The Associated Press's Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pepsi Rookie of the Year awards will be announced tonight on the NFL Honors program.
The Pro Football Writers of America (PFW) already announced RG3 as their NFL Rookie of the Year. That PFW vote makes it child's play to predict with certainty who will win the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. For the past 20 seasons in a row the PFW/Pro Football Writers of America's NFL OROTY Award has perfectly predicted the Associated Press's NFL Offensive ROTY Award. (I guess this makes sense since both groups are comprised of writers who cover the NFL.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Football_League_Rookie_of_the_Year_Award
What I can't make sense of is the Pepsi Rookie of the Year voting. Just like the Pepsi Rookie of the Week awards, the Pepsi ROY award is voted on by fans. The Pepsi ROY award is for the player's regular season performance. That should make it easy to predict the winner. All I have to do is look at who won the weekly award the most times. That's the player who will win the annual award, right? Nope. Four of the last five seasons the voters elected a Pepsi Rookie of the Year who did not win the most Pepsi Rookie of the Week awards. Here's a look at those most recent 5 seasons' Pepsi ROY and ROW award winners:
'11: Cam won ROW 3x. Aldon Smith won ROW 2x. Cam Newton was voted ROY.
'10: Bradford won ROW 2x, Gronkowski 2x, Tebow 2x, Suh 1x. Ndamukong Suh was voted ROY.
'09: Knowshon Moreno won ROW 4x. Sanchez 3x. Percy Harvin 2x. Harvin was voted ROY.
'08: Felix Jones won ROW 3x, Matt Ryan 3x, Chris Johnson 2x, Flacco 2x. Joe Flacco was voted ROY.
'07: Patrick Willis won ROW 4x. Marshawn Lynch 2x, Trent Edwards 2x, Adrian Peterson 2x. Adrian Peterson was voted ROY.
What could account for this? We know fans have ridiculously short memories. Was the voting influenced by these players' post season performance? (After all, the Pepsi ROY voting starts January 7th and fans can keep voting all through the playoffs and conference championship games.) Well, here's a look at the Pepsi ROY winners' team records and playoff appearances their ROY seasons:
'11 Newton Carolina 6-10, no playoffs.
'10 Suh Detroit 6-10, no playoffs
'09 Harvin Vikings 12-4, 2 playoff games.
'08 Flacco Ravens 11-5, 3 playoff games.
'07 Peterson Vikings 8-8, no playoffs.
On the face there doesn't seem to be a strong correlation between the guy the fans selected and his team's record or post-season performance. Let's dig deeper. Last season Aldon Smith won ROW twice while Cam won it three times. Pretty close, and we've already seen that the ROY voters typically don't elect a ROY who won the most ROW awards. As opposed to Cam's Panthers who finished 6-10, Aldon Smith's Niners went all the way to the Conference Championship game! Yet fans voted Cam ROY. There goes up in smoke my little hypothesis that fan voting was strongly influenced by the teams' overall winning percentage or post-season.
OK, so maybe the voting was strongly influenced by the positions the players play. We all know fans love to vote for offensive players, especially QBs. That perfectly explains why Cam would win the award. Now I'm getting somewhere! Pepsi ROY voters strongly prefer voting for QBs or at least offensive players, right?
But previous to Cam in '11 it was Suh in '10. Ndamukong won ROY despite winning less ROW awards than pass catching sensation Gronkowski and despite Gronkowski's Pats finishing 14-2 and playing in a playoff game in which Gronk led all Pats' receivers in yardage. That crushes my hypothesis that fans choose an offensive player over defensive. It also further dismisses my ideas that voting was influenced by the team's record, post-season performance or number of times the player was voted the Rookie of the Week.
Adding insult to injury, my multi hypotheses continue to get trashed when I look at the ROY winner the season before Suh. Percy Harvin won ROY despite QB Sanchez winning ROW 3 times to Harvin's 2 and Sanchez's team making it all the way to the conference championship game (as did Harvin's.) The fans voted for the kick returner/ wide receiver over the QB.
My theories are getting disproved one after another. Maybe I should've figured the ROY vote is determined by the number of voters for each team. Players for teams in major media markets and teams with a large national (and int'l) following are at a huge advantage. But it turns out the most recent 5 ROY winners' primary media markets were Carolina, Detroit, Minnesota, Baltimore and Minnesota.
So is there any way to predict who will win this year's Pepsi Rookie of the Year award? As far as the Pepsi Rookie of the Week award goes, Andrew Luck won it 3 times, Russell Wilson once, Alfred Morris once, Doug Martin once, Trent Richardson once, and Robert Griffin 7 times. But we've already seen the Pepsi Rookie of the Week Award has little bearing on the Rookie of the Year award.
The only predictor I can find is a fan poll on NFL.com. Since it's a vote by NFL fans, just like the Pepsi vote, it's possibly the closest approximation to what the Pepsi ROY vote will be. After all, fans are allowed to vote for the Pepsi ROY pretty much all the way leading up to the Super Bowl. The NFL fan poll shows Russell Wilson solidly in the lead: http://www.redskins.com/fan-zone/nfl-rookie-of-the-year.html
This got way too detailed way too quickly and didn't get me any closer to figuring out tonight's winner. All this for some stupid popularity poll. I should have come up for air to gain some perspective on these awards. The truth is the most highly coveted ROY award is neither of the two above media and fan votes. The most highly esteemed award has to be the one determined by the real NFL experts, its players, coaches and executives. That's the "Sporting News NFL Rookie of the Year Award" which is determined by 800 NFL players, coaches and NFL execs. (As we all know, this was awarded to RG3. And for my money it's the most meaningful. Yes, I'd still say that even if some other Rookie had won it.)
Many, many seasons from now when RG3's career is over it may be nice for Robert and his children and grandchildren to look at his rookie awards. But right now and over the coming seasons the only trophy Robert (and Wilson and Luck and all the rest of us) care about is the Lombardi. But I'd still like to know who's going to win the Pepsi ROY. I'm not asking who SHOULD win it. I'm only trying to figure who WILL win it. Any guidance from HH would be appreciated.