Apparently middle linebackers don’t matter.
Well, that’s not true. They matter, as long as they either play in Chicago or kill somebody and get away with it do crazy dances during pregame introductions.
The voting results for the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award were announced today. While the winner, Charles Woodson, was hardly a surprise, I couldn’t have been the only one who felt borderline insulted when they scanned the rest of the list:
1. Woodson: 28 votes
2. Darrelle Revis: 14 votes
3. Elvis Dumervil: 3 votes
4. Darren Sharper: 3 votes
5. Jared Allen: 2 votes
We all know Woodson’s perhaps the best ballhawk in history; he’s a sure Hall-of-Famer and he played for a better team than the 49ers’ Patrick Willis. Revis stuffed Chad Ochocinco and every other wide wide receiver in his path. Sharper was like Woodson without all the hype. Dumervil and Allen were 1-2 in sacks.
Maybe it makes sense that in the pass-happy NFL, only defenders who are effective against the pass receive consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. It’s not good enough that Willis led the league in solo and total tackles and shows up routinely in Adrian Peterson’s nightmares. Sure, the guy had 3 INT’s (which ties him for 18th in the league) and one returned for a TD, to go along with a not-so-shabby 4 QB sacks.
Apparently to be considered for this award you need to go to the playoffs or lead the league in sacks. Simply being the best linebacker in the NFL on a team with a pass rush that’s average (at best)? That won’t do, unless you have a last name that announcers like to say like Urlacher, or make wildly flamboyant gestures every time you hit someone (better make sure to find the camera first — no use swinging an imaginary bat or jumping around as if you’re having a standing seizure if you’re facing the wrong way!).
It shouldn’t surprise any of us that Willis wasn’t honored today, but we should be disappointed. Not disappointed in the media, or in Scot McCloughan for failing to surround Willis with a team good enough to lift him into the national conversation.
We should be disappointed in ourselves. I know I am. I write a damned Bay Area sports blog, for chrissakes, and I couldn’t even take the time to write a Willis-centric piece all season. I predicted he’d win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but then I took him for granted the rest of the season. And Willis is the best athlete of the last decade around here, save for Tim Lincecum.
We all need to do our part next year. Buy every Willis jersey you see. Call KNBR just to talk about how great he is (if they’ll let you on is another matter, but at least try). Send your friends youtube videos like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Vote for him to go to the Pro Bowl. Update your Facebook status with something like “Patrick Willis is an absolute beast” and get your friends to “like” it. Tweet the hell out of the guy. Talk about him so much after you get home from work that your girlfriend leaves the room and starts watching “The Rachel Zoe Project” (OK, maybe that’s only relevant to me).
It’s not like the Niners are the Raiders. The kind of season Willis had should have been celebrated, simply because even though the guy’s young, the shelf-life for linebackers who traffic in utter brutality is usually not that long. The 49ers are only going to get about 3-5 more seasons at this level if they’re lucky. Hopefully in one of them he’ll get a couple votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Because apparently, it takes more than being the best defensive player of the year to win Defensive Player of the Year.