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KIRS Choice – 2014 NFL Comeback Player, Offensive & Defensive Coach Of The Year

Rob: Comeback Player of the Year is the wackiest of all the hardware the NFL gives out every year. It goes to a player who has “shown perseverance in overcoming adversity.” Adversity is defined as, well, it isn’t defined. Last year, Philip Rivers overcame the adversity of stinking on stinky teams for two years to win it. The year before, Peyton Manning went from being the best quarterback in the NFL on the Colts to the best quarterback in the NFL on the Broncos. In 2011, Matthew Stafford won it for being healthy for a full season for the first time in his career. In 2010, Michael Vick stopped electrocuting dogs, propelling him to the top of the list. Tom Brady won in 2009 after caming back from missing basically the entire 2008 season, in which Chad Pennington won the award because the Jets dumped him for Brett Favre. All in all, they have given out this award to people coming back from injuries, switching teams, generally improving, or just being a good quarterback who didn’t win the MVP. Like all awards, since 2002, 10 of the 12 years this award went to a quarterback. By that logic, I think it is only a matter of time before somebody makes the case that Aaron Rodgers should win Defensive Player of the Year because he keeps the other team’s offense off the field.

Since we are dealing with that nonsense award that sounds made up, Stan thought it would be a good idea to make up an award that actually makes sense, so we are also going to vote for the best assistant coaches on both sides of the ball. Special teams, as usual, gets the shaft here, although I did consider Dave Toub in Kansas City and Dave Fipp of the Eagles, pretending they were defensive assistants.

Stan: It feels like this year, more than any other, there are a lot of hot names being circulated as the next head coaches in the NFL. Teams are looking away from the regular retread guys and are looking to hire the hot coordinator and they have every reason to. Last year, Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden were the hot coordinators out of Cincinnati. Now they’re both head coaches and while they didn’t set the world on fire, there are flashes of promise. In this group of guys, some have already gotten head coaching positions and others are still in the running. As I’ll explain further, you’ll see why.

As far as offensive coordinators go, Rob and I only agree on one person. I think that says how wide open this award can be. Defensively, Rob and I have four of the same candidates, so at least we are kind of on the same page there.


Stan – CBPOY

5. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles
Maclin came back from an ACL tear and looked amazing. The Eagles offense picked up right where it left off after DeSean Jackson went to Washington and Maclin took advantage. He’s set to hit the open market and he’s going to make himself some money.
**Rob’s Note: I don’t know how to define Comeback Player of the Year. That was obvious from my intro, but it bears repeating. However, I know this. Maclin didn’t drop many balls this season, but he dropped his balls on the negotiating table and made himself a lot of money. He had the most to lose of any of these five guys this season, and I guess that means he had the most to gain.
4. DeMarcus Ware, DE, Broncos
Ware didn’t have a major injury but he was let go by Dallas when he didn’t look as dominant last year. What Dallas didn’t realize was that Ware had a lot left in the tank and had a good year for the Broncos defense. Judging by their last game against Green Bay, I think Dallas wouldn’t have minded having him back.
**Rob’s Note: I think it is weird that the Cowboys not being able to afford Ware’s grossly humongous salary qualifies him for Comeback Play of the Year. I am not saying that he shouldn’t be qualified, just saying that it is weird.
3. Von Miller, OLB, Broncos
Like his teammate, Von Miller didn’t have a memorable 2013 as he missed a majority of the year to a leg injury. He had double digit sacks and was a big part of the Broncos success. Unfortunately, he (and everyone else) didn’t do a thing in their divisional round game against the Colts.
**Rob’s Note: Miller got suspended for PEDs and then got a leg injury and then got healthy and was really good at football, possibly because he takes PEDs.
2. Arian Foster, RB, Texans
Foster benefited from an easy schedule and did miss some time but he still had a pretty good year considering what he’d looked like last season.
1. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Gronk could really qualify for this award every other year because he seems to get hurt every year. He impacts the game so much and you see a totally different Pats team when he’s not on the field.
**Rob’s Note: Gronkowski is the most reckless human being currently in the NFL.

