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

Stan: Its no secret I’m a big fan of defense. It really started because I hated getting hit as a kid and preferred to be the one doing the hitting. Plus I can’t catch and that kinda limits what I can do on the field. There were a lot of guys I left off for one reason or another and you can tell that I favor guys that aren’t surrounded by the best talent. Should Ndamukong Suh be on this list? Absolutely. But he doesn’t really have to do a whole lot with Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah on the line with him. Earl Thomas is the best safety in football but he’s also sharing the defensive backfield with Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Even Darrelle Revis has Brandon Browner to play on the opposite side. Regardless, I stand by my list and the guys on it.

Rob: Defensive Player of the Year is easy, and even when it isn’t a runaway winner like it will be this year, it is still an easy award to comprehend. Give it to the best player who plays defense. They still get it wrong, but it makes sense.

Offensive Player of the Year is different. It is way weirder. Peyton Manning won last year, and he also won MVP. Same thing for the year before. MVP is an offensive award, so they should be the same. Except the year before, Aaron Rodgers won the MVP and Drew Brees got offensive player of the year. Going back forever, this is how it works, sometimes they line up, sometimes they don’t. Crazy. Well, if we are going to accept that MVP is really “most valuable”, meaning “best quarterback”, then OPOY should be most dynamic and important offensive player.

In my opinion, in 2014, that does not mean “best quarterback”. But even me, trying to be fair and balanced, offensive linemen still get the shaft. Maybe I’m not as progressive as I’d like to think.

Stan – OPOY

I can’t take anything away from Dez. He’s super talented and he absolutely made that catch against the Packers. Do you know how difficult is for me to admit that a Cowboys receiver made a catch over a former Miami Hurricane? But the guy is ridiculous as evidenced by his 16 touchdowns.
**Rob’s Note: Dez Bryant is probably my favorite NFL player, or at least will be when Steve Smith retires. He caught that pass. He would have caught the onside kick against the Seahawks. But I had to leave him off the list because I considered Tony Romo and Tyron Smith in addition to DeMarco Murray. They split votes.
Brown had a breakout year after having a breakout year in 2013. He made spectacular plays week after week and made Ben Roethlisberger look awesome.
I love Aaron Rodgers. He’s good at football, he’s got that silent assassin vibe, he’s got a good sense of humor and I might be the only person that likes those State Farm commercials with Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey. Hans and Franz makes me laugh.
**Rob’s Note: When Peyton Manning retires, and Aaron Rodgers becomes the commercial king, I will be sad. The commercials are good, but Rodgers just doesn’t carry them the way Manning used to. Kind of like Rodgers doesn’t have to carry his team the way Manning did. BOOM! Roasted.
Roethlisberger was really efficient this year and no one is talking about it. He had damn near 5,000 yards and 32 touchdowns and only threw 9 interceptions, his lowest since 2012 when he only played 13 games. Plus, he had TWO six touchdown games. TWO!!
**Rob’s Note: Reasons I left a very good Big Ben off my list. First, I tried not to go crazy with quarterbacks. Second, I used the Steelers’ running back and wide receiver. Third, those back-to-back six touchdown games make his 20 scores in 14 other games look less impressive. Fourth, in losses to the Ravens, Bucs, Browns, and Jets, the offense scored 6, 24, 10, and 13 points. They also needed to score 16 points in the last 2:34 of the Saints game just to not get blown out 35-16. Maybe I’m being unfair to the quarterback, but Ben was not good in any of those games.
It wasn’t so much that he broke Emmitt Smith’s single season rushing record. It wasn’t so much that he stayed healthy for the whole year for the first time in his career. It was just that everyone knew he was getting the ball and they still couldn’t stop him. If he’s smart he stays in Dallas behind that offensive line.

Stan – DPOY

Quin led the league in picks and you can make the case that his interceptions were caused by a dominant pass rush but he stood out on a defense not known for its secondary.
**Rob’s Note: Stan logic, “Ndamukong Suh had too much talent around him to include on this list. Let me put Glover Quin on this list.” I would reiterate that Suh was the only real run stopper on a run stopping defense, but you can just flip over to the other half of the list where the All-Pro players are.
Smith is another one of these guys that flies under the radar but always makes plays. I didn’t think much of him coming out of Notre Dame but he’s become a really solid safety. He’s only going to improve as Mike Zimmer continues to put his mark on this Vikings team. The Vikings defense is starting to put together the pieces to have a good young defense really soon with Shariff Floyd and Anthony Barr coming along.
**New 30 for 30: What if I told you, not one but two safeties were ahead of Earl Thomas in Stan’s rankings. What if I told you one of those safeties was a white guy. ESPN films presents, “Where Has Stan’s Mind Gone?”, a 30 for 30 presentation brought to you by Rob DiRe.
The man is ridiculous. All he does is tackle people. If you’re really quiet, you can hear him making a tackle. Shhh! Did you hear it? And he’s not exactly surrounded by Pro Bowlers either. Sure, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei are monsters inside and Thomas Davis had a good year alongside Kuechly but he’s been the man in Carolina this year.
Its really difficult to argue against 22 sacks and four forced fumbles. As a Giants fan, I would love for the sack record to stay with Michael Strahan and the way he was killing those San Diego offensive linemen in week 17 got me really nervous. Thankfully, he didn’t break the record but he still had a really impressive season. He’d definitely be the top choice for Defensive Rookie Of The Year if not for this next guy.
There really isn’t much to say about this guy. He gets double teamed, triple teamed, chipped, tripped and knocked around but he still makes plays. He’s hands down the best defensive player in the league and on some days, he’s the best player in the league. If and when I have a kid, I may name him or her JJ.

