Photo Essays  

 

Published: Feb. 22, 2013 at 04:19 p.m.
Updated: Feb. 22, 2013 at 06:36 p.m.

NFL Academy Awards

We now have reached the zenith of award season, and with that in mind, I have partnered with my man, Jeff Greenholtz, to offer up our version of the NFL’s Academy Awards for the 2012 season.

32 Photos Total

  • Brees responded to his record-breaking campaign of 5,476 passing yards in 2011 with another 5,000 passing yards in 2012. That's the NFL equivalent of Tom Hanks going back-to-back with Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994). 32

    Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL

    Best quarterback in a starring role: Drew Brees

    Brees responded to his record-breaking campaign of 5,476 passing yards in 2011 with another 5,000 passing yards in 2012. That's the NFL equivalent of Tom Hanks going back-to-back with Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994).

  • My cinematic analogy leans chick-flick. Much like Melissa McCarthy's breakout appearance in 2011's "Bridesmaids," Kaepernick's emergence this season was unexpected and he quickly became a scene stealer. Have we heard much from "Bridesmaids" headliner Kristen Wiig since 2011? McCarthy currently stars in "Identity Thief" (at a theater near you). Has Alex Smith started a game since Nov. 11? Kaepernick has been the 49ers' leading man from Week 10 through Super Bowl XLVII. 31

    Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL

    Best quarterback in a starring role: Colin Kaepernick:

    My cinematic analogy leans chick-flick. Much like Melissa McCarthy's breakout appearance in 2011's "Bridesmaids," Kaepernick's emergence this season was unexpected and he quickly became a scene stealer. Have we heard much from "Bridesmaids" headliner Kristen Wiig since 2011? McCarthy currently stars in "Identity Thief" (at a theater near you). Has Alex Smith started a game since Nov. 11? Kaepernick has been the 49ers' leading man from Week 10 through Super Bowl XLVII.

  • There really isn't much debate about Peterson, whose career-year in 2012 would have been incredible and one of the league's best under the best of circumstances. A return from a devastating knee injury makes it that much more impressive. 30

    Tom Lynn/Associated Press

    Best running back in a starring role: Adrian Peterson

    There really isn't much debate about Peterson, whose career-year in 2012 would have been incredible and one of the league's best under the best of circumstances. A return from a devastating knee injury makes it that much more impressive.

  • Should we apply Peterson's superhero standard for returning after injury to the real "Iron Man?" Last summer, production of "Iron Man 3" was delayed when Robert Downey Jr. hurt his ankle. Before his injury, Downey Jr. was considered one of his generation's greatest actors, just as Peterson was considered one of the greatest running backs before his own injury. When "Iron Man 3" is released in May, will Downey show no signs of a limp and give his greatest performance, just as Peterson did? 29

    Andy King/Associated Press

    Best running back in a starring role: Adrian Peterson

    Should we apply Peterson's superhero standard for returning after injury to the real "Iron Man?" Last summer, production of "Iron Man 3" was delayed when Robert Downey Jr. hurt his ankle. Before his injury, Downey Jr. was considered one of his generation's greatest actors, just as Peterson was considered one of the greatest running backs before his own injury. When "Iron Man 3" is released in May, will Downey show no signs of a limp and give his greatest performance, just as Peterson did?

  • Anybody who takes on a popcorn-like role of "Megatron" typically is eschewed in the awards. But certainly not in this case. (That's a movie reference. If you don't follow along, don't worry, just click on the next slide.) 28

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Best receiver in a starring role: Calvin Johnson

    Anybody who takes on a popcorn-like role of "Megatron" typically is eschewed in the awards. But certainly not in this case. (That's a movie reference. If you don't follow along, don't worry, just click on the next slide.)

  • How many of Calvin Johnson's receiving yards came when Matthew Stafford was rallying the Lions back during one of Detroit's 12 losses? The bigger impact receiver was the Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne, who proved himself an invaluable weapon for Andrew Luck with 106 catches and 1,355 yards receiving. The Colts don't make the playoffs without Reggie Wayne ... just as "Lincoln" doesn't get nominated for Best Picture without Daniel Day-Lewis. 27

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Best receiver in a starring role: Reggie Wayne

    How many of Calvin Johnson's receiving yards came when Matthew Stafford was rallying the Lions back during one of Detroit's 12 losses? The bigger impact receiver was the Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne, who proved himself an invaluable weapon for Andrew Luck with 106 catches and 1,355 yards receiving. The Colts don't make the playoffs without Reggie Wayne ... just as "Lincoln" doesn't get nominated for Best Picture without Daniel Day-Lewis.

