My own awards for 2008
The one advantage with having seen every single snap this past season from pre-season through to the final play against Oakland, is that you get a pretty good idea for who has really done what for the team. Add in the comments I hear from inside and outside the locker room, and you get the nominations below for the 2008 club awards.
Jeff Garcia was the Buccaneer offense during 2008 and if you take him away, you have a unit that just did not move the ball efficiently enough (Atlanta away or any of the many Griese picks early in the year). Antonio Bryant had a record-breaking year but who got him the ball for those big games? Jeff Faine had a very good first year at center anchoring the young Buc offensive line too.
When it came to defense, then Barrett Ruud was awesome until the calendar reached December. That was when Chris Hovan and Jovan Haye got hurt and suddenly Ruud found himself with a lineman spare to take him out of the play. The defense went downhill accordingly but Ruud played some fantastic football until then. Jermaine Phillips is the key to the defensive backfield and Gaines Adams may not be an All-Pro, but he's still a pretty useful defender.
When it comes to Special Teams, how can you not vote for Clifton Smith? He only had a kick and punt return touchdown in the same month and will be at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Josh Bidwell is a solid reliable punter and holder, and Andrew Economos didn't send down a bad snap all year.
Rookie of the Year is of course the one award that you can never see a repeat success. Enough has been made of the disappointment of Dexter Jackson to disqualify him from getting even a consolation vote in this category, so my nomination went to Jeremy Zuttah who filled in seemingly everywhere on the line and will be a really valuable part of the offense in years to come. Honorable mention to both Aqib Talib and special teams' demon Geno Hayes behind him.
I once said live on Sky Sports that I thought Drew Brees was a product of the offensive system at Purdue and would never be successful in the NFL. Oh well, we all make mistakes as the Dalek said climbing off the dustbin. Perhaps if I tell Drew that I voted him my NFL Player of the Year, he may even forgive me.
Writer of the Year is always a category dear to my heart not just for being a journalist, but for the fact that I know all the main Tampa beat writers. And hence Roy Cummings deserves my nod this year for some sterling investigative work this year thanks to his great inside contacts on the playing staff. Lee's columns are brilliant and deserve better than second, but behind Roy, this is no disgrace.
The Buccaneer of the Year is an award that always surprises me with the names put forward. It is the person who most sums up what being a Buc is all about and is not necessarily a player. Hence my runner-up votes went to David Cambridge for going so far beyond the norm in contributing prizes for the club, and to Nick Houllis for his amazing efforts in giving all of you a chance to download games for free this season. But having heard what Cadillac Williams went through in 2008 just to get back on the field, it is impossible not to vote for No.24 in this category.
When it comes to Dickhead of the Year, you really are spoiled for choice. Jerry Jones or Al Davis amongst owners, Pacman Jones for any number of transgressions, or you can always fall back on Nick Halling at Sky for a couple of nominations that haven't yet gotten too far outside the Isleworth production room. But anyone who can shoot themselves in the leg in a New York nightclub - Plaxico, you're a legend.
My favourite Buccaneer player these days is Barrett Ruud, although a pair of running backs, Cadillac Williams and Warrick Dunn come close. I've known Warrick since his rookie year in 1997 and he remains as humble and decent a person to this day.
Paul Stewart, January 2009