Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Sports Central’s 2012 NFL All-Pro Team
With the 2012 regular season over, it's time to honor this season's most outstanding players. This column exists to explain the reasons I chose certain players, or didn't take others, and to give recognition to those who just missed the cut. If all you care about is who made the team, skip to the end and you'll find a list.
We name 13 players on offense and 13 on defense. With fullbacks playing ever smaller roles in the offense, a third wide receiver and second tight end are essential. On defense, we list three cornerbacks (everyone needs a good nickel back) and two each of defensive tackles and inside linebackers (accommodating both the 3-4 and 4-3).
Our choices are listed in order, so you'll know which receiver is third, which tight end is second, and so on.
Quarterback: Tom Brady (NE)
Last Year: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
This is the most difficult decision in years at QB. You could argue for Rodgers, who led the league in TD/INT differential (+31) and was productive as a rusher (259 yards, 2 TDs). Rodgers spread the ball around to a shifting cast of oft-injured receivers, and his 7.1 TD% easily led the NFL (Russell Wilson, 6.6%). He also led the league in passer rating (108.0). But Rodgers ranked 8th in passing yardage, and he took more sacks (51) than any other QB. Some of that is the offensive line, and some of it is Rodgers.
The choice came down to Peyton Manning (DEN) or Brady. I wouldn't argue with Manning. In fact, I saved this position for last when drawing up the team, and changed the selection from Manning at the last second, using a cheap tiebreaker: without Brady, I'd have no Patriots on my All-Pro offense. New England easily led the NFL in both points and yardage.
Brady passed for 4,827 yards and 34 TDs, with a 98.7 passer rating and only 8 INTs. He also rushed for 4 TDs, the only QB in the league with more rushing touchdowns than fumbles (2). Manning has great numbers, too: 4,659 yards, 37 TDs, 105.8 rating. You wouldn't go wrong with either one.
Running Back: Adrian Peterson (MIN)
Last Year: Ray Rice (BAL)
2,097 yards, 6.03 average, 13 TDs.
Was Adrian Peterson's 2012 season the best ever by a running back? Probably not, though it's clearly among the greatest of all time. Just by way of comparison, look at Peterson's stats alongside those of LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and Chris Johnson in 2009.
LT: 1,815 yds, 5.22 avg, 508 rec yds, 31 TD, 2 fmbl
CJ: 2,006 yds, 5.60 avg, 503 rec yds, 16 TD, 3 fmbl
AP: 2,097 yds, 6.03 avg, 217 rec yds, 13 TD, 4 fmbl
Obviously there's more to this than stats, but with players as good as this, it's not easy to make distinctions. Was Johnson's open-field speed worth more than LT's ability to find the hole? Did Tomlinson's goal-line play count for more than Peterson's long runs? How much of their brilliance can be attributed to blocking?
Statistically, I don't see Peterson's 91-yard rushing edge on Johnson making up for a 286-yard receiving deficit, 3 TDs, and a fumble. Nor do I believe 282 rushing yards are worth more than 291 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. And this is just recent history, not even touching Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson and Terrell Davis. So no, I can't see Peterson's 2012 as the best season ever.
I don't give extra credit for coming back from a devastating knee injury, either, though it does make All Day's season even more remarkable. The more interesting issue, I think, is where Peterson rates all-time as a running back. I'd put him in the top 20 at this point, but not the top 10 yet. I suspect he will be regarded as one of the 10 greatest RBs by the time he retires, and what he's accomplished in only six seasons is fantastic. Peterson has a higher career rushing average (5.05) than Gale Sayers (5.00).
Fullback: Darrel Young (WAS)
Last Year: Greg Jones (JAC)
This is such a marginal position in 2012, it's really difficult to evaluate. Young got more playing time than most fullbacks, and he led the way for Alfred Morris — a rookie 6th-round draft choice from Florida Atlantic — to gain 1,600 yards.
If you prefer James Casey (HOU), Jerome Felton (MIN), Vonta Leach (BAL), or Bruce Miller (SF), I won't argue. Fullbacks are like part-time guards, and at this point in the game's evolution it's difficult to distinguish a single standout.
Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson (DET), Brandon Marshall (CHI), Andre Johnson (HOU)
Last Year: Calvin Johnson (DET), Wes Welker (NE), Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)
Calvin Johnson is obvious. He broke or tied numerous receiving records this season, including Jerry Rice's single-season yardage mark, set in the nutty 1995 season. If this wasn't the greatest season ever by a wide receiver, it was close. The other two spots were a nightmare, though.
