The 2009 NFL regular season was a great one. We saw a 2000-yard rusher, two teams that nearly went undefeated, and plenty of drama.
As the playoffs begin, I want to take a look at who should win the regular season awards. We'll also look at some awards that the NFL doesn't give out.
Let's start out with some fun before we get into the real discussion:
Biggest Hits of the Year (in No Particular Order)
Vote on which you think is the best in the poll on the right:
Best Play of the Year
There are a number of players who had remarkable seasons in 2009.
Chris Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards and broke Marshall Faulk's record for total yards from scrimmage.
Drew Brees led the league in passer rating, passing touchdowns, and completion percentage.
Brett Favre had nearly identical numbers to Brees, but won fewer games.
Peyton Manning led his team to a 14-0 start before Indianapolis rested its starters.
Andre Johnson had nearly 1,600 yards receiving and led the NFL in targets.
While I do think that defensive players should be considered for MVP, I didn't see any performances from players on top-flight teams deserving of the award this year.
My pick: Drew Brees. Not only did he put up ridiculous numbers, Brees has played a huge part in taking the Saints from being mediocre in 2008 to being a top-flight team in 2009.
Offensive Player of the Year
The players up for this award are the same as those mentioned above in the MVP discussion.
Since this award is less dependent on overall team performance, I'm giving this one to Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.
Johnson had one of the best offensive seasons for a running back in NFL history with 2,509 yards from scrimmage, an NFL record. Johnson often carried the hapless Titans offense single-handed as the team struggled to put the ball in the air.
Defensive Player of the Year
Darren Sharper had an incredible season ball-hawking for the New Orleans Saints while snatching nine passes and scoring three touchdowns.
Patrick Willis had a ridiculous season leading the NFL in tackles while also posting four sacks, eight passes defended, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a touchdown.
Elvis Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks.
While each of those players is very deserving of an award, one player stands out above everyone else: Charles Woodson, cornerback for the Green Bay Packers.
Woodson was absolutely dominant this season: 74 tackles, 18 passes defended, nine interceptions, two sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and three touchdowns. He is my NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
There are just a few rookies on the offensive side of the ball that stand out.
Knowshon Moreno had 947 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, both tops among rookie running backs.
Among receivers, Austin Collie, Percy Harvin, and Hakeem Nicks stand out as the top performers. Collie had seven touchdowns, most for rookie receivers while Nicks and Harvin led all rookies in receiving yards.
All of the rookie quarterbacks struggled, so none of them are up for consideration for this award.
My pick: Percy Harvin, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings.
While Harvin proved to be a great receiver this season, he also made an incredible impact in the return game. For a Vikings team that has not had a decent return man this decade, Harvin was a game-changer. He scored two touchdowns and averaged over 27 yards per return.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
This award has already been given to Brian Cushing, linebacker for the Houston Texans and I agree with that decision.
Cushing had 134 total tackles, five sacks, 14 passes defended, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions. He was the best all-around rookie defender.
Runners-up for this award would be Jairus Byrd of the Bills who had nine interceptions, Clay Matthews who had 10 sacks for the Green Bay Packers, and Brian Orakpo who had 11 sacks for the Washington Redskins.
Coach of the Year
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. Payton led the Saints to a great season and can be given a lot of credit for hiring Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator.
Runner up: Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts
While many will want to give this award to Tom Brady, I'm going to go with the underdog. Yes, Tom Brady had a great season coming back from a major knee injury. But we all knew that was going to happen, didn't we?
Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans is my comeback player of the year, hands down.
Young is a guy many thought would be out of the NFL after what transpired last season. After being benched and going through a deep depression, it seemed the Titans were ready to move on without him.
After a terrible 0-6 start, the Titans threw Young out there in desperation. What did Young do? Only what he's been doing his whole life: He won football games.
Young set a career high for quarterback rating with an 82.8 rating while leading the Titans to an 8-2 record as the starter. This was the Vince Young we thought we would see after his rookie season.
I hope to see more good things from Young and the Titans next season.
Best "Out of Nowhere" Performances
These players came from absolutely nowhere to put up huge seasons:
1a. Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings
1b. Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys
These two receivers both increased their yardage totals by over 1,000 yards between 2008 and 2009 and became star receivers. Great seasons for both.
2. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
If the Chiefs could look into the future, they would have dumped LJ a lot sooner. Charles rushed for over 1,000 yards...in the second half of the season alone.
Had he played all season, who knows, he could have topped 2,000 yards with Chris Johnson. For a guy they called "too small" and "too fumble prone" this was an awesome, out-of-nowhere performance.
The Chicago Bears gave up two first-round picks to get Jay Cutler. Cutler threw 26 interceptions and led the Bears to a 7-9 record—worse than in 2008.
Kyle Orton, who won nine games with the Bears in 2008, had the best statistical season of his career in Denver.
Cutler may have more upside than Orton, but he is not worth two first round picks. He makes too many bad decisions to be a true difference-maker at quarterback.
Best Draft Pick
Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens: What a great value he turned out to be. If NFL teams had a crystal ball, he may have gone in the top five, or even first overall.
Worst Draft Pick
I think we all knew this when it happened, but Darrius Heyward-Bey was an awful draft pick. He can't catch, which makes it difficult to succeed as a wide receiver. He looks to be 2009's Troy Williamson.
2009 was a great NFL season, let's hope it continues in the playoffs.
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