Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson chased records that were thought to be untouchable. Johnson broke Jerry Rice's record of most yards in a season with 1964. And Adrian Peterson fell 8 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record of 2105 yards.
When it came to my pre-season predictions I was right about how the Detroit Lions would slip up this season, but I was terribly wrong in thinking that the Vikings and Broncos would both have disappointing seasons and be shells of what an NFL franchise should look like.
Before the playoffs get started I've got to give credit and insult where it's due. So here go my award winners for the season:
MVP: Adrian Peterson - I scoff at the those who say Peyton Manning should be MVP this season. I won't take anything from the terrific season he had but he inherited a team that made it to the second round of the playoffs last season. . . with Tim Tebow at quarterback. And although I did think in the pre-season the Broncos would be all hype and no show - they proved that last year was no fluke. With that being said, Adrian Peterson played for and carried a Vikings team which nobody picked to do anything this year. 2097 yards is what Peterson finished with for the year, which is nearly 700 yards less than what his quarterback Christian Ponder threw for this year. Early in the season the Vikings had Percy Harvin almost playing at an MVP level but when he went down, so did Ponder's productivity - even then with teams stacking 8 in the box against the run, A.P. ran like a man possessed. Without him the Vikings do absolutely nothing and everyone knows it.
Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck - Let me start off by saying I had Alfred Morris and NOT Russel Wilson or RG3 in as the runner up and I'll explain why. Not taking away anything from Wilson or RG3 - but Wilson had a beast at running back with Marshawn Lynch, a talented group of wideouts and one of the best defenses in the league to help him out. RG3, who after one year seemed to swipe the "most exciting player to watch in the league" title from Cam Newton - was a straight up nightmare for defenses - but a big part of that is because while he ran the zone-read-pistol style offense, it wasn't just RG3's ability to run that scared defenses, it was the ability and power possessed by Alfred Morris as well. Alfred Morris came out of nowhere to add validity to the play action pass and was a huge red zone threat who opened up things for RG3. But anyhow, I digress. Where Peyton Manning inherited a playoff team, Andrew Luck inherited a Colts team that was 2-14 last season and looked like they didn't have a clue what to do on a football field. Andrew Luck stepped into the shadow of a legend and showed the Colts the light by leading them into the playoffs. And not sneaking in either. The Colts made it as the #5 seed in the AFC and finished the regular season with a 11-5 record. Besides breaking the rookie record for passing yards in a season - he also had 4 fourth quarter comebacks and 7 game winning drives. He showed poise and leadership that many acquire over time and also showed the Colts fans that owner Jim Irsay actually does know what he's doing.
Coach of the Year: Mike Shanahan - Although much credit should go to his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, it's Mike who put the staff together so he gets the credit here. Bruce Arians will probably win the real Coach of the Year award and deservedly so - but Mike Shanahan (and Kyle) put together an offense which many thought couldn't be run with success in the NFL. They designed a college style offense, tailored to the abilities and know-how of their rookie quarterback RG3. And even when RG3 had to sit out a game due to injury, Shanahan was able to design a game-plan in a week's time for rookie back up quarterback Kirk Cousins to deliver a win. Shanahan has been around for awhile and by the looks of it, he looks like he's going to hang around a little while longer - and success will surely follow.
Loser of the Year: Jim Schwartz - Although i knew the Lions would take a step back this season, the truth is they really shouldn't have. This isn't the same Lions team that was run by Matt Millen - it's a Lions team that has built itself and offense and defense through the draft and looked ready to make moves with a young and confident roster. But all this roster seems to do is embody the brash and at times overly-cocky persona of their head coach. The lack of discipline is shown week after week, he can't seem to get through to Ndamukong Suh the difference between playing "tough" and playing "dirty"- and totaling over 130 penalties in the season proves the lack of focus or discipline is something that was never seriously addressed. I doubt he'll get fired this year, but wouldn't be surprised if he did. Matt Stafford took a step back this season (even with Calvin Johnson's monster year) and all season long the Lions were prone to giving up leads no matter how large they were or how far into the game they were. The Lions are too talented of a team to be a doormat in this league.
Defensive Player of the Year: Charles Tillman - Has anyone mastered "the strip" better than Tillman in the NFL? Tillman this season forced 10 fumbles, had two fumble recoveries and had three interceptions which were all returned for touchdowns. Tillman has been one of the more over-looked players in the league for years. He's one of the more physical corners in the league who doesn't shy away from contact and has no problem lining up against "number one" wideouts on opposing teams. Calvin Johnson even struggled against Tillman twice this year only posting up 34 yards in an October meeting between the Bears and Lions and being held to 72 yards in the final week of the season.
Please Trade Me Award: Larry Fitzgerald - It's really a travesty to see what the Arizona Cardinals did to Fitz. Fitzgerald is probably the most talented receiver in the league and because of the quarterback play (or lack thereof) from John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer combined - his streak of 1000 yard seasons ended. Fitzgerald finished with 785 yards and 4 touchdowns on the year. I kind of wish he wasn't the kind of gentleman he appears to be and would just yell at coordinators and quarterbacks to express his frustrations, but he's a class act who doesn't retort to those kind of actions - which makes him the easiest person to feel bad for this season.