ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The NFL awards were announced Saturday night with little to no drama – of course Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was going to be named league MVP for an unprecedented fifth time after his historic season. Still, as one of 50 voters selected by The Associated Press, some deep thinking was required along the ballot. Following then, my picks for the awards, which, keep in mind, are based solely on regular-season performance.
Most Valuable Player – Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning
(Actual winner – Manning)
Vote breakdown – Manning 49 votes, Tom Brady 1
Let's see, he set single-season records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yardage (5,477, even if a 7-yard completion appeared to be a lateral) and he tied the single-game mark with seven TD passes. It was a regular season for the ages.
Coach of the Year – Carolina Panthers' Ron Rivera
(Actual winner – Rivera)
Vote breakdown – Rivera 21 ½ votes, Andy Reid 13 ½, Bill Belichick 7, Chip Kelly 4, Pete Carroll 2, Bruce Arians 2
On a seat so hot last offseason it appeared as though he might not return, Rivera did himself no favors with a 1-3 start this past season. Then the Panthers' defense – his forte – came together and Carolina went 12-4 and won the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Comeback Player of the Year – Washington WR Pierre Garcon
(Actual winner – San Diego Chargers' QB Philip Rivers)
Vote breakdown – Rivers 13 votes, Knowshon Moreno 8, Jason Peters 8, Darrelle Revis 6, Brent Grimes 3, Alex Smith 2, Thomas Davis 2, Garcon 2, Josh Gordon 2, Terrell Suggs 2, Sean Lee 1, LeSean McCoy 1
Typically the most subjective category, because for a player to “come back” they must have had to have been somewhere to begin with, right? And does injury make the “comeback” more noteworthy than if a player simply stunk up the joint the season before? Probably. Which is why I went with Garcon, who led the NFL with 113 catches a year after foot and shoulder issues limited him to 10 games.
Take off your Raider fan glasses and forget for a second that all five rookies who received votes were selected after Oakland took cornerback D.J. Hayden at No. 12 overall. The reason I went with Alonso? He started every game and ran the defense while racking up 159 tackles, 32 more than the next closest rookie, with two sacks and four interceptions.
(Actual winner – Lacy)
Not only did Lacy rush for 1,178 yards and 11 TDs while averaging 4.1 yards per carry, he also caught 35 passes for 257 yards. But perhaps most impressive, Lacy kept the Packers' offense afloat while quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out, allowing Green Bay to sneak in and win the NFC North. And yes, all five of these rookies to receive votes were also drafted after Hayden.
(Actual winner – Carolina Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly)
Some may seem the 11-year veteran as a one-dimensional pass-rusher. Yet, while his 19.5 sacks led the NFL, so too did his eight forced fumbles. Combine all of that with a safety, a pass defensed and 59 tackles, the third most of his career, and you have an all-around great season, one that stands out from the rest.
Offensive Player – Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning
(Actual winner – Manning)
So what if he was already my MVP. There were touchdowns and records. Records and touchdowns. Done deal.
Also, I published this before, but following is my All-Pro ballot:
C (1) – Carolina Panthers' Ryan Kalil
QB (1) – Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning
Place Kicker (1) – Denver Broncos' Matt Prater
Kick Returner (1) – Denver Broncos' Trindon Holliday
OLB (2) – Indianapolis Colts' Robert Mathis, Kansas City Chiefs' Tamba Hali
ILB (2) – Carolina Panthers' Luke Kuechly, San Francisco 49ers' NaVorro Bowman
S (2) – Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs' Eric Berry