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A Final Few Words on 2004
Bob Cunningham
February 8, 2005

First off, a tip of the cap to the New England Patriots. Three titles in four years is worthy of dynasty talk, even if each Super Bowl victory came by the hefty margin of three points. Head coach Bill Belichick isn't as dynamic or fascinating as Vince Lombardi was, but the numbers don't lie - 9-1 career in the postseason. Wow.

The difference in Super Bowl XXXIX, as I thought it might be, was the quarterbacks. Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb threw for more yards and touchdowns than the Pats' Tom Brady, but Brady didn't throw an interception while McNabb endured three picks. Ballgame right there.

And Belichick outcoached Philly's Andy Reid. Actually, I thought Reid did fine until there were about five minutes remaining. From that point on, however, the Eagles butchered it. Yes, Coach, it's referred to as the "two-minute drill," but it's okay to begin utilizing it sooner.

Say what you want about Rodney Harrison, whom some consider to be a dirty player, but he was the second most valuable player for the Patriots on Sunday night in my opinion. He seemed to be in on every play, and picked off two passes - the second fittingly sealing the game. Poetic justice, if you're like me and have disdain for guys (i.e. Philadelphia wideout Freddie Mitchell) who talk more than they perform, when you consider that Harrison caught more passes than Mitchell for the contest.

Just to be clear, Mitchell isn't anything close to the caliber of Terrell Owens (courageous effort), Todd Pinkston (a respectable performance that included one catch that was spectacular) and Greg Lewis (Mr. Clutch in the postseason).

Is the state of Massachusets loving it or what? The Patriots, the Red Sox, and the Patriots again. Heck, even the Celtics are in first place in their division.

The 2004 campaign has now closed (yes it has... the Pro Bowl doesn't count because no one cares), and there are some unofficial honors, legit and made-up, that I would like to bestow on some individuals.

First, the real awards

Most Valuable Player - Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. No one really comes close. Yes, he was again shut down by the New England defense in the playoffs. And he won't become truly legendary until he and his mates can clear that lofty hurdle. But his season performance as a whole was unreal.

Coach of the Year - Bill Cowher, Pittsburgh. The protruding jawed one gets the nod just barely over San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer. His team reeled off an amazing 16 consecutive victories, and they did it the old fashioned way -- with a stout running game and great defense. I'm old school, so I love that.

Rookie of the Year - Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. It's mind-numbing that a rookie quarterback could be undefeated for as he went before losing in the AFC Title Game. Very impressive, indeed.

Comeback Player - Drew Brees, QB, San Diego. It's not that he really "came back" from anything except perhaps oblivion. Maybe it should be "Biggest Surprise." Either way, congrats to Brees on an outstanding, season-long performance.

Fantasy MVP - Manning. Forty-nine TD passes... that's all I have to write.

The All-Fantasy Team

QB - Manning. An honorable mention to Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper, whose stats were MVP-caliber for most seasons.

RB - Shaun Alexander, Seattle; LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego. Alexander is a stats machine, with rushing TDs and yardage. Tomlinson is the game's most versatile, piling up yards both rushing and receiving while scoring a TD in a dozen consecutive games.

WR - Terrell Owens, Philadelphia; Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina. There's no getting past Owens' impact over the first 13 weeks of the season. He'd get MVP consideration had he not gotten hurt. Muhammad had a big year in the absence of Steve Smith and finished with a flurry - 100+ yards and multiple TDs in four of his last six games.

TE - Antonio Gates, San Diego; Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City (tie). I took the easy route here by giving both the nod. One gets it for his record-setting tally of touchdowns, the other for leading everyone in receptions.

K - Adam Vinatieri, New England. He's the best kicker, and he scored the most points. Easy choice.

DEF - Baltimore Ravens. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and company get the nod slightly over the champion Patriots.

That'll about do it, at least until the draft in April. In the meantime, enjoy baseball's spring training.