The 2011 regular season is in the books and it is now time for regular season awards and All-Pro teams. There were some tough calls that had to be made, but ultimately these are the players most deserving (in my view).
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers was the best player on the planet for most of the season. He had a 122.5 passer rating for the season. 45 TD and only 6 INT. Three things that separated him from Drew Brees: head to head in Week 1 Rodgers’ Packers beat Brees’ Saints 42-34, Rodgers had 0 multiple interception games Brees had 5, and simply put Rodgers was the best player on the best team in football over the course of the whole season whereas Brees was the best player on the best team over the last 2 months of the season.
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
In almost any other year Brees would have been the MVP also. Brees was the best player in the NFL over the last 2 months of the season. He set records for completion percentage (71.2%), and passing yardage (5,476). He had a 110.6 quarterback rating for the season. The Saints averaged 34.2 points per game, second to Green Bay. Brees deserves some credit for the historic season he had, and this OPOY award recognizes him for that.
Defensive Player of the Year: Terrell Suggs, DE/OLB, Baltimore Ravens
This was another tough call to make. Suggs was ultimately the choice not because of historic numbers (70 tackles, 14 sacks, 7 fourced fumbles, 2 INT), but because of his play in the two biggest games Baltimore played this season. Everyone knew how much emphasis the Ravens put on winning the division and getting home-field in the playoffs. The Ravens achieved those goals in part by defeating Steelers twice this season. In those two games Suggs had 6 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 fourced fumbles, and 1 interception. That’s why Suggs gets the nod here.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton lived up to and even exceeded some people’s expectations for his first season. Newton set the record for passing yards by a rookie (4,051). He had 35 total touchdowns (21 passing, 14 rushing). The 14 rushing touchdowns were the most ever by a quarterback in a single season. He had the most impact of any rookie. Although Andy Dalton led the Bengals to the playoffs, Newton’s numbers and overall impact were greater.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aldon Smith, DE, San Francisco 49ers
The rookie from Missouri won this award, in my opinion, on Monday Night Football against the Steelers on December 19. He had 2.5 sacks and harassed Ben Roethlisberger all night long (even through two power outages). He was tied for fifth in the league with 14 sacks on the season, and is a big reason the 49ers defense was so good this season. Von Miller’s injured wrist contributed to his play falling off the last month of the season. That, along with Smith’s performance against the 49ers, cost him this award.
Coach of the year: Jim Harbough, San Francisco 49ers
Meeting most of your players for the first time 7 weeks before the season is a daunting task. Pat Shurmur (4-12), John Fox (8-8), Mike Munchak (9-7), and Ron Rivera (6-10) all had the same task. None of them did it better than Harbough. He turned Alex Smith into a solid NFL quarterback leading a 13-3 team. The 49ers clinched the division before Thanksgiving. Their defense was dominant all season long. They lost three games by a total of 15 points. This should be a unanimous selection as I can’t think of anybody else coming close to the job Harbough did with this team.
Comeback Player of the Year: D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Cleveland Browns
Jackson missed all of the 2010 season and 10 games in the 2009 season due to a torn pectoral muscle. He rebounded this season. He finished second in the NFL with 158 tackles and had 3.5 sacks. He was the best player on a solid defense. He looks like he is the same player who led the NFL in tackles back in 2008. Jackson is a feel-good story who proved he should get a long-term commitment from the Browns.
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
RB: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles/ Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
TE: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots/Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
WR: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions/ Wes Welker, New England Patriots/Victor Cruz, New York Giants
LT: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
LG: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles
C: Chris Myers, Houston Texans
RG: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
RT: T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers
DE: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens/Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
DT: Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers/Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
OLB: Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers/NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers
MLB: Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs
CB: Darelle Revis, New York Jets/Carlos Rogers, San Francisco 49ers
FS: Dashon Goldson, San Francisco 49ers
SS: Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks
P: Andy Lee, San Francisco 49ers
K: Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
KR: Devin Hester, Chicago Bears
PR: Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
Jason King is a contributing writer for Taking it to the House. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.