Godzilla Awards 1940-2017

With its name taken from Lawrence Taylor‘s college appellation, the Godzilla Award is bestowed annually upon the top defensive player in the league. Stats are relevant, of course, but they require context. For example, in 2006 Shawne Merriman led the league with 17 sacks. He did that while playing for Wade Phillips and getting a ton of relatively easy paths to the quarterback. Jason Taylor had only 13.5 sacks, but he did it primarily by beating his blocker and padding his box score on his own merit. I believe it’s important to account for those things when naming an award winner. From 1940 to 1945, there isn’t a ton of footage available, so I rely on stats and on accounts from contemporaries and historians. Prior to 1940, there is almost no point in trying to assign a winner. There is almost no film, the stats have little to no context, and most players who received media praise did so for their all-around play rather than their prowess on offense or defense. So I didn’t extend the Godzilla Award beyond that. Remember, as always, that awards are binary, and the guys with a 0 could have easily gotten a 1 had I felt differently. For instance, I named Leo Nomellini the defensive player of the year in 1953. Jack Christiansen and Chuck Bednarik easily could have earned the award instead, but instead of getting partial credit, they get nothing. In 1965, Willie Davis and Alex Karras were neck and neck, and I used the postseason to break the tie. It makes a big difference if that happens in several seasons over a player’s career. Think about how that works for all pro teams from major publications and how much that can affect someone’s legacy and chances at getting into the Hall of Fame.

Godzilla Award Winners

The table below lists every Godzilla Award winner since 1940. Read it thus: in 1940, playing in the NFL, Ace Parker of the Dodgers won his first Godzilla Award.

