On this week’s Blitzed NFL podcast, you heard great ideas for some awards that the NFL should implement. A Cy Young for quarterbacks, an award to honor great defensive minds like Luke Kuechly, and an award to honor the guys in the trenches like Joe Thomas or Travis Frederick..
So, let’s make awards that assign real value (or lack thereof) to players and also make it easier for casual fans to appreciate the nuances of the game. Only six weeks into the season is a bit premature to hand out awards, but let’s take a look at the early candidates for the prestigious, historic, and first annual Scouting Report Awards.
The "Stats are for losers" Award
The first award comes to us from a fellow NFL scout, Mel Kiper Jr. When defending Josh Allen’s alarmingly low 56.2% completion percentage, Kiper simply stated “stats are for losers.”
To some extent, Kiper is right. Like the guys said on the podcast, players like Kuechly and Joe Thomas affect the game as much as anybody on the field. It’s simply a product of their respective positions that they don’t put up stats to make it easy for casual football fans to follow and appreciate their greatness.
The NFL’s MVP award confuses stats with true value.
Here is the watchlist for the award that crowns the most valuable NFL player who won’t receive any MVP consideration:
1. David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers Left Tackle
Aaron Rodgers can see every field part of the field except one: his blindside. Remember when Rodgers got hurt last year? It was ugly, and the Packers season immediately ended. Bakhtiari, as a left tackle, protects Rodgers from blindside sacks. He also does a damn good job. Pro Football Focus rates Bakhtiari as the #1 left tackle in the NFL. With Khalil Mack in the division now, Bakhtiari is as valuable to Rodgers’ health, and the Packers success, as anybody.
2. Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys Cornerback
It’s easy to judge cornerbacks on interceptions and pass break ups. So how do you judge a cornerback who is so good he never even gets a chance to intercept the ball? Despite always covering the best receivers, Jones has only been targeted roughly three times per game. He’s covering receivers so well that quarterbacks won’t even look at him. No stats to show for it, but Byron Jones has been the best corner in the NFL so far.
3. Joe Jones, Denver Broncos Special Teams Specialist
Seeing the punter come onto the field is a great time for fans to grab a beer and hit the bathroom. But for the teams on the field, it’s no break in action. Great special teams are the difference in your offense needing to gain 90 yards or only 50 yards. Joe Jones is the NFL’s #1 special teams player according to Pro Football Focus. He’s always the first guy down the field and he blocked a punt this season, a rarity in the NFL.
The Matt Flynn Award
Trivia: who is the only quarterback in Packers history with 480 yards and 6 touchdowns in one game? Farve? Nope. Rodgers? Nope. Only Matthew Clayton Flynn has accomplished such a feat in the green and yellow.
In his first career start during a meaningless Week 17 game against backups, Flynn shattered the loaded Packers record books to end the regular season. Despite playing only one (1) good game in his career, Flynn signed a three-year, $26 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks the following season.
Flynn is just one of many guys in a quarterback-desperate league to leverage a small sample size into a large contract.
Do NOT let your brain get tricked into thinking these guys are legit QBs, no matter how big the contract will be:
1. Brock Osweiler, Miami Dolphins Quarterback
Brock Lobster stunned the world in Week 6 by passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns en route to upsetting Da Bears. Although Brock has routinely proven to stink, NFL GMs have the memory of a goldfish. This summer, Brock will only be seen as a 6’7”, 27-year-old quarterback who beat Khalil Mack and the NFL’s best defense.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback
Fitzmagic (seen here asking a fan if he knew he went to Harvard) lit the league on fire while starting in place of the suspended Jameis Winston the first month of the season. As always, he shines just enough to go get a new contract somewhere else. He’s old, he’s past his prime, and he was never that good to begin with—Jon Gruden cannot wait to overpay him.
The Copycat Award
“The NFL is a copycat league” is both the most used and most accurate cliché in the NFL. When a team has success using an innovative method, every other NFL team will copy them.
Some trends are so widely adapted that it changes the sport of football forever, such as Bill Walsh’s west coast offense. Some trends are gimmicky and get snuffed out by smart coaches in a hurry, like the wildcat offense.
