75 players

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptk0n2nlnthhzdjlmdq0y2fhm2ywmtm4zwniotfjztez3 AP

Robert Griffin III remains on the Redskins roster for now, but 13 other players won’t get to stick around to see how Kirk Cousins does as the team’s new starting quarterback.

The team is down to 75 players on Monday, leaving them with no other moves to make before Tuesday’s deadline to trim the roster to that number. Not all of the moves were outright departures, however.

The Redskins formally ended linebacker Junior Galette’s season by placing him on injured reserve after he tore his Achilles in practice last week. Galette signed with Washington after getting released by the Saints, but they’ll have to look elsewhere for pass rushing help alongside Ryan Kerrigan.

They released defensive back Bryan McCann and tackle Willie Smith and waived tight end Ernst Brun Jr., linebacker Dyshawn Davis, tight end Chase Dixon, cornerback Tajh Hasson, linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, cornerback Drequan Hoskey, wide receiver Tony Jones, kicker Ty Long, tight end Devin Mahina, guard Bryce Quigley and cornerback Trey Wolfe.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cousins: Quarterbacking in the NFL, you don’t know what will happen

the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Kirk Cousins spent all offseason being told he was competing with Colt McCoy for the No. 2 quarterback job, behind starter Robert Griffin III. Today Cousins learned that wasn’t the case.

So how did Cousins react when coach Jay Gruden told him this morning that he is Washington’s starting quarterback for the 2015 season?

“Welcome to quarterback in the NFL,” Cousins said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Cousins says Griffin has always treated him well, and he believes the two of them will continue to work well together even though Griffin is now in the awkward position of having been benched for the guy who was supposed to be his backup.

“I can’t say enough about the class act Robert has been from the day I was drafted to now,” Cousins said.

Cousins added that he thinks he has a lot of work to do, and he doesn’t view earning the starting job as an end, but a beginning.

“It doesn’t feel like a finish line by any means, it feels like the work is still ahead of us,” Cousins said. “I go out and try to prove myself every time I’m out there.”

And Cousins will need to keep proving himself. Although Gruden says Cousins is the unquestioned starter, just days ago Gruden was saying that about Griffin. Cousins has to play well to put this quarterback controversy to rest.

Permalink 50 Comments Feed for comments Back to top