Monday, December 29, 2008

My 2008 NFL Awards

Yesterday was the final week of the NFL regular season, thus it is time for me to hand out the "hardware" (read: ingnite arguments). Here are my picks for the top prizes of the 2008 season.

MVP: Matt Cassel, New England Patriots QB

I don't know if this pick is based on astonishment, bias or both. Tom Brady goes down with a season-ending knee injury in week 1, the Patriots send in backup Matt Cassel who has not started a game since high school. The outlook for the Pats season was bleak to say the least. Week by week, Cassel proved everyone wrong by going out and winning games with a depleted offense. Cassel led New England to an 11-5 record and they barely missed the playoffs. No one would have believed that scenario in September, including me.

Honorable Mention:

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons QB
Peyton Manning, Indianpolis Colts QB
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys LB
Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins QB
Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers QB

Team of the Year: Miami Dolphins/Atlanta Falcons (tie)

To go from a 1-15 season to winning the AFC East the following year is nothing short of amazing. Bill Parcells gets a lot of the credit for changing the culture and expectations of the franchise. First year head coach Tony Sparano gets even more credit for leading the Dolphins to an 11-5 record to end the season. The Dolphin players bought into their new system and the reward was going from 1st pick in the 2007 NFL Draft to and AFC East title in 2008.

The Atlanta Falcons lost the face/backbone of their franchise not to injury, but to prison! With Michael Vick behind bars (and not the ones on his face mask), things did not look good for the "dirty birds" for about the next decade. In steps first year head coach Mike Smith and rookie quaterback Matt Ryan. Optimism was high in Atlanta, but genuine hope for the 2008 season was all but a fleeting daydream. The Falcons enter the playoffs with an 11-5 record and show no signs of slowing down.

Honorable Mention:

Carolina Panthers
Tennessee Titans
New York Giants
New England Patriots

Rookie of the Year: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons QB

Rookie quaterbacks are typically served up as a main course for opposing defensive linemen over the span of 16 weeks, but not in the case of Matt Ryan. Atlanta selected Ryan with the number 3 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to fill the vacany left by the aforementioned Michael Vick. Matt Ryan showed promise in his days at Boston College, but no one could foresee the 16 touchdown passes and 3440 yards passing yards that lie ahead. Ryan has lead the Falcons back to the playoffs and in my mind is a shoo-in for this award.

Honorable Mention:

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans RB
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens QB
Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots LB

Coach of the Year: Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons/Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins (tie)

Mike Smith left his job security as defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars to the immense challenges of being the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Inheriting a 4-12 team that just lost its star quaterback and essentially, its identity. Smith would ultimately beat the odds by the end of the 2008 season. Leading the Falcons to an 11-5 record and an NFC wildcard spot, Mike Smith found a way to win week in and week out and is very deserving of this award.

Much like Smith in Atlanta, Sparano left his comfortable duties as the Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins...who just so happened to be coming off a 1-15 season. Sparano motivated his players to expect to win as opposed to lose and they did just that. Riding the success of their "wildcat" offense, Sparano lead the Dolphins to their first division title in 8 years! From the 1st pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to the 1st round of the 2008 playoffs, Sparano is the clear pick to win the honor of coach of the year.

Honorable Mention:

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers

Most Disappointing Team: Cleveland Browns

The Browns entered the 2008 season with high expectations, which were never met. Coming off the success and promise of their 2007 season, the Browns were lead by newly re-signed quaterback Derek Anderson, 2007 1st round pick Joe Thomas and a fleet of supremely talented offensive players. The result: an embarrasing 4-12 season in which the only highlight was a Monday Night victory over the New York Giants. With head coach Romeo Crennel a lock to be fired within the week, the Browns only hope is to start heading in the opposite

Dishonorable Mention:

Dallas Cowboys
Jacksonville Jaguars
Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills
Detroit Lions

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