It’s that time of the year again. The moment everyone in Colts Nation has been eagerly anticipating all season has finally arrived. That’s right, it’s time for the Semi-semiannual Near-Midseason Joscar Awards for 2012. These awards are handed out every year after the 7th game of the season (because 8 game midseason awards are for spineless cowards and corporate shills).
The Joscars (pronounced “Jaw-skers” for the uninitiated) are the single most coveted near-midseason awards handed out anywhere in the world, and I am not just saying that, it’s a verified fact.*
With that awesome introduction out of the way let’s jump right into the awards.
Most Underrated Player: this award is given to the player who has done a top level job while receiving bottom level recognition. The Colts have several players who could potentially fit the bill but the voting committee this year has decided to go a bit off script. The winner of the 2012 Near-midseason Joscar for Most Underrated Player is (close your eyes and pause for 10 seconds before reading the answer, it builds the drama)… Kavell Conner.
On a team that has seen the emergence of several excellent linebackers, Kavell Conner has gone almost completely unrecognized this season. Mr. Conner is second on the team with 21 defensive stops, but he’s done it in 218 fewer plays (233) than the #1 guy (Jerrell Freeman has 23 stops in 451 total plays). He leads the Colts’ defense in Pro Football Focus’s (subsequently referred to as PFF) highly scientific player rating system, posting a +3.4 overall rating, including a team leading +2.0 stopping the run.
In only 14 pass rushing snaps Conner has managed to gain 1 sack, 1 QB hit, and 1 QB hurry, a remarkably efficient total (by comparison, albeit an unfair one, perennial Pro-Bowler and future HOF LB Dwight Freeney has 1 sack and 1 QB hit in 132 pass rushing snaps). Conner's 33 solo tackles puts him in a tie for 4th place on the team, which doesn’t sound impressive until you realize he has played half as many snaps as the 3 players ahead of him.
Most Overrated Player: this award, as you can probably guess, is the yin to the underrated award’s yang, and thus balance in the universe is maintained. This award is given to the player who gets the most positive media attention while failing to deserve it based on his in game performance. The winner of the 2012 Near-midseason Joscar for Most Overrated Players is… Anthony Castonzo.
It pains me greatly to write this but the 2011 1st round pick has not been great this season. In fact, through 7 games it might even be fair to say he’s been downright bad at times. Castonzo has allowed 6 sacks, 6 QB hits, and 22 QB hurries. His 22 QB hurries allowed is twice as many as the next closest Colts’ offensive lineman, the abysmal Jeff Linkenbach and Winston Justice with 11 (I physically shuddered typing those words; on a side note I should probably close my window, it’s really cold outside).
PFF rates Anthony at -11.1 in pass protection (admittedly skewed heavily by 2 particularly bad games, GB and TEN), a total that is second worst in the NFL at left tackle (Arizona’s Batiste is lapping the field giving up 10 sacks and 32 QB hurries on the season so far, a -27.2 pass block rating, ouch). It’s true that he has been better of late, his previous 2 games against New York and Cleveland were steps in the right direction (combined +4.9 in those games), but he regressed badly against Tennessee, allowing 2 sacks, 2 QB hits, and 7 QB hurries this week alone (and garnering a -6.5 PFF rating in pass protection).
Best Game of the Year: This award is handed out to the game that was most exciting, meaningful, fun, really whatever criteria the committee decides on; it’s a feel thing. You may be wondering how a game can accept an award as it is an abstract concept and does not itself enjoy any corporeal existence, well to that I say how dare you, these are my awards and I will do what I want. The Joscar for Best Game of 2012 at the Near-midseason Mark goes to… Week 5 - Indianapolis 30 vs. Green Bay 27.
The Colts faced the mighty Green Bay Packers coming off a bye week in which they lost the services of their head coach to a leukemia diagnosis. Nobody gave our warriors in blue much of a chance, and after an embarrassing 21-3 first half it was looking like the emotion of the week was just too much for this young team to handle. Inspired by a halftime speech that reminded them exactly what they were fighting for, the Colts came out in the second half and played the most memorable 30 minutes of Colts football since the 2006 AFC Championship game.
