Welcome to the 1st Annual Staley Awards. The Staleys mark the end of the NFL regular season and are awarded for regular season accomplishments. So without further adu, Let's move on to the awards.
The "Getting Better" Most Improved Player Of The Year Award: Nominees
Jay Cutler: Better decision making and a re-found mobility have been instumental in Chicago's success this season. Jay was revitalized by having a coordinator who could actually adjust to different teams, but he also just made better choices and made more plays.
Danieal Manning: For all of the criticism Manning has received, he has blossomed this season in a consistent role, to the point that a few articles have been posted around the web suggesting that he could have or should have received Pro-Bowl consideration. Games like his 12 tackle performance against the Giants speak to his improvement as a safety to match his excellence as a kick returner.
Israel Idonije: Izzy stepped forward this year in a big way, with 8 sacks, he has been the most consistent Bear D-lineman to take advantage of attention Julius Peppers is receiving on the other side of the line. Add this to his improvement as a run stopper, and Izzy makes a strong case for this award.
Matt Forte: The third year RB did not reach his previous rushing numbers of the past two years (it took him 16 games to reach 1000 yards rushing). But that was by no fault of Matt's. In fact, it is only by Forte's improvement that he managed to reach 1000 yards at all. Where the past two seasons have been more Quantity than quality, this season, Matt did more with less. He broke the 4.0 YPC mark for the first time in his career. He has shown a better ability to get yards after contact and better balance and vision. In short, he improved every facet of his rushing game this year except for his totals, and that was only due to a dramatic decrease in carries. He also returned to 2008 form as a pass blocker. Some of this is due to Maike Martz being a better playcaller than Ron Turner was, to be sure. But one only has to watch Forte run the ball to see the improvements that have nothing to do with playcalling.
Frank Omiyale: It may seem odd to include a member of our atrocious offensive line for an award, but Omi has improved greatly. Taking the place of the injured Chris Williams, Omi outperformed the first round pick and held the position. While his play has not been spectacular, it was good enough to help settle down a line that was headed for disaster, and Frank improved quite a bit as the season wore on. Omi won't be getting any nods for Player of the Year, but his improvement was evident and important to the team.
And the winner is..............Matt Forte! It is difficult to see this years team succeeding with the line provided without a vast improvement over the past two years in the running game. Forte stepped up, and in a big way.
The "Break On Through" Breakout Player Of The Year Award: Nominees
Izzy Idonije: Stepping up from a fill-in and ST standout to a force to be reckoned with as the starting DE, as well as making us forget why we were mad that Alex Brown was let to walk has earned Izzy a place on this list.
Johnny Knox: Johnny nearly became the Bears first 1000 yard receiver since Marty Booker. He made some great plays and took some big steps forward.
Henry Melton: With 10 tackles, 3 assts, 1 FF, 1 fumble recovery and leading the DTs with 2.5 sacks, all without starting, Melton has made a case for himself as a future star on the Chicago DL.
And the Winner is..........Israel Idonije! The Bears defense is predicated on getting pressure from the front for, and Izzy has done that in a big way, taking advantages of double teams on Peppers and forcing team to recognize that they cannot place all of their attention on number 90.
The "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" Award: Winner.........Chris Harris! Chris returned home this season and provided game ending INTs against Buffalo, Minnesota and The Jets along with a drive killing INT at the Chicago 4 against the Eagles at the end of the first half en route to leading the Bears with 5 INTs. His big hits, especially early in the year had WRs tiptoeing across the middle, as well. Welcome home, you crazy SOB!
The "Thriller" Award for Most Exciting Player: Winner.........Devin Hester! A return to form in the return game meant that every time Devin touched the ball, we held our collective breaths. He broke the all time return record and made for some of the best couch-jumping moments of the year. Devin Hester, you are ridiculous!
The Chairman Of The Board's "Second Time Around" Sophomore Sensation Award: Nominees
Johnny Knox: Reaching nearly 1000 yards with a team lead sharing 5 TDs and a fantastic 18.8 Y/R on 51 grabs, Johnny Knox has arrived.
Henry Melton: With the stats previously listed, the same can be said for Henry.
