01/08/2007: "Rob Bonnette's 2007 NFL Awards"
Rob Bonnette's 2007 NFL Awards
Written by Robert Bonnette
Email Robert Bonnette
The NFL regular season is over and now itís playoff time. Itís also time for postseason awards, most of which have already been given out. We have rightful winners of the MVP (LT), comeback player of the year (Chad Pennington), and a more than acceptable winner for offensive rookie of they year (Vince Young; my pick was Jones-Drew but Iím perfectly fine with Vince winning it). We also had a acceptable but somewhat dubious winner for defensive player of the year (Jason Taylor; not that he wasnít a worthy candidate but who out there doesnít think that this was a weíre not giving the award to that steroid cheat Shawne Merriman deal), and a worthy but downright hilarious pick for defensive rookie of the year (Demarco Ryans, who was picked by the same team that chose the number one overall pick, also a defensive player). But there are some awards that arenít voted on by the media but are definitely well deserved. They are the 2007 Rob Bonnette NFL Awards, and here they go.
Best Coaching Decision: Brian Billick fires Jim Fassel and takes over the Ravens playcalling
This was a bold move that may be the deciding factor in the Ravens season. Six weeks in the Ravens were 4-2 but had lost two straight and had been unimpressive in two of the four wins. Things were looking as if they were going to go south as soon as they had to play the tougher teams on their schedule, and the offense was mostly to blame. The Ravens werenít running well, werenít passing well and werenít scoring much, either. So Billick, in a make or break season, decided to dump his offensive coordinator Fassel and take over the offense. The results have been nine wins in ten games and much more consistency in all facets of the offense. Billick made the tough call, and he had the guts to do it when it needed to be done instead of waiting until after the fact like most coaches do.
Runner Up: Mike Nolan hires Norv Turner to tutor Alex Smith Ė Smith went from clueless bust to up and comer in one year thanks to Turnerís tutelage.
Best Pickup, Free Agent or Trade: New Orleans signs Drew Brees
The Saints looked to be taking a huge risk when they signed Brees this summer. Coming off of shoulder surgery, no one knew for sure just how well heíd be able to throw the ball. And when you throw in the facts that: a) he regressed a little in 2005 from his breakout 2004 season and b) San Diego was willing to let him leave so that they could go with Phillip Rivers, there was a good chance that the Saints would end with egg on their faces right about now. Well, theyíve proven themselves to be pretty shrewd evaluators because Brees has put up All-Pro numbers on his way to leading the Saints to a 10-5 record after 15 games and the number two seed in the playoffs. Yes, he has a lot of weapons to work with on offense but so did Aaron Brooks last season. Brees is definitely the difference between this yearsí division champs and last yearís also-rans.
Runners Up: Baltimore acquiring Steve McNair, Philly signing Jeff Garcia. McNairís confidence in the huddle has been the difference on offense for the Ravens, while Garcia saved the Eagles season with his stellar play in relief of Donovan McNabb.
Worst Pickup, Free Agent or Trade (tie): The Redskins sign Adam Archuleta, trade for Brandon Lloyd, and sign Andre Carter
None of these moves paid any dividends for the Redskins; Lloyd has been a nonfactor all season, Carter took eleven games to get his act together, and Archuleta has been a total bust. Truth be told, the only people who thought that any of these moves were good ideas were the ones working at Redskins Park. Lloyd is a mouthy wide receiver who San Francisco was all too happy to part with, a number two guy who thinks heís a number one guy. Carter is an undersized one dimensional pass rusher who hadnít done anything of note in several seasons, and Archuleta is a run stuffing blitzer who canít cover worth a lick that the ĎSkins brass thought would be a good compliment to hitter/blitzer Sean Taylor. Carter and Archuleta were supposed to add something to a top ten rated defense, but instead have helped it regress to 30th, while Lloyd has caught less than 30 passes all season and scored zero touchdowns. You canít sum up the disaster that is the 2006 season without mentioning these three names.
Runner Up: Atlanta trades for Ashley Lelie. Lelie was another mouthy receiver who thinks heís a number one guy when heís really a second or third guy at best. Despite having no real competition to speak of in Atlanta, he still couldnít lock down a spot in the starting lineup or put up the kind of numbers he says heís capable of.