Stan – OCOY

5. Gary Kubiak, Ravens
Its no secret Kubiak likes to run the ball. He ran the ball in Houston when he was the head coach and he brought that same mentality to Baltimore. The problem is Ray Rice decided he wanted to be a boxer and his first opponent was his wife. So now Kubiak has to turn Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett into quality backs and he did a pretty good job. Forsett finished in the top five for rushing yards and was averaging pretty close to five yards a carry. He helped Joe Flacco have a low-key good season and showed Panthers fans what they missed in Steve Smith Sr.
**Rob’s Note: Probably the guy I regret most putting on this list is Kubiak is glaringly missing from my top five, and he might have a claim to the top spot.
4. Tom Clements, Packers
The Packers offense was more balanced this year than it has been in recent years thanks to Clements. Eddie Lacy had a good year and Jordy Nelson made his first Pro Bowl. You can credit Aaron Rodgers for the Packers success but they do look better this year than they did last year.
3. Adam Gase, Broncos
Adam Gase is another one of these hot youngish coordinators that could be up for a head coaching job soon. In fact, by the time you read this, he may be a head coach. John Fox and the Broncos recently “parted ways” so Gase may be promoted. He’d be higher on this list if Peyton Manning’s noodle arm didn’t make Gase look bad over the last five weeks of the season.
2. Scott Linehan, Cowboys
All of the Cowboys success can be credited to the offense. Most of that is due to the offensive line. The rest goes to Scott Linehan. I know that sounds like an insult but its not. People expected Linehan to come in and open up the passing game a bit but he played to their strengths and ran the ball. Thats the sign of a smart coordinator and a guy that should be up for a head coaching job. Too bad Jason Garrett just signed a five year extension.
1. Todd Haley, Steelers
Todd Haley gets a lot of flack from fans, especially from Snoop Dogg but he draws up a good scheme. Like Linehan, he played to his strengths and got the ball to LeVeon Bell as much as he could. Antonio Brown had a great season and Big Ben assaulted opposing defenses like he found them in a bar bathroom.

Stan – DCOY

5. Teryl Austin, Lions
How does the defensive coordinator of the best defense in football end up at 5? Good question. The Lions pass defense wasn’t that great outside of Glover Quin and I think a lot of their turnovers came from their insane defensive line.
**Rob’s Note: Aside from the line, what separated this defense was the play calling. More than any other coach on this list, he seemed to have the right defense dialed up for what the offense was throwing at them during the game. It was a good year for him.
4. Gregg Williams, Rams
Gregg Williams has a reputation of being a really good defensive coordinator and this season was no different. The Rams defense was one of the best in the league, Williams unleashed Aaron Donald on the NFC West and I like the way he’s developed Alec Ogletree.
3. Jim Schwartz, Bills
Schwartz is one of those guys that is a way better coordinator than head coach. Sort of like a lesser version of Rex Ryan. The Bills have some monsters on that defense and they some solid players (Kiko Alonso) coming back next year. Unfortunately for Schwartz, the Bills hired Rex Ryan and terminated his contract yesterday. So the third best defensive coordinator in the NFL is currently unemployed.
2. Todd Bowles, Cardinals
Speaking of lesser versions of Rex Ryan, Bowles was just hired by the Jets and while I don’t think its necessarily a bad hire, its a little confusing to me that the Jets would fire their defensive minded head coach for another defensive minded head coach. That being said, Bowles is praised around the league and did wonders in Arizona with smoke, mirrors and bubble gum. Injury after injury, none of it mattered.
1. Dan Quinn, Seahawks
For the second straight season, Dan Quinn is still a coordinator because he does such a good job. Its a weird dynamic because if Seattle had been eliminated, some team out there would already have hired him but the Seahawks defense is so good that no one is allowed to offer him a contract until he’s no longer coaching.
**Rob’s Note: Still, when analysts say “The Panthers need to run at Cliff Avril to win,” because there is no use even trying to throw the football or run to Bennett’s side, the coach’s importance begins to wane a little. Cliff Avril is really good, running to his side should not be attacking the defense’s weakness. That’s not fair, Stan. It’s just not fair.


5. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens
Forsett showed perseverance in overcoming the adversity of playing for the Jaguars in 2013. He not only played for the Jaguars, but he doubled down on adversity by playing sparingly and then getting cut. Adversity only mounted when he signed with the Ravens to provide depth since Ray Rice was set to miss the first two games after he went Raging Bull on his then fiance now wife in an elevator. However, Forsett persevered, and it paid off when Rice was eventually suspended for the season during the colossal cluster-you-know-what that ensued as Roger “Ganondorf” Goodell further besmirched his name.
4. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
3. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers
Pouncey and Gronk both showed perseverance in overcoming the adversity of being really good but suffering a severe but common injury. Then they got healthy and were really good again. Award!
2. Rolando McClain, MLB, Cowboys
McClain showed perseverance in overcoming the adversity of getting drafted by the Raiders and signing a 5 year, $40 million dollar contract to play football. He continued his clinic in diversity by being a troublemaker and being bad at football, and busting out of the league before signing with the Ravens for about 12 seconds and retiring at the ripe age of 23. The Ravens then traded him to the Cowboys, where he had a masterful season at linebacker and put himself in line for a big extension.
**Stan’s Note: I would have included McClain if he didn’t get hurt but thats not really his fault. I read his story and why he decided to leave the NFL when he did. Personally, I think he couldn’t stand being a Raider but who knows the real story. Pouncey was also another good candidate. He’s one of the best at his position and you can see the difference in the Steelers running game when he’s healthy.
1. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles
Maclin showed perseverance in overcoming the adversity of being just okay but suffering a severe but common injury. The difference that separates Maclin is the way he came back. The team offered him a five-year deal to keep him in Philadelphia through his prime, and Maclin, coming off a torn ACL, decided to sign a one-year deal with $3.5 million guaranteed. He then proceeded to have a monster, monster year and will now either sign a far bigger deal with the Eagles, or enter free agency as one of the best available offensive players.

