Although football is a team sport, the top individuals in the NFL were awarded with various trophies during the third annual NFL Honors.
The red carpet-style award show was hosted once again by Alec Baldwin, and it stood as a showcase for the best and brightest in the league in a number of prestigious categories. While everyone's dream is to raise the Lombardi Trophy, these individual honors serve as a nice consolation prize to recognize fantastic seasons.
Here is a look at each winner from Saturday's event.
|AP Most Valuable Player||Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos|
|AP Coach of the Year||Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers|
|AP Offensive Player of the Year||Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos|
|AP Defensive Player of the Year||Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers|
|AP Offensive Rookie of the Year||Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers|
|AP Defensive Rookie of the Year||Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets|
|AP Comeback Player of the Year||Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers|
|Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year||Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears|
|Pepsi NEXT Rookie of the Year||Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers|
|Don Shula NFL HS Coach of the Year||Mike Grant, Eden Prairie (Minn.)|
|GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year||Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers|
|FedEx Air Player of the Year||Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos|
|FedEx Ground Player of the Year||LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles|
|Greatness on the Road||Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles|
|Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year||Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions|
|Salute to Service Award||John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens|
|NFL.com Fantasy Player of the Year||Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs|
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Many believed this battle would come down to Eddie Lacy and San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen. However, it was the running back who came away with the award:
Lacy was not only the best offensive rookie in the league, but he was one of the best running backs as well. Despite missing time early in the year with a concussion, the former Alabama star finished eighth in the NFL with 1,178 rushing yards, and his 11 rushing touchdowns ranked third in the league.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune was surprised by the voting:
That Keenan Allen didn't win Offensive Rookie of Year is shame but not shocking. That Eddie Lacy won in landslide (35-12) is mind-blowing.— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) February 1, 2014
On the other hand, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus believed there was another candidate who should have won:
Eddie Lacy and Keenan Allen both had fine seasons, but there was no skill position player as deserving as OG Larry Warford this year.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) February 2, 2014
Despite the tough battle, Lacy came through with the best season of them all to win the award. He becomes the first running back to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year since Adrian Peterson in 2007.
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Sheldon Richardson, DT, New York Jets
Although some questioned the New York Jets for drafting a defensive tackle with the No. 13 overall pick when other needs were apparent, it is clear that they picked well as Sheldon Richardson was the best defensive rookie in the NFL this season:
He finished with 77 tackles, including 12 of them for a loss along with 3.5 sacks. His coach, Rex Ryan, knew he could win this award earlier in the season, telling Brian Costello of the New York Post:
I just look at the film, base it on production. The production is a huge part of it and the way he plays. He’s got that relentless motor. For a defensive tackle and being as productive as he is … the tape doesn’t lie.
Richardson beat out Kiko Alonso of the Buffalo Bills, who finished third in the NFL with 159 tackles and also added four interceptions from the linebacker position.
Still, the defensive tackle caused a lot of problems for opposing offenses and is well deserving of this honor.
AP Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
This was a competitive season for the Coach of the Year award. Andy Reid took a team that was 2-14 last season to the playoffs, while Bill Belichick led his injury-plagued squad to the AFC title game. However, it was Ron Rivera who came away with the honor:
Rivera's Carolina Panthers started the season 1-3 before turning things around and winning 11 of the last 12 games. The squad won the NFC South with a young roster and will look to be competitive for years to come.
Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler discussed the huge turnaround for Rivera this season:
Ron Rivera went from his owner down on the sideline pre-game possibly getting ready to fire him, to Coach of the Year. Amazing.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) February 1, 2014
One of the big changes was the fact that he got more aggressive, earning the nickname "Riverboat Ron" for his willingness to go for it on fourth down. According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, Rivera was not all that amused when asked about it:
“It’s a nice little moniker but I try to do things the right way.” - Ron Rivera on #RiverboatRon— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) February 2, 2014
Still, there is no denying the great work he did in helping the Panthers earn a bye to the divisional round of the playoffs.
AP Defensive Player of the Year: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
This award is always tough to get a read on as voters have different qualities they look for in a winner. Players like Robert Quinn and Robert Mathis had huge sack totals, while NaVorro Bowman racked up tackles and was great in coverage.
Instead, the voters chose someone who did a little bit of everything in Luke Kuechly:
The Panthers linebacker finished fourth in the NFL with 156 tackles and was also solid in coverage while adding four interceptions. He was also a leader for the No. 2 scoring defense in the league as the Panthers put together a great season.
Unsurprisingly, Kuechly was excited about the award:
Luke Kuechly: "It’s exciting. It was such a great group of guys up for it. It’s an awesome award that came with a lot of hard work."— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) February 2, 2014
As Bleacher Report's Knox Bardeen points out, this is not the first individual honor the linebacker has received:
Luke Kuechly was 2012's AP Defensive Rookie of the Year & 2013's Defensive Player of the Year. A damned fine start to his career #Panthers— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) February 2, 2014
If he keeps up this level of play, Kuechly should receive plenty more awards in the future.
AP Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
This might have been one of the easiest awards to decide as Peyton Manning took the honor after a fantastic season for the Denver Broncos:
As Brian McIntyre points out, the race was not all that close:
No surprise. Peyton Manning wins AP Offensive Player of the Year with 33 votes. LeSean McCoy was second (10), Jamaal Charles third (4)— Brian McIntyre (@brian_mcintyre) February 2, 2014
Manning set NFL records with 5,477 passing yards as well as 55 touchdowns. His Broncos also set the league record for the most points in history with 606.
At this point, the future Hall of Fame quarterback likely cares more about how he will try to beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. However, this individual award is a nice recognition for arguably the best statistical season in NFL history.
AP NFL MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
After the incredible numbers that Manning put up this season while leading the Broncos to a 13-3 record, there was little doubt he would be named the league’s Most Valuable Player:
Brinson notes that this award was almost a one-man show:
2013 NFL MVP is Peyton Manning. NFL didn’t even mention other candidates.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) February 2, 2014
Then again, this was not a unanimous vote according to SportsCenter:
Peyton Manning was NOT a unanimous choice as NFL MVP, receiving 49 of 50 votes. The other vote went to Tom Brady.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 2, 2014
Ron Rhodes of WTVW gave up who made the differing vote and was obviously not happy about it:
Sirius XM radio's Jim Miller @15miller voted for Tom Brady as NFL MVP not Peyton Manning. Who do we petition to revoke his right to vote?— Ron Rhodes (@RonanRhodes) February 1, 2014
However, Manning was far and away the best of the bunch and deserving of adding another trophy to his wide collection, as Numbers Never Lie points out:
Five. Count em. Five MVPs for Peyton Manning.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) February 2, 2014
This fifth MVP award is an NFL record after Manning also earned the honor in 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. The veteran also took home the FedEx Air Player of the Year award for his outstanding performance in 2013.
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