  • Jennings might not have had a great statistical season, but his Q-rating was through the roof with some of the best commercials going. His "Old Spice" ads immediately leaped to the pantheon of great athlete commercials. So all-in-all, not a terrible year for Jennings, despite the whole playing in just eight games thing. 26

    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Best achievement in comedy: Greg Jennings Old Spice Commercial

    Jennings might not have had a great statistical season, but his Q-rating was through the roof with some of the best commercials going. His "Old Spice" ads immediately leaped to the pantheon of great athlete commercials. So all-in-all, not a terrible year for Jennings, despite the whole playing in just eight games thing.

  • The Jets are the gift that keeps on giving. There were so many unfortunate Jets moments, not all comedic: Santonio Holmes was lost for the season on a play that involved no contact; on Tim Tebow's first complete pass, a backup tight end fumbled and hurt his knee; Tebow may or may not have been angered over Ryan's decision start Greg McElroy in Week 16; Ryan was photographed vacationing in the Bahamas with a Mark Sanchez-related tattoo on his right shoulder. In a season of ignominy, Mark Sanchez's "Butt Fumble" on Thanksgiving night is the appropriate symbol of the 2012 Jets. The best scriptwriters couldn't make this stuff up. 25

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Best achievement in comedy: New York Jets

    The Jets are the gift that keeps on giving. There were so many unfortunate Jets moments, not all comedic: Santonio Holmes was lost for the season on a play that involved no contact; on Tim Tebow's first complete pass, a backup tight end fumbled and hurt his knee; Tebow may or may not have been angered over Ryan's decision start Greg McElroy in Week 16; Ryan was photographed vacationing in the Bahamas with a Mark Sanchez-related tattoo on his right shoulder. In a season of ignominy, Mark Sanchez's "Butt Fumble" on Thanksgiving night is the appropriate symbol of the 2012 Jets. The best scriptwriters couldn't make this stuff up.

  • Yes, I guess this also could have counted in the comedy category. Well, maybe not for Packers fans who saw this play as no laughing matter. 24

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    Best call by a replacement official: Seattle TD

    Yes, I guess this also could have counted in the comedy category. Well, maybe not for Packers fans who saw this play as no laughing matter.

  • Without replacement officials signaling a Seahawks' touchdown, would Russell Wilson have guided his team to an 11-5 record and a playoff win? With a loss against the Green Bay Packers, would Wilson have struggled the next few games and been benched in favor of Matt Flynn? If Bradley Cooper hadn't been cast opposite Jennifer Garner in "Alias" in 2001, would he have eventually landed the leading role in "Silver Linings Playbook"? Instead, would Ryan Gosling have gotten the part in "SLP" and be the young actor drawing raves for the best performance of his career? 23

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    Best call by a replacement official: Seattle TD

    Without replacement officials signaling a Seahawks' touchdown, would Russell Wilson have guided his team to an 11-5 record and a playoff win? With a loss against the Green Bay Packers, would Wilson have struggled the next few games and been benched in favor of Matt Flynn? If Bradley Cooper hadn't been cast opposite Jennifer Garner in "Alias" in 2001, would he have eventually landed the leading role in "Silver Linings Playbook"? Instead, would Ryan Gosling have gotten the part in "SLP" and be the young actor drawing raves for the best performance of his career?

  • Gonzalez has gone from 95 percent finished to 50-50 on retirement to who knows what's next for him. But Gonzalez finally got the first elusive playoff win of his career, and he had a big hand in it, too. 22

    Rich Addicks/Associated Press

    George Blanda Lifetime Achievement award: Tony Gonzalez

    Gonzalez has gone from 95 percent finished to 50-50 on retirement to who knows what's next for him. But Gonzalez finally got the first elusive playoff win of his career, and he had a big hand in it, too.

  • The 37-year-old Batch started two games for the Pittsburgh Steelers, including a dramatic Dec. 2 victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. The oldest non-kicker in the NFL, Batch outplayed Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, throwing for 276 yards and setting up the game-winning field goal. Moments later, Batch was in tears, fully aware that he might never start another NFL game. Shouldn't all football players be entitled to a silver linings playbook? 21

    Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL

    George Blanda Lifetime Achievement award: Charlie Batch

    The 37-year-old Batch started two games for the Pittsburgh Steelers, including a dramatic Dec. 2 victory over the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. The oldest non-kicker in the NFL, Batch outplayed Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, throwing for 276 yards and setting up the game-winning field goal. Moments later, Batch was in tears, fully aware that he might never start another NFL game. Shouldn't all football players be entitled to a silver linings playbook?

