Sure, we're a few days later than most with our mid-year awards. But any a-hole with a computer and an opinion can crank out a factless mid-year list.
It takes a special collection of a-holes to fill those lists with so many Cold, Hard Football Facts it will distend your stomach.
Come, dine at out mid-year buffet of NFL awards, honors and dishonors: the CHFFies.
Story of the Year:
Rebirth of the Gridiron Goliaths
Did you ever think you'd see the day when the NFL is more predictable than the NCAA? That day is here.
College ball has been defined this year by one seemingly miraculous upset after another, starting from the very first week of the season.
Pro ball has been defined by the slow, inevitable Sherman-like scorched-earth march of destruction by the NFL's elite over the league's under-nourished confederacy of gridiron dunces.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts have been talking about the death of parity in the NFL for a couple years now. It's no longer a debate. That bowl of denuded Buffalo wing bones sitting on your bed has more life left in it than parity. The frozen corpse of Ted Williams has more life left in it than parity. Eric Mangini's coaching career has more life left in it than party.
There is no parity, folks.
The AFC is dominated by three elite powers – not only are these powers dominating, they're dominating predictably. We told you who they'd be at the start of the season: Indy, New England and Pittsburgh. The NFC is dominated two elite powers, and they happen to be the league's two most successful franchises: Dallas and Green Bay.
And these teams aren't just winning, folks – they're crushing people at a rate the league has never seen before.
As we discussed earlier this week, three teams are poised to outscore their opponents by a 2-to-1 margin, a rate of dominance experienced by just 23 teams in the previous 41 years of the Super Bowl Era. New England, of course, is on pace to shatter just about every record for dominance in modern football history.
New England, Indy, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Green Bay are a combined 36-5 (.878) overall – and a ridiculous 36-3 (.923) in games against everybody else but each other.
- 27 of those 36 wins have been by 10 points or more
- 19 of those 26 wins have been by 21 points or more
These margins of victory are mind-boggling in a league in which nearly half of the games each year are decided by 7 points or less.
So if you define parity as "a handful of teams who utterly destroy their opponents each week" then, yeah, there is parity in the NFL.
Otherwise, in the immortal words of Loverboy, it's over, it's over, it's o-o-o-o-veeerrrr!!!
Some teams have the modern NFL all figured out (find a great QB then spread cap risk across the roster), and they're making a mockery of the rest of the league. So with that said, here's our cheesy 1980s tribute to the death of parity.
show video here
The Ron Borges Memorial Award: Gregg Easterbrook, reporter/hack (previously known as the Jack Tatum "Call Me Character Assassin" Award, given to the hack who tosses aside any semblance of credibility or media standards in a holier-than-thou effort to assassinate the character of an NFL personality)
We don't read anything but stat sheets, charts, lists, tables and record books and then draw conclusions based upon these factors, which is why you, our loyal reader (Hi Cousin Daisy!) ends up with this sparkling, crystalline nugget of gridiron wisdom called the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
Other football fans – those with so little self respect that they're actually interested in the "opinions" of someone they've never met – end up sniffing the shit pile turned out by folks like Gregg Easterbrook. Then, in a fit of incredulity, they send the links to us – kind of like the dinner date who says, "This tastes awful! Try it!"
Basically, Easterbrook has a hair across his ass so big and long that Troy Polamalu is jealous. We won't rehash it here. Suffice it to say, he's made it his point to attack New England coach Bill Belichick 24 hours a day, using rumor, innuendo and outright fabrications as his only weapons. It's one thing to honestly criticize a public personality. It's another to manufacture controversy to serve your own petty aims.
Maybe Easterbrook will end up like the award's namesake. If he does, the ever-growing army of football fans who value Cold, Hard Football Facts over opinions will stand up and cheer.
Coach of the Year: Mike McCarthy, Green Bay
We wanted go give this award to Bill Belichick, who gets plenty of credit for his X's and O's, but not enough for his amazing capabilities as a leader and manager. Every person in that organization is running headlong down the field at his command, and it's not often you see that type of unity in any organization, let alone a football team of over-inflated egos. Clearly, the folks inside the New England snow bubble see a different coach than the dour media personality.
Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin made the short list, too – a rookie coach replacing the second of two legends at the position, yet able to keep the Steelers machine chugging along quite beautifully.
With that said, McCarthy has accomplished perhaps the two greatest goals: he's turned the Packers defense into a championship outfit, one that has surrendered just 15.8 PPG over their last 10, dating back to the end of 2006. More impressively, he made Brett Favre realize that "gunslinger" is a euphemism for "quarterback who makes shitty decisions" – kind of like "reporter" is a euphemism for "Gregg Easterbrook."
