2014 NFL pre-season awards of merit

Illustration by Christina Ung

This article originally appeared in the September 8 edition of Sportsnet Magazine. 

With the National Football League season fast approaching, it’s time to hand out the 2014 NFL Pre-Season Awards of Merit (Or Lack Thereof).

Worst quarterback controversy

Brian Hoyer beat out Johnny Manziel for the right to be replaced by the other guy three games into the season. It was a duel for the ages! Specifically, for ages 90 and over—people who remember the feeling of being confused and terrified by the very idea of a forward pass.

Manziel, the overexcited toddler of the 2014 draft class, flipped off the Washington bench after a touchdown drive during a pre-season game—which is basically like giving yourself a high-five for having discovered a naked lady on the Internet. As for Hoyer’s performance, let’s put it this way: If he’d been handing out candy on Halloween, at least two neighbourhood kids would be questionable for Christmas after taking a Butterfinger to the head.

All in all, Hoyer seems like the right choice, but can Cleveland fans trust the decision-making of coach Mike Pettine? Here’s a guy who is trying to inspire his players to new heights with the following slogan for the 2014 season: “Play like a Brown.” Yo, Manziel, is that the slumped posture and defeatist attitude of someone who has endured six straight seasons of at least 11 losses? SHAKE YOUR HEAD DEJECTEDLY LIKE A BROWN, WOULD YA?

For the record, there has also been something of a QB controversy in Minnesota, where Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater have competed to see which of them will gently hand the ball to Adrian Peterson on every single play. It’s not clear why one guy would be better at that than the other. Maybe Teddy uses moisturizer.

Most ill-fated optimism

Down in Tampa, new coach Lovie Smith has been showing confidence and even a bit of swagger about the prospects for his Bucs. Give him five games, however, and he’ll be staring off into the middle distance like Matthew McConaughey in True Detective, musing that “every game we’ve ever lost, we’re going to lose again and again forever.” (Staying in character, Smith will subsequently explain away his inevitable clock-management fiasco by throwing the challenge flag and arguing that time is a flat circle.)

Most impressive delusion

You can make fun of the Dallas Cowboys, and I will. In fact, I’ll do it right after the next comma, when I point out that their defence in 2013 was such a train wreck that the season legally qualified as the fourth Matrix movie.

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The Dallas “D” finished last in the league, giving up roughly the same amount of yardage as France in 1940. This summer, coach Jason Garrett has been talking about how his team’s defence will be significantly better—but there’s been little evidence of that. Garrett probably senses his time as coach is near an end and is throwing out inadvertently hilarious quotes in the hopes they bring back those Coors Light commercials.

Worst omen

The Miami Dolphins signed Brady Quinn to a contract, and get this: It’s a contract to play football! Apparently Quinn may serve as backup QB to Ryan Tannehill. In an unrelated development, Dolphins players immediately surrounded Tannehill in layer after layer of bubble wrap.

Most dubious motivational remarks

Matt Schaub had a terrible season for the Texans in 2013, and subsequently received the most severe punishment permitted under NFL rules: He was traded to the Raiders. Oakland’s offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, was recently asked to assess his new QB. “I think he’s similar to what he has been and what he is. Kind of like they say, he is what he is,” Olson said. “We haven’t seen a bunch of ill-fated decisions so that’s been a plus.” That’s some pretty inspirational material there, Greg. Kind of like the climactic speech in Hoosiers—except if Gene Hackman had left midway through and gone bowling instead.

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