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

Brandon Marshall has no regrets about his Sunday outburst

Brandon Getty Images

There’s a recent trend for frustrated NFL players.  Blow up on Sunday, express no regrets about it during the week.

Last week, it was Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin.  This week, it’s Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.

Appearing on Inside The NFL, Marshall addresses his locker-room tirade, and he said that he’d do it again.

“Absolutely my voice was heard,” Marshall said, via quotes distributed by Showtime.  “The only thing I regret is that the door wasn’t closed.  I wouldn’t change any of my reactions, because they came from my heart and that’s how I felt and that’s how I still feel.  I think we have all the coaches we need.  I think we have all the players that we need to get the job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now.

“The problem right now is that we are not performing to our ability.  We just need to gel, we need to continue to come together, but the time is now.  We are halfway through the season and if any locker room has the guys to get it done, we do. . . .  We can get this thing turned around.”

The snippets circulated from Showtime don’t address whether Marshall was calling out quarterback Jay Cutler specifically or everyone.  It’s been reported that it was Cutler; we’ve heard it was broader than that.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jason Verrett practices, Brandon Flowers doesn’t

Jason Verrett, Brice Butler AP

The Chargers would presumably like to have both Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett available when trying to slow down Peyton Manning on Thursday night, but they’ll probably be happy if they have one of them.

Verrett was a limited participant in practice on Tuesday after missing last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs with a shoulder injury. Taking part in practice is certainly better than the alternative, but Verrett was limited in all three practices last week so it’s not necessarily predictive of whether he’ll be in the lineup against Denver.

Flowers is out with a concussion and the quick turnaround doesn’t leave him much time to progress through the protocol before kickoff. Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Flowers watched practice from the field with a helmet and visor on.

Linebakcer Jerry Attaochu was a limited participant after the team said he would not have participated in a Monday practice because of a hamstring injury. Running backs Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown, linebacker Manti Te’o and center Rich Ohrnberger all remained out for the Chargers.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

49ers bring back Josh Johnson, again

Johnson Getty Images

Just like there was a fifth Beatle, there’s a 54th 49er.  And his name is Josh Johnson.

Once again, Johnson has been re-signed to the San Francisco roster the Tuesday after a game, giving the team a third quarterback for practice.  Each of the last two weeks, the 49ers have cut Johnson in advance of a game, signing another player to the 53-man roster who is more likely to contribute when it’s time to play.

This is the last time the 49ers will be able to make Johnson the unofficial 54th man on the roster.  San Fran’s next game comes after the trading deadline.  If Johnson is cut at that point, he’ll be exposed to waivers, and any team can claim his contract.

If Johnson clears waivers, he can re-sign with the 49ers the following Tuesday, giving the 49ers a third quarterback — and as a practical matter a 54th player — for yet another week.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Phil Emery defends Jay Cutler as a “winning quarterback”

Jay Cutler AP

There’s a lot of negative feelings about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in Chicago right now and some of the aggrieved parties got a chance to air their grievances directly to management on Tuesday.

Bears General Manager Phil Emery took part in an online chat on the team’s website and predictably faced many questions about his quarterback, who has turned the ball over 10 times this season. Among the questions Emery fielded was one asking for his take on Cutler’s performance in light of the “enormous contract” the quarterback signed in the offseason.

“Jay Cutler is a winning quarterback in this league and no matter how you analyze the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, if you have a winning record you are an elite player at that position,” Emery wrote. “I’ll say it again: Jay has enormous skills and he continues to improve in all areas as a football player. I know he has some throws he would like to have back, but all of our players have had plays that they would like to have back.”

Giving quarterbacks won-loss records ignores too much of what goes into winning and losing games, but Emery is using it as criteria so it bears mentioning that the Bears are 8-10 with Cutler at the helm over the last two years. It also seems a stretch to think that Cutler is going to morph into a dramatically different quarterback nine years into a career that has been marked by the same kinds of swings between good play and crushing mistakes.

That’s not the worst thing in the world. Cutler is completing more passes than ever and actually has a lower interception percentage than the last two seasons, but that still comes with downsides that have gotten in the way of the winning quarterback leading a team with a winning record.

Permalink 32 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Titans trading Akeem Ayers to Patriots

Akeem Ayers AP

The Titans are reportedly set to deal one of their recent second-round picks.

Tennessee has agreed to send outside linebacker Akeem Ayers to New England, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported Tuesday.

The trade is pending a physical, Wyatt reported. Terms of the deal are not known.

For the 25-year-old Ayers, the trade is an opportunity to start fresh. A starter in his first three seasons with the Titans, Ayers has been a backup this season in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme, appearing in just two games. He is in the final year of his contract. Ayers (6-3, 255) had surgery on both knees in the offseason.

A UCLA product, Ayers was the No. 39 overall pick in 2011. He’s recorded 232 tackles, nine sacks and two interceptions in 50 games (43 starts).

In New England, Ayers could get a look as a strong-side linebacker in 4-3 fronts and an outside linebacker in “30” fronts. The Patriots are a base 4-3 defense, a scheme in which he has experience.