Most Nonsensical Benching of the Year: Jacksonville sits Byron Leftwich for David Garrard
There had been heat on Leftwich since the beginning of the season, for reasons beyond reasonable comprehension. The Peter Kings of the world were dropping hints from day one that Leftwich was on the hot seat, and piled on every time the Jaguars lost a game or Leftwich didnít play well. Well, after six games the Jags had a 3-3 record and Leftwich was shelved ďdue to injuryĒ. Garrard took his place, and the pundits all proclaimed that the Jags would right the ship now that they had a mobile quarterback who didnít use a long windup to throw passes. So the quarterback change worked, right? UmmmÖ..not really. Garrard has a 5-5 record and an 80.5 quarterback rating, which isnít a whole lot better than Leftwichís rating of 79.0. Yeah, big difference there. Garrard had ten touchdowns vs. nine interceptions in ten starts, while Leftwich had seven touchdowns and five interceptions in six games. Project that out to sixteen games, and Leftwich would have 19 touchdowns vs. 13 interceptions while Garrard would have 16 touchdowns vs. 14 interceptions. Garrard gets sacked at a higher rate than Leftwich, even though his mobility is supposed to give him an advantage. Garrard does have a better completion percentage than Leftwich, but not by much (60 vs. 59). In my book, thatís a push, and you shouldnít bench your starting quarterback for someone who will give you the same results. Nice job, coach. Now your starter will undoubtedly want out, leaving you with Garrard. And Garrard is a backup quarterback, nothing more. If he was that good, heíd have supplanted Leftwich earlier or would have gotten a deal somewhere else to start.
Runner Up: Trent Green getting his job back from Damon Huard Ė Yes, I know Green was the starting quarterback and youíre not supposed to lose your job to injury, but Huard was hot at the time and Green never quite got things working right after he returned. He had seven touchdowns and eight interceptions after coming back, and four of those touchdowns all came in one game against an awful Browns team. So Green was pretty awful most of the time he was in there. Huard, on the other hand, had eleven touchdowns to one interception during his entire run as the starter. Next time stick with whatís working, Herm.
Biggest Fraud: Miami
The Dolphins finished strong last year, winning six games late in the season to finish 9-7 and just barely miss the playoffs. This prompted a lot of people to pick them as the fresh new team for 2006 that was going to crash the playoff party, some going as far as to say they would take their division and go to the Super Bowl. Nick Saban was anointed as the next coaching genius, and once the team brought in Daunte Culpepper, their ticket to the Super Bowl was as good as punched. Well, a few things went wrong. Culpepper stank up the joint until he got shut down for the season and Ricky Williams decided heíd rather walk the earth like Kane from Kung Fu than play football. And the schedule turned out to be lot harder than the creampuffs that the Fish ran over during their late season flourish in 2005. Put all that together and you get a 1-6 start that ended the season before it could get started. Next time around, donít let the experts trick you into believing the hype. Miami was a joke that should have never been picked to finish that high.
Runner Up: Arizona. For the second or third year in a row, people picked them to make some noise because of their potential on offense. And for the second or third year in a row, they failed. And to boot, we still hear more about Matt Leinartís celebrity hookups than about anything he does on the field. Maybe next year, huh?
Worst Super Bowl Prediction: Sports Illustrated picks Miami vs. Carolina
Miami finished the season 6-10 now while Carolina ended up 8-8. Miami was out of the playoff chase for a few weeks, and Carolina failed in their last-ditch attempt to sneak in. Injuries, overrated quarterbacks and flat out inconsistency doomed both outfits this season and rendering this prediction pretty senseless by midseason. But should it have even been made in the first place? Picking Miami to get to the Super Bowl was based largely on the Dolphins hot finish to last season, picking up Daunte Culpepper to be their new starting quarterback, and the newly crowned genius of coach Nick Saban. Now two of those three legs were shaky from the start: the big finish was rung up against mostly bad teams, and Culpepper was a suspect QB coming off of a major injury. The third leg, Sabanís supposed coaching genius, was exposed over the course of the season. So the Miami pick required a whole lot of rationalization and omission of key facts. Nice job, fellas.
