As has been NFL tradition for some time, the National Football League announces its newest class of the Hall of Fame on the eve of the Super Bowl as part of a celebration of the sport’s history. But the eve of the game’s biggest sporting event is also an embrace of its present, as it is also the time that the season’s awards are given out.
This year, there was quite a bit of competition for many of the awards. For example, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning were both prime candidates for several of the awards, including offensive player of the year, comeback player of the year, and MVP.
Another particularly interesting race was the offensive rookie of the year award, thanks due in large part to an impressive crop of rookie quarterbacks who all led their teams to the playoffs: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson.
To see who took home these and other awards, including coach of the year, check out the list.
Most Valuable Player: Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
When a running back averages 6 yards per carry en route to the second most rushing yards in a single season all time, people notice. When looking at how much more important Adrian Peterson was to the Vikings’ success this year than was their own quarterback, that is the definition of value. Coming off an ACL injury, Peterson had one of the best individual seasons of any player at any position. Peyton Manning, while having an excellent season, had a much better defense to rely upon.
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Everybody knows the story by now: Peyton Manning, the longtime quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, who never missed a game of football in his life, was forced to sit out the entire 2011 season after a serious nerve problem in his neck resulted in multiple surgeries and significant recovery time. He went on to have one of his best seasons and led his team to he best record in the AFC. While Adrian Peterson was another prime candidate for this award, he never actually missed a game. Manning missed an entire season.
Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
It is a rare feat for a running back to top 2000 rushing yards in a single season, and when they do, they tend to be awarded for it. Adrian Peterson rushed for 2097 yards, the second most all time, and he did it by averaging 6 yards per carry. He also added 12 rushing touchdowns. In addition he added in 40 receptions for 217 yards and a receiving touchdown. This feat is all the more astounding considering that he tore his ACL in late December 2011.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Though some attempted to make a sound argument for a few other players (most notably Von Miller and Aldon Smith), to be quite honest, J.J. Watt being the defensive player of the year award was the biggest no brainer of them all. Simply looking at his statistics from this season would not properly do them justice without looking at his position. Many people, when they hear defensive end, think of sack numbers, but defensive ends in a 3-4 defensive scheme are not often pass rushers. That he accumulated 20.5 sacks from his position is truly astounding, especially when you consider that the single season sack record is 22.5. Oh, and he also had 23 tackles for loss and an NFL-record 16 tipped passes.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
Most fans of the game should know by now that RGIII’s season did not end the way anybody would like to see. But what he was able to accomplish as a rookie in Washington is well deserving of the offensive rookie of the year award. Aside from setting the rookie record for rushing yards by a quarterback, he also proved that he was an accomplished passer, finishing the season with 20 touchdown passes to just 5 interceptions and an impressive 102.4 quarterback rating. He was deadly with the play action pass, and totaled 8.1 yards per pass attempt. He also averaged 6.8 yards per rush on his 815 rushing yards, adding another 7 rushing touchdowns.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly, LB, Panthers
Although Luke Kuechly may not be a household name, he had quite an impact on the field as a rookie. The Panther linebacker led the league with 164 tackles, getting better as the season wore on, and especially following a shift from outside to inside linebacker.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians
A year after “mutually retiring” as the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bruce Arians found a new home at the same position with the Indianapolis Colts, where he had once served as the quarterbacks coach to a young Peyton Manning and now had Andrew Luck at his disposal. When head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and was forced to leave his coaching duties for the better part of the season, Arians was anointed interim head coach and led the Colts to a remarkable 9-3 run after the team was just 2-14 a season ago. The amazing coaching performance earned him a head coaching job proper with the Arizona Cardinals.