The masses are generally too quick to crown and label athletes and that certainly rings true in NFL. But… it’s fun! Let’s give out some mid-season awards.
Most Valuable Player – Matt Ryan
@cpgm_juice’s take: I really wanted to give the nod to Derek Carr especially considering how he has carried a disappointing defense (31st in yards/gm allowed) . Carr is 5th in passing yards (2,321), 3rd in passing TDs (17), and despite leading the league in passing attempts (323) he’s only thrown three interceptions and been sacked a paltry nine times. But, I’ll take Matty Ice as he and his Falcons went on the road and beat Oakland head-to-head in a shootout and the Raiders don’t have a win to date over a team with a winning record during the 2016 campaign. Matt Ryan has been phenomenal in his second year in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. An improved offensive line, a couple new weapons and ICE is carving up opposing defenses every week. Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards (2,980), passing TDs (23), QB Rating (119.0) and only trails Tom Brady (73.1%) in completion percentage (69.6%). He’s done a tremendous job of protecting the football as well throwing only four interceptions. The Falcons sit atop the NFC South Division (6-3) and have the league’s most prolific offense. Needless to say the Falcons lead the NFL in scoring averaging a robust 33.9 points per game. But the beauty of Matt Ryan’s performance this season is that he is performing at a very high level when the game hangs in the balance as evidenced by the 28.8 points per game being surrendered by the Falcons defense. Without Ryan’s remarkable play to date the Falcons are a sub .500 team.
Season long outlook: At this point last season Tom Brady was my choice for MVP and you can certainly make a case for him at the midpoint of the 2016 NFL Season despite missing the first four weeks due to suspension. However, New England went 3-1 without Brady and Ryan has been every bit as impressive. By season’s end Brady may be adding quite a bit of hardware to his trophy case but if Ryan continues at the pace he’s on he’ll be my choice for league MVP.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Dak Prescott
@cpgm_juice’s take: At the quarter mark of the season the media at large was clamoring for Carson Wentz’s bust to be created and enshrined in Canton but his play has since resembled that off an inexperienced, rookie signal caller. Ezekiel Elliott certainly deserves consideration for mid-season OROY honors as the NFL’s leading rusher but I believe Prescott’s performance based on the circumstances has been more impressive. It was obvious after watching Prescott during the preseason that the Cowboys’ backup quarterback situation was substantially better than that of the 2015 abomination; but no one could have anticipated that Prescott would be so unflappable through his first seven career starts. Prescott has forced Jerry Jones’ hand and relegated Tony Romo to the bench at least for the time being. Completing over 65% of his passes with 13 total TDs and only 2 interceptions the 23-year-old has led Dallas to a 6-1 record as they sit atop the NFC East division standings. Certainly a dominant o-line, potent rushing attack and surprisingly good defensive play have contributed immensely to the Cowboys 2016 success; but Dallas had no issue running the football in 2015, and it was the quarterback play or lack thereof that exacerbated an over-matched defense. For all the credit Carson Wentz gets for making pre-snap reads and adjustments, frankly Prescott is doing the same thing despite not having the pro-style pedigree coming out of college. Additionally, Wentz has been a “dink & dunk” quarterback with a 6.69 average per pass attempt. Meanwhile, Prescott has effectively pushed the football down the field with a robust 8.02 average good for 5th best in the NFL thus far while being without Dez Bryant for three contests. The Prescott/Elliott dynamic is symbiotic and depending on your perspective diminishes the other’s performance. However, at the end of the day playing quarterback at the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys no less is the most difficult job for any athlete in the profession.
Season long outlook: I’ve seen some chinks in Prescott’s armor in recent weeks but he hasn’t let his struggles impact his performance throughout an entire contest. If he continues to be efficient, protect the football and gives Dez Bryant chances to make plays he could very well take home OROY honors. That being said, I expect the Cowboys to lean on their offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott even more as they face tougher competition in the 2nd half of the season, the weather changes and defenses adjust. The rookie wall could still be in play.
Executive of the Year – John Elway
@cpgm_juice’s take: There are quite a few front office personas deserving of this mid-season award including: Howie Roseman of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jon Robinson of the Tennessee Titans, Reggie McKenzie of the Oakland Raiders, hell, IF the Cowboys have the staying power you can’t count out Jerry Jones. You can throw in Bill Belichick while you’re at it. But to this point I’ll go with the Broncos’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway. It’s more complicated than I’m going to make it sound but in a nutshell he got Von Miller under contract and didn’t fall into the trap and overpay for Brock Osweiler. The defense is still elite, the offensive line is improved and Trevor Siemian > Brock Osweiler. The depth on defense in particular is impressive. Elway learned at the end of his playing career how pivotal an effective running game is and saw to it that Gary Kubiak brought his zone scheme into town last year. If you want to play deep into January pack your running game and a defense.