THE 2010 BUCPOWER.COM AWARDS - FROM MY VIEWPOINT
Time to fill up a column in the best traditions by explaining my nominations for the various categories.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
If you can hang your hat on one thing that has turned the Buccaneers fortunes around this year it is the vast improvement of the Offense.
Under the leadership of Josh Freeman the Bucs Offense has been explosive, consistent and best of all exciting. This award will be won by one of "Skill" position players but I'd just like to give a mention to the approximately 254 players who have played on the Bucs O-Line this year.
This unit has seen more changes than Joan Rivers' face and has still protected our Franchise QB and opened up running lanes for LeGarrette Blount and Cadillac Williams to power through.
My vote on this front goes to Josh Freeman over the likes of Winslow, Blount and Mike Williams. Without Freeman this Offense is nothing. No 4th quarter comebacks, no 8/9/10 wins, nothing. Josh is a leader and a star player all in one. Truly the Franchise is in good hands with #5.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The addition of Gerald McCoy, Brian Price and Cody Grimm, amongst others, gave this Defense a much needed boost in the past off-season, add to that the solid pick up of Sean Jones and the Buccaneers Defense had a very different look to it to the one that was torched up and down the country in 2009.
Even Tanard Jackson getting banned for a year (more on him later) couldn't dampen this group this year and they have been amongst the league's best Defenses in terms of takeaways this season. This has been in no small part due to my Defensive Player of the year Aqib Talib.
You don't know what you've got until its gone and you only had to see the way that Calvin Johnson tormented the Buccaneers backup secondary after watching Talib shut down some of the leagues best receivers this season to show just how good this boy is.
Honourable mentions here to Cody Grimm, who did a great job stepping up when the team needed him and to Gerald McCoy who with the weight of expectation on his shoulders started to show what a dominant force he will become before injury cut his season short.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
As my recent column illustrated the Special Teams element of the Buccaneers, or any other, roster is often massively under-appreciated. The consistent play of long snapper Andrew Economos is a testament to dedication on the practice field, as is the outstanding work of the heir apparent to Josh Bidwell's throne baby-faced punter Robert Malone.
But there have been two stars for the Bucs this season on the Special Teams return man Michael Spurlock and kicker Connor Barth. Since breaking the great curse Spurlock has given the Buccaneers a constant return threat and has given Josh Freeman's Offense good starting position all year long. The mental boost an Offense receives from starting on their own 30/40 yard line cannot be underestimated.
But my vote this year goes to Connor Barth. Barth has been like clockwork for the Buccaneers all season and while you watch other kickers around the league missing important kicks or extra points Barth has been nothing short of fantastic. In close games like that in Washington of late a less reliable kicker would have seen the Bucs dead and buried before the Redskins self-destructed.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
There are so many possibilities for this award this season, and that is testament to the wonderful work done by the Bucs Front Office team in both drafting well and picking up other team's outcasts.
LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, Ted Larsen, Arrelious Benn, Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Cody Grimm, Al Woods, Frank Okam, Derek Hardman, Myron Lewis, Erik Lorig, Preston Parker and Dekoda Watson have all seen substantial playing times with the Pewter Pirates this year as rookies.
This is why the Bucs have THE youngest roster in the NFL. All that the Buccaneers have achieved this year with the youngest roster in the league? Wow. Imagine what the future holds! My choice for rookie of the year came down to two outstanding Offensive rookies. Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount.
Both have transformed the Buccaneers Offense. Williams has given the Bucs a top receiver that they were lacking after the departure, and poor performance of Antonio Bryant and Blount has given the team their first legitimate rushing threat since a young Cadillac Williams strolled into NFL record books as a rookie.
For that reason LeGarrette Blount just shades it for me. Williams has been amazing, and a steal in the 4th round, but Blount has given the Bucs O a whole new dimension, and long may it continue!