UPDATE 4:47 p.m. ET: According to Jason La Canfora of CBS, the teams are swapping draft picks in the deal. The Titans will get a sixth-round selection, while the Patriots will get a seventh-rounder and Ayers, per CBS.

Permalink 24 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Washington puts Brian Orakpo on IR, brings back Everette Brown

Cleveland Browns v Washington Redskins 8-18-2014 Getty Images

Washington knew it was going to need another pass-rusher on short notice, so a familiar face made sense.

After putting Brian Orakpo on season-ending injured reserve, they signed Everette Brown.

Orakpo was lost to a torn pectoral muscle last week.

Brown, a former second-round pick, was in camp with them this summer, but didn’t make it through final cuts.

He’s also spent time with the Panthers, Chargers, Lions, Eagles and Cowboys. He has some ability as a 3-4 rusher.

Permalink 11 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Plans for Favre’s Lambeau return in November on hold due to Bart Starr’s health

FAVRE AP

The Packers will be retiring Brett Favre’s No. 4 and putting him in the team’s Hall of Fame next year, but Favre was planning an earlier return to Lambeau Field that now looks unlikely to happen.

Favre was planning to join Bart Starr on the field for the team’s November 9 game against the Bears, but told Ed Werder of ESPN that Starr’s recent health troubles make it unlikely to happen. Starr recently had a heart attack and two strokes and Favre said that he’s averse to taking part if Starr is unable to participate.

“I’m sure they could, but it was my idea to do it, and now that Bart can’t, I just don’t think I will,” Favre said.

Had the appearance taken place, all three Packer quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl would have been at Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday that Starr’s health should be the focus rather than any delay in Favre’s return.

“I think the key here is Bart and his health. That’s the most important thing,” Rodgers said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

There were no concrete plans for what the appearance would entail, although Werder reports there were discussions about the two quarterback serving as honorary captains and participating in the pre-game coin toss.

Permalink 38 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Rice appeal hearing set for November 5-6

Rice

Last week, the Ray Rice appeal hearing tentatively was set for early November.  The tentative has now become more definite.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the hearing will occur on November 5 and 6.

Like every other legal proceeding that’s ever been scheduled, the dates could be changed.  And the days could be expanded, with a third day or more eventually set aside for testimony and argument.

Appeal officer Barbara S. Jones previously worked as a federal judge, which means she possibly selected the dates based on information from the lawyers regarding the number of witnesses to be called and the estimated duration of the testimony.

Far bigger than the “when” is the “who”; Judge Jones is expected to rule this week on the question of whether Commissioner Roger Goodell will be required to testify.  The NFL Players Association believes his testimony is critical to the process.  The NFL is resisting the effort to force him to answer questions under oath.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Amobi Okoye expected to practice on Thursday

Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Over the summer, we learned the details of the illness that caused defensive lineman Amobi Okoye to miss all of last season.

Okoye was diagnosed with anti-NMDA encephalitis, a condition that led doctors to put him in a medically-induced coma. Okoye lost 78 pounds while recovering and signed with Dallas in May. He was able to get cleared for contact by the Cowboys at the end of the summer, but remained on the non-football illness list so he could continue his rehab.

Players on NFI are eligible to return to practice and Okoye’s attorney told Adam Caplan of ESPN that Okoye is expected to do just that on Thursday. If he does, it will open up a three-week window for the team to decide whether to put Okoye on the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. Okoye said recently that he’s eager to find out what he’s able to do.

“I’m just letting it freewheel,” Okoye said. “I’m excited. I’m anxious. At the same time I’m curious.”

The Cowboys defensive line has already welcomed defensive end Anthony Spencer back from a long absence and plan to get rookie DeMarcus Lawrence back in Week Nine when he’s eligible to return from injured reserve. If Okoye is able to join them, it would only help a good Dallas defense weather the long season. The fact that it’s a possibility is remarkable by itself, though.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Buccaneers DE Da’Quan Bowers suspended for PED violation

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers have a number of problems this year, and now they have another one.

The league announced that defensive end Da’Quan Bowers had been suspended two games for violating the league’s performance enhancing substance policy.

Bowers, a former second-round pick, has been a disappointment in the NFL. Knee injuries kept him from showing the kind of pass-rush skills he had at Clemson, and he was no lock to make the Bucs roster this year during camp.

He has 6.5 career sacks, one of them this year.

He’ll be eligible to return on Monday, November 3 following the team’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Permalink 12 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cowboys release Michael Sam from practice squad

Sam AP

A lot has happened since the Rams cut defensive end Michael Sam, he languished for a few days, and then he landed on the Cowboys’ practice squad.  Out of sight and largely out of mind, Sam is once again out of an NFL job.

Per multiple reports, the Cowboys have released Sam from the practice squad.  The first openly gay player in NFL history is now free to sign with any other team’s practice squad.

Throughout the past seven weeks, he also has been available to sign with any team’s 53-man roster.  But there has been no chatter or interest in anyone doing that.