This performance was amazing for a lot of reasons: the transcendent play of Andrew Luck in the second half, the dominance of the defense in holding Green Bay to 6 2nd half points, the miracle shank by Mason Crosby to seal the victory, and the incredibly emotional moments in the locker room following the game, but for this committee the game was most remarkable for the supernatural efforts of Reggie Wayne. Wayne’s 212 yard, 13 catch performance was almost impossible to believe even as it was happening; one handed catches, circus acrobatics, and near prescient timing were on display seemingly on every play. It was fitting that Wayne made one final spectacular effort to put the game on ice, fighting through two defenders to extend the ball across the goal line in the final minute and assure his ailing coach a game ball for the ages.
Stat of the Year: This award resides in a nebulous corner of the vast award universe, the criteria for winning shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Nobody really knows exactly what makes a stat the best, but, much like pornography, the committee knows it when they see it. The 2012 Joscar for Near-midseason Stat of the Year goes to… 0.428571
That is of course the number of takeaways per game the Colts have generated this season. The Colts have 3 takeaways in 7 games, which is, perhaps not surprisingly, last in the NFL (the next closest team has 7). The record for fewest takeaways in a season is 11 during the strike shortened season of 1982 (coincidentally set by the Baltimore Colts shortly before moving to Indianapolis), at their current rate the Colts will shatter that record by forcing a nearly impossible to comprehend 6.8 turnovers on the season.
Rookie of the Year: This Joscar is handed out to the player that shows the most promise and development as a rookie. In years past this award has been given to some of the best and brightest budding Colts stars in team history, if you want to know who’s destined for superstardom look no further than this highest of rookie honors.** The Joscar for 2012 Near-midseason Rookie of the Year goes to… Andrew Luck.
I know, shocking. While it must be said that the incoming class of rookies have acquitted themselves outstandingly well (Dwayne Allen chief among them), there’s only one possible winner of this award and that’s Andrew Luck. His statistical brilliance has been well documented elsewhere (http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/23/luck-vs-griffin-a-statistical-comparison/) so the committee sees no reason to rehash it here, but it’s worth noting that Luck is currently on pace to break the NFL rookie passing records for yards (4,505 vs. 4,051), attempts (658 vs. 590), and completions (366 vs. 354).
He has been asked to carry a team as it rebuilds several key areas, including both the offensive line and offensive skill positions. Under constant pressure and relying on inexperienced and often unreliable skill players, Luck has done the improbable, making a 2-14 team from a year ago look like a playoff contender. His rookie record of 4-3 through 7 games is the best in NFL history for a #1 overall pick.
Player of the Year: This final and most prestigious Joscar, the Player of the Year award, is given to that outstanding individual who has separated himself and proven week in and week out to be the best of the best. Previous winners of this award have gone on to win MVP of the league 100% of the time, place your bets now, you heard it here first.*** Without further ado, the winner of the 2012 Near-midseason Joscar for Player of the Year IS….. Reggie Wayne.
Now some of you might be thinking, “But Joscar committee, Andrew Luck has obviously been the Colts best player, what gives?” Well, what gives is that you clearly don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. The Colts would absolutely not be where they are right now without the age defying efforts of Reggie Wayne. Wayne’s best season as Peyton Manning’s go to guy was 2007, 104 receptions for 1,510 yards. At the age of 33 and catching passes from a rookie QB, Wayne is currently on pace to haul in an astonishing 123 passes for an otherworldly 1,730 yards, nearly a 15% improvement over his career best numbers on a Hall of Fame resume.
It’s not just quantity of targets either (which he’s had a ton of, 87 to be exact), Pro Football Focus currently ranks Reggie Wayne #2 in the NFL at the WR position, and the #1 guy (Percy Harvin) has played an extra game. Continuing on the hardnosed military theme that Wayne famously started in training camp, his contributions extend into the blocking game as well. PFF gives Reggie a block rating of +3.3, the best block rating among WRs in the NFL and he has yet to register a single penalty in the process. The list of amazing stats for Wayne this season could fill a page, but in a year in which a brand new team is trying to mount one of the great turnarounds in NFL history, Reggie has made his case for not only near-midseason team MVP but perhaps even near-midseason NFL MVP as well.
