NFL Honors – On The MVP Red Carpet
The night before Super Bowl XLIX, the National Football League held its annual awards ceremony – The NFL Honors.
The handing out of the league's Most Valuable Player gongs has become so big that it now demands its own lavish Red Carpet event that is something akin to the Academy Awards. It wasn't too long ago that the written press would just hand in their vote and the Commissioner would make the announcement, have a firm handshake with the recipients and after a few quotes for selected media, it would be over before it had begun.
The 2014 season has been full of drama and closely fought throughout, right until the final 30 seconds of the title game. Outstanding team efforts are of course induced by remarkable individual efforts.
To be the MVP is a culmination of a player's hard work and sacrifice to be a better player for himself and of course to help his team to be the best they can be. In some cases that isn't the team that achieves the ultimate goal of lifting the Lombardi Trophy, and in fact of the four main award winners, only one made it as far as a Conference title game. So it's only fitting that we start with that one person...
LEAGUE MVP – Aaron Rodgers QB, Green Bay Packers (pictured right, courtesy Packers)
Consistency is the keyword that comes up when you look at Rodgers play. He performs at a high level week in and out. The Packers would clearly not be a playoff contender over the last few years if he wasn't their quarterback. He leads by example, playing with a torn calf for the business end of the season is testament to that, and his teammates react to it. He's not the most mobile of players in his position but has an uncanny knack of evading trouble by reading the game so well. In 2014 he completed 65% of his pass attempts for over 4,300 yards. He was intercepted only 5 times, compared to passing for 38 touchdowns. He led the Packers to the NFC title game, where only some conservative play calling kept them from a trip to the Super Bowl in an overtime loss in Seattle.
DEFENSIVE MVP – JJ Watt DE, Houston Texans (pictured left, courtesy Texans)
If you were fortunate enough to start a new franchise from scratch, and could choose any one player from another team to build yours around the chances are you would pick JJ Watt. He has always been a constant threat for opposing offenses, but took that to a whole new level in 2014. The fourth year player from Wisconsin had the best individual year by a defensive player ever, and when you consider all the great players that have graced the game, that truly is a statement. He was many people's favorite to win the overall league MVP he was that dominant. With 78 tackles and 20.5 sacks he was more in the offense backfield than some of their own players. He forced 4 fumbles and had one interception which he returned 80 yards for a touchdown. That's not all though, he is now a weapon on his own team's offense, scoring 3 times on that side of the ball.
OFFENSIVE MVP – DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (pictured right, photo: Gary Baker)
The first three seasons of his Cowboys career were frustratingly cut short by injury, everyone knew Murray had talent but had yet to see the full extent of how far he could literally carry the ball. Dallas had the pieces in place and had arguably the best offensive line to help open up holes for the run game. This come to fruition as an injury free Murray had his best ever season, helping his team to a division title and a decent run in the playoffs. Opening the season with a record setting 8 straight 100+ yards rushing games, ending the season with 12 in total. He was on target at that point to beat Eric Dickerson's single season yards total. He did eventually fall short but ended up with the 17th best ever single season total of 1,845. He found the end zone 13 times, and was very much a key component of the Dallas team. He is now a free agent and if the Cowboys cannot find a way to keep hold of him, another team will be reaping the rewards of his bruising running style.
COACH OF THE YEAR – Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Since taking over the reins at Arizona, the Cardinals have become a very well-rounded football team that deserves respect. In just his second year in charge, the first a 10–6 year that missed the playoffs, he guided his men into the postseason with an 11–5 record. The tail end of the season was difficult considering most of the work was done with a third string quarterback. There is no doubt Arians has that winning mentality and it's clearly rubbing off onto his roster.
Other notable awards went to Odell Beckham Jr., the star wide receiver of the New York Giants. He deservedly won Offensive Rookie of the Year following many highlight reel catches, including the play of the year, a gravity defying one handed circus act grab for a touchdown against Dallas. The Defensive Rookie of the Year award went to St.Louis Rams, Aaron Donald. The defensive tackle started 12 games and had 48 tackles, and recorded 9 sacks, as well as forcing 2 fumbles. Rob Gronkowski, the larger-than-life New England Patriots tight end secured the Comeback Player of the Year. After struggling through some severe injuries the last two seasons Gronk roared back onto the scene this season with 82 catches, 12 of those going for touchdowns.