For the third consecutive year, the National Football League dedicated an evening to salute some of the best players and brightest moments of the NFL season.
The 2014 NFL Honors provided an entertaining and emotional recap of the past five months of football. Fittingly timed on the eve of the Super Bowl, the event got plenty of things right. Like some awards shows often seem to do, however, the NFL Honors also got a few things wrong.
While we could probably spend a sizable amount of time debating the hits and misses of host Alec Baldwin's opening monologue, we won't. We will, however, spend the next several pages highlighting an essential part of any awards show—the snubs.
While not everyone will agree with the names and moments on this list (as is the case with virtually all awards lists), they all have one thing in common. They were not considered winners by the voters who actually mattered.
Winner: DT Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets
Sheldon Richardson had quite an incredible rookie campaign for the New York Jets in 2013 (78 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble). However, it is a bit difficult to believe he was more impressive than Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso.
A second-round draft pick out of Oregon, Alonso was one of the most exciting defensive players in all of football last season. Only two players finished the regular season with more tackles than Alonso (159). He also added 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble and four interceptions.
According to NFL.com, Alonso finished second in AP voting by only four votes. It is worth wondering if playing in a larger media market might have given Alonso enough exposure to take the award back to Buffalo.
Winner: QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers does deserve some congratulations for leading the San Diego Chargers back to the postseason and for putting together one of the best statistical seasons of his career (4,478 yards passing, 32 touchdowns and a passer rating of 105.5) in 2013.
However, it is not as if Rivers really had a disastrous 2012 campaign to come back from. He played in all 16 games that season and produced a respectable 3,606 yards passing, 26 touchdowns and a rating of 88.6.
A more fitting winner would have been Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who missed 15 games in 2012 after tearing his Achilles tendon. He also missed four games due to injuries the year before that.
Grimes rebounded this season to start all 16 games for the Dolphins and to produce 60 tackles, 16 passes defended, four interceptions and a defensive touchdown on the field.
Winner: Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Kudos definitely go to Ron Rivera for his role in getting the Carolina Panthers to a 12-4 regular-season record and a first-round bye in the playoffs a year after earning a 7-9 record.
However, Rivera's turnaround seem insignificant when compared to the one that Andy Reid orchestrated for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.
A year after a disastrous 2-14 campaign, the Chiefs went 11-5 and earned a spot in the postseason. Reid's part in the turnaround cannot be understated, though some will likely point to the addition of veteran quarterback Alex Smith (to be fair, River did get to coach Cam Newton).
It is worth noting that the Panthers, like the Chiefs, lost in their opening playoff game. Perhaps the Coach of the Year award should go to whichever head coach brings home the Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl.
Winner, LB Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
A year after winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was named as the best overall defender in the league.
While Kuechly did put up some impressive numbers during the 2013 season (156 tackles, 2.0 sacks and four interceptions), there were plenty of other players—like Robert Mathis, Earl Thomas and Robert Quinn—whom some will undoubtedly consider equally deserving of the award.
The big surprise was that San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman was not even a legitimate finalist for the award.
Great line from @greggrosenthal: "The 49ers' NaVorro Bowman, in many ways, had the season that people thought Kuechly had."— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) February 2, 2014
Despite racking up 145 tackles, 5.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown, Bowman was not among the top vote-getters, according to NFL.com.
Winner: Calvin Johnson Beats Cover 3
If you have not yet seen Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson's miraculous Week 7 catch against the Cincinnati Bengals, it is worth a look on NFL.com.
While Johnson did make an extremely impressive play, it just doesn't quite feel worthy of being named the Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year.
At least, it doesn't feel worthy when you compare it to NaVorro Bowman's incredible 89-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16. Not only did his pick-six seal the game for the San Francisco 49ers, but it also clinched a playoff spot for the team.
"That was one of the greatest plays I've ever seen," Head coach Jim Harbaugh said of the interception, per the team's official website.
Oh yeah, it also happened in the final 49ers' game at fabled Candlestick Park. Unfortunately, Bowman was snubbed for the second time of the night.