NFL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
For me this year the NFL has seen one man change the way the league play. Tom Brady has been outstanding in New England for the Cheats. Atlanta's Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White have been immense for the league's best team but none have done as much as my choice for NFL player of the year...Michael Vick.
I don't particularly like the man and I sure as hell wouldn't let him look after my dog but his play for the Eagles has been phenomenal. Vick of old was a runner. That was it. Snap, quick look, take off. Now Vick 2.0 is a passer first and a runner second. Vick has matured in his play and has developed a big arm, and more importantly an accurate arm.
He'll still hurt you with his feet (unless you happen to have Derrick Brooks spying him) but he can hurt you in so many ways now, even if it is by bringing the best out of players around him. Before the season people were saying that Tim Tebow would transform the NFL with his mix of running and passing. The truth is Vick has been doing it for years and now he's better than ever.
YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE BUCCANEER
This was a tough one. Can I still pick Mike Alstott? No? Well I have a Gerald McCoy jersey and love what the young man does for the Bucs, both on and off the field. I think Aqib Talib is the best cover corner in the NFL and love to watch him do his thing and I think LeGarrette Blount beasting opposing defenders is a thing of beauty.
But when you look at the Franchise as a whole and why we're getting better, why we'll continue to get better, and why we will win a Super Bowl within ten years there is only one man. Josh Freeman. He is the Buccaneers and he is my favourite Buccaneer for that reason.
THE BOB TIMONEY AWARD FOR BUCCANEER OF THE YEAR
I have already said that Josh Freeman is the Buccaneers, and he is. But there is one man who I think embodies the Franchise even more than #5. That man is Raheem Morris. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been all about going from laughing stock to champions and although Raheem's baby Bucs aren't quite there yet he is leading the charge towards another Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Message boards the World over would have had you believe that after eight or nine games last year that Rah wasn't an NFL Head Coach and would never amount to anything, a bit like when the new Buccaneers Franchise came into the NFL in 1976 and went without a win for so long.
Now the Morris led Pewter Pirates are on the verge of making the the post season and were they not in a division with two of the league's best teams would almost certainly have a division title this season. Worst to first...well not quite yet but like the Bucs, Morris is on his way to doing this.
I believe in what he is doing to and for the team and believe that he has the ability, drive and determination to lead Tampa Bay back to the promised land. Losing, not giving up, improving and becoming the best is what being the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is about to me and Raheem Morris is the very embodiment of that.
THE ALLAN LEES MEMORIAL AWARD FOR WRITER OF THE YEAR
As one of a number of new regular columnists this season I can only pay homage to those around me who entertain us all every week. Chris Bruno, Nick Houllis and Steve Careford have all been a ray of sunshine every morning when you read their outstanding columns.
Be it Nick's view from the inside of the organisation, Chris' Pick 6 or Steve's hilarious NFL wide pieces these new writers have been a breath of fresh air for this website and the club in general. I always enjoy the amazing historical pieces that Denis Crawford presents for us all. As someone who only began following the Bucs in 1997 it is always nice to learn about the Franchise before my time and there is no one better to learn from than Denis.
As always the Editorials turned out by our esteemed Editor, and 80's pop aficionado, Paul Stewart gives us are insightful and amusing. Paul's pieces are read around the World and you can see why Tampa based media are more than happy to use his work.
Of all the Tampa based media the site gives us access to there is one man's work that stands out and on whom I have based my style of writing. That man, and my vote for writer of the year is Martin Fennelly. Martin's sarcastic tone does not detract from his excellent writing that cuts to his point about the state of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Whoever wins this award from the outstanding candidates on show will be richly deserved and we are truly lucky to have such fantastic depth in our columnists as we enter 2011.
THE NICK HALLING AWARD FOR DICKHEAD OF THE YEAR
Simple...Tanard Jackson. You Sir are a dickhead of such massive proportions that you make Nick Halling seem like someone I'd fancy a beer with. Rich young man, very good player. Dickhead.