Doug Baker’s 2008 NFL Awards

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Jim Mone/AP

Instead of having separate articles on my award winners for this year I thought I’d put them in one in article. So here goes for the definitive 2008 NFL Awards.

NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year:
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson led the league in rushing with 1,760 yards and single handedly saved the Vikings in a few games this season. Without Peterson the Vikings are not in the playoffs and are at best an average team on offense. The necessity of focusing on Peterson in the running game allows the average quarterbacks of the Vikings to have some success in the passing game. And even when defenses do focus on Peterson he still gashes teams in the running game. He has been the most impressive and consistent offensive performer this year.

I know that Peyton Manning won the NFL MVP Award this year, and I think he is deserving of it. For me it was almost a coin flip between these players for the MVP Award but I lean toward Peterson because he has been more consistently good all season long.

I don’t always necessarily give the NFL MVP Award and the Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year Award to the same person but this year I am.

Other nominees for NFL MVP were:

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Matt Cassel, QB, New England Patriots
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Defensive Player of the Year:
James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

James Harrison has been a one man wrecking crew at linebacker for the #1 defense in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He makes the entire defense better, which is scary when you consider the Steelers also have the best strong safety in the league in Troy Polamalu. Ed Reed comes in a close second.

Other nominees included:

Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens
Kris Jenkins, DT, New York Jets
Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans
Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants
Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings
John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons
DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

There are numerous excellent rookie running backs this year, with Tennessee’s Chris Johnson and Chicago’s Matt Forte standing out. And of course you also have the excellent rookie QB for Baltimore, Joe Flacco. The crop of offensive rookie players this year is outstanding and choosing just one for Offensive Rookie of the Year is very difficult.

I am going with Matt Ryan because he came to a team in complete and total disarray and helped turn the franchise around with his solid play at QB and cool demeanor. The quarterback position in the modern NFL is clearly the most important position on the field. Any team, but especially a young team in disarray like the Falcons, needs a solid building block at quarterback. Ryan has provided that building block, along with RB Michael Turner and WR Roddy White. And let’s not forget first year head coach Mike Smith.

Other nominees included:

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Ryan Clady, LT, Denver Broncos
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
Eddie Royal, WR, Denver Broncos

Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Jerrod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots

If there was a bright spot on the defensive side of the ball this year for the New England Patriots it was the play of Jerrod Mayo at linebacker. I doubt Bill Belichick has ever started a rookie linebacker as head coach, usually preferring veterans. Mayo was nearly the unanimous choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press, which doesn’t sway my opinion, but gives you an idea of how highly regarded he is around the league.

Other nominees included:

Keith Rivers, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
Chris Horton, FS, Washington Redskins

Coach of the Year:
Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons.

Mike Smith turned a seemingly moribund, dysfunctional franchise around with the help of outstanding rookie QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, and a stout defense. Smith had a huge task ahead of him with he took over the Falcons in the wake of the Michael Vick disaster and the cowardly actions of last year’s coach, Bobby Petrino. He had to make the players believe in him and themselves to turn this franchise around. And the Falcons did turn it around and the future looks bright instead of bleak.

Other nominees included:

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens. Another rookie coach with a rookie QB, Joe Flacco turned a losing team into a winner

Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans. The gutsy move to bench Vince Young in favor of Kerry Collins and getting a home field advantage throughout the playoffs should give Fisher consideration for the award.

Tony Soprano, Miami Dolphins. Soprano and his boss, Bill Parcells, engineered a remarkable turnaround by the Dolphins this year.

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots. Belichick took an injury ravaged team to an 11-5 record, just missing the playoffs. Most teams would have folded given the injuries they suffered this year.

Comeback Player of the Year:
Chad Pennington, QB, Miami Dolphins

To me there really isn’t a “comeback” player of the year. Usually this goes to a player who has been injured and comes back and plays well, like Garrison Hearst (broken ankle), or a Tedy Bruschi (stroke). But if there is a comeback player of the year it’s Chad Pennington. He’s overcome shoulder problems, questions about his arm strength, and being jettisoned by the Jets to lead the Dolphins in one of the most amazing turnaround in NFL history, going from 1-15 to 11-5 and AFC East Champions.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year:
Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns were supposed to be an offensive juggernaut this year with Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Jamal Lewis. Instead, Anderson played terribly at quarterback. Edwards seemingly dropped every pass that came his way. Winslow got hurt and became a distraction to the team with his usual whining and complaining. The only staple on the offense was Lewis. As a result, head coach Romeo Crennel is fired.

The second place finish for this award was the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees had a great year but the team didn’t win many games.

Trend of the Year:
The “Wildcat Formation”

Almost every year some type of trend emerges in the NFL. Some trends stick around for a while, like using two running backs instead of one to carry rushing workload. Others pass away quietly, like the run and shoot offense.

This year Miami lined up running back Ronnie Brown at QB and used him as dual threat to run or pass, which was quite effective early in the season. Given this is a copycat league, of course other teams followed suit with their own variations, some more successfully than others. It’s not really that novel of a concept. Pittsburgh used to run similar offensive sets with backup quarterback Kordell Stewart to capitalize on his speed and quickness.

It appears that defenses mostly caught up to this scheme by the end of the year. I still think teams will run this offense in the future, but maybe not quite as often as the Dolphins did this year.

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2 thoughts on “Doug Baker’s 2008 NFL Awards

  1. Good stuff, agree with most of what you had to say. I would put Jacksonville in the mix for most disappointing team along with the teams that you mentioned simply because the Jaguars made a run toward the end of last year, but it’s hard to argue against the Browns being a big disappointment as well.

  2. Good point, the Jaguars do belong in the running for most disappointing. They took a total nose dive this year after playing well in the playoffs last year. People expected them to at least be competitive and make the playoffs again.

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