* Editor’s note: The veracity of this statement has in no way been verified and represents a claim by the author that is not endorsed or guaranteed by Colts Authority nor its affiliates.
** Editor’s note: Since this is the first season these awards have been handed out, we must assume the author is making an attempt at levity, emphasis on “attempt”.
*** Editor’s note: I don’t think I have to tell you that this is completely false, do not gamble on this information.
Well that will do it for another stupefyingly sensational iteration of the Semi-semiannual Near-midseason Joscar Awards. There were a few honorable mentions that I wanted to work in but I’ve been told by my handlers that 2,000 words is the absolute limit that people can stomach my writing without succumbing to the uncontrollable urge to self-flagellate, so I will cease and desist before anyone is needlessly harmed. Maybe I will safely work them into the comments discussion (seems like a reasonable loophole, fingers crossed).
I hope you enjoyed another amazing year at The Joscars, feel free to leave some of your own in the comments (not your own Joscars mind you, as that would be copyright infringement punishable by death, but some awards of your own creation) and I will deride or praise you accordingly (after all, isn’t that what the internet is for?).
I'm late and everything, but I don't think Freeney is a future HOFer. I wish he were, but he should have had a few more stellar seasons and this season does no good for his candidature.
I have always thought for us lay people to try and judge offensive line play is an exercise in futility. (Especially people like me, who just watch the actual TV broadcast.)
Still, and even though you sight seemingly very pertinent stats, I feel compeled to defend Castonzo. He just passes my eye test. He faces the best defensive lineman every week and to my untrained eye, seems to be the best run blocking lineman we have had in... shoot, I don't knnow how long.
Alas, I would have gine this Joscar to my second favorite Colt of all time... Dwight Freeney.
If we are going based on salary then Freeney is the clear cut winner, but for me, err I mean the committee, it was a matter of which player has been perceived as playing well even though he hasn't. Freeney has taken a lot of flack from the media and fans this season, so it's not as if his performance has gone unnoticed, whereas Castonzo has been queitly struggling.
It's true that he faces the best pass rusher every week, but so do all left tackles and he's rated 2nd lowest in the league at the position in pass protection. Granted, if you take out this game against the Titans he would be more toward the middle of the pack, but then you'd also have to remove the worst game for everyone else to make it a fair comparison.
To say he's been bad is perhaps unfair, he's been dramatically up and down (like a lot of the players on the Colts it seems), playing quite well one week and then awful the next. Also, as you fairly point out, I have largely overlooked his play in the run game, which has been very good, he's easily our best run blocker (top 10 at LT in the NFL), outpacing the next closest lineman on our team by a mile (only Dwayne Allen is in his zip code).
I am not worried about Castonzo long term, I think he has a ton of talent at the position and can develop into a top 10 guy, I just had to pick someone and for my money Castonzo has gone largely unnoticed this season even though he's been the main culprit in terms of Luck taking hits (a major storyline this season).
@Kyle Rodriguez I think it is virtually impossible. I think a "dummy" defense going half speed in practice would force more, just out of dumb luck.
@Kyle Rodriguez At this point I'm thinking it's a legitimate statistical anomaly. How they're winning games with no turnovers is kind of amazing really. Have to average about 1 a game going forward to avoid the record.
Wayne's "blocking WR" ranking makes me happy. I personally value this in a WR. This was something I thought Dropsies Garçon consistently did well. Oh, and who can forget Marvin pwning Champ Bailey in the playoffs:
I just want to go on record and say that I do not think Winston Justice is abysmal, the wording might confuse you. That scathing criticism was meant solely for the bane of my existence, Jeff Linkenbach. In fact, I think Justice has been our most consistent lineman this season (he has given up 11 hurries but no sacks and only 1 QB hit).