It is that time of year GangGreenNation. That's right, THE most prestigious award ceremony for any Jets blog...nay! Any blog at all... has finally arrived.
The supplement to the universally acclaimed and adored Mid-Season Awards, also created by yours truly, is here with all of the highlights, low-lights, shows of respect and back-handed complements that you can hope for.
Tonight we examine the 2011 New York Jets. It was a season unlike any other (as with any season I would expect) with momentum won, momentum lost, hot-streaks, cold-streaks, injuries, comebacks, brilliance, goofiness, Rex Ryan trash talking and Darrelle Revis ball-hunting. Oh, why did this season have to end on the low note it did?! Alas, it is out of our hands and out of our control. The best we can do now is reminisce on what we saw and make our season ticket and official New York Jets merchandise purchases accordingly.
All that chitter-chatter done, it is time to announce the winner of the 2011 End of Season Awards:
Most Improved Player - Shonn Greene
LT's re-emergence in 2010 prevented Greene from being a bigger contributor that season, but each week it's starting to look more and more like Greene is becoming a permanent fixture in the offense (or whatever offense the team will have in 2012). The team might be better served to have someone with more initial burst and speed in the secondary (e.g. Frank Gore, Michael Turner, Ray Rice) but if I'm forced to settle for over a player with over four yards per carry each game, I won't complain.
Most Unimproved Player - Mark Sanchez
Everyone called me crazy during the Mid-Season awards when I said Sanchez was the least improved player on the offense. Now look at him. Throws the ball 59 times and can't break 300 yards? Only a single 4 passing-TD game in over 40 games played? Can't get 3 TDs against the worst defenses in the league? Still hasn't broken 400 yards in a game? The ceiling for his ability may be high, but not nearly as high as we once thought, or nearly as high as it needs to be for him to lead the Jets to the Super Bowl. Blame Schotty, Cavanaugh, Ryan, the O-Line or anyone you want - Sanchez executes the plays and he has not been doing it well.
Most Inconsistent Player - Antonio Cromartie
I remember the huge touchdown catch that Pierre Garcon made at the end of the half in the playoffs last year and I screamed at the TV, "We traded for you to do that one thing! Stop a fast receiver from burning the defense!" There have been strides in his coverage ability, but he still can't tackle and from what it looks like, he can't chase enough players down from behind. The Victor Cruz TD may have been prevented if he was a better tackler or better at catching up. If he really is "the fastest player on the team" like many people say, we may have a serious problem.
Most Frustrating Offensive Player - Wayne Hunter
Perhaps there was a reason Hunter was taken by and cut by so many teams before coming to the Jets. I think we've all seen what it is: he's effective enough in the running game, but a terrible liability in the passing game. We have seen a couple of games where he plays really well. And if you don't remember, ask Tamba Hali. Other than that, he has been one of the most agonizing players to watch on the team. We suspected he would be a downgrade from Damien Woody, but not this.
Most Frustrating Defensive Player - Eric Smith
There was once a time where we thought Eric Smith was pretty fly (for a white guy). He was an excellent special teams player - that I remember distinctly. Then he started playing Safety and what a nightmare that turned out to be. How many other defensive players on the team can be completely singled out and held responsible for a team's loss? The fact that we later found out he was playing injured only makes the situation more frustrating.
Best FA Acquisition - Aaron Maybin
Not just the best acquisition of this free agency, but with enough coaching in the next few seasons it may become the best unrestricted free agent signing of the entire Rex Ryan era. What he (currently) lacks in upper body strength he makes up for in speed and a motor. Thankfully, it is much easier for a player to get more upper body strength than more speed. And when he gets that strength...I smile thinking of what he might become for the team.
Best Offseason Decision - Giving Aaron Maybin a pre-season tryout
Maybin goes from bust, to pre-season boom, to final cut casualty, to arguably the best pass rusher on the team. It makes my mouth water to think how good he can be with an entire off-season to work out and get better.
Most Head Scratching Offseason Decision - Letting Braylon Edwards walk
The one difference between Edwards and Burress that I always notice on plays is this: chemistry. Why sacrifice something so valuable to a QB in exchange for what might be, at best, a one-shot wonder in Burress. Please be honest: is there anything Burress has done that Edwards can't do just as well? If Edwards could make Derek Anderson a Pro Bowl QB, imagine what he could have done with Sanchez if given more time.
Wilkerson has proven that he can be an effective starter at the DE position for years to come. What he lacks in stats he makes up for in defensive push. It is hard to ask for more from a DE in his first year working out of the 3-4 defense.
Kerley has immediately developed into a solid slot receiver. He is very shifty in the PR game, shows good body control, and has many other athletic qualities similar to Brad Smith. I can see him replacing Burress for the No. 2 spot by next season if he doesn't come back. I think it would be fair to say that he has well outplayed his draft position.
Comeback Player - Plaxico Burress
Maybe a bit of a stretch considering that this is his first (and possibly only) season with the team. But let's be honest, just as many people would have been un-surprised if he came back to the league out of shape and out of playing form. His comeback is not on par with Michael Vick's, but is very moving nonetheless - and he won us a couple of games.
Best Coach - Mike Pettine
I've always believed that Pettine was just a "Yes-Man" for Rex Ryan. From what everyone else has told me, that is not the case. I was very pleased with how the defensive schemes were set up in the middle of the season.
Special Teams MVP - Joe McKnight
What McKnight lacks in offensive production, he made up for in the kicking game - usually at least. His blocked punt led to a critical TD against Dallas, and he had the longest play in Jets history against Baltimore. The second half of the season was terrible though. Unfortunately, he really deserves the award mainly because how poorly Folk, Conley, the PR players and everyone else played by comparison for the entire season.
Offensive MVP - Shonn Greene
He struggled in the early part of the year, but as the season went on it quickly became clear that Greene is now ready to move into the next tier of running backs (e.g. Lynch, Green-Ellis, Bradshaw - And yes, they are in a slightly higher tier. Get over it.). More often than not when he moved the ball, it carried the momentum for the rest of the team. He ends the 2011 season with over 1200 yards from scrimmage, and is the clear starter for the 2012 season.
Defensive MVP - Sione Pouha
It's no secret that everything a team does begins at the line of scrimmage. Pouha very quietly had one of the best seasons by a NT we have seen on the team. He stopped the run, he helped the pass rush, he made tackles, he made big plays - what more can you ask for? He may not be the elite NT that Ngata, J. Smith and Wilfork are, but he clearly raised his game to the upper tier.
Team MVP - Darrelle Revis
Everything, and I mean everything that Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine schemed on defense this season started with what Revis did to the team's #1 receiver. You can count the number of players...forget that...PLAYS that Revis has been beaten on with two hands. Unlike the DL and LB positions, it is harder to measure how good a CB is solely based on stats. A player can have 7 or more INTs in a season, but if he gets burned for over 20 TDs is he really a great defender? What Revis often lacked in immediate impact plays, he made up for through an obvious lack of opponents having impact plays. He is the undisputed best cornerback in the league, and will most likely end his career as the best cornerback ever.
And there you have it. The 2011 New York Jets season comes to a close.
Thank you all for joining me.
The 2nd Mid-Season awards will be posted after Game 8 of the 2012 season, and I look forward to posting the 2nd Annual End of Season Awards after the Jets finish their business in New Orleans on February 3, 2013.