Most Valuable Player: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
You could make the argument for Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, both of whom had monster seasons at the quarterback position. Brees’ numbers, however, are remarkable: 72 percent completion percentage, 46 touchdowns and 5,476 yards good for most all time in a single season. Brees has never won the award and it is hard to imagine that voters will overlook him after breaking the single season passing record. Not only is Brees the most valuable player on the field, he is one of the most charismatic and idolized players in the game.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
Some people would argue Justin Smith deserves this award and he certainly deserves consideration for being the rock of the 49ers defense, but it’s hard to ignore Pierre-Paul’s numbers and visible impact he makes each game for the Giants. In just his second season, Pierre-Paul recorded 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks. He also anchored the Giants defensive line during a year where sack specialists Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora consistently struggled to stay healthy. Pierre-Paul isn’t just a numbers guy¬¬ — he is a defensive playmaker in the clutch for a team that is going to the Super Bowl.
Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
While Marvin Lewis deserves a great deal of consideration for guiding the Bengals to a playoff appearance in a year where many picked Cincinnati to be one of the league’s worst teams, Jim Harbaugh led an even more remarkable turnaround. Harbaugh took over a team that went 6-10 the year before his arrival and guided the 49ers to a 13-3 record, an NFC West divisional title and an appearance in the NFC championship game. Perhaps the best part of his story, is he resurrected Alex Smith’s career and made the storied franchise relevant once again.
Most annoying storyline of the season: The Race for Andrew Luck
While the Tim Tebow madness deserves some consideration here, there was some warrant to it. The drama that surrounded the Colts and whether or not Andrew Luck would be replacing Peyton Manning as quarterback was a topic of discussion each and every week. It now looks like the Colts are in full blown rebuilding mode, which doesn’t bode well for those Colts fans who are in favor of brining back Manning. This storyline is far from over and it will dominate the NFL headlines long after the draft in April.
Most Disappointing Team: New York Jets
Prior to this season, the book on the Jets was that they were loaded with talent at the skill positions, a top five defense and a strong offensive line that could protect the biggest question mark on the roster, Mark Sanchez. Moreover, the Jets were predicted to make another deep run in the AFC playoffs after making it to two consecutive AFC Championship games. It turned out that the Jets had a slow defense that failed to pressure opposing quarterbacks, had weak play up the middle from their undersized safeties, had a mediocre offensive line, couldn’t run the football or protect the quarterback and — worst of all — had a corrupt and disjointed locker room. The Jets are in a lot of trouble moving forward and easily take the title as the most disappointing team of 2011.