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.

Flop of the Year: A year after making it to the NFC championship game, the Atlanta Falcons were eliminated from the postseason in the second to last week of the regular season. Then again, the team that beat them in that NFC title contest, the Eagles, were out of it by midseason. There is plenty of blame for both to share for this dishonor.

Geezer of the Year: Giants punter Jeff Feagles, who has now played in more games than any player in league history.

Travelers of the Year: The New Orleans Saints essentially played 16 road games after Hurricane Katrina, shuffling between home games in San Antonio, Baton Rouge and the New Jersey Meadowlands.

Cad of the Year: Even as people were literally dying in his home stadium and the surrounding streets, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson was plotting ways to permanently move his team out of town.

Slogan of the Year: The Millen Man March held in Detroit to protest the bungling five-year reign of error since team president Matt Millen took control of the worst franchise in the league.

Best Studio TV Show: HBO's Inside the NFL--great highlights, better banter, especially with Cris Collinsworth, and superb insider talk from Peter King.

Best Broadcaster: Al Michaels remains at the very top of his game, and his presence in the Monday night booth fortunately will continue, even if it's on ESPN starting next fall.

Worst broadcaster: Chris Berman's act wears thinner every season.

Best web site: Theredzone.org provides links to newspaper stories in every NFL city and has a readily accessible archive service, as well.

Worst web site: Extremeskins.com, now owned and operated by the Washington Redskins and a place where no-accountability venom remains the lifeblood of a despicable operation.

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