NEW ORLEANS â€“ Each year, The Associated Press asks 50 media members who cover the NFL to help select its annual All-Pro team, Coach of the Year, MVP and other individual player awards.
I submitted my ballot Sunday night at the conclusion of the New York Jets-Cincinnati game, the 256th and last game of the 2009 regular season.
My ballot included three Saints on the All-Pro team: QB Drew Brees, G Jahri Evans and FS Darren Sharper.
After much deliberation, I awarded my MVP vote to Brees over Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning and Tennessee RB Chris Johnson.
A great case can be made for all three but I settled on Brees because he has helped take this franchise to new heights this season. Unquestionably, he is worth every penny paid to him by the Saints organization for all he does, not only on the field but off the field as well. He truly is the consummate professional.
My Coach of the Year vote went to the Saintsâ€™ Sean Payton over several other worthy candidates, including San Diegoâ€™s Norv Turner and Indianapolisâ€™ Jim Caldwell.
Like Brees, Payton has guided the Saints to where no Saints team has gone before during the regular season. Turner has done an outstanding job in San Diego, leading the Chargers to 11 consecutive victories after a 2-3 start. Caldwell has done exceptionally well, too, going 14-2 in his rookie season. But Payton gets my vote.
Hereâ€™s how I voted:
WR (2) -- Andre Johnson, Houston; Wes Welker, New England. TE (1) -- Antonio Gates, San Diego. T (2) -- Bryant McKinnie, Minnesota; Jason Peters, Philadelphia. G (2) -- JAHRI EVANS, SAINTS; Kris Dielman, San Diego. C (1) -- Nick Mangold, NY Jets. QB (1) -- DREW BREES, SAINTS. RBs (2) -- Chris Johnson, Tennessee; Adrian Peterson, Minnesota. FB (1) -- Leâ€™Ron McClain, Baltimore. Place Kicker (1) -- Nate Kaeding, San Diego. Kick Returner (1) -- Josh Cribbs, Cleveland.
DE (2) -- Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis; Jared Allen, Minnesota. DT (2) -- Kevin Williams, Minnesota; Vince Wilfork, New England. OLB (2) -- DeMarcus Ware, Dallas; Elvis Dumervil, Denver. ILB (2) -- Patrick Willis, San Francisco; Jon Beason, Carolina. CB (2) -- Darrelle Revis, NY Jets; Charles Woodson, Green Bay. S (2) â€“ DARREN SHARPER, SAINTS; Adrian Wilson, Arizona. Punter (1) -- Andy Lee, San Francisco.
Most Valuable Player: QB DREW BREES, SAINTS.
Comeback Player: RB Cedric Benson, Cincinnati.
Defensive Rookie: Jarius Byrd, Buffalo.
Offensive Rookie: Percy Harvin, Minnesota.
Defensive Player: Charles Woodson, Green Bay.
Offensive Player: (split vote) QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis; RB Chris Johnson, Tennessee.
Coach: SEAN PAYTON, SAINTS.
The release dates for the awards:
Wednesday -- Defensive Rookie/Offensive Rookie
Thursday -- Comeback Player
Sunday â€“ MVP
Jan. 13 -- Defensive Player
Jan. 14 -- Offensive Player
Jan. 15 -- All-Pro team
Jan. 17 -- Coach of Year
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