Seahawks beat writers Bob Condotta and Jayson Jenks hand out their season-ending Seahawks awards, including offensive and defensive MVPs.
The end of the NFL regular season also means it’s time to hand out a few awards.
Here are the choices of Seattle Times beat writers Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta for team MVPs, unsung hero and the best performance … and the biggest disappointment.
Jenks’ pick: Receiver Doug Baldwin
Baldwin followed up a career year in 2015 with an even better year in 2016. His 94 catches tied the franchise record. His 1,128 yards are a career high. He made game-changing catches and was the most consistent and dependable offensive player all season long. It’s scary to think of what the offense would have looked like without him.
Condotta’s pick: Quarterback Russell Wilson
This was the most adversity-filled season of Wilson’s five-year Seahawks career, pockmarked by three injuries — beginning in the third quarter of the season opener — and some uncharacteristically off performances (though the two were undoubtedly related). But when the dust settled, Wilson had broken the team’s season passing record he set the year before, finishing with 4,219 yards, taking yet another step toward proving he can be whatever kind of quarterback the team needs him to be.
Jenks’ pick: Defensive end Cliff Avril
Avril finished tied for sixth in the NFL with 11½ sacks, which also marked a career high in his ninth season. But it wasn’t just the sacks. Avril got consistent pressure and was disruptive in the backfield on running plays, too. Without Michael Bennett for five games, Avril picked up the slack and kept Seattle’s pass rush active.
Condotta’s pick: Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner
Playing a full season for the first time since his rookie year in 2012, Wagner was the steadiest force on a defense that also had some uncommon trials and tribulations, ultimately setting a franchise record with 167 tackles, breaking a mark that had been held since 1978 by Terry Beeson. Wagner also finished with 4½ sacks, second most of his career.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP
Jenks’ pick: Linebacker Dewey McDonald
In his first season with the Seahawks, McDonald did a nice job of covering kicks. But his selection is more a reflection of the rest of Seattle’s special teams, where long snapper Nolan Frese, kicker Stephen Hauschka and punter Jon Ryan all struggled, completely uncharacteristic for Seattle’s usually rock-solid special teams.
Condotta’s pick: Cornerback Neiko Thorpe
Signed by the Seahawks as a free agent after the first game of the season to boost the special teams, Thorpe did just that, finishing with eight tackles in kick coverage, the most of any Seahawk. Thorpe and McDonald were keys to coverage units that each finished in the top half in the NFL.
Jenks’ pick: Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin
The Seahawks allowed the NFL’s seventh-fewest rushing yards per game and the fewest yards per carry. That all started with Rubin, who had 39 tackles and one sack and played in every game. But his hidden value was the way he clogged the line of scrimmage, allowing linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and safety Kam Chancellor to make tackles. Rubin also forced three fumbles and was active for a big man chasing plays down the field or to the sideline.
Condotta’s pick: Center Justin Britt
Britt was the subject of maybe the biggest question facing the team in the preseason — could he really make the conversion to center? The answer came when Pro Bowl invites were sent out and Britt was named as an alternate. The honor was fitting as Britt was often the only stable force on an offensive line that remains a work in progress. But as bad as the line often looked, one shudders to wonder what would have happened had Britt not been able to make the shift to center after spending his first two years at guard and tackle. Britt played well enough that the question now is whether the team will feel compelled to sign him to a contract extension in the offseason.
Jenks’ pick: Offensive tackle Garry Gilliam
Gilliam was slated to be the starting left tackle. Instead, the team moved him to right tackle before the season even started, and then he lost that job midway through the season to veteran Bradley Sowell. Gilliam eventually replaced Sowell at right tackle to end the year, but it was a disappointing season for a player who was surrounded by a lot of optimism and a lot of responsibility.
Condotta’s pick: Running back Thomas Rawls
This pick comes with something of an asterisk as much of Rawls’ struggles were related to injuries — he appeared to still need to shake some rust off from the ankle surgery he had last year during the first two games before he then suffered a hairline fracture of his fibula to hold him out the next seven games. Regardless, Rawls’ issues were symbolic of a team that spent the regular season trying to find a way to replace the retired Marshawn Lynch.
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Jenks’ pick: Quarterback Russell Wilson vs. Patriots
In the moment, Wilson’s performance against the Patriots felt like the launch of his MVP candidacy. He completed 68 percent of his 37 passes, threw for 348 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and outdueled Tom Brady on the road. It was Wilson’s finest game of the season, highly efficient and highly explosive. It also was his peak: In Wilson’s seven games after beating the Patriots, he completed 62 percent of his passes, threw 11 touchdowns, nine interceptions and the Seahawks went 4-3.
Condotta’s pick: Safety Kelcie McCray against Arizona
Thrown into starting duty for four games at midseason when a groin injury shelved strong safety Kam Chancellor, McCray proved an able replacement — especially in the 6-6 overtime tie against Arizona. McCray played 108 total snaps, the most in the NFL this season (95 on defense and 13 on special teams) and saved his best for last, helping track down speedy receiver J.J. Nelson late in overtime, a play that helped preserve the deadlock. And that, ultimately, meant the difference between being the No. 3 seed and the No. 4 seed — a defeat against the Cardinals would have meant Seattle finishing behind Green Bay in the NFC playoff picture.