Here’s the watchlist for the NFL’s next big trendsetter:
1. The Next Sean McVay
There used to be a mold for how NFL head coaches were hired. “Rookie” head coaches were usually guys in their late 40s or early 50s with lots of experience and success as a defensive coordinator for a good team. Defense wins championships.
McVay never fit that mold. The Rams hired him as a 31-year-old (younger than a lot of his players) after two pretty average years as an offensive coordinator for a pretty average Redskins team. Breaking the mold worked. McVay won NFL Coach of the Year in his first season and now the Rams are the only undefeated team in the NFL this season. He’s a young, offensive minded coach who wants to incorporate the spacing and pace of the college game into the NFL.
Next offseason, due to the Rams success, there will be lots of brand-new head coaches who still get carded at bars.
2. Not Valuing Running Backs
The Steelers are playing without one of the best running backs in the NFL, Le’Veon Bell, due to a contract holdout. Bell wants $17 million per year and the Steelers don’t want to pay a running back that much money.
Long story short, the Steelers are right. James Conner, Bell’s backup, not only has more yards and touchdowns through six games than Bell did last season, but he’s also only costing the Steelers $529k this year.
It’s not that Bell isn’t great, he is. He’s unquestionably better than Conner even. But running backs simply aren’t worth anywhere near $17 million or high draft picks.
Last year, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were drafted in the top ten. Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt were drafted in the third round. This year, Saquon Barkley was drafted #2 overall. Phillip Lindsay was undrafted and has more yards than Barkley.
These running backs are elite players, but NFL teams (besides the Giants) are starting to realize that you can come close to matching elite running back talent through only a fraction of the price.
3. Pay. Your. Pass. Rushers.
Otherwise known as the Jon Gruden for Mayor Award in Chicago. Contrary to running backs, the pass heavy NFL is making pass rushers more valuable than ever. Khalil Mack looks like he’s worth every penny now that the Bears have the best defense in the NFL and the lowly Raiders can’t put a pinky on the quarterback.
The Survivor Award
Survivor isn’t just the most popular reality show in television history because fans care about who wins. It’s about the journey, not the destination. The fear of being sent home early creates a dramatic environment that pushes contestants to the edge.
The NFL is no different. The high stakes of chasing a Super Bowl ring, getting the next big contract, or just fighting to stay on the roster brings football players to the edge. We don’t just care about who wins—we are obsessed with the NFL because it’s the greatest reality show in the world.
Here’s the watchlist of who can win the reality contestant of the year:
1. Jon Gruden
Every reality TV show has a character whose self-destructive personality causes an epic meltdown for the whole world to see. What truly makes the NFL the greatest reality TV show is that Jon Gruden is the only such character who’s contractually obligated to remain with the program for 10 seasons. The details of the Raiders season were perfectly chronicled on the Blitzed podcast.
For now, I just want to say thank you, Jon Gruden. The Raiders train wreck has been a beautifully entertaining disaster.
2. The Cleveland Browns
There is always a loveable loser. Browns head coach Hue Jackson went into the season with a career 1-31 record with the team, the worst two-year span in NFL history.
The Browns were so bad that Bud Light scattered locked refrigerators full of beer around Cleveland, only to be opened upon a Browns win. The Browns were truly so bad, yet so lovable, that a massive corporation set aside its usual goal of appeasing shareholders just to be a part of the celebration if (not necessarily when) the Browns win a single game.
The Browns started the season with a tie. The 0-0-1 record was their best start since 2004. On September 20th, against the mighty New York Jets, the lovable losers were finally able to crack open the free Bud Light.
3. The Buffalo Bills
The battle to stay alive in both Survivor and the NFL separates the strong from the weak. Those who truly want it from those who don’t. The fiercest competitors on the planet going at each other’s necks just for a chance to stay alive.
The Bills also exist. Their season so far doesn’t quite align with the competitive intensity we’re used to in the NFL. The results, however, are hilarious:
So there they are, the first annual Scouting Report Awards. Who are the winners, you ask? I dunno. These are just fake awards I came up with while putting away a six pack last night. But that's the beauty of the NFL, no matter what happens, it's always entertaining for us fans.
The Scout. You can follow the Scout on Twitter.