Another season is in the books. As usual, it was weird. Also as usual, a lot of the weirdness involved Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Browns. Expanding on my Morning After “Awards Section” bit, here are some of 2018’s shining superlatives.
The I’m Here To Throw 77-Yard Touchdowns And Pick Sixes And I’m All Out of 77-Yard Touchdowns Award
A 36-year-old Harvard graduate, Ryan Fitzpatrick could be on his fifth consultancy and Lamborghini by now. Instead, he’s playing NFL quarterback while sporting Blackbeard’s facial hair. With both a mind and derring-do that far outpace his actual physical ability, FitzMagic alternates stupefying lows with Hunter S. Thompson-in-the-desert highs. He is an American original, a Billy Volek the football world won’t soon forget.
Most Established Run
As Patrick Mahomes zigged for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards passing, the Lions zagged for 2.71 yards per LeGarrette Blount carry. Coach Matt Patricia held this up as one of the year’s big positives in his season-ending press conference. Never mind the fact that Matthew Stafford’s 3,777 yards were his fewest for a full season by 480 and the Lions scored 86 fewer points than they did in 2017. Whatever the cost, the song must be sung/because a man’s not a man ‘til he establishes the run.
Best Manufactured Debate
I get it. We need something to talk about. But it has been obvious since Week 2 or 3 that Patrick Mahomes was going to be the 2018 NFL MVP. No amount of Drew Brees Superdome area bombings or Philip Rivers road Houdinis was going to change that. Only the second player in NFL history have a 50-touchdown, 5,000-yard campaign, Mahomes is rekindling the “Death Star quarterback” fire for a league that has lost Peyton Manning and will soon be without Tom Brady and Brees.
The It’s Too Bad We Didn’t Fire Those Guys Earlier Award
Playing with their second-best quarterback, the Hue Jackson and Todd Haley-coached Browns were narrowly beaten in New Orleans in Week 2. They went on to suffer excruciating, hysterical overtime losses to the Raiders and Bucs, two of the league’s worst teams. Flipping any one of those devastating defeats into a win would have made the Browns legitimate playoff contenders just one year after putting the finishing touches on 1-31. Instead, they served as one final act of Brownsing for a franchise that could not admit what was obvious to quite literally everyone else: Jackson was not the man for the job. It was not better late than never after Jackson was shown the door in Week 9, but it did confirm the working hypothesis that the right man could make this the right time in shockingly short order. Look out in 2019.
Best New Turnover
Ryan Tannehill’s fumbleception against the Bengals in Week 5 wasn’t the first in NFL history, but it was undoubtedly the best. That is at least until Week 15, when Jared Goff gave Tannehill a run for his money vs. the Eagles. Tannehill’s innovation is just one of many reasons the Dolphins somehow posted a -114 point differential despite going 7-9. After years lost to injury and stagnation, 30-year-old Tannehill could find himself on the outside looking in of a starting job in 2019.
The Don’t Page Me Until It’s Serious Award
Nick Foles will always be ready, but not a moment too soon. You don’t call him until every other doctor has failed, hopelessly vexed by the problem at hand. If it’s the preseason or Week 1 against the Falcons, Foles will find himself bored, turning in a listless performance to match. The Super Bowl or do-or-die December games? Now we’re talking. The author of one of the most unique, bizarre careers in NFL history, Foles has provided the debate fodder of 1,000 LeBron Jameses.
The Ok, We Can’t Actually Win With Joshua Dobbs Award
Ben Roethlisberger sat out one drive too many against the Raiders in Week 14. As a result, the Steelers lost one game too many, missing the playoffs for just the fifth time of the Roethlisberger era. Amazingly, all five seasons have featured a loss to the Raiders. There are better tokens/avatars of the Steelers’ amazingly dysfunctional 2018 — hello Antonio Brown spiking a football off Big Ben — but none more costly.
The I’m Sure This Plan That Has No Chance of Working Will Work Award
Ex-Cardinals OC Mike McCoy did not simply refuse to involve David Johnson as a pass catcher. No, that would have been too easy. He did things like pull from him the biggest play of the game in the Cardinals’ razor-thin Week 3 defeat to the Bears to lecture him about missing a blitz pick up. This, 15 days after the Cardinals paid Johnson $30 million guaranteed. Yes, Johnson should have picked up the blitz, but there probably would have been a better time to hash that out. McCoy never got a chance to reprise the conversation, as he was out of a job 22 days later.
The How Do You Not Have a Better Plan Than This Award
Marcus Mariota entered 2018 having missed at least one game with injury each of the previous three years. Maybe the Titans should have planned for that? Instead, they signed Blaine Gabbert, and he gave them no path to victory in their win-or-go-home Week 17 tilt with the Colts. You are always going to be in major trouble when your starting quarterback goes down, but teams need to start thinking more outside the box at the backup spot. Instead of recycling Mark Sanchez for the fifth time, try to find Tony Romo for the second time.