YearLeagueDPOYTeam#
1940NFLAce ParkerBrooklyn Dodgers1
1941NFLBruiser KinardBrooklyn Dodgers1
1942NFLBulldog TurnerChicago Bears1
1943NFLAl WistertNew York Giants1
1944NFLHowie LivingstonNew York Giants1
1945NFLVic SearsPhiladelphia Eagles1
1946NFLBill DudleyPittsburgh Steelers1
1946AAFCTom ColellaCleveland Browns1
1947NFLAl WistertPhiladelphia Eagles1
1947AAFCLou SabanCleveland Browns1
1948NFLDan SandiferWashington1
1948AAFCOtto SchnellbacherNew York Yankees1
1949NFLEmlen TunnellNew York Giants1
1949AAFCBill WillisCleveland Browns1
1950NFLArnie WeinmeisterNew York Giants1
1951NFLLen FordCleveland Browns1
1952NFLNight Train LaneLos Angeles Rams1
1953NFLLeo NomelliniSan Francisco 49ers1
1954NFLNight Train LaneChicago Cardinals2
1955NFLGene BritoWashington1
1956NFLBill GeorgeChicago Bears1
1957NFLJack ButlerPittsburgh Steelers1
1958NFLGino MarchettiBaltimore Colts1
1959NFLSam HuffNew York Giants1
1960NFLJoe SchmidtDetroit Lions1
1960AFLGoose GonsoulinDenver Broncos1
1961NFLGene LipscombPittsburgh Steelers1
1961AFLCharlie McNeilSan Diego Chargers1
1962NFLAndy RobustelliNew York Giants1
1962AFLBud McFadinDenver Broncos1
1963NFLJim KatcavageNew York Giants1
1963AFLArchie MatsosOakland Raiders1
1964NFLBob LillyDallas Cowboys1
1964AFLTom SestakBuffalo Bills1
1965NFLWillie DavisGreen Bay Packers1
1965AFLEarl FaisonSan Diego Chargers1
1966NFLLarry WilsonChicago Cardinals1
1966AFLNick BuonicontiBoston Patriots1
1967NFLDeacon JonesLos Angeles Rams1
1967AFLMiller FarrHouston Oilers1
1968NFLDeacon JonesLos Angeles Rams2
1968AFLBobby BellKansas City Chiefs1
1969NFLCarl EllerMinnesota Vikings1
1969AFLRich JacksonDenver Broncos1
1970NFLDick ButkusChicago Bears1
1971NFLAlan PageMinnesota Vikings1
1972NFLJoe GreenePittsburgh Steelers1
1973NFLAlan PageMinnesota Vikings2
1974NFLJoe GreenePittsburgh Steelers2
1975NFLMel BlountPittsburgh Steelers1
1976NFLJack LambertPittsburgh Steelers1
1977NFLHarvey MartinDallas Cowboys1
1978NFLRandy WhiteDallas Cowboys1
1979NFLLee Roy SelmonTampa Bay Buccaneers1
1980NFLLester HayesOakland Raiders1
1981NFLJoe KleckoNew York Jets1
1982NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants1
1983NFLHowie LongLos Angeles Raiders1
1984NFLKenny EasleySeattle Seahawks1
1985NFLMike SingletaryChicago Bears1
1986NFLLawrence TaylorNew York Giants2
1987NFLReggie WhitePhiladelphia Eagles1
1988NFLReggie WhitePhiladelphia Eagles2
1989NFLKeith MillardMinnesota Vikings1
1990NFLBruce SmithBuffalo Bills1
1991NFLReggie WhitePhiladelphia Eagles3
1992NFLCortez KennedySeattle Seahawks1
1993NFLRod WoodsonPittsburgh Steelers1
1994NFLDeion SandersSan Francisco 49ers1
1995NFLBryce PaupBuffalo Bills1
1996NFLBryant YoungSan Francisco 49ers1
1997NFLDana StubblefieldSan Francisco 49ers1
1998NFLJunior SeauSan Diego Chargers1
1999NFLWarren SappTampa Bay Buccaneers1
2000NFLRay LewisBaltimore Ravens1
2001NFLMichael StrahanNew York Giants1
2002NFLDerrick BrooksTampa Bay Buccaneers1
2003NFLRay LewisBaltimore Ravens2
2004NFLEd ReedBaltimore Ravens1
2005NFLChamp BaileyDenver Broncos1
2006NFLJason TaylorMiami Dolphins1
2007NFLBob SandersIndianapolis Colts1
2008NFLJames HarrisonPittsburgh Steelers1
2009NFLDarrelle RevisNew York Jets1
2010NFLClay MatthewsGreen Bay Packers1
2011NFLJustin SmithSan Francisco 49ers1
2012NFLJ.J. WattHouston Texans1
2013NFLJ.J. WattHouston Texans2
2014NFLJ.J. WattHouston Texans3
2015NFLVon MillerDenver Broncos1
2016NFLKhalil MackOakland Raiders1
2017NFLAaron DonaldLos Angeles Rams1

A few inane ramblings.

In 1940, Ace Parker earned both the Godzilla Award and the Sweetness Award. That’s pretty impressive.

Reggie White and J.J. Watt won three awards apiece. Both demonstrated elite pass rushing ability, rare athleticism, tremendous hustle, and top flight work against the run. White and Watt could terrorize offensive lines from the edge or as interior wrecking balls.

Night Train Lane is the only defensive back with two awards, and he was in contention for at least one more. He intimidated both receivers and passers, devastated carriers with his clothesline tackles, and made big plays by creating turnovers.

Ray Lewis is the only pure linebacker to pick up two awards. He possessed unmatched range tracking down runners from sideline to sideline, disengaged blockers with aplomb, played well in coverage, and seemed to know the offense’s play call on every down.

Deacon Jones, Alan Page, Mean Joe Greene, and Godzilla himself, LT, are the only other players with multiple awards. They all destroyed the line of scrimmage and made life miserable for quarterbacks and running backs. Jones coined the term “sack” and averaged 1.5 of them per game from 1964-68. Page is the top pass rushing tackle in history, racking up an incredible 148.5 sacks in his career. Greene could rush the passer well, but he was a terror against the run and made life easier on the multiple legends who played behind and beside him. Taylor’s horrific blend of speed, power, and brutality changed the way coaches approached protecting their quarterbacks. His highlights are some of the most impressive in history, but he’s more than just an NFL Films clip. He attacked with ferocity on every play.