Doug Baker’s 2009 NFL Midseason Awards

Now it’s time for me to present the midseason awards. I am sure every player has been anxiously waiting to see if they end up on my list and where.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

I know there will be a lot of grousing and second guessing from my distinguished fellow football fans on this one. I’ve already heard carping about my picking Manning over Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints, as Offensive Player of the Year on my Midseason All Pro Team. But really, you could flip a coin between the two for this award. They are both having great seasons.

My main reason for choosing Manning is I think he has had a slightly better season and has lead a slightly less talented team than the Saints to a 6-0 record. Brees has chunked up some interceptions and almost lost against the Dolphins. While Manning struggled a bit against the 49’ers last week, his game against Miami scoring 27 points with less than 15 minutes of possession left me a little mesmerized.

Drew Brees and Chris Johnson were in the running.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Right now Jared Allen is the best defensive player in the league and is absolutely a beast. He’s almost unblockable one-on-one and sometimes even when he is double or tripled teamed. He has a motor that never stops and he never quits on a play. He has owned Green Bay this year as much as Brett Favre has.

Other players in the running included Darren Sharper, FS, New Orleans Saints who leads the league in interceptions on a much improved Saints offense.

Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Denver Broncos leads the AFC in sacks with 10 and has been a key reason, along with SS Brian Dawkins, for Denver’s turnaround on defense.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets

While he walks, talks, acts, and plays like a rookie at times, Sanchez has had a decent rookie season at quarterback, the most difficult and important position in professional football.

I will also call out Percy Harvin, KR/WR, Minnesota Vikings for making an impact on his team, especially in the return game and Michael Oher, RT, Baltimore Ravens, who has had an excellent rookie season on the line of scrimmage. (Note there is a made for TV movie about Michael Oher’s story coming out soon).

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills

Byrd has been a turnover machine the past few weeks and has made a clear impact for the Bills on the defensive side of the ball. It makes me feel like the Patriots picked the wrong Oregon defensive back in Patrick Chung.

The only other player considered for this illustrious midseason honor was Brian Cushing, the USC linebacker now playing for the Houston Texans who leads all rookies in tackles.


Brett Favre Throws Pass Against Green Bay

LEAGUE MVP: Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings

I have to admit I have been rather sick of the Brett Favre retirement saga but what to say? He is the main difference personnel wise on the talented Vikings team and has completely turned this team into an elite squad. The difference he has made can be seen not only in their 7-1 record but the players’ attitudes on and off the field. Only time will tell if he can keep it up. And this is clear evidence of how important the quarterback position is in today’s NFL.

HEAD COACH: Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos

I was one of those piling on the abuse of both Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler in the seemingly chaotic offseason the Denver Broncos had. So far McDaniels has had the last laugh, completely turning around the Broncos into, at this stage, one of the elite teams in the league. And he’s done it with Kyle Orton as quarterback instead of Jay Cutler. Meanwhile the Bears are struggling with Cutler at the helm. Go figure!

COMEBACK PLAYER: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

After suffering a season ending ACL injury last year, Brady has come back and played well this year. While he might not look like the Brady of old quite yet, he certainly is progressing in that direction as the season unfolds.


The Broncos were basically a mediocre to even poor team by the end of last season and their defense was one of the worst in the league. This year they have started out 6-1 and have an efficient offense that can score and one of the best defenses in the league. After the chaotic offseason where the team seemed in disarray I thought the Broncos would be lucky to have an 8-8 record this year. I guess I have been proven wrong and I am certainly surprised.


How does a team go from Super Bowl contender to one of the worst teams in the league so quickly? I know the Titans have suffered injuries and lost players but that still does not explain the complete collapse of the team. Worse yet, the players look like they quit in some games. And what is really shocking is this is a Jeff Fisher coached team, one of the most respected coaches in the league. If the Titans think Vince Young is going to lead them out of this slump they are in for a huge disappointment.

GOAT: Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers

Jake Delhomme picked up right where he left off last year, where he threw five interceptions in an atrocious performance in the playoffs. He has already thrown 13 interceptions in the first seven games of the season and is playing so poorly that I do not understand why the Panthers are so reluctant to start Matt Moore. Jake Delhomme has obviously seen his better days so if Matt Moore is not the future of the franchise, the Panthers better start finding somebody who is.

