It’s about that time when everyone is handing out mid-season awards in the NFL. It’s a good way to spend some time, but it’s never a big secret which players are having great years. There aren’t any football fans out there reading ESPN.com, and saying, “Who’s this Arian Foster guy?” And, doesn’t it get a little tiring seeing Peyton Manning and Tom Brady atop the MVP standings? We know they are good quarterbacks, but are they MVPs every season? Manning didn’t look like an MVP against the Eagles. He looked like a great quarterback who throws the ball every play, because the Colts don’t really have a choice.
So, I’m not going to hand out awards, but instead will present you with decisions. This is in honor of the NHL All-Star Game, which announced they will shift to a format where two captains pick the teams. I give them credit for shaking things up, and making one of the best 50 hockey players in the world feel like the kid no one wanted in gym class. So, I’ll give you two options, inspired by one of the major football awards, and you make the call. It’s a little bit of a, who’d you rather? Time to make some tough decisions.
This is an award that always made no sense to me. A guy comes in, turns a team around and wins the award. He could do an even better job the following year, but if he only improves by one-win, he’s not even in the discussion. This award should be, “Coach of the team we’re surprised wasn’t terrible.” Take your pick:
Steve Spagnuolo vs. Todd Haley.
Here are two young head coaches. Both of their teams are exceeding expectations this year. Haley looked like a bust last season, but suddenly has turned the Chiefs into AFC West contenders. The Rams are atop the NFC West and riding the unexpected solid play of Sam Bradford. Haley is an offensive guy, Spagnuolo a defensive coach. Which one of these guys is building a real contender and which is having one decent year in a very weak division?
I think an award for a defensive player is one the fans are least qualified to make a judgment on. How many plays a game do you notice a guy on defense? You might watch a guy get two sacks and think he’s an animal, but the other 60 plays he could have gotten completely blown up. If you were taking a young defensive player, which way would you go?
Ndamukong Suh vs. Clay Matthews
Suh will probably be the defensive rookie of the year and Clay Matthews has the inside track to be named the best defensive player in all of football. Having seen several Packers games this season, Matthews’ work has been remarkable. His impact on the Packers defense is plain as day, even to the untrained eye. Suh has made his presence felt as well, but not in such spectacular and stat sheet stuffing fashion. Linebacker vs. an anchor for the D-Line. Big Play maker vs. a guy who might make your whole defense better for a decade. Which way would you go?
Video Game Quarterbacks:
So, if we were picking quarterbacks everyone would probably say, “Manning/Brady/Brees,” in some order. And, even though Brees is having a slightly off-year it is tough to argue about that. But, that leaves 29 teams without a QB, and there are a couple of guys this year who are putting up some gaudy numbers. Two guys with skills that translate great to a video game, but aren’t necessarily Super Bowl quarterbacks yet….
Michael Vick vs. Philip Rivers.
Before this season it would have been pointless to have this discussion. Despite numerous playoff flameouts, no one in their right mind would take Michael Vick over Philip Rivers, but things change pretty quickly in the NFL. This season Michael Vick is playing a brand of quarterback that is completely unique. Rivers is piling up historic stats, but Vick is looking like the hardest guy to game plan for in the entire league. Traditional pocket passer vs. the great Improviser. Perfectly good arm vs. An absolute cannon. Who are you taking?
Young Offensive Stud:
It’s a nice feeling watching an offensive game-changer emerge before your eyes. In Philadelphia the fans got to see it happen last year when DeSean Jackson was running off long TD after long TD. There are skills that set these guys apart. Unique speed, power, extraordinary athleticism, they stand out. It’s obvious. Here are two guys that didn’t come from nowhere, but have taken over the spotlight in 2010 in a big way.
Arian Foster vs. Hakeem Nicks
Nicks went from a very solid rookie campaign last season to a touchdown scoring machine so far in 2010. He’s on pace for huge numbers. Easily over 1,000 yards, could top 15 TD catches, for a 22-year old receiver, that’s amazing production. Arian Foster emerged out of a cloudy running back picture in Houston. It was only a couple of years ago that the Texans thought they had a back in Steve Slaton. He fizzled, and Foster emerged as an undrafted free agent. After some limited duty in 2009, he burst onto the scene opening day against the Colts, and has had a series of huge games since. So, it’s Nicks with his first round pedigree playing the position with a longer shelf life against Foster who plays at a much bigger impact position, but you risk the short career or flash in the pan status, which way would you go?
Pick Your Poison:
Sure, it is easy and fun to pick between two great players or two exciting players, but what if you had a real nice team in place, but needed to cap it off with a quarterback and you didn’t have one of the first five or ten picks? What if you had to pluck a QB from the 2nd tier and try to win with him? Here are two guys that perennially make the list for the NFL’s most overrated, but if you had no other choice, which way are you going?
Romo vs. Manning (Eli Variety).
Seeing as I loathe both the Cowboys and the Giants, this would be the kind of choice that would make me a soccer fan. It’s an interesting case to look at, though, because I think it is a good reflection of what you value in a player. Romo looks good on the showroom floor, but his record in big games in shockingly bad. This year, with the Cowboys crumbling around him, he was powerless to do anything. Eli on the other hand has won a Super Bowl, but aside from that one-year run he doesn’t have good post-season numbers, either. The Giants are 6-2 this year, though, and Eli’s measurable numbers are on pace to be as high as they ever have been. Is he on the rise, or are the Giants exploiting a soft schedule? Manning Face vs. Romo Face, who’d you rather?
Ok, that’s the list. Feel free to add names, propose your own scenarios, whatever you’d like. For the record, I’d take Spagnuolo, Suh, Vick, Nicks and with much reluctance…Eli.