DJ Moore: DJ has been a pleasant surprise this season. He went from a player who many expected to be cut to a guy who probably provided the best play from the nickel position since Ricky Manning Jr. He had 4 INTs, one for a TD, had 8 passes defended, forced 1 fumble and recorded 42 tackles and a sack. Quite a year for a guy many had written off in training camp.
And the winner is.........Johnny Knox! This was probably the hardest award to decide. All three candidates were deserving, but in the end, Knox was just the most consistent part of the solution. If Johnny progresses into year 3 the way he did this season, the Bears will be in possession of one hell of an explosive receiver.
The "New Kid In Town" Rookie Of The Year Award: Winner........J'Marcus Webb! This was another tough one. I was tempted to give Corey Wootten this award if only for recording his first sack and Brett Favre's last play ever. But while the line play has been bad all year, Webb has stepped into a role he wasn't ready for and performed better than anyone though he would. Considering that he has fended off veteran Kevin Shaffer and 1st round pick Chris Williams to keep the starting job, and that he's the only rookie starting, Webb grudgingly earned the nod.
The "Wind Beneath My Wings" Unsung Hero Award: Nominees
Brad Maynard: In typical Maynard fashion, Brad has taken a less than powerful leg and managed to create great field position for the Bears with some of the best directional punting in the league.
Corey Graham: Graham was robbed of a Pro Bowl slot for special teams this season and has been almost as instrumental in pinning opponents deep as Maynard has.
Patrick Mannelly: Haven't heard his name all season, and that's exactly how you want it. But when he was gone during the preseason, Dez Clark showed us just how hard Mannelly's job really is. Mannelly continues to be among the best longsnappers in football.
And the winner is............Patrick Mannelly! All three of these guys deserved the nod, but we're talking about "unsung" here, and Mannelly has quietly been arguably the best in the league at his position while getting no recognition for his importance. And his greatness definitely contributes to the ability of both Maynard and Robbie Gould to be as good as they are. Pat, you are unsung no more!
The "Where'd You Go" Award for Biggest Disappointment: Nominees
Chris Williams: While it may not technically be time to call Williams a bust, his fall from grace at LT has been epic. On a line that has been so ineffective, the fact that he couldn't hold on to the LT spot, or even take over as the RT in place of rookie 7th rounder J'Marcus Webb is bad. Worse is that he hasn't been effective in his new spot at left guard, either. That Chicago seemingly wasted a first round pick on Chris makes my soul hurt.
Devin Aromashodu: Coming off an impressive December in '09, expectations were high for DA. Unfortunately Devin decided to show us why he was dropped by the best WR evaluating team in the league (The Colts) and why the WR deficient Redskins didn't keep him, either. His inability to learn the slot position, as well as his appearance of being lost on the field when he does come off the pine and his complete inability to block downfield have made him one of the biggest disappointments of 2010.
Tommie Harris: Coming into this season, we were being told we were finally going to see a healthy Tommie. We were told we'd see the Tommie of old, even. The guy who was a keystone on this defense. The guy who earned that huge contract. Instead we got a guy who isn't even starting on a ho-hum roster of tackles. Instead, we get a guy who produces all of 14 tackles, 1.5 sack and 2 fumble recoveries. I'm not sure what happened to the old Tommie, but this guy wasn't even a shadow of that one.
Chester Taylor: Back in early March, we thought the Bears had signed the best running back in FA. Were we ever wrong. While Forte improved, Taylor got about half the carries Forte got and ran for a quarter or so of the yards. 2.4 yards per carry on 112 carries was not what we bargained for. Someone please tell me why Garrett Wolfe and Kahlil Bell haven't gotten more carries.
And the winner is........Chester Taylor! While everyone nominated was a huge disappointment, Only Taylor had any real comparison. The whole line sucked, there were no standout DTs and the WR ranks are decent but not stellar. But Chester Taylor has the unique position of being directly comparable to another player, Matt Forte. We all thought that Forte and Taylor were effectively the same player. In truth, Taylor is no longer in the same league as Matt Forte and I would forward the argument that he probably shouldn't be in the NFL next season.