Statistically, Marshall and Johnson make sense. Megatron led the league in pretty much everything, but Andre Johnson ranked 2nd in yards and first downs, and he had three 150-yard games. Marshall ranked 2nd or 3rd in receptions, yards, first downs, TDs, and 100-yard games. Go by stats, those are your guys.
But Marshall was targeted almost compulsively, he had relatively few yards after the catch, and he didn't break many long plays. The Texans were 6-0 when Johnson gained under 75 yards, compared to 6-4 when he gained 75 or more. The less involved he was, the better they did. Johnson also caught only 4 TDs, the fewest of any 1,000-yard receiver except Brian Hartline.
You could make persuasive arguments for A.J. Green (1350 yards, 11 TDs, league-leading seven receptions of 40+ yards), Roddy White (1351 yards, 73 first downs), Wes Welker (1354 yards, 118 receptions), Reggie Wayne (1355 yards, 73 first downs), Dez Bryant (1382 yards, 12 TDs), or Vincent Jackson (1384 yards, 19.2 avg). But there are also fair arguments against all of them. My fourth choice, narrowly edged by Johnson, was Demaryius Thomas (DEN). Thomas ranked 4th in yards and tied for 4th in TDs, and he was a big-play receiver. He put up terrific numbers despite being targeted just 141 times (13th-most), 50 fewer than Marshall.
There's room for reasonable people to differ on any choices after Megatron. Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson are proven talents who both had big years, and ultimately, the numbers persuaded me to select them over Thomas and the others.
Tight End: Jason Witten (DAL), Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
Last Year: Rob Gronkowski (NE), Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
The only question was whether or not to include Gronkowski, who played only 11 games but nonetheless led all tight ends in scoring (11 TDs). Gronk is the best tight end in the NFL, no question. He's an explosive receiver and a very good blocker. But the Patriots averaged 34.2 ppg even without Gronkowski, which left the door open for the ageless Gonzalez.
Gonzalez led all tight ends in first down receptions, with the 2nd-most catches, 3rd-most yards, and 4th-most touchdowns. He was a crucial outlet when opponents tried to double-cover Julio Jones and Roddy White. Witten caught 110 passes for 1,039 yards (both best among TEs) and is a fine blocker. His numbers probably would have been even more impressive if he hadn't begun the season playing with a lacerated spleen.
Center: Mike Pouncey (MIA)
Last Year: Nick Mangold (NYJ)
The Pro Bowl voters selected the wrong Pouncey to join Chris Myers (HOU) on the AFC roster. I still don't understand the hype for Maurkice.
Guard: Mike Iupati (SF), Andy Levitre (BUF)
Last Year: Carl Nicks (NO), Jahri Evans (NO)
Iupati will start in the Pro Bowl, and he's widely recognized now as one of the best guards in pro football. But Levitre is not. Look, C.J. Spiller didn't average six yards a carry by himself, and it's not Levitre's fault that Buffalo's pass offense is Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson. Spiller gained more receiving yardage than any Bills WR except Johnson.
Offensive Tackle: Duane Brown (HOU), Joe Staley (SF)
Last Year: Jason Peters (PHI), Andrew Whitworth (CIN)
I've never chosen Joe Thomas (CLE), but he makes the Pro Bowl every year, so he must be doing something right. You wouldn't know it from watching Brandon Weeden (72.6 passer rating) and Trent Richardson (3.56 yds/att), though. Whitworth started the season strong, but he played through injuries later in the year and slipped a bit.
Defensive Tackle: Geno Atkins (CIN), Justin Smith (SF)
Last Year: Brett Keisel (PIT), Calais Campbell (ARI)
Smith is a 3-4 defensive end, but he primarily plays inside, setting things up for Aldon Smith, with responsibilities very similar to those of a 4-3 DT. Atkins was a cinch at the other spot, a one-man wrecking crew with 12.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Atkins got 3 sacks as a rookie, 7.5 last year, and now 12.5. Heaven help the AFC North if he keeps improving.
Two inconsistent players capable of terrorizing offenses merit special mention: Vince Wilfork (NE) and Ndamukong Suh (DET). Wilfork, my third choice, has games in which he is borderline unblockable. At those moments, I'm not sure there's a better defensive player in the league. He had an awfully good season, his best in years. Suh (8 sacks) may be the most terrifying player in the league, and not just because he'll kick you in the groin.
