Today we begin rolling out our first Gridiron Rats post-season awards, as determined by our contributing members. We are voting on the seven major awards given out by the NFL and by media entities. They include:
Most Valuable Player
Offensive Player of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year
Head Coach of the Year
We will give these awards out two per day until Monday, when we will give out our Most Valuable Player Award. So without further introduction, let’s give out our first award (drum roll please…).
HEAD COACH OF THE YEAR
We had ten nominees for this award. In some cases we looked at head coaches who engineered big seasons after the team did poorly last season, while in other cases we considered coaches who either exceeded expectations or maintained a successful team despite all of the challenges of running a professional football team.
3rd Place – Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Yes, the Patriots dropped from 14-2 last season to 12-4 this season, plagued by early season losses to Arizona, Seattle and Baltimore. But then the team went 9-1 over the final ten games of the season, including victories over the Colts and Texans while going 6-0 in the AFC East this season. Since 2001, the Patriots are the winningest team in the NFL by a fair margin, and despite annual predictions of the Patriots’ dominance over their division coming to an end, the Patriots just keep winning. This season they did so despite injuries to Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and a host of defensive players, while the defense improved steadily over the course of the season and is clearly better than last year’s group that finished one play away from a fourth Lombardi Trophy. Love him or hate him, Bill Belichick simply knows how to teach and motivate his players to win.
2nd Place – Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Bill Belichick’s predecessor in New England has made the Seahawks arguably the biggest surprise of the year, overshadowed perhaps only by the Indianapolis Colts. Russell Wilson has emerged out of nowhere to emerge as a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. Carroll and Wilson not only led the Seahawks to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth, but registered wins over the Packers (thanks, replacement refs), Patriots, Vikings, Bears, and 49ers. In Weeks 14 and 15, Seattle outscored Arizona and Buffalo by a combined 108-17. The Seahawks feature the fourth best defense in the NFL, complemented by a brutal running attack led by Marshawn Lynch, in addition to the talents of Wilson. Say what you will about Carroll’s relaxed coaching style; he seems to know how to get the most out of his players.
WINNER – Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts
Speaking of Indianapolis, we’re not sure that there is a better story in the 2012 season than that of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts went 2-14 last season, and few people expected the Colts to win more than four or five games this season with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Even worse, Head Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia in September, taking a leave of absence and turning the team over to Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians. All Arians did was lead the Colts to a 9-3 record during Pagano’s absence, and the Colts finished with an 11-5 record and the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs. Arians returned to his offensive coordinator role last week in the Colts’ win over the Houston Texans. No matter what happens to the Colts in the post-season, this year will be remembered not only for Pagano’s recovery and return to the sidelines, but for Arians’ managing of a team in emotional turmoil over the loss of their coach. Arians handled the situation with grace and humility, and is to be commended for leading the Colts to a remarkable turnaround.