Rob – OCOY

5. Frank Reich, Chargers
Reich followed Ken Whisenhunt who was better with more or less the same talent, and head coach Mike McCoy is the guy I give most of the credit. Still, they pulled out an offense that looked like the best in the league at times this year, despite below average players at 9 of 11 spots on the offense, with the outliers being Rivers and Antonio Gates.
4. Ben McAdoo, Giants
McAdoo completey overhauled the Giants’ offense, implementing everything from the ground up. All he got out of it was the best season of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning‘s career, and the second best rookie receiving season in NFL history.
**Stan’s Note: I like Ben McAdoo but I don’t know if he really made a difference in the Giants offense. I saw the same things that Kevin Gilbride would do like call a draw play on 3rd and 8. Still, his scheme made Odell Beckham Jr a Pro Bowler and Eli Manning may have had the best season of his career
3. Josh McDaniels, Patriots
Good ol’ Joshy has pushed all the right buttons for this team since that devastating loss to the Chiefs. Despite still lacking talent at receiver, running back, and along the interior of the offensive line, McDaniels had Tom Brady playing like an MVP candidate on an offense that is downright scary despite being a haven for white guys.
**Stan’s Note: I just don’t like Josh McDaniels. He reminds me of Lane Kiffin. I hate Lane Kiffin.
2. Pep Hamilton, Colts
Say what you want about Pep, he finally took everyone’s advice. He didn’t try to run the ball. He didn’t do anything cute. He put the ball in Andrew Luck‘s hands and let him be Luck. We are all better for it.
**Stan’s Note: I don’t give Pep Hamilton any credit. Andrew Luck does it all.
1. Scott Linehan, Cowboys
Jason Garrett tried to pass this team into the ground for years, and Linehan put on a clinic of how to use a great offensive line to its fullest advantage. The Cowboys were great on third down, controlled the clock, got big plays, and ultimately got the most out of everyone on the offense. If you pay attention to how effective Jason Witten was in the running game, every single player on the offense had their best season as a pro. What more can you ask for from a coach?

Rob – DCOY

5. Matt Patricia, Patriots
Picking up Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner is one thing. But the contributions this team got from its linebackers was absurd. We are splitting hairs here with the fifth spot, and I guess Gregg Williams ended up doing well with the Rams, but tie goes to the coach who looks like this!
**Stan’s Note: While the Patriots defense is the best its been in a decade, I think a lot of it is still because of Bill Belichick.
**Rob’s Note to Stan’s Note: But that beard! It is magnificent. Also, Patricia was an offensive coach in college. then became a tight ends coach for the Pats, then offensive line, then linebackers, and then safeties. Oh, and he majored in aeronautical engineering, which mean’s he could go back to working as a real life rocket scientist tomorrow.
4. Dan Quinn, Seahawks
Quinn gets the shaft here because he has Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett. Of course, they were all nobodies before they met Quinn, but they did it last year and now they get less credit. Such is life.
3. Teryl Austin, Lions
Austin at least had to work for his spot. He was gifted Ndamukong Suh, I’ll give you that. He did turn Nick Fairley into the havoc-wreaking beast we thought he could be before he got hurt. Austin also turned Ziggy Ansah into a fearsome pass rusher and got a lot out of the secondary.
2. Jim Schwartz, Bills
What Schwartz did with the Bills was masterful. Only the Patriots and Jaguars blitzed less, yet no one got to the quarterback more often. Rex Ryan may be the smartest defensive coach I’ve seen, and he scoffed at them only being 4th in league defensively, but I will be legitimately surprised if they improve in 2015.
1. Todd Bowles, Cardinals
Bowles had the best year. He lost his two best linebackers to suspension and free agency, both of whom played at an All-Pro level for the Cards. He lost Darnell Dockett for the season, and then lost Calais Campbell for a stretch due to a nasty (and illegal, and dirty) lure block from Ryan Clady and Julius Thomas. He morphed Deone Bucannon into a safety/linebacker/heat-seeking missile with legs. And despite losing Tyrann Mathieu effectively for the year, having to play Antonio Cromartie, and getting a regression from Patrick Peterson, his pass defense was still feared until teams realized they only needed 3 points to beat Ryan Lindley as long as they didn’t let Arizona score on defense. Who knows how he will be as a head coach, but the Jets got a really good defensive coordinator.

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