Defensive End: J.J. Watt (HOU), Calais Campbell (ARI)
Last Year: Jared Allen (MIN), Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG)
Well, here I am, choosing two 3-4 ends. As defensive ends, no less, rather than shuffling them inside and listing them at DT.
Watt, of course, was an extraordinary pass rusher, despite that he lined up inside as often as outside. He led all defensive linemen in tackles and solo tackles (by more than 1/3), led the NFL in sacks (20.5), deflected 16 passes, forced 4 fumbles, and recovered 2. I'm inclined to believe this is the greatest season ever by a defensive lineman.
The other spot was a tough call. Cameron Wake (MIA) got 15 sacks, but his overall game still doesn't blow me away. And here's something weird: the Dolphins lost every game in which Wake got more than 1 sack (4.5 at Arizona, 3 at San Francisco, 1.5 vs New England). Eleven DEs finished the regular season with between 10 - 12.5 sacks, and you could argue for any of them as All-Pro.
But this year, the 3-4 DEs, who usually play inside and set the table for pass-rushing OLBs, excelled. Campbell, whom I chose as a DT last year, tallied 50 solo tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 6 pass deflections. Justin Smith, whom I chose as a DT this year, is technically a 3-4 end. Rob Ninkovich (NE) compiled 8 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries this season. Corey Liuget (SD) got 7 sacks and 9 deflections. An interior lineman's primary role is to disrupt the opposing offense, and players like Campbell, Ninkovich, and Liuget did that at the highest level. Well, second-highest — Watt.
My favorite 4-3 DEs were probably Wake, Allen, Elvis Dumervil (DEN), and Chris Clemons (SEA). Charles Johnson (CAR) had great stats (12.5 sacks, 7 FF), but didn't stand out when I saw him.
Outside Linebacker: Von Miller (DEN), Jerod Mayo (NE)
Last Year: Terrell Suggs (BAL), Clay Matthews III (GB)
I'm probably the only one not choosing Aldon Smith (SF), who had 19.5 sacks and forced 3 fumbles. But he's still learning to play linebacker, and even as a pass-rusher, I'm not convinced he can succeed without Justin Smith creating opportunities for him. I watch the 49ers and I'm nearly as impressed by his teammate Ahmad Brooks (SF).
Miller has drawn attention as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and that's silly with J.J. Watt out there, but he's had a tremendous season. Last year, I thought Miller was a little overrated, but this season, he justified all the hype: 18.5 sacks, 6 FF, and an interception returned for a touchdown. Peyton Manning is obviously the biggest factor in Denver's ascendance this year, but don't discount Miller's development.
Mayo moves around in New England's shifting 4-3/3-4 defensive scheme, playing both inside and outside. Frankly, I'd like to list him inside, where he played earlier in his career and where he appeared on the Pro Bowl ballot, because it's a weaker position this season. But outside probably fits better. What's not in question is Mayo's play this season. He's credited with 88 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 4 FF, and an INT. Those are good numbers, not staggering, but Mayo played at a very high level in 2012.
Clay Matthews would have been hard to deny if he hadn't missed four games with a hamstring injury. He missed 25% of the season and still managed the 5th-most sacks in the NFL (13.0), plus he's got a well-rounded game, more than just rushing the passer. Two perpetual contenders had nice years: Chad Greenway (MIN), whom I've never chosen and feel bad about it, had another fine season (98 solo, 3 sacks, 5 PD), as did Lance Briggs (CHI), with 13 PDs, including a pair of INTs returned for 110 yards and 2 TDs. I didn't see enough of the Buccaneers this year to evaluate rookie OLB Lavonte David (TB), but he's listed with 112 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 5 PDs, and an interception. Wesley Woodyard (DEN) did everything for the Broncos: led the team in tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 INTs. Woodyard, Zach Brown (TEN), and Lawrence Timmons were the only players this season with 3 picks and 5 sacks.
Inside Linebacker: Daryl Washington (ARI), NaVorro Bowman (SF)
Last Year: Brian Cushing (HOU), London Fletcher (WAS)
I will continue to whine, until next season, about the blind-side shot that ended Cushing's season. He would have been a runaway All-Pro. Bowman is sure to be a controversial choice over his teammate Patrick Willis (SF). They're both fine players, and everyone acknowledges that; I just think Bowman might be a little better. Sometimes I question if they're not both a touch overrated. I mean, half the Niner defense are All-Pro candidates, yet it's not clear they're the best defense in the NFL. Maybe they have 10 or 11 good players and only 1 or 2 really great ones.