The Pack is 7-1 here in McCarthy's second season and a leading contender to represent the NFC to the ritual castration at the hands of the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The Brenda Lee "Um, Sorry?" Award: Brett Favre, Green Bay
The Cold, Hard Football Facts declared that Brett Favre should be put out his misery two years ago, an a story that continues to generate angry e-mails from Packers fans (the most recent, just this week: "Please do the right thing and apologize to all the real fans," wrote Favre fan James Durocher)
Well James, here goes:
We're, sorry, so sorry, please accept our apology
. Brett Favre is an immortal God. We just pretended he threw all those interceptions basically every year since 1998, and imagined that he single-handedly drove his team to defeat time and again, like with those 6 picks in one playoff game in 2001.
But you can't argue with the results here in 2007: The Packers are 7-1 this season, 11-1 in their last 12 games, and Favre is one pace to throw 26 TDs, and a miniscule (by his standards) 16 INTs.
We offer you our final breath as penance.
The Ron Burgundy "Stay Classy, San Diego" Award: LaDainian Tomlinson
It's been a tough year for L.T. and the boys. Sure, wildfires disrupted their home lives this season. But even before that disaster, a shitstorm of onfield ineptitude descended upon San Diego.
The season seemed to get better, until last Sunday, when the Chargers were shredded by the Vikings and L.T. was suddenly surpassed by Adrian Peterson as the Greatest Back Ever in a league that steamrolls reputations the second they falter.
The Tom Brady Trophy: Derek Anderson, Cleveland
This award goes to the quarterback who came out of nowhere to almost single-handedly change the season for a team and, perhaps, for the league.
And admit it. Anderson came from as far out in nowhere as any starting QB in the NFL this year. Unless you live in Corvallis, Oregon, you probably never heard of him before this season. The third-year QB saw some playing time at the end of 2006, but was the No. 2 man in Cleveland before coming off the bench in Week 1. He's reinvigorated the Browns, helping pace their offense to 28.4 PPG (fourth in the league) and the team to a potential 10 wins – which would be the most since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999.
Good thing the Browns didn't waste a high draft pick on a quarterback this year.
Conspiracy of the Year: Gridiron Godfather destroys the Belichick tapes
What did Bill Belichick know about the other team's signals? When did he know it?
Well, you'll never know. The Gridiron Godfather, Roger Goodell, whacked Belichick's reputation earlier this year by levying a $500,000 fine and stripping his team of its first-round draft pick.
And then he destroyed all the evidence. There are only a few conclusions one can draw from this private destruction of evidence surrounding the controversy that has clouded the season:
- There was nothing to the tapes and Goodell simply wanted to end the story
- There was such damning evidence on the tapes that Goodell would have been forced to suspend Belichick, one of the biggest names in the league
- Belichick had tapes of the Gridiron Godfather's hottie of a wife, Fox News fox Jane Skinner, in compromising positions
So what's the answer? Nobody outside league and New England headquarters knows. Belichick rump-swabs say it must have been nothing. The legions of Belichick haters insist it must have been acts so disgusting and vile that decorum prohibits listing them here. CHFF readers demand those pictures of Skinner
, should they exist, be released in the interest of public disclosure.
Whatever the reason, the conspiratorial wound continues to fester.
Pleasant Surprise of the Year: Browns
All you need to know about the Browns is this: they visit Pittsburgh Sunday in a battle for first place in the AFC North.
Disastrous Surprise of the Year: Bears
At this point a year ago, the Bears were stomping everything in their path on their way to a 13-3 record and a conference title. This year they're 3-5 and dead last in the Black & Blow Division, losing the head-to-head tie-breaker to the 3-5 Vikings.
Prognosticator of the Year: (tie) Detroit QB Jon Kitna, CHFF prognosticating primate Bonzo the Idiot Monkey, former NFL player and Boston media personality Steve DeOssie
Kitna, the Detroit quarterback, predicted a 10-win season for the Lions, which would be nothing less than a miracle deemed by God for one of the worst organizations in all of sports. Yet here they are at the halfway pole, needing only a 4-4 mark to match Kitna's prediction. He's played a big role, too, and stands among the league leaders in most passing categories. The Lions, as we've pointed out elsewhere, play thrilling Big-Play-A-Minute football.
However, we have full confidence that the Lions are perfectly capable of going 3-5 over the final eight and rendering moot all this first-half excitement.
Bonzo, meanwhile, is our prognosticating primate who picks NFL games against the spread by flipping a coin. He's nailed 60 percent of his games this year and is one pace to best every single human pigskin "pundit" from CBSSports.com for the second straight year that we've conducted this exercise.
DeOssie, meanwhile, is an NFL veteran turned radio and TV "pundit" who wrote to us this week to let us know that he's smarter than the average imaginary monkey.