Most Overhyped Rookie: Reggie Bush
Donít get me wrong, Bush has been a good addition to Saints and the league in general, but there has been entirely too much hype over just how good heís been this season. His 565 yards rushing put him behind six other rookie backs (and it would likely have been seven if DeAngelo Williams hadnít missed three games during the middle of the season) and his punt return numbers arenít too hot either. Yes, he returned one for a game winning touchdown but his return average isnít even in the top ten and neither is his yardage. Heís excelled as a pass catcher out of the backfield, but thatís really it. And donít give me the Ďhe has to share carries with Deuce Mcallisterí excuse, either. Maurice Jones-Drew is the backup running back in Jacksonville and he had 941 yards (vs. 565 for Bush), three times as many hundred yard games, and more touchdowns as Bush did (Jones-Drew got fifteen while Bush had nine). Despite all of this, people were still talking up Bush as rookie of the year late in the season, which was an absolute joke. He wasnít the best rookie back, nor was he the best rookie return man (Jones-Drew and Laurence Maroney have him beat there as well). Iím not calling him a bust, because heís far from that. But he shouldnít have been in the running for the award the Vince Young walked away with.
Runner Up: Jay Cutler. Yes, he did well for a rookie when he got a chance to start, but leading up to the draft it seemed that everyone outside of Mel Kiper had suddenly fallen in love with Cutler to the point where they were saying pick him ahead of both Matt Leinart and Vince Young. Young proved that to be a joke once they all got to take the field.
Best Decision to Leave: Bill Cowher
Cowher made the right choice. Heís been grinding for 15 years, and has got to be burned out in a major way. You throw in the need to spend at least some time with the family, and it makes perfect sense. Fifteen years is forever to be coaching one team, and Cowher has really done all he can with the Steelers. They werenít poised a run like the Patriots, so there wasnít any real need to stick around and keep things going. Cowher endured years where his head was called for after missing the playoffs, and also had to forge winning teams with the likes of Kordell Stewart and Jim Miller at quarterback, which he was able to do. Heís got his ring, so nobody can call him a choker anymore, so now he can go home, rest up for a year or two then come back for some huge cash. Good move all the way, Bill.
Endeavor that I hope just dries up and goes away: The NFL Network
Let me get this out of the way now: most of the programming on this thing sucks. Yes, the game replays without all the breaks TV timeouts, etc., is a good thing, but thereís no other reason to watch this crap. The NFL Network is basically an attempt to eventually cut out the television networks from broadcasting NFL games and bring the entire production completely in house so the league can control it all. And itís a bad idea, if you ask me. The network has zero journalistic credibility because itís an arm of the league itself, and never will. Yes, ESPN, FOX, and CBS are beholden to the league and canít shovel but so much dirt around (or make shows like Playmakers), but they can at least do some real reporting about things like coach-player drama and provide some real commentary about how stupid some league rules or ideas are. You will never get a real degree of that from a network owned and operated by the league. As much as I bash ESPN, Iíll be the first to admit that most of their coverage (minus things like Michael Irvin and Sean Salisbury) is really good and informative. You wonít get that from a 24 hour lovefest like the NFL Network is going to bring you. Well, hopefully we wonít have to worry about losing all NFL games to a cable network or anything like that. In a great article on ESPN.com, Gregg Easterbrook broke down a lot of the financial dynamics of broadcasting football and explained how bringing the whole thing in house wonít be the license to print money that some of the league owners believe it will be. Hereís to the hope that the owners will come to their senses and bag this thing soon.
Player I hope to see stick around: Jason Campbell
Hereís my homer pick. Campbell showed some real promise when finally got a chance to play, and Iím hoping that the Redskins give the guy a chance to develop and teach him properly so he can fulfill the potential heís shown. We need as many good young quarterbacks as we can get in the league, and he can definitely be one.
Well, thatís it for the 2006-07 Bonnette NFL Awards. Check back next year to see just what trophy Brady Quinn and Troy Smith qualify for.