People don't understand how good Arizona's defense was. How can a 5-11 team, a team that lost 11 of its last 12 games, have a good anything? How do you justify two All-Pros (Calais Campbell and Washington) from a team this bad? As terrible as the offense was, as many turnovers as its QBs committed on their own side of midfield, the Cardinals were one of only five defenses with more INTs than passing TDs allowed. They led the NFL in opponents' passer rating (71.2, about the same as Chad Henne), and were top-five in important categories like passing yards, first downs, and takeaways.
Washington made 108 solo tackles, with 9 sacks, a tremendous figure for an inside linebacker. A number of other ILBs had strong years. Derrick Johnson (KC), like Washington, excelled for a bad team. Lawrence Timmons (PIT), playing for the top-ranked defense in the NFL, led or tied for the team lead in solo tackles (75), sacks (6.0), and interceptions (3, with 80 return yards and a TD). James Laurinaitis led the NFL in solo tackles (117). Others who played particularly well include Karlos Dansby (MIA) and rookies Luke Kuechly (CAR) and Bobby Wagner (SEA).
Cornerback: Charles Tillman (CHI), Richard Sherman (SEA), Antonio Cromartie (NYJ)
Last Year: Darrelle Revis (NYJ), Lardarius Webb (BAL), Johnathan Joseph (HOU)
My top two choices from last season, both off to good starts in 2012, got injured early in the year. Revis played 2 games and Webb 6. Fortunately, the top choice this season was simple. Tillman was the Bears' most valuable player, with 3 INT return TDs and 10 forced fumbles.
Sherman, who successfully fought a suspension after testing positive for Adderall, led the league in passes defensed (24) and intercepted 8 passes, returning 1 for a touchdown. He also forced 3 fumbles, recovered a fumble, and sacked Mark Sanchez. Cromartie was the toughest call — I always hate choosing a nickel back, and I should probably just stop to save myself the headache — but Cromartie filled some big shoes after Revis got hurt in Week 2.
Tim Jennings (CHI) led the league with 9 INTs, Johnathan Joseph (HOU) had another nice year, Patrick Peterson (ARI) started to come around as a defensive back, and both Pittsburgh corners played well. No cornerback has a mean streak like Cortland Finnegan (STL). I don't know if I'd want him in my locker room, but I certainly wouldn't want to play against him.
Free Safety: Thomas DeCoud (ATL)
Last Year: Eric Weddle (SD)
I like Harrison Smith (MIN) and Ryan Clark (PIT), and I like Dashon Goldson (SF) and Earl Thomas (SEA), but this way a three-way battle among Jairus Byrd (BUF), Ed Reed (BAL), and DeCoud. Byrd intercepted 5 passes, with 4 FF and 2 FR. Reed intercepted 4 passes, knocked down 16 others, recovered 3 fumbles, and scored a touchdown. DeCoud, though, was the greatest play-maker this year. Every time I saw the Falcons, he made things happen. DeCoud wrapped up 2012 with 62 solo tackles, a sack, 6 INTs, 9 other PDs, and a fumble recovery. He was the outstanding player on an Atlanta defense that exceeded expectations and kept them in close games.
Strong Safety: Glover Quin (HOU)
Last Year: Kam Chancellor (SEA)
This is not the strongest position in the NFL right now. In the mid-2000s, this was a constant battle among Troy Polamalu, Rodney Harrison, Adrian Wilson, John Lynch, Bob Sanders the one year he stayed healthy, even Ed Reed for a couple years before he moved to free safety. There's no one of that caliber right now, no one playing at a Hall of Fame level. With no real standouts, about a dozen players floated around my list of finalists. Quin got the nod because he did everything. He led Houston in tackles, with 2 INT, 2 FF, a sack, and 14 PD.
Stevie Brown (NYG) made the most big plays: 8 INT returned for 307 yards, 11 other PDs, 2 forced fumbles and 2 recovered, plus 64 solo tackles. No other SS had that kind of big-play impact, but it's not clear to me that Brown consistently played at a high level. In fact, I don't know that anyone on the Giants did anything consistently this year. Brown started only 11 games, and this is his third team in three years. He gets 300 return yards again next season, I'll name him All-Pro.
Kicker: Blair Walsh (MIN)
Last Year: Sebastian Janikowski (OAK)
This choice probably seems obvious. Walsh led the NFL in field goals (35) and set a record for 50-yard field goals (10). He was 10/10 from 50, with a long of 56, and his only miss under 40 yards was blocked. That's a great season, and Walsh is indeed my All-Pro kicker.
