Time for the hardware
By Cris Carter, Yahoo Sports
December 29, 2006
Oh, I guess I would be remiss in talking about the five 7-8 teams vying for the NFC's final wild-card spot. As I said last week, these teams have no chance of advancing. Enough said. So instead of breaking down this weekend's contests, I decided to get a jump on what will be a hot topic next week – this year's postseason honors.
There's a lot of sentiment for Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, but we've seen quarterbacks throw for those type of yards (4,372) before and not win MVP. The year Brees has had reminds me of the year Daunte Culpepper had two years ago when he put up fantastic numbers, but lost out to record-breaking Peyton Manning.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
After an Un-Champ-like season in which he was frequently targeted and beat by opposing offenses, Bailey has adjusted to the NFL rule changes and emphasis (no contact five yards past the line of scrimmage) and gotten back to dominating one half of the field. He is the only true shutdown corner in football.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The Chargers have a first-year quarterback starting in Philip Rivers who's effectively replaced Brees – the likely runner-up to Tomlinson for MVP. Marty's had to deal with adversity. The team lost dynamic linebacker Shawne Merriman to a four-game suspension and has played all season without linebacker Steve Foley. Even more, Marty's made adjustments to his coaching style. After a close loss early in the season at Baltimore in which he got too conservative down the stretch, he's turned over the play calling and allowed for more creativity in the offense.
Again, what he's accomplished easily gets overshadowed because we knew going into the season that San Diego had a lot of talent, but that shouldn't take away from Marty having the best year of his career.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Perhaps just as impressive, Young didn't sneak into the spotlight. He came into the league with top billing and hasn't disappointed.
Yes, the case can be made that he benefits from playing on a defensive line that included Tommie Harris, Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye. However, as we've seen with Mario Williams in Houston, it's not always easy for a rookie DE to step in and make an immediate impact.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Some people would say the Jets' Chad Pennington because he overcame a second rotator cuff injury. He has 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. That's not a great year.
Bonus: BIGGEST SURPRISE OF 2006
We knew he was a good coordinator, but we had no idea he'd be able to step into such a complex situation and get positive results from the start. He took the chance with Brees. He's somehow made that backfield work with both Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. And the enthusiasm that he's brought back to New Orleans is inspirational. He's brought pride back among the fan base. New Orleans is now a tough place to play and win.
Sean Payton has created enthusiasm and an exciting environment.
Cris Carter is Yahoo! Sports' NFL analyst. Send Cris a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Friday, Dec 29, 2006 11:28 pm, EST