The NFL will try for the big buildup on Feb. 1, when it announces its season awards in a made-for-TV show the night before the Super Bowl.
But an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” (you in the under-50 crowd can look that up) will carry more suspense than wondering who will get the league’s biggest honor — most valuable player.
For a little while, cases could be made for a handful of players, including Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. But when Denver quarterback Peyton Manning broke the NFL record for touchdown passes last week (he has 51 entering the final week of the season, surpassing Tom Brady’s 2007 record of 50), he put a nice, big bow on the award.
It’s hard to see those who vote for the award (a panel selected by The Associated Press) going any other way now, almost certainly handing Manning his fifth MVP, extending a record he already held. Brett Favre is next on the list with three, with Brady, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Kurt Warner and Steve Young each winning twice.
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If you’re into omens, though, winning the award could be a bad one for Manning and the Broncos: Only 13 of the 54 players to win an MVP went on to win either the NFL championship or the Super Bowl. Warner was the last, in 1999. Among those who didn’t was Seattle running back Shaun Alexander in 2005, the only Seahawk to win the MVP.
Other awards, though, aren’t quite as cut-and-dried (or given the times we’re in, should that be copy-and-pasted?).
Here’s a look at a few of the other big ones and our guesses for who will walk away with the hardware:
Offensive player of the year: OK, so Manning’s going to get this one, too — you’d think. But that hasn’t always been the case. Aaron Rodgers was the NFL MVP in 2011 yet wasn’t the offensive player of the year (that went to Drew Brees). Same with 2009 (Manning MVP, Chris Johnson offensive player of the year) and a few other times. From this vantage point, that makes no sense. And given the record-breaking numbers Manning is amassing, this seems one season the awards would go in lockstep.
Defensive player of the year: So here’s where it starts getting interesting, with a half-dozen or so worthy candidates, including Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. Sherman himself said a few weeks ago he’d vote for Thomas.
But after intercepting four passes in the past two games, it’s Sherman who suddenly has the kind of eye-catching stat to which voters gravitate, leading the NFL with eight interceptions. Cornerback isn’t the easiest position at which to win the award — just five have since the award’s inception in 1971, the last being Charles Woodson with Green Bay in 2009 (a year he led the NFL with nine picks).
Other good candidates include Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechley (165 tackles to lead a defense currently allowing the fewest points in the NFL), St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn (NFL-best 18 sacks), Indianapolis DE Robert Mathis (17.5 sacks) and San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman (183 tackles and the 89-yard interception return against Atlanta on Monday night that is the kind of play voters like).
This one could well be determined by what happens this weekend. If Sherman got another pick or two as the Seahawks sewed up home-field advantage in the NFC while leading a pass defense that is statistically the best in the NFL, he’d have a resume to stand up to the rest.
Coach of the year: Here’s another one where Seattle has a legitimate entry in Pete Carroll, whose job turning the Seahawks from a team that had won nine games in the two years before his arrival to one that is a legit Super Bowl contender is obviously worthy of recognition.
But as I wrote a few weeks ago, Andy Reid of Kansas City fits the easy profile of a winner, having led the Chiefs to one of the bigger one-season turnarounds in NFL history, from 2-14 last season to 11-4 entering the final week. You can argue they were lucky with the schedule they’ve played (especially some of the quarterbacks they were fortunate to face). But the record is what it is.
Carolina’s Ron Rivera, who went from the hot seat in September to guiding a Panthers team that could be 12-4 and is one of the most dangerous in the NFL in December, is also gaining steam. But Reid figures to be hard for most voters to ignore.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org