The 2012-13 NFL season is in the books and the Baltimore Ravens have been crowned champions. All they had to do was endure the preseason injury to last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, rally around Ray Lewis’ mid-season injury, make a change at offensive coordinator, win road playoff games at both Denver and New England and ride out a stadium lighting power surge in the Super Bowl to finally dance in the confetti. Now all there is to do is look back on the season that was, and examine what we have seen with a little bit more context.
From the very first game, this season established itself as unique. For the first time in history, five teams started rookie quarterbacks. Then there was the replacement referee debacle and the returns of Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson. Here is a look at those awards and the rest of the league’s top honors.
Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
When a team finishes 31st in passing in a passing-dominated league and still makes the playoffs, it should be no surprise that their running back wins the MVP. Peterson was everything for the Vikings’ offense and his season was the stuff of legend. For his efforts, Peterson took home both the MVP and the Offensive Player of the Year awards. His final regular season statistics were 2,097 yards on 348 carries and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for at least 150 yards in seven games, which is almost half the season.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Many people were skeptical when the Texans let Mario Williams sign a free-agent contract with Bills in the offseason. Now we can see that they knew what they were doing. Watt posted 20.5 sacks, 81 tackles, four forced fumbles and received 49 out of the 50 possible votes for the award. He is the type of player who requires the opposing team’s attention every single play or he will wreak havoc. Look for him to be a star in this league for a long time.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Despite tough competition from Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and his teammate Alfred Morris, Griffin earned what will probably be the first of many league awards. Griffin threw and ran for a combined 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, while only throwing five interceptions. He is the perfect combination of speed, athleticism, arm strength and accuracy. While Griffin can make explosive plays with his legs, he also has a problem with knowing when to avoid the hits. He suffered a concussion and numerous injuries to his knees. If he wants to continue to play in this league, he needs to learn when to slide and when to go out of bounds, or else he will end up wasting his immense talent.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
After the Panthers drafted Kuechly early in the first round of last year’s draft, all he did to thank them was lead the NFL with 164 tackles, play all 16 games and win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Kuechly plays a nasty, dirty position with style and intelligence like a Brian Urlacher. His intangibles are off the chart and he will be the centerpiece of the Panthers’ defense for the next 10 to 15 years.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts
Arians took control of the Colts when Head Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer, becoming the first interim head coach to win this award. Under Arians, the Colts went 9-3 and made the playoffs after posting the worst record in the league a year ago. His offensive genius and leadership skills earned him a new title and hefty new contract as the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. If he can turn the Cardinals around, he should run for President of the United States.
Looking forward to next season, there are still some unanswered questions: How big will Joe Flacco’s next contract with the Ravens be? Will Tim Tebow and Alex Smith be traded or released? Finally, will young quarterbacks like Griffin and Luck continue to succeed and avoid slumps?
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of February 5th, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.