  • Andrew Luck and RG3 had the hype, but Wilson overcame the longest odds, and he got his team the furthest in the playoffs, too. If it were not for a defensive lapse in Atlanta, we might be talking about a Super Bowl championship in Seattle. But even then, getting the Seahawks to the second round is impressive. 20

    Tom Hauck/Associated Press

    Eric Dickerson award for best rookie: Russell Wilson

    Andrew Luck and RG3 had the hype, but Wilson overcame the longest odds, and he got his team the furthest in the playoffs, too. If it were not for a defensive lapse in Atlanta, we might be talking about a Super Bowl championship in Seattle. But even then, getting the Seahawks to the second round is impressive.

  • Selecting the best rookie from among Andrew Luck, RG3 and Russell Wilson is like trying to choose the best acting performance of 1999 among Russell Crowe ("The Insider"), Kevin Spacey ("American Beauty") and Denzel Washington ("The Hurricane"). RG3 became the first player in NFL history with four passing TDs of 60-plus yards and one 60-plus yard rushing TD in a single season. He threw 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions, tied for the fewest among qualifying QBs. RG3 led the NFL in rushing, averaging 6.8 yards per rush. He led his team to the division title for the first time since 1999. RG3 is the best rookie, just as Kevin Spacey was Best Actor in 1999. 19

    Aaron M. Sprecher/NFL

    Eric Dickerson award for best rookie: RG3

    Selecting the best rookie from among Andrew Luck, RG3 and Russell Wilson is like trying to choose the best acting performance of 1999 among Russell Crowe ("The Insider"), Kevin Spacey ("American Beauty") and Denzel Washington ("The Hurricane"). RG3 became the first player in NFL history with four passing TDs of 60-plus yards and one 60-plus yard rushing TD in a single season. He threw 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions, tied for the fewest among qualifying QBs. RG3 led the NFL in rushing, averaging 6.8 yards per rush. He led his team to the division title for the first time since 1999. RG3 is the best rookie, just as Kevin Spacey was Best Actor in 1999.

  • Young might have received the benefit of the doubt for his ouster in Detroit. There might be a lack of institutional control in the Motor City. But when Jeff Fisher gives up on you in a matter of hours, you have some troubles. 18

    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Jerry Glanville "Not For Long" award: Titus Young

    Young might have received the benefit of the doubt for his ouster in Detroit. There might be a lack of institutional control in the Motor City. But when Jeff Fisher gives up on you in a matter of hours, you have some troubles.

  • Chad Johnson thought he had it all figured it out. Go to Miami. Be the veteran on a young team. Catch passes. Star in a reality show with his new bride. Getting released on television, in prime time, was probably not part of his plan. The German word "schadenfreude" is defined as pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. If you enjoyed watching Johnson being released by the Dolphins' Joe Philbin, you are not alone. 17

    Tom DiPace/Associated Press

    The Jerry Glanville "Not For Long" award: Chad Johnson

    Chad Johnson thought he had it all figured it out. Go to Miami. Be the veteran on a young team. Catch passes. Star in a reality show with his new bride. Getting released on television, in prime time, was probably not part of his plan. The German word "schadenfreude" is defined as pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. If you enjoyed watching Johnson being released by the Dolphins' Joe Philbin, you are not alone.

  • Fans of the St. Louis football club will have to think about this over the next decade. But the organization could have moved Sam Bradford and kept the rights to RG3. And sure, St. Louis received a lot of picks. So did the Los Angeles Rams when they traded away Eric Dickerson back in 1987. 16

    Ben Liebenberg/NFL

    The Herschel Walker award for best trade: Washington gets RG3

    Fans of the St. Louis football club will have to think about this over the next decade. But the organization could have moved Sam Bradford and kept the rights to RG3. And sure, St. Louis received a lot of picks. So did the Los Angeles Rams when they traded away Eric Dickerson back in 1987.

