2011 Defensive Player of the Year Award Doesn’t Go to a San Francisco 49ers Player: Fan’s Reaction

The San Francisco 49ers had a couple of players deserving of the 2011 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. With Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, and NaVorro Bowman all receiving votes from the nationwide panel of 50 NFL media members, the award this season ultimately went to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs earning 21 votes.

San Francisco 49ers DE Justin Smith
Wikimedia Commons

Despite playing on a team with other players who have won the award in the past (linebacker Ray Lewis in 2000 and 2003, safety Ed Reed in 2004), Suggs played incredibly well for a Ravens defense that only allowed 266 points during the regular season, which ranks third fewest in the NFL. Playing at both outside linebacker and defensive end, Suggs collected 70 total tackles (20 assist tackles), 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Like the top players of the 49ers defense, Suggs helped lead his team to the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye.

Since Suggs did win his award outright like 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh or Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year), would it be reasonable to say that a player other than Suggs should have won the award? Not necessarily.

While sentimentally I would have liked to see one of San Francisco's defensive players receive the recognition they deserved by winning the award, I cannot refute the selection based on individual statistics and team success. Suggs was tied for fifth for the most sacks this season and led the NFL in forced fumbles. Throughout the season, Suggs, like the San Francisco players receiving votes for this award, made critical plays for the Ravens and helped lead them to a 12-4 record.

Out of the three 49ers receiving votes, I believe Smith had the best chance at winning it. With 58 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles, Smith consistently made crucial plays that saved games, stopped opposing drives, and stifled opposing running backs. After missing three games, Willis' chances were lowered after failing to reach 100 tackles in a season for the first time in his career. Bowman was seventh in the NFL with 143 total tackles but was not a sacking threat to quarterbacks and did not record an interception this season.

Despite the individual and team accolades of the 49ers defense, a John Harbaugh-coached Raven swooped up and won the prestigious award this season.

Sources:

Ravens LB Suggs wins Defensive Player of Year, AP

San Francisco 49ers Stats 2011 Season, Yahoo! Sports

NFL Sortable Stats Defense 2011 Season Total Tackles, Yahoo! Sports

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Austin Chang is a lifelong football fan, San Francisco 49ers supporter, and a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow this contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.

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Updated Sunday, Feb 5, 2012