J.J. Watt the Only Sane Choice for Defensive Player of the Year

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

Watt won DPOY.
Watt won DPOY.Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

There was no suspense and little debate as to who was the best defensive player in the NFL in 2012.

The Houston Texans announced via press release that J.J. Watt was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year, capping what was a historic season.

Watt was arguably the best player in the league on either side of the ball in 2012. He was unstoppable when rushing the passer, ringing up 20.5 sacks and 16 bat-downs at the line. Teams couldn't run at him either as he piled up 39 tackles for a loss.

Watt missed being a unanimous choice by a single vote.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said of his play:

He should be unanimous, I would think. He’s just a great player and he’s had the best year ever. He’s had the absolute best year any defensive lineman has ever had. And I had Elvin Bethea, who’s in the Hall of Fame, and he had some great years, and Bruce Smith had some great years, and Reggie White had some great years, but they didn’t make that many tackles, that many tackles for loss, that many knock downs and that many sacks in one year. Nobody has done that, so I can’t say enough great things about him because he’s a great player.

Watt was a force from Week 1 one of the season. By late September, I had already declared him the best defender in the NFL. I followed that up with a vote for Watt in the PFW/PFWA ballot for Defensive MVP, which he also won.

All season long, Watt carried a Texans defense that was at times dominant. As injuries mounted, Watt held the unit together long enough to claim a second consecutive division title and a playoff win.

While the season didn't end the way he would have liked, it was certainly not his fault. As the Texans look to reload in 2013, Watt's play will be the centerpiece of a defense looking to rebound.

Watt's impact as a 3-4 defensive end is virtually unprecedented. Historically, 3-4 ends play a vital role in holding the point of attack and occupying blockers while pass-rushing outside linebackers get the glory and the sack totals.

Watt flipped that particular script by becoming force of destruction along the defensive front. Teams couldn't run at him or away from him. Even if they managed to block him on a pass play, he became adept at swatting balls out of the air.

While there were other defenders who had excellent years, no one in football could match the all-around play of Watt. There was simply no one with the overall resume that deserved consideration for the award.

Already the most popular athlete in Houston, Watt hardly needed more recognition of his greatness.

He deserved it all the same.

All quotes courtesy of the Houston Texans PR department and were supplied via direct press release.