PUNK: Larry Johnson, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Larry Johnson has a history of abusing women which makes him a super punk. This year he is once again showing what a punk he is by trashing his coach and using gay slurs in public, leading to a suspension. He has wanted out of Kansas City for a few years now so maybe this is just a ploy to accomplish that. But who would want a washed up, bad attitude running back who is a me first player who doesn’t care about his team or his teammates? Maybe the Raiders.

Others in the running are Roy Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys, who is pulling a TO and punking his QB Tony Romo. When will Dallas ever find a top flight receiver who is not a me first player who cares more about winning games than piling up statistics?

Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins, also was considered for calling out his offensive line and causing trouble in the locker room with fullback Mike Sellers. This is the second or maybe even third season in a row Portis has publically criticized his teammates and offensive line. While part of his complaints are true, maybe he also needs to look in the mirror.

Jerry Porter is a loudmouth punk. I can’t stand him. Shut up already.

Doug Baker’s 2009 NFL Midseason All Pro Team: Offense

It’s the middle of the 2009 NFL football season and time to make my midseason NFL All Pro selection.  As always, some players on this list might not make the cut by the end of the season, and some players who have been injured and did not make it this time around may end up on the team at the end of the year.

The top players on the list are the starters and the second players are backups.


QB:  Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

QB:  Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

With all due respect to Drew Brees, Peyton Manning has been playing otherworldly this year and has been the best offensive player through the first half of the season.  I have seen some pretty amazing performances by Manning but nothing that tops the 27 points the Colts put up against Miami while only possessing the ball for 14 minutes.

Drew Brees of course has also had a superlative year in one of the most talent rich and versatile offenses in the league.

No wonder the Colts and Saints and undefeated.

RB:  Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

RB:  Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

Adrian Peterson doesn’t have to take the entire offense on his shoulders anymore and it’s paying dividends for the Minnesota Vikings.  Many defensive players have said Peterson is the most violent runner in football.  His vision, patience, power, and will to win are impressive.

Chris Johnson is having no sophomore slump at the running back position, despite playing on one of the worst teams in the league.  He leads the league in rushing after Week 8 and put up 228 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He is probably the fastest running back in the league and is always a threat to break off a long run.

FB:  Le’Ron McClain, Baltimore Ravens

FB:  Leonard Weaver, Philadelphia Eagles

Le’Ron McClain also plays a lot of tailback but he is listed as a fullback and often plays in that spot as well.  He is the most versatile fullback running, catching, and blocking.

Leonard Weaver is also a talented fullback and even had a huge running game against the New York Giants.

WR:  Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

WR:  Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

WR:  Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

WR:  Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints

You cannot evaluate wide receivers just by their statistics.  Players like Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald are constantly double teamed or bumped at the line of scrimmage but they open the offense up because of their great skills.  These players are always a threat to take it all the way.  And then you have players like Wes Welker who make a lot of tough catches over the middle, rack up a lot of receptions, but don’t have gaudy stats in terms of yards per catch.  These players are vitally important in today’s NFL.

So far this year I’ve been most impressed with Reggie Wayne and Larry Fitzgerald.  They are the two best receivers in the league and their understated, team first, quiet excellent makes them even more likeable as players.

The next echelon of receivers was really tough to choose but I’m going with Roddy White and Marques Colston.

Roddy White has just been phenomenal the last few weeks and has really come into his own as a big play threat for the Atlanta Falcons.  His play is even more impressive considering he does not have a very good receiver on other side of the field that anybody is threatened by (although Atlanta does have a solid running game).

Marques Colston does have a cadre of receivers that Brees can get the ball to otherwise he may be putting up gaudy stats.  Colston is a big, fast receiver with great body control and, maybe more importantly, great hands.

Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers and Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans no doubt feel snubbed by not making the cut.  These are both outstanding receivers and no doubt deserve a mention.

TE:  Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts

TE:  Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

Dallas Clark has been outstanding in the receiving area this year and continues to be one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets.  He is one of a handful of tight ends that can stretch the field and is a threat for a big play at any point in the game.

Tony Gonzalez has also played very well although his statistics don’t stack up to a few other tight ends.  But he is a key cog in the Atlanta offense.  What is most impressive about Gonzalez is he is still a great blocker both on running downs and down the field for his fellow receivers.

There are a number of good tight ends this year.  Owen Daniels of the Houston Texans (who is out for the year with an ACL injury), Brent Celek of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeremy Shockey of the New Orleans Saints, Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49’ers, Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys, and Heath Miller of the Pittsburgh Steelers all deserve mentions.

