Just before the Super Bowl it’s time for the NFL to hand out it’s awards for the best players in the 2014 season, acknowledging the excellence of Aaron Rodgers, the incredible impact of J.J. Watt, the ability to bounce back from injury of Rob Gronkowski and the promise shown by Teddy Bridgewater.
MVP – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: This is the second Rodgers is named the league’s MVP, the first of which coming in 2011. Rodgers led the Packers to a 12-4 season and the NFC championship game. He threw 38 touchdown passes and only five interceptions; his 1% interception ratio was the best in the league this season. He also threw for 4381 yards. He led the NFL in adjusted yards per pass attempt (9.5), net yards gained per pass attempt (7.68) and the adjusted formula of that statistic with 8.65 per attempt.
Offensive player of the year – DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: It doesn’t really matter if Murray had a big year because of his amazing offensive line, or his peaking skills. The only thing that does matter is that in his fourth NFL season, Murray finally played all 16 games and the Cowboys made the most of that, rushing him 392 times for 1845 yards, resulting in 13 touchdowns. He led the league’s running backs in yards, attempts, touchdowns and yards per game while also producing an impressive 4.7 yards per carry.
Defensive player of the year – J.J. Watt, Houston Texans: Watt wins the award for the second time in three years, remaining the most destructive pass rushing force in the league in his fourth season out of Wisconsin. He finished with 20.5 sacks for the second time in his career, adding one interception and four forced fumbles. He scored two defensive touchdowns this season and shows quite an impressive ability on the offensive side of the ball as well with three touchdown receptions.
Coach of the year – Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals: Who knows what would have been if Carson Palmer wasn’t injured so often and easily. Arians led the Cardinals to the playoffs with an 11-5 record in his second year on the job, although it didn’t help them in the wild card game, losing to the Carolina Panthers who had a more capable playmaker available to them. Still, Arians has turned the Cardinals into one of the best defensive team in the league and if it wasn’t for quarterback injuries, his offense would have been ranked rather high up as well.
Offensive rookie of the year – Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants: Everyone thinks of Beckham and the catch, but on another down year for the Giants, he was a ray of light and more importantly a promise for the future. The 22-year old receiver out of LSU caught 91 passes for 1305 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the NFL with 108.8 receiving yards per game. He set up quite a lot of records, both for the league and the franchise in his first season.
Defensive rookie of the year – Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams: The defensive tackle out of Pitt was the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft and did not disappoint as part of a mostly disappointing team (because of a quarterback injury), finishing the season with 37 tackles, 9 sacks and two forced fumbles, getting the Pro Bowl recognition for his impact.
Comeback player of the year – Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: After appearing in just seven games last season, Gronkowski was back to being the most dominant tight end in football this season, catching 82 passes for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns, which helped him earn an All-Pro mention for the third time in his career. He’s only 25, which means that if his body holds up (which hasn’t been the case so far) he’ll end up being the greatest in his position ever.
Pepsi rookie of the year – Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings: The 32nd overall pick in the draft didn’t get to start right away but the Vikings realized at some point that there’s no use wasting time on a guy that’s ready. Maybe not to star or dominate right away, but overall do the right things while the team builds slowly around him. Bridgewater started in 12 games with the Vikings going 6-6 in that stretch, a misleading number but often the one quarterbacks are judged by. He completed 64.4% of his passes, threw 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while rushing for 209 yards and a score as well.