But he was a close call over Phil Dawson (CLE). Dawson had a higher field goal percentage, went 7/7 from 50 yards and out, and played in Cleveland, where the weather outside is frightful, rather than Minnesota, where the weather outside is outside the stadium. Dawson's season, in more challenging environs, deserves recognition, too.
Punter: Andy Lee (SF)
Last Year: Zoltan Mesko (NE)
Evaluating this position always drives me nuts. I had four finalists: Lee, Dustin Colquitt (KC), Jon Ryan (SEA), and Dave Zastudil (ARI). This is actually the first year I've chosen Lee, though he's an AP favorite because he has fancy averages. This year, he added efficiency near the goal-line, with 36 punts down inside the 20-yard line, and just 4 touchbacks.
Ryan had an even better I20-TB ratio, but his net average was 2.4 yards lower and he didn't face a short field as often. Colquitt allowed 2 punt return TDs, and Zastudil was disqualified because I couldn't in good conscience choose three All-Pros from a team that went 5-11. Also, his average was nothing special, he plays in nice weather, and he didn't punt from a short field very often.
Kick Returner: Leodis McKelvin (BUF)
Last Year: Patrick Peterson (ARI)
McKelvin averaged 28.3 yards per kickoff return and 18.7 per punt return, with 2 PR TDs. McKelvin's PR average is the highest by any player with at least 20 returns since Billy Grimes in 1950. That's aided by a lot of fair catches (14), but it's still a remarkable number. Furthermore, McKelvin didn't fumble all season, which is rare for returners.
He edged Darius Reynaud (TEN), who scored 2 PR TDs in Week 17, Marcus Thigpen (MIA), who scored on both a KR and a PR this year, and David Wilson (NYG), who led the NFL in KR yardage by almost 300, but didn't return any punts. Jacoby Jones (BAL) had some huge plays this year, but he makes too many bad decisions, and his punt returning was actually below league average.
Special Teamer: N/A
Last Year: N/A
I don't name a special teams ace, but Lorenzo Alexander (WAS) continues to excel even as his playing time on defense increases.
Only three players repeat from my 2011 All-Pro team: Calvin Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, and Calais Campbell.
Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson (MIN)
Last Year: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
This was a two-man race between Calvin Johnson (DET) and Peterson. Johnson set the single-season yardage record that Peterson didn't, but it helps to play for a team that throws as often as the Lions did this season. You could also argue for Tom Brady (NE), Peyton Manning (DEN), or Rodgers, but Peterson and Johnson stood absolutely alone at their respective positions, and I believe they were the most outstanding offensive players of 2012.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt (HOU)
Last Year: Jared Allen (MIN)
Special Teams Player of the Year: Blair Walsh (MIN)
Last Year: N/A
Why isn't this an official award? It's been bugging me for a year now, ever since I named Patrick Peterson DROY based more on his returning than his cornerback play. If you replaced Walsh with an average kicker, I doubt Minnesota would have made the playoffs. The Vikings won two games this season by 3 points each, and in those two games, Walsh went a combined 7/7, with a 54-yard field goal in one game and a 55-yarder in the other.
Most Valuable Player: Peyton Manning (DEN)
Last Year: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
My top 10 ballot:
1) Peyton Manning, QB, DEN
2) Tom Brady, QB, NE
3) Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
4) Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
5) J.J. Watt, DL, HOU
6) Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS
7) Von Miller, LB, DEN
8) Charles Tillman, DB, CHI
9) Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA
10) Geno Atkins, DL, CIN
In 2011, the Broncos' offense ranked 23rd in yards and 25th in points. This season, it improved to 4th in yardage and 2nd in scoring. I have all the respect in the world for Peterson, but the best quarterbacks make their whole teams better. Manning, Brady, and Rodgers succeed no matter who they're throwing to, and RG3 has made Washington games exciting for the first time in years. In 2003, I named Manning as All-Pro QB and Brady as MVP. This year, vice versa.
I dropped Calvin Johnson (DET) out of the top 10 because I couldn't bear to leave off any of the others, and his team finished 4-12. Not fair, I know.
