Offensive Player of the Year: End game
Offensive Player of the Year: End game
Editor’s Note: As the NFL releases its major awards this week we’ll re-run our choices for comparison’s sake. This originally ran Jan. 7.
While the individual level of quarterback play hasn’t quite hit the heights of Philip Rivers, et al. in 2009, the sheer quantity of quality quarterback play this year has been staggering.
Whatever type of quarterback tickles your fancy, there’s been something for you. We’ve seen the electric, walking highlight reel in Michael Vick. The cool-as-ice Matt Ryan converting clutch third downs and leading fourth-quarter comebacks. The impeccable Tom Brady redefining the notion of mistake-free football. Then you throw in the usual guys carrying their teams (yes, we’re looking at you, Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees) and you understand why our final list for Offensive Player of the Year has more than a proportionate share of quarterbacks.
But it was almost stolen away by a running back whose greatness was only limited by his coach’s decision to keep him fresh.
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (+57.0)
He wound up fourth in our non-normalized QB rankings, in large part due to missing time, but you can’t ignore just how impressive Rodgers has been for the Packers. Time and time again he’s overcome protection issues and a lack of a running game to carry the Pack into the playoffs.
2. Jamaal Charles, HB, Kansas City Chiefs (+25.9)
It wasn’t a surprise to see Charles play so well after his break out at the end of 2009. Scary to think what he could be capable of if given more carries (and there’s nothing to suggest he couldn’t handle the workload). His 6.3 yard per carry is amazing, but it’s almost impressive that almost half of his yards (714) came after contact.
3. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers (+58.4)
In the end it was asking too much of Rivers to play with some inconsistent protection and a team that just had the knack for making the wrong play. It didn’t stop him making play after play, but the Chargers season proved there’s a limit to how much you can ask of a QB. One note — his receivers might have been no-names for the majority of the season, but they also played great football. The Chargers’ collective pass catchers were easily the highest graded of any team.
4. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (+61.3)
He threw for less yardage than the other top quarterbacks, but the way Ryan runs that Atlanta offense is a joy to behold. Furthermore, I don’t think there’s a QB on third down I’d want to make a tough throw into tight coverage more than Matty Ice. He made that a staple of the Falcons offense.
5. Brandon Lloyd, WR, Denver Broncos (+24.1)
Who saw this coming? Lloyd didn’t just put up good stats, he made plays. And more plays, and more plays. That’s why he led the league in yards despite seeing less snaps than most of his rivals, and why he finished with an 18.8 yard per catch average. And this despite some comparatively ordinary play from the Denver QBs.
6. Carl Nicks, LG, New Orleans Saints (+26.2)
While the plaudits for Jahri Evans are a year late (and no longer relevant), Nicks has gone about establishing himself as the league’s best guard. When there’s a big run for the Saints, Nicks is normally involved.
7. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts (+60.0)
It wasn’t his greatest year, but time and time again Manning overcame his own struggles (and a lack of talent around him) to push the Colts into the playoffs even when it looked improbable. His most impressive achievement yet?
8. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (+55.0)
Too many interceptions blighted his year for sure, but if you don’t focus too intently on that you’ll see Brees taking more on his shoulders this year. In my mind the most dangerous quarterback to watch out for in the playoffs.
9. Peyton Hillis, HB, Cleveland Browns (+21.5)
Hillis wasn’t the pure runner of some of the other backs, but when you factor in his all-around game, he’s as complete a back as there it is. Pass blocks enthusiastically and a real danger to run through, around or over you when he get the ball in his hands.
10. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (+25.8)
Led the league in yards and once again our top ranked run blocking tight end. Could you ask for more? The perfect balance at the tight end spot, and so capable it always surprises he doesn’t get more credit. How many times have I written that Witten isn’t just the prototypical tight end, but what all tight ends should aspire to be?
In the Discussion: Tom Brady (Patriots), Michael Vick (Eagles), Adrian Peterson (Vikings) and Matt Birk (Baltimore Ravens)