The "Back In The Saddle" Comeback Player Of The Year Award: Nominees
Jay Cutler: Jay came to Chicago in 2009 with tons of fanfare and a huge base of fans with massive expectations. Let's just say that for whatever reason, he fell far short. This year has been different. Cutler brought down the INTs and brought his QB rating up. And it shows in the Bears record.
Matt Forte: The difference between Matt's injury-ridden 2009 and his healthy 2010 are vast. The only problem is that the difference between Matt's healthy 2008 and injury-filled 2009 are not. But none-the-less, Forte's return to health has been marked with a huge improvement.
Brian Urlacher: Not only did Urlacher's return after missing 15.75 games in 2009 rejuvinate the entire defense, but he's playing the best he has in 4 years. His play is actually, IMO better than his 2006 effort and reminds me more of his 2005 DPOY effort. Wow.........just wow.
Devin Hester: 2010 marked the return of the Windy City Flyer! Devin returned to '07 form returning kicks and changed Chicago's offensive field position just by standing back there. It was a return of hearing TV headcases repeat week after week "They can't kick it to Hester" and "why would they kick it to him?". Devin passed the all time mark for return TDs and gave away all the credit to the "other 10 guys" in what might have been the most humble and emotional press conferences I've had the pleasure of watching.
And the winner is........(like there was any doubt) Brian Urlacher! Brian has played as good as he ever has, and the Bears have needed it. While the others came back from adversity of varying degrees, Urlacher came back from what was defined as a career threateneing injury to play some of the very best ball of his life.
The "Pump It" Offensive Player Of The Year Award: Nominees
Honorable Mention: Devin Hester and the ST Unit
And the winner is.........Jay Cutler! Jay Cutler has led this offense through the rough roads and deep chasms laid in front of it this year with good play, poise and leadership. Jay's mobility helped to lessen the impact of the worst offensive line in the league and to gain valuable first downs by scrambling. Learning when to tuck and take the sack, when to throw it away and when to run like hell have been important keys to the Bears winning this season and his clutch plays have put us over the top (as well as throwing just over half the number of interceptions he threw just a year ago).
The "Bodies" Defensive Player Of The Year Award: Nominees
And the winner is............Julius Peppers! Chris Harris ended 3 games with INTs, Urlacher is having one of the best seasons of his illustrious career and Briggs has had some of the most emotionally motivating plays of the season, willing the team back into games.But Peppers has been the guy who made it all happen. The Bears defensive scheme requires pressure from the front four, something that hasn't happened in a while. When it works, the Bears are one of the best defenses in the league. When it doesn't.....well, see 2009. Peppers has created so much havoc that he's opened up opportunities for Idonije, Melton and others to succeed. That makes it possible for Urlacher, Harris and Briggs to do their thing. It all comes back to Peppers, and he hasn't disappointed.
The 2010 "I'm The One" Chicago Bears Regular Season MVP Award: Winner.......Matt Forte!
The season was hanging by threads following losses to Seattle, Washington and the Giants. The Bears, who had started 3-0, were now 4-3. Was it Jay Cutler's arm that rescued the Bears from the awful offensive line? Was it the defense that scored when the offense couldn't? Was it Devin Hester scoring on returns saving the offense? No. It was Matt Forte. Had Forte even performed to his 2008 rookie levels, I honestly believe the Bears would be looking at the playoffs from the outside. I know some will want to argue that this pick is off, and I certainly think it's debatable. But I believe that Matt Forte was the difference maker in 2010. Look at what Chester Taylor did behind the same line when filling in for Matt. Forte not only carried the team on his back, but he had his best season yet. 4.5 yards per carry after never having reached the 4.0 mark behind better offensive lines. Forte also provided relief for Cutler as the line caved, often ending in impromptu sand lot plays between Forte and Cutler. You can see a chemistry growing between the two. And Forte's blocking has been much better than advertised, as well. In Sundays game at Green Bay, one one play in particular, Forte held his block on the DE rushing in, as the linemen next to him lost his battle with Charles Woodson. That was a common theme this year. The line fails, but Forte moved on. He deserves to be called the regular season MVP.
Well, that's all, folks. Tell me what you thought below, and BEAR DOWN BEARS!