You gotta admit, DeOssie's mark of 24-5-3 picking games against the spread on his Twin River New England Tailgate Show is quite impressive and, he writes, "it proves that Bonzo is not the only primate capable of picking games." His co-hosts Fred Smerlas (20-9-3) and Glenn Ordway (22-7-3) have also had a pretty remarkable run.
Best Sports Site on the Web: ColdHardFootballFacts.com
Yes, that's right, we've named ourselves the best sports site on the web, and it was a thorough beating as well. You tell us another site where you'll find all in one place juvenile locker-room humor, the World Famous Cheerleader Thread
, great artery-clogging recipes, classic Loverboy videos, enough military history to fill its own book, an appreciation for the finer beers in life, a humble sense of self and the most revolutionary dead-on-balls accurate analysis in the history of football writing, and we'll maybe take a recount.
The Sal Tessio Memorial Award: Eric Mangini, N.Y. Jets
This award is given each year to the New York-based Italian-American about to get whacked for betraying his mentor and the family business.
Mangini set in motion the singular soap-opera storyline of the 2007 season when he ratted out Patriots coach Bill Belichick following New York's Week 1, 38-14 loss to New England, in what's become known as "spy-gate."
Not only did Mangini's rat move tarnish the reputation of the very man who first believed in him when nobody else did, the man who put him on the fast-track through the coaching ranks, it entrenched emotions all across the NFL.
The Jets visit the Patriots on December 16 in what – believe it or not – will be the hottest ticket in New England in years. The Jets are sad and weak, while the Patriots can practically pick their score against even decent teams like Washington and San Diego. New England fans – not to mention the team itself – will be out for blood in what will surely be an ugly scene both on the field and in the stands.
We can just picture a kind of Gladiator moment with the Patriots up by 50 in the fourth quarter, when Coach Belichick looks up into the stands and asks the crowd if he should show mercy ... and the crowd will demand that he keep piling on. It should be interesting.
Worst off-season move: A.J. Smith dismisses Marty Schottenheimer
At the end of the day, though, the quarterback of the Cowboys can get more tang than Neil Armstrong.
But it's hard to replace 200-game winners like Schotzy. Plus, the Cowboys are 7-1 since Romo dumped lacy, frilly Underthingswood ... sorry, the mind was wandering there.
The Chargers are 4-4 since Smith dumped Mr. Regular Season.
It's one thing to dump a coach after a 14-2 season – in and of itself a historic decision. But it's another to replace him with a dismal head coach like Norv Turner.
We told you San Diego would struggle this year the second they announced Turner was the coach. And struggle they have.
Best off-season move: New England gets Randy Moss and a top-10 pick in the 2008 Draft for a late-first-rounder.
When the Patriots traded their second of two first-round picks in the 2007 Draft to San Francisco, they got San Fran's No. 1 in 2008 and a fourth-rounder in 2007. A good deal, since the Patriots roster was more or less set and not in crying need of young talent. The fourth-rounder was then sent to Oakland for Moss, and the No. 1 pick is looking pretty sharp as the Niners slogged their way to a 2-6 start.
New England's acquisition of Moss, meanwhile, was widely seen – even among Boston fans and media – as a sign that the organization had lost its way.
The Patriots have responded with a big glass of go f**k yourself.
The success of the Patriots, Moss, Tom Brady and the rest of the offense so far in 2007 has been well chronicled. Moss has certainly played his role, leading the NFL in every major receiving category – including spectacular, highlight-reel, "how they hell did he do that?" catches.
Even if Moss never plays another season with New England, his acquisition for a fourth-round pick might go down as the greatest draft-day steal in history.
Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady
Some folks laughed at us back in 2004 when, in the wake of Peyton Manning's 49-TD pass season, we boldly and resolutely declared that Brady was the best quarterback in the NFL. Those folks should be writing us checks today.
When you took into consideration Brady's championships, clutch play in big games, the dearth of offensive talent around him, the historic numbers he quietly put up, and the immediate and unmatched impact he had on the fortunes of his organization, it was pretty obvious he was a transcendent performer.
Now, if any fantasy loser who doesn't understand real, on-the-field football wants to take pot-shots at Brady's production, you can simply break out the 2007 season. So far, he's on pace to set records in touchdown passes, completion percentage, passer rating and TD-to-INT ratio, and is a Vegas favorite to become the first quarterback to lead his team to 16 wins while becoming the third quarterback to win four Super Bowls.
It may not unfold that way. But, just wow, what an amazing first half of the year.
Salt-cured Pork of the Year: Ham
Ham and bacon are like the Colts and Patriots of the salt-cured pork product world, always dominating the prosciuttos and pancettas of the world.
