I’ve got more to say!
While the AFC contenders and pretenders fight it out to see who will face the Packers in Indianapolis and the Giants get ready to test their mettle at Lambeau next week, I thought I’d take the opportunity of the bye to reflect back on the regular season just completed to see who were the best (and the worst) players and influences on this team. So without further ado, (or at least minimal ado and in no particular order), we now present The First Annual MMQB Awards. (Cue the NFL Films inspirational music)
- Dual tri-fecta Award of Merit: Not only did the Packers win three professional football games in 11 days (Vikings 11/14, Bucs 11/20 and Lions 11/24) but they won on Thanksgiving Day (Lions), Christmas Day (Bears) and New Years Day (Lions again). I have no way of researching this but I can’t imagine that any team in the history of the NFL has done either of those things, much less both in one year.
- Lineman of the year: Center Scott Wells. At one time I considered Wells the weak link on the offensive line. As the only lineman to start every game for the Packers, he has not only shown his durability but he has been consistently effective. Can you remember any bad snaps from this guy? All year? Neither can I.
- Worst Loss to Injury: Nick Collins. After reviewing some highlights from 2010, I can see clearly why our defensive secondary can’t cover anybody. They are missing the leadership and skills of Nick Collins back there. With him on the DL and not the football field, you’ve got the likes of Jarrett Bush trying to cover people.
- Worst Loss to Free Agency: Cullen Jenkins. Look at the Packer front seven in 2010. Now look at that same group in 2011. Who is missing? Jenkins. Look at the sack total from both years. See anything? I don’t care about Ted Thompson’s reputation for penny-pinching on the veteran free agents and I don’t care about those that tell me it doesn’t matter, we’re 15-1. It does matter. With his push up the middle, there is no way QB’s are throwing for 400+ yards against our team every week. The sack totals go up (not from Jenkins but from his busting of pockets and forcing QB’s into the arms of our linebackers) and all those UGLY defensive performances are much less so.
- Best Back-UP: Matt Flynn. If you don’t know why, you didn’t see the franchise record-setting performance against the Lions. If you didn’t see that, I don’t want to talk to you.
- Biggest Disappointment, Offense: Jermichael Finely. This was to be his year. He stayed healthy and he had a pretty good year, but not a dominating one. J-Mike should have been dominating. Dropped passes in several contests exposed his hands. He still has the tools and the talent but I don’t believe he is the elite TE he thinks he is.
- Biggest Disappointment, Defense: Tie - Frank Zombo, Brad Jones, Vic So’oto, Erik Walden. We needed someone to step up and bring a credible pass rush opposite Clay Matthews. Haven’t seen it happen yet. So we’ve gone through two full seasons looking for another OLB and we have yet to find the guy.
- Rookie Of The Year: Randall Cobb. He has made a minor impact as a receiver (as would be expected for a rookie with four great receivers in front of him) but his contributions as a return man have been outstanding. He’s got a kick return for a TD and a punt return for a score as well. In the last decade, the Packers haven’t even had a sniff at this kind of weapon. Sure, he’s had a few fumbles and made some poor decisions, but overall, he’s been a 1000% improvement.
- Best Running Back: Ryan Grant. Coming back from a season-ending injury in 2010, Grant was expected to compete with James Starks for the starting spot but he failed to impress in any way. But Starks had nagging injuries of his own and Grant came back and made valuable contributions, especially late in the season.
- Defensive MVP: Clay Matthews. His sack totals are way down but his impact on the game as a whole is way up. He requires a double-team or at the very least a chip on every play. That imposes a limit on what opposing offenses can do. He’s #9 on the team in tackles and #1 in sacks. He’s got three interceptions and a pick-six. He is around just about every play on defense. He’s a leader on and off the field. You could make an argument that Charles Woodson is a close second but his fading talents in coverage make me give Mathews the edge.
- Offensive MVP: Aaron Rodgers. No surprises here. A-Rodg has had, arguably, the best season ever for an NFL QB. Others may lead in certain statistical categories but if you look at yards, yards per catch, TD passes, interceptions, passer rating and (most importantly) wins, you cannot make an argument for any other QB. Not Brees, not Brady. Tim Tebow, the media darling, isn’t a pimple on Rodgers’ ass. After watching Matt Flynn dismantle the Lions, you could argue that it’s the team and the system that make Aaron so good. And you would be right. But you can have the best receivers, the best coaches and the best game plan in the world and if you don’t have that topflight guy under center, it’s not going to be pretty.
- Late-to-the-party Award: The MMQB. On Tuesday, January 3rd at approximately 1935 local standard time, I finally (FINALLY) made it official and became an owner of the Green Bay Packers. To be a very small part of such a long-standing and storied organization is truly a humbling experience. I know there are thousands of owners and I know that this piece of paper isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on. I can’t sell it and it will never make me a red cent. That doesn’t matter. I’ve bought houses, cars, toys, computers and phones that I was absolutely lusting after and I’ve never had the kind of thrill I had when I finalized that purchase. And if you are worrying about the “cannot criticize NFL teams or officials” clause in the stock offering, don’t: I used my alter ego’s name on the document, so yer ever-lovin’ MMQB is free to let the rants fly!