Once again the envelopes have been hermetically sealed to make sure that no one could see the results before now. These are, after all, the prestigious Brooky Awards, which are distributed annually to the NFL players, coaches, and executives who have delivered the most extraordinary performances.
Before NFL RedZone goes dark and millions mourn the end of another fantasy football season, one man – that’s me – feels the need to tell his readers – that’s you – who he thinks was the most special during the 2017 season. The time and energy that go into selecting the winners is exhausting, and bribes from the league’s elite are not accepted, although they might be if one was actually ever offered.
Just imagine how good this award looks on a mantel.
Anyway, Happy New Year to all and enjoy the postseason. The envelopes, please.
Most Valuable Player
Tom Brady, New England
This was going to be Carson Wentz’s award until he suffered that season-ending knee injury against the Rams in Los Angeles. An argument could be made that Wentz still deserves to be the NFL MVP. Even after missing the last two games, he still went into the season final Sunday with a league-leading 33 touchdown passes. He is the primary reason the Eagles will have home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs and he had the best season in the NFL through 13 games.
Two players, however, have surpassed Wentz by being able to play full seasons. One is Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams and the other is the ageless Brady. Gurley leads the league in yards from scrimmage (2,093) and touchdowns (19) and has emerged as the best running back in football this season. Even more than second-year quarterback Jared Goff, Gurley is the player the Rams can least afford to lose.
Brady, meanwhile, simply had another Brady year and the greatest season ever by a 40-year-old quarterback. In addition to his 30 touchdown passes (and just eight interceptions), he leads the league in passing yards (4,387) and completions (367). His 67.5 completion percentage is the second best of his career. Amazingly, Brady has won twice as many Super Bowl MVP awards (four) as regular-season MVP awards. He deserves a third for what he has done at 40.
Coach of the Year
Doug Pederson, Eagles
Four men could make a strong case for this award. In his first full season as the head coach in Jacksonville, Doug Marrone has led the Jaguars to their first division title in this century while also ending the team’s nine-year playoff drought. Rookie Sean McVay, the NFL’s youngest coach in history at the age of 31, has led the Los Angeles Rams to their first NFC West title since 2003 and their first playoff appearance since 2004.
But the two best jobs this season have been turned in by Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer and the Eagles’ Pederson. Zimmer lost his starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, on opening day after losing Teddy Bridgewater just before the start of the season a year ago. Then he lost rookie running back Dalvin Cook in Week 4 to a torn ACL. Cook, at the time, was averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Zimmer turned to journeyman Case Keenum at quarterback and the Vikings kept rolling on offense while also relying on the NFL’s best defense to win the NFC North for the second time in three seasons.
Pederson, however, had to deal with even more adversity. He lost his star returner (Darren Sproles), his middle linebacker (Jordan Hicks), his Pro Bowl left tackle (Jason Peters), and, finally, his quarterback (Wentz). And still the Eagles went a league-best 13-2 when the games mattered.
Defensive Player of the Year
Calais Campbell, Jacksonville
This one is a difficult decision because no player has had a monster sack season and statistics do not really define what a player like Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner means to his team. Arizona’s Chandler Jones leads the NFL with 15 sacks and 11 tackles for losses, but we – meaning me — on the Brooky voting committee like the awards to go to players from winning teams. New Orleans’ Cam Jordan has been sensational with 12 sacks, four tackles for losses, and an astonishing 11 passes defended. Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence (14 ½ sacks) is certainly elite, as is Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward (12 sacks and seven TFLs) and Minnesota’s Everson Griffen (13 sacks). The Eagles’ Brandon Graham (9 ½ sacks and nine TFLs) is one of the league’s most underrated defenders. Campbell, with 14 ½ sacks and four TFLs, was the best defensive player on the team that leads the NFL with 52 sacks, so he gets the Brooky here.
Rookie of the Year
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City
It appeared as if New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara had surpassed Hunt for this award with a blistering stretch of games in the middle of the season as Kansas City’s top rookie cooled down. But Hunt came on strong in the last three weeks and is the most deserving of this award because he was asked to do more. Cornerbacks Tre-Davious White of Buffalo and Marshon Lattimore of New Orleans have been by far the league’s two best defensive rookies.
Executive of the Year
Howie Roseman, Eagles
Les Snead has done a terrific job with the Rams and Rick Spielman has done a great job in Minnesota, but the duo of Roseman and Joe Douglas made the Eagles the deepest team in the NFL this season.
The NFL did the right thing by not scheduling a Sunday night game on New Year’s Eve. In fact, this week is the perfect scheduling format for the final week of the season, with seven games at 1 p.m. and nine games in the late afternoon, with every game matching divisional opponents. No team that could possibly have to play in the postseason on Saturday should have to also play on a Sunday night on the final weekend of the season.
There’s a long list of reasons the Dallas Cowboys arrived in Philadelphia with nothing to play for on the season’s final weekend, but Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension is at the top. No matter how much the running back or Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to whine about commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision, the fact remains that Elliott’s actions off the field let his team down on the field. Lane Johnson owned up to that last season with the Eagles and Elliott must do the same in Dallas.
This week’s best
Chicago at Minnesota
With a win, the Vikings lock up a first-round bye and will play at least one home game in the playoffs. They could become the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The closest teams have ever come to playing a home game for the Super Bowl title were the San Francisco 49ers, who beat Miami in 1985 at Stanford Stadium, and the Los Angeles Rams, who lost to Pittsburgh in 1980 at the Rose Bowl.
Jacksonville at Tennessee
The Jaguars are locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC, but they are coming off an ugly loss at San Francisco in which they allowed a season-high 44 points. The 8-7 Titans, despite three straight losses, can still clinch a playoff spot with a victory. A loss would open the door for either the Chargers or Bills to sneak in.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
The Ravens were 4-5 after a Nov. 5 loss to the Titans, but they have won five of their last six and can clinch the No. 5 seed and a trip to Kansas City to play the Chiefs with a win over the Bengals. Even if they lose, the Ravens can get into the playoffs if Buffalo or Tennessee also loses.
Carolina at Atlanta
The Panthers have clinched a playoff spot, but their seeding could be anywhere from second to fifth. They win the NFC South with a victory and a Saints loss at Tampa Bay. If they win the division and the Rams and Vikings lose, the Panthers would move up to the No. 2 seed. The Falcons need a win or a Seattle loss to Arizona to clinch the NFC’s No. 6 seed.