C:  Jake Grove, Miami Dolphins

C:  Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens

It’s kind of interesting when I see players that have been in the league for a while that I don’t know much about put on such consistently impressive performance.  Jake Grove, the Miami Dolphins center, is one of those players.  The interior of the Miami Dolphins offensive line has played extremely well this year, and it starts at the center position with Jake Grove.

Matt Birk has been one of the best centers for years and continues to be so.

Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts, Nick Mangold of the New York Jets, Kevin Mawae of the Tennessee Titans, and Justin Hartwig of the Pittsburgh Steelers were also considered.

G:  Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings

G:  Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints

G:   Chris Snee, New York Giants

G:  Alan Faneca, New York Jets

Offensive linemen are always tough to pick but I watch, on average, about four to five games every week and I pay more attention to the offensive line than anything else.  Dominate offensive lines, whether for a pass or run oriented team, are the key to winning in the NFL.  A good offensive line will make your offense go, and a bad one will make it fall apart, regardless of who the quarterback or running backs happen to be.

This year I have been very impressed with two guards.  Steve Hutchinson has been a mainstay on All Pro teams the past several years and this year should be no different.  He is an exceptional guard in both the running and passing game and one of the best pulling guards in the league, along with Chris Snee.

Carl Nicks of the New Orleans Saints has also been very impressive.  The Saints lost their All Pro left tackle, Jamaal Brown, for the season so he has to help out on that side of the line.  In the games I’ve seen he’s usually dominating his opponent.  The only time I have seen him beat is on poor blocking schemes by the offensive line.

Chris Snee also remains one of the best guards in the league, and may be the most athletic.  The quickness with which he pulls out on running plays is impressive.

Finally, Alan Faneca of the New York Jets remains one of the best at his position.

T:   Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos

T:   Willie Colon, Pittsburgh Steelers

T:  Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

T:  Bryant McKinnie, Minnesota Vikings

I have seen more horrible play from the tackle position this year than I can remember in the past.  What happened to those dominant left tackles like Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones (who is on injured reserve and will likely retire)?  There really aren’t any this year.  The closest is second year tackle Ryan Clady of the Denver Broncos who is shaping up to be the next Ogden or Jones.  I have also been impressed with Willie Colon of the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.

Joe Thomas is another young buck but on a bad team.  It’s a shame because he is also one of the best tackles in the league.

Bryant McKinnie is an older, reliable veteran and plays well every year, but this is the first year he’s been on my All Pro Team.

While I don’t think he is near All Pro level yet, I have been very impressed with the Baltimore Ravens rookie tackle Michael Oher.

Instead of giving kudos to other good tackles I am going to call out some jokers who I’ve seen have horrible games:

Mike Gandy, Arizona Cardinals.  Gandy has been pretty sorry the few times I have seen him this year.

Orlando Pace, Chicago Bears.  Pace used to be one of the best in the league but injuries and age have clearly hampered him.  He should have retired.

Flozell Adams, Dallas Cowboys.  Adams racks up a lot of penalties and tries to get by with holding and other dirty tactics.

Stephon Heyer, Washington Redskins.  Heyer is a pretty good run blocker to too slow off the snap to be effective as a pass blocker.  He usually gets schooled, even by middle of the road defensive ends.  It’s surprising a guy this huge is such a poor left tackle.

Jeff Baker, Atlanta Falcons.  I actually think he is pretty decent most of the time, and he’s only in his second year, but he got punked by Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints and struggles at times.

K:  Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots

K:  Ryan Longwell, Minnesota Vikings

Like last year, no kicker really stands out or had a seminal game that puts them at the top of the pecking order.  Gostkowski of the Patriots and Longwell of the Vikings have been the most consistent.

Sebastian Janikowski of the Oakland Raiders is 12-12 in field goals this year, but he has far fewer attempts than many other kickers on better teams.

Kick Returner:  Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings

There have been some great performances this year from Eddie Royal, Johnny Knox, Darren Sproles, and the injured Leon Washington, but I have been most impressed with the consistency of Percy Harvin.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER:  Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

With all due respect to Adrian Peterson and Drew Brees, Peyton Manning is playing the best football I’ve seen this year.  He has been phenomenal and has not missed a beat.  Being a New England Patriots fan, it makes me feel a little queasy and ill.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE:  Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

Sanchez has not put up the kind of performance Matt Ryan of Atlanta and Joe Flacco of Baltimore did last year as rookie quarterbacks, but he’s mostly played well, for a rookie, and is the best rookie performer on offense so far this year.


Peyton Manning Makes the Dolphins Defense Look Toothless