The NFL reportedly had made a couple of phone calls aimed at persuading someone to give Sam a spot on the practice squad, before the Cowboys did.  With domestic violence lingering on the NFL’s front burner, however, the league may no longer be concerned about avoiding the perception that Sam was rejected based on his sexual orientation.

Permalink 106 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Seahawks didn’t contact Patriots about Harvin trade

Percy AP

Nearly four days removed from the trade that sent receiver Percy Harvin from Seattle to the Jets, several confusing issues remain.

For example, if the Seahawks had become sufficiently fed up with Harvin that they would have cut him if they couldn’t have traded him, why didn’t they try to maximize their otherwise minimal return on the investment?  The easy answer is that they wanted to steer Harvin to a non-contender, a team that the Seahawks would be unlikely to face down the road, especially in the postseason.  And with the Jets at 1-6, there’s little risk that the Seahawks would encounter Harvin on February 1 in Arizona.  (Especially since Seattle will now have a hard time getting there.)

But the Seahawks reportedly called the Broncos about a deal that would have sent Harvin to Denver for tight end Julius Thomas.  So contending teams weren’t out of the question.

As AFC contenders go, the Patriots would have been the most intriguing choice.  Given Bill Belichick’s friendship with former Florida coach Urban Meyer, Belichick’s history of taking chances on receivers like Chad Ochocinco and Randy Moss, and the team’s clear need for playmakers on offense, the Patriots could have been drawn into a bidding war with the Jets for the kind of versatile weapon Belichick would love to have.  Which could have gotten the Jets more than a sixth-round pick that only becomes a fourth-round pick if Harvin remains on the Jets’ roster in 2015.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Seahawks didn’t talk to the Patriots about a possible Harvin trade.  It’s not known what the Patriots would have said, or whether they at a minimum would have feigned interest to get the Jets to give up more.  Regardless, it looks like the Seahawks were so intent to get rid of Harvin before the possibility of trading him leaked that they ended up doing a deal that wasn’t as good as it maybe could have been.

That’s not a knock on the Seahawks.  It merely demonstrates that, once they knew they were moving on, they moved quickly and decisively, possibly to avoid the distractions that would come from a week of two of rumors and reports regarding the possibility that Harvin would be traded.  It also shows that, for whatever reason, they decided not to do business with the Patriots.

Maybe the best explanation is that coach Pete Carroll, the last coach fired by owner Bob Kraft before Bill Belichick was hired, didn’t want to do anything to help the Patriots get better.

Permalink 42 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Panthers release defensive back Charles Godfrey

Carolina Panthers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Panthers tried to make Charles Godfrey something he wasn’t.

So now, they made him unemployed.

Godfrey’s agent just tweeted out word that the Panthers were releasing the veteran defensive back today.

Godfrey, a former third-round pick, was moved from safety to nickel cornerback this year, after the Panthers cut his pay and signed NFC South cast-offs Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper.

It’s debatable that either was better than Godfrey, even as he was coming back from a torn Achilles last year.

Godfrey did struggle, particularly against the Packers last week.

He also represents another move by General Manager Dave Gettleman to cull the herd of players who were given contract extensions by former G.M. Marty Hurney immediately after the lockout.

They filled his roster spot by signing offensive lineman Chris Scott, who was started for them last year but was cut after training camp this season.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cullen Jenkins expected to miss some time with calf injury

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The center of the Giants defense is hurting at the moment.

Linebacker Jon Beason is headed for a meeting with foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson after leaving last Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys with a problem in the same foot that he originally injured in the offseason and then re-injured earlier this season. That sounds like a scenario that could cause Beason to miss some time and it would come with defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins out of the lineup as well.

Jenkins injured his calf in Dallas and is expected to be out once the Giants return from their bye. Mike Patterson will start in his place and defensive line coach Robert Nunn said that Damontre Moore will also see more time as the Giants try to replace Jenkins as a pass rusher.

“With the absence of Cullen inside, [Moore's] going to be more and more involved and get more at-bats,” Nunn said, via NJ.com. “He has to produce when he’s out there. And his production will determine how much playing time he gets.”

Moore has two sacks this season while playing in a limited role. With a tough schedule awaiting them after the bye, adding to that total would be a big boost to the team.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dion Jordan returns to work with Dolphins

Dion Jordan AP

The Dolphins had to wait a little longer than they originally expected to get Dion Jordan back at work, but the day finally arrived on Tuesday.

Jordan took part in the team’s practice after being suspended for the first six games of the season. Jordan was originally suspended four games in the offseason for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but had that suspension wiped out when the league and NFLPA agreed on a new policy two weeks into the season.

Jordan was suspended for four more games at that point for a separate violation, however, and the Dolphins have had to go without the third overall pick of the 2013 season for the entire season as a result.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that the defensive end was working with the kickoff coverage team during special teams drills in his first day back with the team. He could play that role this week, but the Dolphins don’t need to immediately clear a roster spot for him because they have a one-week exemption before they’re forced to put him on the roster.

Permalink 12 Comments Feed for comments Back to top