  • Sure, there had to be times last season when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher wished he had kept RG3. Fisher's decision to keep Sam Bradford, trade the pick that would become RG3 and stock up on draft picks (three first-round picks and one second-round) will long be debated. But the Rams play in the difficult NFC West, and they were the only NFL team that did not lose a game within their division last season. With questions about RG3's health and style of play, Fisher has to be feeling good about his decision right about now. Did he learn a lesson in Tennessee, after years of struggling to keep Steve McNair healthy? 15

    Alix Drawec/NFL

    The Herschel Walker award for best trade: St. Louis trades the pick that would be RG3

    Sure, there had to be times last season when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher wished he had kept RG3. Fisher's decision to keep Sam Bradford, trade the pick that would become RG3 and stock up on draft picks (three first-round picks and one second-round) will long be debated. But the Rams play in the difficult NFC West, and they were the only NFL team that did not lose a game within their division last season. With questions about RG3's health and style of play, Fisher has to be feeling good about his decision right about now. Did he learn a lesson in Tennessee, after years of struggling to keep Steve McNair healthy?

  • Suh with an unsportsmanlike penalty on Thanksgiving has become just as big of a holiday tradition as turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. 14

    Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports

    The Charles Martin Poor Sportsmanship award (player): Ndamukong Suh on Matt Schaub

    Suh with an unsportsmanlike penalty on Thanksgiving has become just as big of a holiday tradition as turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

  • Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's pile drive of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on a Monday night in October brought to mind a memorable line from the movie "Diner" when Tim Daly's character tells a stranger, "I'll hit you so hard, I'll kill your whole family." Suh's hit was exceedingly violent. We can only hope Cutler's family was not injured on the play. 13

    Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

    The Charles Martin Poor Sportsmanship award (player): Ndamukong Suh's pile drive of Jay Cutler

    Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's pile drive of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on a Monday night in October brought to mind a memorable line from the movie "Diner" when Tim Daly's character tells a stranger, "I'll hit you so hard, I'll kill your whole family." Suh's hit was exceedingly violent. We can only hope Cutler's family was not injured on the play.

  • Coughlin took exception to Greg Schiano's exuberance when the Buccaneers tried to stuff the Giants' kneel down at the end of a closely-contested debate early in the season. Coughlin would have had a lot more ammunition against the rookie coach if Schiano hadn't been successful with such a play during his time at Rutgers. 12

    David Drapkin/Associated Press

    The Buddy Ryan Poor Sportsmanship award (coach):Tom Coughlin

    Coughlin took exception to Greg Schiano's exuberance when the Buccaneers tried to stuff the Giants' kneel down at the end of a closely-contested debate early in the season. Coughlin would have had a lot more ammunition against the rookie coach if Schiano hadn't been successful with such a play during his time at Rutgers.

  • By putting New York Giants players, including quarterback Eli Manning, at risk of injury, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Schiano violated one of football's unwritten rules. After the game, Schiano was unapologetic. "If people watched Rutgers," Schiano said of his previous coaching stop, "they would know that's what we do at the end of a game." Perhaps Giants coach Tom Coughlin made a mistake by not scouting Rutgers game against North Carolina Central. Then again, he may have been using that spare time to shine two Super Bowl rings. 11

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The Buddy Ryan Poor Sportsmanship award (coach): Greg Schiano

    By putting New York Giants players, including quarterback Eli Manning, at risk of injury, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Schiano violated one of football's unwritten rules. After the game, Schiano was unapologetic. "If people watched Rutgers," Schiano said of his previous coaching stop, "they would know that's what we do at the end of a game." Perhaps Giants coach Tom Coughlin made a mistake by not scouting Rutgers game against North Carolina Central. Then again, he may have been using that spare time to shine two Super Bowl rings.

  • Harbaugh had given us plenty of great moments from his press conferences this year. But his turkey outburst will no doubt live on in beer commercials once he's done with coaching. 10

    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Jim Mora award for best press conference: Jim Harbaugh

    Harbaugh had given us plenty of great moments from his press conferences this year. But his turkey outburst will no doubt live on in beer commercials once he's done with coaching.

