Another NFL regular season is in the books (well, for the most part, depending on when you read this), which means it’s time to hand out some fake awards. Winners are given all of the false glory and artificial bragging rights associated with awards of this magnitude. Here are the winners of 2012…
Most Valuable Player: Adrian Peterson Minnesota – Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were phenomenal this season, and Aaron Rodgers was a deserving candidate as well. But Peterson carried the Vikings – a team that won three games last season – into the playoffs despite being his team’s only healthy offensive weapon. Peterson had his best season – finishing just nine yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing yardage record – even with defenses keying on him every week. On top of all that, he’s just one year removed from a torn ACL.
Offensive Player of the Year: Peterson – Again, many quarterbacks could qualify for this, but Peterson is head and shoulders and 500 or so rushing yards above every other running back in the league. He had one of the all time great rushing seasons in league history.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt – five-technique defensive ends aren’t supposed to have the kind of impact that Watt had in 2012. With 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and an incredible 16 batted passes, Watt was the Defensive Player of the year wire-to-wire.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck Indianapolis – Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have both been terrific, but Luck helped take the Colts from two wins, to 11 wins and a playoff berth in his first season. Luck gets bonus points for being part of the biggest jump in team win total.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Casey Hayward Green Bay – One of the most consistent rookie defenders in the league, Hayward proved to be an effective cover man, and led all rookies in interceptions and pass breakups.
Coach of the year: Bruce Arians Indianapolis – Arians’ first taste of NFL head coaching came about due to extremely unfortunate circumstances, and he helped lead the Colts to one of the best turnarounds in league history. As an interim, Arians took over a 1-1 team, went 9-3 and steered his players through choppy waters and into the playoffs.
Assistant Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan Washington – Shanahan used a potent running attack led by rookies Alfred Morris and Griffin to set up a lethal downfield, play-action passing attack. When Griffin missed a game with a concussion, Shanahan stayed consistent and didn’t alter his tactics for his other rookie QB, Kirk Cousins. It became clear that both quarterbacks had been well schooled in the offense and that the team could put itself in position to win either way.
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning Denver – This time last year, many people thought Manning would retire. At the very least, few expected him to be his old self after missing an entire season and having four neck surgeries. But as the season wore on, Manning was as good as ever, finishing with the second highest passing yardage and touchdown totals of his career, and helping Denver cruise to an AFC West title.
Most Improved Player: Cecil Shorts Jacksonville – Lots of great candidates here, including Watt, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. But since 2010, Shorts has gone from Division III Mount Union, to two receptions as a rookie, to nearly 1000 receiving yards, seven touchdowns and a 17.8-yards per catch average this season. He did all of that while catching passes from Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Add a consistent quarterback to the mix and Shorts might really take off.
Least Valuable Player: John Skelton/Ryan Lindley Arizona – This would be a good place to make a Tim Tebow joke, or take a shot at Mark Sanchez, but Arizona crumbled after Kevin Kolb went down for the season. Kolb threw eight touchdown passes and three interceptions, while Skelton and Lindley combined for two TDs and 16 INTs on the season, and limited All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald more than any defensive back ever could. Things eventually got so bad that the Cardinals turned to Brian Hoyer, a player they claimed off waivers three weeks ago, to start their final game.