Watt on winning Defensive Player of Year
The results of the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year were shocking.
No, no, no. It wasn’t shocking that J.J. Watt won the Associated Press’ honor. Nah, they really could have given it out a month ago. Saturday was just the official announcement.
The surprising thing is that it wasn’t unanimous. Watt earned only 49 of the 50 votes. The other went to Aaron Sele.
Just kidding. It went to Von Miller.
The voting is handled by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who cover the NFL regularly. Watt was one of two unanimous selections to the All-Pro team, along with running back Adrian Peterson. But he wasn’t a unanimous selection as Defensive Player of the Year.
And it’s not that Miller or Aldon Smith or Charles Tillman didn’t have good seasons. They all did. They all had seasons that were probably worthy of consideration and might have been worthy of the award in any other season. But they didn’t have the year Watt did.
And it’s possible no one ever has.
“He should be unanimous, I would think. He’s just a great player and he’s had the best year ever,” said Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on Jan. 10, when asked about Watt.
“He’s had the absolute best year any defensive lineman has ever had. And I had Elvin Bethea, who’s in the Hall of Fame, and he had some great years, and Bruce Smith had some great years, and Reggie White had some great years, but they didn’t make that many tackles, that many tackles for loss, that many knock downs and that many sacks in one year. Nobody has done that, so I can’t say enough great things about him because he’s a great player.”
No, it doesn’t really matter that Watt wasn’t a unanimous selection. Just about everyone knows he should have been. The numbers speak loudly:
The 6-5, 295-pound physical freak led the NFL with 20.5 sacks. He had 16 passes defensed, the most a lineman has ever had. He became the first player in NFL history with 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed in a season.
Still not impressed? Wow, but OK. How about this?
Watt led the Texans with 107 tackles, 39 of which went for a loss. He had 42 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Watt contributed to 95 lays that resulted in no gain or negative yardage.
Still not impressed? OK, now you’re crazy, but how about this? One last number: 23.
Watt is 23 years old. His second season in the NFL was probably the best season a defensive lineman has ever had.
He plans on getting better, he said the day after the Texans lost to the Patriots in the playoffs.
“Just watch this way next year,” Watt said after clearing out his locker at Reliant Stadium. “I’m 23 years old. I’m two years into the league. I’m still learning what I’m doing out there. I’m just trying to have some fun. I have a lot of time left in this league I hope and I have a lot of improvement to make. My second year is not going to be my best year in the NFL, I promise you that.”
That’s a pretty scary concept, Watt getting better. It’s scary because he’s already the best. While the numbers are mind-blowing, they were even more impressive to his teammate Antonio Smith, who was campaigning for MVP on his teammate’s behalf earlier in the season.
As it turned out, Adrian Peterson won the MVP, with 30 ½ votes, while Peyton Manning took the other 19 ½. Watt didn’t receive a vote.
Smith’s campaign was based on Watt’s numbers and the way he achieved them. Smith said that Watt’s numbers were even more impressive because Watt wasn’t just an edge rusher. Phillips often lines Watt up inside where he finds himself on the receiving end of double teams. But he still piled up numbers.
According to ProFootballFocus, a website that grades players on a play-by-play basis, Watt was by far the best defensive end in football. In fact, his 101.6 grade in the regular season was by far the best in the NFL.
That’s all that separated Watt from being unanimously selected as the Defensive Player of the Year – just the latest shocker from one of the most shocking seasons in recent football history.