  • With San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith returning from a concussion and backup QB Colin Kaepernick playing well, Jim Harbaugh found himself in a "QB Quagmire," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. At the Niners practice facility on Nov. 19, Harbaugh had the opportunity to end any debate when he met with reporters. With a straight face, and the dramatic skills of a man who had once made a guest appearance on "Saved By the Bell," Harbaugh told reporters, "I usually tend to go with the guy that has the hot hand and we have two quarterbacks that have a hot hand." The 49ers' Great QB Debate would live on. 9

    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Jim Mora award for best press conference: Jim Harbaugh

    With San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith returning from a concussion and backup QB Colin Kaepernick playing well, Jim Harbaugh found himself in a "QB Quagmire," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. At the Niners practice facility on Nov. 19, Harbaugh had the opportunity to end any debate when he met with reporters. With a straight face, and the dramatic skills of a man who had once made a guest appearance on "Saved By the Bell," Harbaugh told reporters, "I usually tend to go with the guy that has the hot hand and we have two quarterbacks that have a hot hand." The 49ers' Great QB Debate would live on.

  • Nobody is more responsible for the NFL's rise in popularity over the last 40 years than Steve Sabol. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame, stat. 8

    National Football League

    Al Davis Award for Outstanding Contributions to the NFL: Steve Sabol

    Nobody is more responsible for the NFL's rise in popularity over the last 40 years than Steve Sabol. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame, stat.

  • Controversial and complex, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis deserves to be recognized for his accomplishments, as well as his failings. Over the last 17 years, can you imagine the NFL, the AFC North or the Ravens without him? 7

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    Al Davis Award for Outstanding Contributions to the NFL: Ray Lewis

    Controversial and complex, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis deserves to be recognized for his accomplishments, as well as his failings. Over the last 17 years, can you imagine the NFL, the AFC North or the Ravens without him?

  • Each year, the Patriots like to remind their fans they once wore some of the best uniforms in the world, and now wear some of the worst. Well, not as bad as the Steelers bumblebee uniforms, but among the worst in regular use. 6

    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Best costume design: Patriots red uniforms

    Each year, the Patriots like to remind their fans they once wore some of the best uniforms in the world, and now wear some of the worst. Well, not as bad as the Steelers bumblebee uniforms, but among the worst in regular use.

  • Part rugby uniform, part chain gang garb, part bumble bee costume -- anytime a player can walk off the field and directly into a video game, prison or an old episode of "Batman" without changing outfits, the costume designer is doing something <i>very</i> right. 5

    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Best costume design: Steelers throwback uniforms

    Part rugby uniform, part chain gang garb, part bumble bee costume -- anytime a player can walk off the field and directly into a video game, prison or an old episode of "Batman" without changing outfits, the costume designer is doing something very right.

  • Yes, it's one thing to wear a ribbon or "Chuck Strong" T-shirt. But two Colts cheerleaders, Megan and Chrystal, put their hair on the line for a great cause. 4

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Best hair and makeup: Colts cheerleaders

    Yes, it's one thing to wear a ribbon or "Chuck Strong" T-shirt. But two Colts cheerleaders, Megan and Chrystal, put their hair on the line for a great cause.

  • A man of many looks, hair styles and hair lengths ... a chameleon, like Oscar-nominated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. 3

    Associated Press

    Best hair and makeup: Tom Brady

    A man of many looks, hair styles and hair lengths ... a chameleon, like Oscar-nominated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

  • Eli Manning and Matt Hasselbeck both tossed winning scores within five seconds of each other in real-time in Week 7. 2

    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Best original score: Five-second frenzy

    Eli Manning and Matt Hasselbeck both tossed winning scores within five seconds of each other in real-time in Week 7.

  • Down by seven points ... Thirty-one seconds left in the divisional playoff game... facing third-and-3 with no timeouts left... with both the Ravens' season and Ray Lewis' career on the line... Joe Flacco connects with Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard touchdown pass. Why is this play worthy of Best Original Score? The singular play, at that point in the game, that the Denver Broncos couldn't afford to give up was a Flacco TD pass. "At that point," Flacco said, "you have to start taking shots. You have to get a little lucky." As Miles shared with Joel in "Risky Business," "Sometimes, you have to say, "What the ****!" 1

    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Best original score: Ravens

    Down by seven points ... Thirty-one seconds left in the divisional playoff game... facing third-and-3 with no timeouts left... with both the Ravens' season and Ray Lewis' career on the line... Joe Flacco connects with Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard touchdown pass. Why is this play worthy of Best Original Score? The singular play, at that point in the game, that the Denver Broncos couldn't afford to give up was a Flacco TD pass. "At that point," Flacco said, "you have to start taking shots. You have to get a little lucky." As Miles shared with Joel in "Risky Business," "Sometimes, you have to say, "What the ****!"

Discuss ()