Saints Clean Up
Note: I do not separate AFC and NFC players of the year in my selections.
Rookie of the Year
Hofstra University doesn't pump out pros with feverish regularity like other colleges, but they have this knack for sending out a fantastic receiver here and there. Wayne Chrebet never got the press loudmouths like Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens constantly get, and he certainly didn't have their athletic abilities, but he was a ball magnet, he took crushing hits, and he rarely dropped a ball before the catch or after.
Hofstra has another winner in my NFL Rookie of the Year, Marques Coltson of the New Orleans Saints.
Colston has had a phenomenal season, all the more stunning because Colston was drafted in the seventh round and started in Week 1 for a team that was depressed last year and destined for the postseason this year. Colston finished the season with 70 catches, 1,038 yards (14.8 yard average), 8 touchdowns, and (simply amazing) zero fumbles.
Those numbers are even more amazing considering Colston hurt his ankle on New Orleans's first possession of the game against Cincinnati and missed the next two games and also played little in the meaningless season finale at Carolina.
After the first two months of the season, Colston led the league in receiving, and was tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns. He finished 19th in the league in receiving yards, tied for 10th in receiving touchdowns. He is in the top 25 for every important receiving statistic.
Runner-up: Houston Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
Comeback Player of the Year
It's rare that a quarterback, cast off with questions about his abilities, especially after a shoulder injury and surgery, goes to a bottom-tier team, rehabilitates, and leads that team to a division title.
That's why the New Orleans Saints franchise receives another top honor with Drew Brees as my NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Brees, a real recipient of the award two years ago when he was with San Diego, had a spectacular season. He led the league in passing yards (4,418), was third in touchdowns (26) and third in passer rating (96.2), all number far surpassing the player who actually won the award this season. (Brees actually came in second, and probably didn't receive a lot of votes for having won the award in 2004.)
His numbers are more amazing in light that rookie Colston (again, a seventh-round pick) was his top yardage receiver and another rookie, running back Reggie Bush, led the Saints in receptions. And how often have you heard that New Orleans has an NFL-tops offensive line?
Runner-up: Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.
Special Teams Player of the Year
Another rookie makes an appearance in my year-end awards. Chicago Bears specialist Devin Hester is my NFL Special Teams Player of the year.
Three punt returns for touchdowns, two kickoff returns for touchdowns, and a missed field goal 103-yard return for a touchdown, the latter on a very heads up play that was as cerebral as it was athletic, all make for a new NFL record in returns for touchdowns.
Hester was second in the league by a tenth of a yard average in punt returns with 12.8 and fifth in kick return average with 26.4. The punt return average is all the more amazing considering Hester fielded 47 punts. Runner-up: Oakand Raiders returner Chris Carr. You want to talk about busy? Carr returned kickoffs for the worst team in the league: 69 kickoff returns for 1,762 yards -- that's more than Laurence Maroney had rushing, receiving and returning combined (1,722). Add in 35 punt returns for 206 yards. And, for good measure, Carr had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. That's 105 touches for 2,068 yards (19.7 avg).
Offensive Player of the Year
No question here at all: San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson is the NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Here are the mind-boggling stats: 1,815 yards rushing (1st in NFL), 28 rushing touchdowns (1st, next was Kansas City's Larry Johnson with 17), 5.2 yards per carry (4th), 113.4 yards per game (1st), just 2 fumbles (1 lost), 56 receptions, 508 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
But wait! There's more: 3 passes, 2 completions, 2 touchdowns (125.0 passer rating). Those passing TDs give him 33 total touchdowns.
Oh, and his team, not surprisingly, has the best record in the league. I wonder why.
Runner-up: Drew Brees
Defensive Player of the Year
I have to agree with The Associated Press on this one. Quite possibly the most versatile defensive player in the league, playing defensive end and linebacker, Miami Dolphins Jason Taylor is my NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
His stat line, on a team that posted a disappointing 6-10 record, is incredible: 62 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 2 interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), 11 passes defended (that's a good defensive back's number) and 10 forced fumbles.
That's 12 takeaways. The Washington Redskins had 12 takeaways. Eleven teams had 10 fumble takeaway fumbles or fewer. (Of course, there's a difference between a forced fumble and a forced fumble that's recovered for a turnover ... but still).
Taylor, by himself, could force a team to change its offensive strategy. That's pretty impressive for a player on a sub-.500 team.
Runner-up: New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel.
Most Valuable Player
I don't see how anyone could possible make an argument for another player. LaDainian Tomlinson is the NFL Most Valuable Player.
Where would San Diego be without him?
Runner-up: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Coach of the Year
It's hard to believe the things some people will say to justify why a deserving person should not receive what he deserves. I've actually read that his coach should not be coach of the year because his team won so many home games on emotion alone.
The irony is that the New Orleans Saints ended the season just 4-4 at home in 2006, but their 6-2 road record is even more reason that Sean Payton is my NFL Coach of the Year.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the Saints had no true home games last season, and the league forced them to play one of their alleged home games in New Jersey. I won't dignify that by calling it a home game, and thus New Orleans finished 1-6 in the vicinity of home and 2-7 on the road in 2005.
This has been a spectacular turnaround, and Payton deserves a great deal of the credit.
Runner-up: New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini.
It's easy enough to separate Payton and Mangini into AFC and NFC coaches of the year if you so desire. It's no contest in either case. (By the way, the Jets were also 4-4 at home and 6-2 on the road.)