World Awards 1920-2017

Called such in honor of perhaps the greatest football player of all time, Jerry Rice, the World Award is reserved for the most outstanding player in the league each season. Don’t confuse this with the most valuable player award, which is almost always a quarterback. This award is for the best player, without respect to position. The award is a difficult one to bestow, because it means I am counting all positions as equal and trying to determine who played his position better than other…

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Genius Awards 1920-2017

Named in honor of San Francisco 49ers offensive innovator and organizational mastermind Bill Walsh, the Genius Award goes to the top head coach every season. For many publications, the coach of the year award doesn’t seem to have any concrete set of criteria. The qualifications are often nebulous and internally inconsistent, and far too much credit is given for simple reversion to the mean. Oftentimes, the media and public at large establish a set of expectations for a team, assume those expectations were correct, and…

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Gray and White Awards 1939-2017

Named in honor of Mel Gray and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, the Gray and White Award goes to the top return man in the league each season. I do not separate punt return and kick return contributions, so I occasionally have to choose between the best kickoff returner and the best punt returner. Often, players will be so good at their jobs that they make the choice easy. Other times, there will be two players who are good at one or the other, but I…

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TD Awards 1960-2017

The TD Award is named in honor of 49ers great Tommy Davis and goes to the top punter in the league each season. People have vastly different opinions on what makes a great punter. Historically, people would just look at gross punting average and call it a day. It became popular to say Sammy Baugh was the great of all time, ignoring the fact that he frequently punted on third down to a defense with no returner to stop the ball from rolling and augmenting…

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Toe Awards 1921-2017

Named in honor of Lou “the Toe” Groza, the Toe Award is reserved for the league’s most outstanding kicker each year. This is the award for which I think heavy use of statistic is most critical for building the foundation of your rankings. Obviously you can’t just look at field goal percentage and call it a day, as not all kicks have equal difficulty. With available statistics and through use of game footage, I have been able to do a decent job identifying the degree…

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Tunnell Vision Awards 1943-2017

Named in honor of the first great pure safety, Emlen Tunnell, the Tunnell Vision Award goes to the league’s most outstanding safety each season. The caveat here, of course, is that defensive back play can be quite inconsistent from year to year, and player’s with a higher baseline level of ability will often not have better seasons than players with a lower “true” talent level who happen to experience positive variance for a season. There are also different types of safeties: primarily, I’m referring to…

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Prime Time Awards 1943-2017

Named in honor of Deion Sanders, the greatest cover man of all time, even when he wasn’t fully invested in football, the Prime Time Award goes to the top cornerback in the league each season. The position is a highly volatile one, and you can see evidence of that in how few players won the award multiple times, and the fact that no one won it more than four times. When handing out awards for cornerbacks, there is much subjectivity, and value is in the…

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Dobre Shunka Awards 1943-2017

Meaning Good Ham, and named in honor of the tight end erasing phenom Jack Ham, the Dobre Shunka Award is reserved for the league’s top outside linebacker in a given season. Outside linebacker is an especially tricky position to evaluate for an award, because of the huge difference in responsibilities for off-ball linebackers and those who play at the line of scrimmage. When major publications hand out postseason awards, and when fans vote for the Pro Bowl, they seem to overwhelmingly favor 3-4 pass rushers…

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Enforcer Awards 1943-2017

The Enforcer, vicious middle linebacker Dick Butkus, inspires the title of this award, which goes to the best inside linebacker in a given season. In general, I prefer linebackers who are strong in coverage, but I do love a classic thumper who blows up blockers and devastates ball carriers at the point of attack. It is also important for the man in the middle to be able to call the shots for the defense, but that can be hard to tell on tape and doesn’t…

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Mean Awards 1945-2017

The Mean Award, named for legendary tough guy and fulcrum around which the Steel Curtain defense revolved, is given annually to the league’s standout defensive tackle. With defensive ends, I have an unabashed preference for pass rushers. For tackles, on the other hand, I prefer a more well-rounded repertoire of skills. This is especially true for linemen who played prior to about 2004, when the value of passing increased from its already high level. While I look at the same stats that I looked at…

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