Originally created 12/31/06

Tomlinson to run away with honor



One of the four leading contenders for the defensive player of the year award had a lot to say about another this week.

Backbiting? Nope. Miami end Jason Taylor's remarks about San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman's four-game suspension for a positive steroid test were right on point.

"There are certain rules and guidelines we have to abide by to play in this game and ... a performance-enhancing drug is, obviously, what it is," Taylor said.

"You enhance your performance by doing that. You fail that test, I think it's not right, it's against the rules and ultimately I think it's sending the wrong message. ... You really shouldn't be able to fail a test like that and play in this league to begin with. But to make the Pro Bowl and all the other awards, I think you're walking a fine line of sending the wrong message."

Merriman's original response was he didn't know what he ingested contained a steroid. That's what everyone suspended for that kind of substance says. It doesn't work with the NFL and it doesn't work here.

So he's out of the running for this defensive player of the year selection. More on the winner later.

Here is one opinion on the NFL's awards.

MVP: It has to be LaDainian Tomlinson, doesn't it? He's on the best team. He's shattered the record for touchdowns in a season. His coach, a big Jim Brown fan, already has called him the best running back ever.

So L.T. is the MVP.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Tomlinson. No one else is close.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Taking Merriman out of the mix, it's Taylor, Chicago's Brian Urlacher and Denver's Champ Bailey.

Urlacher has help - or did, until Mike Brown and Tommie Harris were hurt. The Bears' defense isn't as good any more.

Bailey is the "shut-down cornerback," the lynchpin of a defense that for most of the year won games with a questionable QB situation.

Taylor is on a losing team. So what? He disrupts every offense he faces and he's returned two interceptions for touchdowns, giving him seven for his career, tying the record for a defensive lineman

So he's the defensive player of the year.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Usually someone who turns around a losing team and makes it a winner. Often a first-year coach. That applies to New Orleans' Sean Payton and the Jets' Eric Mangini.

But how about a respected veteran who started 0-5 with no talent, has won his past six games with a rookie QB and has an outside chance for the playoffs? That's Tennessee's Jeff Fisher.

The conventional route wins. Sean Payton.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE: How can this not go to Tennessee quarterback Vince Young? Six consecutive victories are the significant stat for a quarterback, not a 69.7 passer rating, especially because he's run for 523 yards.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: Linebacker DeMeco Ryans of Houston is second in the league in tackles to Miami's Zach Thomas. He doesn't get suckered out of position like most rookie LBs. He's just good.

COMEBACK PLAYER: Always a difficult call because there are all sorts of comebacks.

From injury we have Chad Pennington, Javon Walker, Deuce McAllister, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed.

From late-season or playoff injury we have Drew Brees and Carson Palmer.

The Jets were supposed to go nowhere. Pennington was coming off rotator cuff surgery in two consecutive off-seasons and couldn't possibly throw the ball well enough to play effectively as Jets QB.

Despite the bashing he took from the ESPN booth on Monday night - remember that the "E" stands for entertainment" - he's played well enough to lead a team that was supposed to be at the bottom of the league to the brink of the playoffs.

Give this award to Pennington.