The Buffalo Bills closed out their 2009 season with a 6-10 record after defeating the Indianapolis Colts 30-7 in Week 17. As the only NFL team that finished with a 6-10 record, the Bills will draft ninth overall in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
We know that you've got your eyes and mind very squarely focused on the Bills' coaching search; we do, too, but while we await news on that front, we figured we'd quickly wrap up a forgettable 2009 Bills season by handing out a few awards. They're after the jump.
Most Valuable Player: Fred Jackson. There were other players to consider here, but really, Jackson was the only choice to make. No player did as much for this team week-to-week nor throughout the entirety of the '09 season. Buffalo's offense gained 4,274 yards from scrimmage this season, and Jackson was responsible for 1,433 of them (33.5%). He caught, ran for and threw touchdown passes, and he was the team's full-time kick returner for most of the season. He's consistently good, which is a rarity in Buffalo these days, and few players work harder at their craft. The guy is a true-blue Buffalo guy, and should be a fan favorite here for a few more seasons.
Offensive Player of the Year: Fred Jackson. See above. The guy is really, really good.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jairus Byrd. Again, there are a couple of other players I could have mentioned here, but none were as instrumental in single-game success as Byrd was. The rookie Pro Bowl safety was directly responsible for wins over New York and Carolina, and even though he missed the end of the season after landing on IR, he still finished in a four-way tie for the league lead in interceptions (9). This was a great debut season for Byrd, but expectations will only rise heading into his sophomore season.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andy Levitre. There were only three players to choose from for this title, and Levitre "won" in a landslide. He gets points simply because he was one of only two Bills offensive linemen to start 16 games this season. But Levitre proved to be a pretty good young player, too, consistently getting better throughout the season despite a revolving door at left tackle, a door he stepped through for a brief period of time himself. Levitre is the best young lineman on this team, and you can bet he'll be a fixture at left guard moving forward. He's a good player, and GM Buddy Nix knows it.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jairus Byrd. Again, see above. Where this kid lacks in elite talent, he makes up for it with elite ball skills.
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Schobel. After recording just one sack in less than five games' worth of playing time in 2008, Schobel returned to the starting lineup this season fresh off of a difficult Lisfranc foot injury. He responded with his best season since 2006, finishing with 10.0 sacks, 56 total tackles and an interception return for a touchdown in a Week 1 loss to New England. While Schobel mulls retirement as the only team he's ever played for begins yet another re-building process, understand just how truly good Schobel has been for this team, despite the lack of success in the past decade.
Coach of the Year: Perry Fewell. This was not an enviable position for Fewell, despite his many proclamations to the contrary. It was clear from the moment he was named interim replacement to Dick Jauron that he stood little to no chance of securing the permanent head coaching job beyond this season. Yet through it all, Fewell deserves a ton of credit simply for keeping his sanity and getting his battered troops to play while taking on additional responsibilities and serving the dual role of head coach and defensive coordinator. That's a tremendous amount of pressure, and whichever way you look at it, Fewell's Bills were 3-4 in those contests. Yes, he made mistakes, and head-scratching decisions, but he also was able to hold a team together despite its lack of glue at the seams. Kudos, Perry - you're a heck of a coach.
There are guys who had terrible seasons, like Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch or Aaron Maybin, that I could throw under the bus by handing out "awards" to, but I won't. We all know where the problems lie and what needs to change. Plus, today is Black Monday, and possibly (hopefully) exciting things are in store for this franchise, so I'm choosing to remain upbeat. If you want to hand out these types of awards in the comments section, be my guest.
Other guys I'd like to mention, briefly, include:
Terrell Owens - this season wasn't what he or any of us hoped for, but Owens gets a tip of my hat for acknowledging how awesome Bills fans are, and for keeping his mouth shut and playing well this season. I don't expect him back in 2010, but I'd certainly welcome the idea. Good luck wherever you end up, Mr. Owens.
Corey McIntyre - he went from terrible off-season allegations to being one of my favorite players to watch. He's a force to be reckoned with on kick coverage, and he even looks good toting the rock. Yeah, he's a fringe NFL player, but he's a guy that did everything right through horrible circumstances. I like this guy.
Geoff Hangartner - he wasn't as good at center as most of us hoped he'd be, but there's a lot to be said about the fact that he was at least consistent playing next to seemingly dozens of guard combinations. He stayed healthy, too. I'm not sure he'll be considered the "center of the future," if that exists, but he's definitely worth keeping around in some capacity. Solid player.
Chris Kelsay - I'm sorry, Kurupt, but I like him. He tied a career-high in tackles and recorded 5.0 sacks this season. There's a good chance he won't be back in 2010, particularly if the Bills change defensive schemes, but he had a solid (and yes, unspectacular) season this year. Which brings me to...
Bob Sanders - I almost named him coach of the year, because his defensive line had a great year across the board. Yeah, Maybin has yet to pan out, and some of the younger guys (John McCargo, Chris Ellis) might never pan out, but the starting unit was solid across the board. Kyle Williams in particular had an outstanding season, and Spencer Johnson was a force at times under Sanders' tutelage as well.
Paul Posluszny - give him credit, because he came back quickly from a broken arm and put up really solid numbers (110 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 sack) while being the only opening-day starter at linebacker to finish the season. Yeah, the jury's still out on whether he can anchor a top-notch defense from the Mike spot, but don't sell him short, either - he's a pretty good football player.
Drayton Florence - this guy was a solid free agent signing. For 2 years and $6 million, Buffalo got a lot of bang for their buck. Don't be surprised if he remains a starting cornerback next season, because Buddy Nix was in San Diego when Florence was drafted, and he plays the physical brand of football that Nix will prefer for his new-look Bills.
George Wilson - again, this guy will never be a superstar, but Wilson had a heck of a season. He started a lot of games at strong safety in front of Donte Whitner, and his playing time was deserved. Wilson's numbers might surprise you - he finished the year with 103 tackles, 2 sacks and 4 interceptions. He's got his limitations, but he also makes plays. He, too, has a good chance to survive the regime change.