The 2007 season has been no different, with ham narrowly edging out bacon as the best beloved salt-cured pork product on the football farm this season. But ham's dominance may not last forever. Look for the two to meat up again in the smokehouse later this season.
(For the record, that's the Chief Troll lugging about 30 pounds of ham to the smokehouse last year. That's some good eatin'.)
Leading contender for the All-Douched Team (defense) – Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia
Invariably, several deserving players are douched out of the Pro Bowl each year in favor of another, less productive player who gets a lot more publicity. The leading candidate to captain the defense for the 2007 All-Douched Team is Trent Cole. He leads the NFL with 9 sacks, already better than his career high of 8 set last year, and has generally been on of Philly's best performers this year.
However, Cole plays on a struggling team and, as a fifth-round pick (2005) out of a mid-tier school (Cincinnati) he hasn't exactly generated a lot of ink, with a exception of a recent NFC Player of the Week honor.
Expect Cole to lead the All-Douched Team defense out of the tunnel this year when his Pro Bowl spot goes to someone like Julius Peppers, who has a bigger name than Cole, but 16 fewer tackles (26) and 7.5 fewer sacks (1.5).
Leading contender for the All-Douched Team (offense) – any member of the New England offensive line
A team that's won three Super Bowls since 2001 has had just three offensive players voted to the Pro Bowl over that period, Tom Brady (multiple times), Troy Brown (2001) and Corey Dillon (2004). That's it. Not a single offensive lineman from one of the league's best offenses year after year has been voted into the Pro Bowl. (LT Matt Light was an injury replacement on the Pro Bowl roster last year).
It seems unreal that at least one member of the line leading what could possibly go down as the best offense in history would not make the Pro Bowl ... but based on the game's track record in this area, it wouldn't surprise us, either.
Rookie of the Year: Adrian Peterson
Quite simply, through eight games, Peterson has been the best rookie running back in history, as was highlighted in our recent Tale o' the Tape
. Even compared with Eric Dickerson, who in 1983 set the gold standard for rookie running backs, Peterson comes out on top.
Team quietly ready to win the Super Bowl and silence the "pundits": Pittsburgh
We can see the scenario right now: Indy and New England host divisional playoff games and everybody is already talking about a rematch in the AFC title game.
Then the Steelers – who right now are putting up dominant numbers reminiscent of the 1970s glory teams – quietly fume at the oversight. Then they proceed to break up the party by beating one of those teams in the divisional round and then the other in the AFC title game.
Hey, two years ago this team won three straight road games in the playoffs – including one at 14-2 Indy – to advance to the Super Bowl. They're very capable of getting back there this year.
The L.C. Greenwood Trophy: Mike Vrabel, New England
That's right, we're starting the "Vrabel for Hall of Fame" talk. Every multiple Super Bowl champion team has defenders in the Hall of Fame (and most cases, many defenders) and you would think New England would deserve just one. Vrabel, who's proven to be one of the most versatile players in the game today, should be the guy, especially if, like Greenwood, he adds a fourth ring to his resume.
"Versatile full-time defender and two-way performer who played OLB, ILB, DE and TE. Anchor of three Super Bowl-champion defenses, praised as one of the smartest players of his era. Set NFL record with 10 career receptions for 10 TDs, which are also the most offensive TDs of any full-time defender in the two-platoon era. Consummate big-game performer who caught two Super Bowl TDs and made multiple game-changing plays on defense. Recorded 47 career sacks, 10 INTs and 1 defensive TD."
The Stat So Ugly Only a Mother Could Love it Award: 3.75 YPA
What's 3.75 YPA? It's the number of yards cranked out by San Francisco on its average passing attempt, dead last in the NFL, and by a wide margin (No. 31 Baltimore averages 4.85 Passing Yards Per Attempt).
To put that into perspective, 22 teams average more yards on every rushing attempt than San Francisco does on each passing attempt.
Comeback Performer of the Year – The NFC North
Last year we mourned the decline and fall of the old Black & Blue division, a quartet so pathetic that last year we dubbed it the Black & Blow Division
No longer. As noted earlier this week
, the NFC North is the home of the most exciting football in the NFL this year. Green Bay is a serious Super Bowl contender, with a top-notch defense and a revitalized Hall of Fame quarterback in the sparkling twilight of his career. Detroit is a shocking 6-2, with one of the most explosive passing games in football. Minnesota is a mere 3-5, but boasts the most exciting player in football this season, rookie phenom Adrian Peterson. And Chicago ... well, last year's NFC champ has been a big disappointment, but even the Bears can claim the electrifying Devin Hester. It's not exactly the 1967 Black & Blue Division but much better than anyone expected.