How special has this season been for the San Francisco 49ers? If not for Aaron Rodgers’ unbelievable first half, San Fran would have a legit shot at winning seven of the eight major annual awards.
Rodgers has monopolized the MVP race, but there are a number of Niners players that would ordinarily deserve consideration for that honor. Plus, Frank Gore’s been one of the best offensive players in the league, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis have been dominating defensively, and Aldon Smith (defensive rookie of the year), Alex Smith (comeback player of the year), Jim Harbaugh (coach of the year) and Trent Baalke (executive of the year) are very much in contention.
Here’s how we see things after 10 weeks:
MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Packers — Another near-perfect performance. That’s nine in a row. Unless he gets hurt, no one is catching him here. Actually, there’s a chance he wins it regardless.
Offensive player of the year: Rodgers — What if Drew Brees breaks Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record? He and Tom Brady are on pace to break it, which could make things interesting. Then again, Rodgers is also on track to break Marino’s mark while shattering the single-season record for passer rating. He’s also just barely off pace to hit the single-season record for passing touchdowns (he’s on target for 49; Brady had 50 in 2007).
Defensive player of the year: Justin Smith, 49ers — If DeMarcus Ware or Jared Allen break the single-season sack record, it’ll be hard to keep this award from the player to do so. That said, Ware and Allen have faded a bit recently, while Smith continues to be the best player on the best defensive team in the league. He’s also been especially good in crunch time.
Offensive rookie of the year: Cam Newton, Panthers — Newton and Andy Dalton both struggled against good defenses in Week 10, so I’m sticking with Newton in a race that might be too close to call throughout the second half. And I don’t mean to be a troll, but is it completely insane to throw DeMarco Murray’s name out there?
Defensive rookie of the year: Von Miller, Broncos — Coming off his best game yet, the No. 2 overall pick has 7.5 sacks through nine games. Only four rookies have ever had more sacks nine games into a season than Miller does this year. In fact, amazingly, Miller has more combined sacks and quarterback knockdowns than any player in football. That said, there are quite a few deserving candidates here. Aldon Smith has been fantastic in San Francisco, Ryan Kerrigan continues to make big plays in Washington, and J.J. Watt has made an immediate impact in Houston.
Comeback player of the year: Alex Smith, 49ers — He keeps exceeding expectations. Against a stellar pass rush and without Frank Gore, he stepped up and delivered on Sunday. Remember when this team was roundly criticized for not addressing the “need” at quarterback? And remember Colin Kaepernick?
Coach of the year: Jim Harbaugh, 49ers — Seven straight wins now. Dating back to his final year at Stanford, Harbaugh is now 20-2 in the last 22 games he’s coached. It would take a massive collapse for Harbaugh to lose this award now. I can’t even think of a candidate in his range.
Executive of the year: Rick Smith, Texans — Until the Texans hit a wall, I have to give it to Smith over Baalke. Both deserve it.