Yesterday, ESPN released the picks from their “experts” for the NFL's various annual awards. As you would expect, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott got plenty of love but there were also a few surprises. One of those has me especially peevish; Jason Garrett didn't get nearly enough respect in the Coach of the Year #Cowbpoll.
The only awards where no Cowboys were mentioned were Defensive Player of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year. I was a bit surprised that Sean Lee didn't get a single vote for DPOY but it was a stacked group this year. Morris Claiborne might have qualified for the Comeback award if he hadn't been injured again, but no other Cowboys would've made sense.
Here are the categories where at least one Cowboy received a vote:
Offensive Player of the Year
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan received the logical first-place finish for this award, He was second to Drew Brees with 4,944 passing yards and second to Aaron Rodgers with 38 touchdowns. What really put Ryan over the top was his 117.1 passer rating, the fifth best in NFL history.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott finished in second place. He received one first-place vote, five second-place, and one third-place from the 13 ESPN panelists. That means five of the voters didn't pick Elliott at all.
Ezekiel Elliott's rookie season was 178 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record for first-year running backs. This is especially impressive given that Elliott sat out the Cowboys' last game to rest for the playoffs. In spite of this, he still led the NFL in rushing by over 300 yards.
Unlike the quarterback-dominated MVP race, running backs tend to do well with the OPOY award. DeMarco Murray won it in 2014 after his monster season with the Cowboys. Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson have also won in recent years.
The OPOY Award tends to be more about statistical production than the MVP Award. That's why Ezekiel Elliott did so well and also why Dak Prescott didn't get a single vote. Dak was not in the Top 10 in yards or touchdowns this year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The young Cowboys dominated here, as you might have predicted. Ezekiel Elliott ate up 12 of the 13 possible first-place votes. The one he didn't get went to Dak Prescott. They also split all of the second-place votes; 12 going to Dak and one to Zeke.
The next-closest offensive rookie was Jack Conklin, a tackle from the Tennessee Titans. Saints WR Michael Thomas was close behind him. However, there really was no competition to the Dallas duo.
After starting the year well but falling off later, the Eagles' Carson Wentz received just a single third-place vote. You'll always have September, Philly fans.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Nobody was taking this one from the Charges' Joey Bosa, who had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games and won in a landslide. In second place was Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who many Cowboys fans wanted over Ezekiel Elliott during the NFL Draft.
I assume there was at least one Dallas-area writer on ESPN's panel, because Maliek Collins managed to get one third-place vote. You could argue that it should have been more.
Collins' five sacks this year was equal to star players like Ndamukong Suh and Timmy Jernigan. The most by a defensive tackle was nine sacks from Geno Atkins. Only a few other franchise tackles like Kawann Short and Aaron Donald had more sacks than Maliek.
Coach of the Year
Aye, here's the rub! Jason Garrett came in second place to Bill Belichick. Garrett received three first-place votes, five second-place, and two third-place votes. Belichick dominated with nine first-place votes.
A few things irk me here:
- Garrett received 10 total votes, meaning three panelists didn't vote for him at all. That's a slap in the face for the coach with the best record in the NFC, especially since he'd have likely tied Belichick's 14-2 record if he'd played starters in Week 17.
- Garrett's success came with a rookie quarterback. That's not impressive enough for you? How about a rookie QB who had no expectation of starting until the last week of the preseason? Still not enough? Really?
- Belichick is getting his ass kissed for going 3-1 without Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo is a former second-round pick who's in his third year in the Patriots system. It would be embarrassing if they didn't win with him.
- That one September loss for New England was a 16-0 shutout at home to the Buffalo Bills, who went 7-9 this year. Every team can have a bad day, but that's a pretty glaring blemish for a guy with supposed genius. I don't care who the quarterback was.
- Have I mentioned that whole Tony Romo controversy that Jason Garrett had to deal with?
I'm sorry, but you can't tell me that Bill Belichick was more impressive this season. Garrett faced greater challenges and was equally successful. His team had more internal issues to confront and a far tougher division to get out of. Whatever criteria these panelists went by to pick Belichick, Garrett matched or bettered him in every way.
Thankfully, ESPN's occasional bozos don't decide the award. I hope the Associated Press will have more sense.