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It pains me to write this one, guys. I'm still not over the NFC Championship, so when I heard that the NFL Awards and the Hall of Fame class would both be unveiled on Saturday, I saw an opportunity to kill some of the pain. A slew of Bay Area legends were on the list of Hall of Fame candidates, and considering the list of standout 49ers performances this year, surely some of them would get some hardware, right?
Apparently not. The only guy to walk away with honors was Jim Harbaugh, and when it comes to the NFL Awards, perhaps he was the only one who truly deserved recognition. He took a 6-10 train wreck and turned it into a 14-4 wrecking ball in one season. (Thanks to prettyfacedpimp for pointing out my error. I was going off regular season record when writing this originally.) Some folks thought John Fox deserved a vote for what he did in Denver - he got two votes, so we've put that one to bed.
The rest of the 49ers got snubbed, but I won't be that guy whining about a fix job on his blog. I’m going to break this down logically and help everybody calm down about it. Let's just start from the top -
Defensive Rookie of the Year - 49ers fans screamed for Aldon Smith to take this one all year long, but as expected, Von Miller of the Denver Broncos won it. Aldon had a monstrous season, netting 14 sacks and terrorizing quarterbacks on limited snaps. That right there is the reason - limited snaps. Aside from Von Miller's injury, which kept him out for a game, he started almost every week this season and was in on every defensive down.
The 49ers used Aldon differently. Because of his inabilities in the coverage game, Vic Fangio only used Aldon on passing downs. Especially during the first few games of the season, he was a third down player, used specifically to get after the quarterback. He was an animal in that limited amount of playing time, so I suspect that had he started more games he would have won the award - and probably broken Jevon Kearse's rookie sack record as well. Shoulda, woulda, coulda - Aldon's got more motivation for next season. In the meantime, Von Miller did not disappoint in his rookie year, so he’s the one with the award.
Comeback Player of the Year - I have been a big proponent for Alex Smith to win this award, but I did overlook Matthew Stafford, the man who won it. Although 6 years of playing under coaches who'd be better suited working at Costco may be harmful to the psyche, it's not physically injurious, and that's what the NFL is looking for here. Matthew Stafford was injured all last year, Alex Smith was not. And even if Alex had comeback from an injury - Stafford lit up Alex statistically this season so he would have won the award by a landslide anyway. Alex had a great year and we all hope that he builds upon his success, but for now, Matthew Stafford was fully deserving of this award. Keep your chin up, Alex, there's always Offensive MVP to shoot for next year!
Defensive MVP - I have a hard time wrapping my brain around this one, but Terrell Suggs is your winner. Justin Smith has had a strong but fairly quiet career. This year, however, he made his case for this award after his strip fumble in the Eagles game and batting down Eli's 4th down pass vs. the Giants. But we're biased here in the bay area, and no matter how much attention we believe our teams are getting, it'll never be enough to get a quiet leader like “The Cowboy” Defensive MVP. Come on, to win something like an MVP, you have to have numbers that are loud - loud enough to be heard 3,000 miles away. Either that, or you just have to be loud, such as the case with Terrell Suggs.
Justin Smith was a quiet leader with statistics that weren't eye popping, but that's okay, because it's not about individual awards for Smith. He wants a championship, and if you're a 49ers fan, you have to like that attitude.
As for the Hall of Fame? I got no defense for it. How Eddie DeBartolo and one of the most prolific pass rushers in history, Charles Haley, can get overlooked for Willie Roaf and Curtis Martin is beyond me. That was truly a snubbing - and I'm not claiming east coast bias either -because Jerome Bettis and Bill Parcells were left off the guest list too. I hate to be the guy to say it, but for the men who went home empty handed, there's always next year.