“I’m Sally O’Malley and I’m proud to say I’m 50!” Those are the words of Molly Shannon’s Saturday Night Live character in her tight red jump suit and bouffant hairdo, kicking and stretching and kicking. Kind of reminds me of Peyton Manning shuffling up in the pocket.
And with that… it’s time for the season-ending Loftys for those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
Player of the Year, MVP, the Greatest of All Time: Peyton Manning
At age 37, and with enough hits and surgeries under his belt to seem like he’s 50, Manning has gone above and beyond what we (I) thought was possible for a player his age to do and that’s improve. Yes, Peyton is getting better with age. Maybe it’s the rarefied Mile High air, or all that pizza he’s eating. 51 touchdown passes with a game to go? Are you kidding me? That’s not to say he’s been flawless, but boy has he come close. Has he been pass happy? 682 attempts! So what!! Before the Bears-Eagles 54-11 mismatch this past Sunday night there was a spirited debate between two media heads (I sat and listened with my back to them) about where Peyton ranked as an all-timer. Let me just say for the record and proudly so… he’s not even 50 and he’s getting better!
Rookies of the Year: Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy & Keenan Allen
In what was an excellent draft for offensive linemen – Eric Fisher (Kansas City), Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville), Lane Johnson (Philadelphia), Jonathan Cooper (Arizona), Chance Warmack (Tennessee) and DJ Fluker (San Diego) all made their teams a little better. But offensive line just doesn’t have that sizzle.
Three non-first rounders share the award for going above and beyond their draft positions.
- Giovani Bernard makes life easier for Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and his top target, A.J. Green. If there was a 12th man award like the NBA’s for the sixth man, Bernard would win it hands down. With 693 rushing yards to go along with 510 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, Bernard provides up-tempo energy off the bench.
- Eddie Lacy has kept Green Bay’s hopes afloat while Cheesehead Nation has waited for the collarbone of Mr. Discount Double Check to heal. Through 15 games, Lacy has rushed for more yards than any rookie in Packer team history with 1,196 to go with 12 TDs.
- Welcome back Philip Rivers, thanks in no small part to third-round pick Keenan Allen. Allen was supposed to perhaps return a punt here and there. That was before preseason camp took out both 2012 starters for the Chargers. A full-time starter since Week 2, Allen is pushing the rookie records of former Air Coryell member John “JJ” Jefferson. Heading into the finale on Sunday, Allen needs 45 yards receiving to pass both the 1,000-yard mark and Jefferson’s record of 1,001 yards set after he came out of the draft class of 1978 (along with yours truly).
Defensive Player and Talker of the Year: Richard Sherman
They say it’s only trash if you can’t back it up. The Legion of Boom is solid to about six deep in the secondary, but none personifies that Seattle Swagger better than Richard Sherman. Sherman has been building his rep – and his Twitter account – at the expense of opposing quarterbacks that dare throw in his direction. Eight picks for a guy QBs try to avoid is quite the statement. Wonder how I would have faired against my fellow Stanford alum in my prime?
Coach of the Year: Andy Reid
I considered Riverboat Ron Rivera in Carolina. Last year’s winner, Bruce Arians, in his new home in Arizona was in consideration. But the big fella, Andy Reid, gets my nod. Even if the Chiefs did have a boatload of talent, they went 2-14 a year ago, proving it takes the right chef to get the sauce right. The Chiefs aren’t perfect, but Reid knows how to set the table – in years past, cheesesteaks were on the menu. This year, it’s barbeque and burnt ends.
Stadium of the Year: Candlestick Park
Sorry Seattle. I know you’re loud, but you’ll have to take a backseat to old Candlestick Park. Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice started the tradition and the current crew are also making memories that will last a few lifetimes. The 49ers will move into a new $1.2 billion home next fall, but The Catch (Dwight Clark), the Catch II (T.O.) and the Catch III (Vernon Davis) will live on. It was a mucky mess when wet, but the old infield was just as often rock hard as baseball season gave way to football season. The slick Astroturf was no kinder before that. The ‘Stick was a baseball stadium with a football field dropped in. It was where Mike Singletary had his rant. Oh, and the titles – FIVE Super Bowl wins! Brodie, Montana, Young and now Kaepernick. Close your eyes and you may feel the earth actually shake under your feet. The ‘Stick truly went above and beyond.
That’s the Loftys for 2013. I knew you were curious about the other presents under the tree! Hit me up on Twitter with a few Lofty winners of your own and have a blessed Holiday season!
– James Lofton
James Lofton is the analyst for WestwoodOne’s coverage of Sunday Night Football. This week, Kevin Kugler and James will be in Dallas as the Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East title and a berth in the playoffs. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM Eastern.