Speaking of not fair, Watt ranks 5th because of how I interpret the term valuable, but if this were a straight Player of the Year Award, he'd probably be my top choice.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III (WAS)
Last Year: Cam Newton (CAR)
Let's start here: Andrew Luck should not be seriously considered for this award. There were two standout rookie QBs this season: RG3 and Russell Wilson (SEA). Stats:
You don't have to trust the NFL's passer rating formula to see the difference here. Luck threw a lot of passes. He did not throw a lot of touchdowns, and he did throw a lot of interceptions, more than Griffin and Wilson combined. Luck's 54.1% completion rate ranked 31st in the NFL, 10 points behind Wilson (64.1%) and even further behind Griffin (65.6%). Luck averaged a yard fewer per attempt, with a much lower TD% and a higher INT%, and he wasn't nearly the runner Griffin and Wilson were.
I'm not trying to disparage Luck, because he had a nice year and I think he's going to be a very good player, but it's absurd that he's in this discussion just because the Colts made the playoffs. So did Washington and Seattle. Look, obviously Luck is an upgrade over Curtis Painter. That doesn't make him a great player. I'd be more inclined to go with Doug Martin (TB) or Alfred Morris (WAS). Martin rushed for 1,454 yards with a 4.6 average, added 472 receiving yards, and scored 12 TDs. Morris rushed for 1,613, with a 4.8 average and 13 TDs.
Ultimately, though, this was Griffin over Wilson. The Seahawks were a pretty good team last year. Washington was not, and Griffin changed that almost single-handedly. He accounted for almost 400 more yards than Wilson, despite missing a game and a half with injuries, and with fewer turnovers. Griffin led all quarterbacks, not just rookies, in yards per pass attempt (8.1), and he threw the fewest INTs of any full-time QB.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Casey Hayward (GB)
Last Year: Patrick Peterson (ARI)
I admitted earlier that I haven't seen a lot of Lavonte David (TB), but a player with his numbers is doing a lot of things right. Luke Kuechly (CAR), Harrison Smith (MIN), and Bobby Wagner (SEA) made fine debuts, as well. Hayward is already among the best CBs in the league, but Kuechly had 103 solo tackles and 5 takeaways, Smith scored 2 INT return TDs, and Wagner tallied 2 sacks and 3 INTs from his middle linebacker position.
Coach of the Year: John Fox (DEN)
Last Year: Jim Harbaugh (SF)
I'm sure there will be some sentimental votes for Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians (IND), and obviously the staff there has done a tremendous job. But Denver's developments on offense and defense, combined with solid special teams, took the team on an 11-game winning streak and clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs. After accommodating Tim Tebow in 2011, the Broncos completely overhauled their offense to adapt to Peyton Manning in 2012, with superb results.
Assistant Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan (WAS)
Last Year: Dick LeBeau (PIT)
Numerous assistants had good years, and I don't understand why defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (SEA) isn't being mentioned as a head coaching candidate, but in my mind, Kyle Shanahan stands alone here. Washington ran the most innovative offense the league has seen in two decades or more, incorporating the option and getting a 102.4 passer rating out of a rookie QB with no standout receivers. Shanahan was a successful coordinator in Houston, but he outdid himself this season. If you asked me who is most responsible for Washington's improvement this season, I'm not sure I'd put RG3 ahead of his offensive coordinator.
2012 All-Pro Team
QB Tom Brady, NE
RB Adrian Peterson, MIN
FB Darrel Young, WAS
WR Calvin Johnson, DET
WR Brandon Marshall, CHI
WR Andre Johnson, HOU
TE Jason Witten, DAL
TE Tony Gonzalez, ATL
C Mike Pouncey, MIA
G Mike Iupati, SF
G Andy Levitre, BUF
OT Duane Brown, HOU
OT Joe Staley, SF
DT Geno Atkins, CIN
DT Justin Smith, SF
DE J.J. Watt, HOU
DE Calais Campbell, ARI
OLB Von Miller, DEN
OLB Jerod Mayo, NE
ILB Daryl Washington, ARI
ILB NaVorro Bowman, SF
CB Charles Tillman, CHI
CB Richard Sherman, SEA
CB Antonio Cromartie, NYJ
FS Thomas DeCoud, ATL
SS Glover Quin, HOU
K Blair Walsh, MIN
P Andy Lee, SF
KR Leodis McKelvin, BUF
Off POY — Adrian Peterson, MIN
Def POY — J.J. Watt, HOU
ST POY — Blair Walsh, MIN
MVP — Peyton Manning, DEN
Off Rookie — Robert Griffin III, WAS
Def Rookie — Casey Hayward, GB
Coach — John Fox, DEN
Assistant — Kyle Shanahan, WAS