Rob – OPOY

I could have went with either Le’Veon Bell or Marshawn Lynch in this spot, and Lynch was an even tougher omission after the Seahawks’ victory in the NFC Championship this weekend. Still, with 83 catches and over 850 receiving yards to go with his 1,300+ yards on the ground, Bell’s versatility and the Steelers’ struggles in the playoffs without him put him over the top here.
**Stan’s Note: I tried to find a way to put Le’Veon Bell on this list but it was difficult to exclude Ben Roethlisberger or Dez Bryant.
4. Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady all played on great offenses and all had similarly incredible years at the quarterback position. Romo and Brady don’t have more weapons necessarily, but Rodgers did more for his weapons than the other two players, and he gets the nod. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacy were all great in 2014, but the offense always started with Rodgers.
3. DeMarco Murray
The only balance the Cowboys have experience the last five years has been in the balance between wins and losses. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten could make due throwing the ball on every play, and they would have been another 8-8 or 9-7 team that underachieved. Murray gave them balance, and balance gave them a dominant 12 win season where they lost two games in which Brandon Weeden played a major role.
Romo isn’t on this list because of the emergence of Murray, and Brady isn’t on this list because of the dominance of Gronk. Unbeatable at the line of scrimmage, uncoverable down the field, and untackleable with the ball, there may not be a more unstoppable offensive player. And we haven’t even mentioned that he is probably the most feared blocking tight end in the league. THROW HIM OUT THE CLUB, GRONK!
**Stan’s Note: Rob’s inclusion of Gronk is totally correct. The Patriots offense had a lot of its best days when Gronk was playing well.
Brown may not have been as unstoppable as Gronk, but no offense was more reliant on one player for 16 games than the Steelers were about Antonio Brown. Ben Roethlisberger relied on Brown like no other, targeting him 178 times during his 129 catch season, which is the second most in NFL history behind a ridiculous 143 from Marvin Harrison. He also led the league with close to 1,700 yards, and was second behind Dez Bryant with 13 touchdowns.
Brown was a deep threat, a possession receiver, a big play guy, a reliable third down option, every type of receiver morphed into one.

Rob – DPOY

5. Darrelle Revis, CB, Patriots
Revis was the best free agent signing this offseason. He transformed the Patriot defense into one of the best in the NFL. He allowed Bill Belichick to show off his defensive brain power by being creative in how he used his different defensive pieces. It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit. Revis is ranked as the 4th best cornerback in the league by Pro Football Focus, behind Chris Harris Jr., Vontae Davis, and Richard Sherman, but his impact has been the greatest.
4. Justin Houston, OLB, Chiefs
56 quarterback hurries and 50 stops were both the best for an outside linebacker. His 22 sacks all was most in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the fourth best outside linebacker against both the run and in coverage, and he didn’t get flagged even once all season. The Chiefs had a mean defense, and Houston was the meanest member.
**Stan’s Note: As I mentioned in the intro, I totally agree with all of Rob’s choices. Suh was dominant as usual but he had monsters around him. Revis was Revis and Earl Thomas did Earl Thomas things. I’m a little surprised Justin Houston is so low though.
3. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Lions
The Lions were the best run stopping team in the NFL this season, or in recent memory. Suh, according to Pro Football Focus, is the second-best run stopping defensive tackle in the league, after Marcel Dareus. He led the league in stops from the interior defensive line. He led the league in quarterback hurries and quarterback hits from the interior. The best defensive players on the Lions are Quin, Ziggy Ansah, and DeAndre Levy, but all of those guys are renowned for the impact in the passing game. A Lions team that destroys the run does it on the back of Suh.
2. Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks
Thomas (thrown at 23 times this season) is the best safety in the NFL. Wait, that’s not correct. Let me rephrase that. Thomas is the best safety in the NFL since Ed Reed. Thomas basically looks like an in his prime Ed Reed. I can’t wait to see the argument for Harrison Smith (thrown at 40 times) and Glover Quin (thrown at 35 times). Also, remember, Thomas had better players around him, so it was harder for teams to avoid him. *drops mic*
1. J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
I mean come on. Come on. 20.5 sacks, 44 quarterback hits, 54 hurries, and 61 stops. Add 10 batted passes, and 63 times a quarterback complained of night terrors in the day leading up to the game against the Texans (unofficial stat). Not even a contest.

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