Honoring and Dishonoring the NFL's Best

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 29, 2005; 4:55 PM

If it's almost time for football's second season, it's also about time for our annual regular season honors and dishonors.

Player of the Year, offense: So many to choose from, but Colts quarterback Peyton Manning remains the choice. He is the only quarterback in the league who essentially calls his own plays, then almost always makes them work. Seattle running back Shaun Alexander and New York Giants running back Tiki Barber also deserve serious consideration.

Player of the Year, defense: The Steelers long-haired strong safety Troy Polamalu who terrorized quarterbacks and receivers all season. A close second is the Colts undersized safety Bob Sanders, a tackling terror who helped solidify one of the better defenses in the league.

Player of the Year, special teams: A little provincial choice here, but the Redskins Mike Sellers has been a stud on these units all season.

Rookie of Year, offense: I'll stick with my midseason choice, Tampa Bay running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

Rookie of the Year, defense: Former Maryland and current San Diego Chargers standout linebacker Shawne Merriman single-handedly helped end the Colts winning streak two weeks ago and had a brilliant season. He wins by a whisker over Seahawks rookie linebacker Lofa Tatupu.

Coach of the Year: Again, plenty of worthy candidates, but I'll still take the Colts' Tony Dungy, whose team won 13 straight mostly because of a Dungy-coached defense that was vastly improved from a year ago. Marvin Lewis did a wonderful job with the Bengals, as did Lovie Smith with the Chicago Bears. And by the way, a guy named Joe Gibbs -- you remember him, three Super Bowl titles and a Hall of Fame bust -- deserves some votes for the Redskins late season surge.

Redskins MVP: Wide receiver Santana Moss is worth every nickel Daniel Snyder paid for a guy who doesn't look all that imposing but plays like Superman once the game begins.

Comeback Player of the Year: Another Redskin, but how can anyone argue with quarterback Mark Brunell, who proved that dismal 2004 season was simply an injury-induced aberration. Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi also was a strong candidate, but missed too many early games to qualify.

Executive of the Year: Colts' team president Bill Polian, who helped Dungy reconstruct the defense with some astute personnel moves.

Assistant Coach of the Year: Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Dope of the Year: Philadelphia receiver Terrell Owens single-handedly helped destroy a team many -- including moi -- believed was a lock to get back to the Super Bowl. Runner-up is his loudmouthed agent, Drew Rosenhaus, whose moronic strategy to force the Eagles to get his man a new contract properly blew up in both their faces.

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