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Julius Peppers Not Worthy Of NFL Defensive MVP Honor In 2010.....

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Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

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I am truly blessed to have the honor of working with two of the city's great sport minds in Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley producing The Mully And Hanley Morning Show on WSCR 670AM The Score.  Both are long time sports writers for the Chicago Suntimes covering each of the five pro teams in town and some of the college programs in our area.  This is by no means a "fluff" piece about the show I work on or the radio station I work for, but on occasion Mully pens a piece that gets me thinking, and today is a day that I need to disagree with my colleague.   
 
In today's Chicago Suntimes Mully writes that Julius Peppers deserves the NFL Defensive Player Of The Year Award which is handed out after the conclusion of the Super Bowl.  The award which is voted on by a collection of 50 sports writers and broadcasters at the end of the regular season going to the one man who is considered the league's most outstanding defensive player.  Winners in the past have included the names of Taylor, Lewis, Singletary and last year Charles Woodson taking home the award. 

Although Mully states that Peppers deserves the award, common sense says a different thing.
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The impact of Julius Peppers on this year's Bears defense cannot be truly measured.  In fact, it is almost an impossibility. 

The reason why has nothing to do with what Peppers and his six sacks have brought to the field, but it has to do with something he cannot control.  Comparing this year's Chicago Bears defense to last year's does not start or end with Julius Peppers.  This year's Chicago Bears defense and how well they have performed this year can be credited to one thing only, health.  For the first time since the 2006 Super Bowl year, the Chicago Bears defense (for the most part) has been completely healthy without any of the key pieces missing any significant time.   
 
The last time the Chicago Bears were ranked near or above where they are right now on defense was that 2006 season.  However going back to that season, their on-field emotional leader Safety Mike Brown was lost after the sixth game of the year and never saw the field again that season.  Fast forwarding to this season, the only real loss was a season ending injury to Hunter Hillenmeyer who was the backup to Pisa Tinoisamoa.  Although Julius Peppers may be a flashy name to NFL fans and an easy target to say why the Bears defense is better this season, he is not.
 
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So in saying that what are the real chances of Julius Peppers winning the NFL Defensive Player of The Year Award right now?
 
High Probability?
 
50/50?
 
Slim to none?
 
Looking at whom has won the award just in the past decade, you will see only two defensive ends have won the award in that duration.  In 2001 New York Giants Defensive End Michael Strahan took home the hardware after finishing the season with a NFL record 22.5 sacks.  In 2006 Miami Dolphins Defensive End Jason Taylor won the award finishing the season with 13.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, and two interceptions returned for touchdowns (one of such against the Bears).  Currently at six sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception on the season, Peppers is no where close to being the front runner for the award.
 
Bringing in a 90+ million dollar pass rusher in the off season, you would figure that the sack numbers for the team would increase from last year to this year.  In fact when Strahan and Taylor won the award, the teams they played for were in the top six of the NFL in team sacks (2001 NYG (46 team sacks)  2006 Miami Dolphins (47 team sacks))

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Currently the Chicago Bears are sitting at 23 team sacks (13th in NFL) and are on pace for 34 sacks at the end of the season.  Although the amount of pressure put on opposing quarterbacks may be different this season, the fact is when it comes to handing out awards it is all about the statistics. 

Baseball's MVP will never be given out to a player who moves the runners over.  The NBA MVP will never be in the hands of a player like Joakim Noah who shows 110% effort and has lethal rebounding skills.  You will never see the Hart Memorial Trophy handed out to a shot blocking defenseman.  Why should the NFL be any different?
 
It is a simple fact that although Peppers is having an outstanding season in the eyes of Bears' fans, that those who vote on the award go for the "sexy" statistics.  Those who vote look at sack totals, interceptions, forced fumbles, and tackle numbers.....not the amount of pressure put on the quarterback.  When national analysts look at the difference between this year's Bears defense and those of year's previous, they will look more toward the health and performance of Brian Urlacher first before the contributions of Julius Peppers.  Those voting on the award will do the same.  It is common sense to give an award out to someone who not only is the most outstanding player of defense but also the one with the best numbers in the "sexy" statistics.
 
To me it is ignorant to include Peppers name in the running for this award when players like Clay Matthews, Osi Umenyiora, James Harrison among others have not only had better personal seasons but also some could say play on better defenses.  There is no reason why Bears fans or writers should feel compelled to further justify the signing of Peppers with the Bears because it is too early to say Peppers is worth every penny of the contract he signed in March of this year.  You cannot judge a player with a contract like Peppers has based on the first 11 games of the deal.  Julius Peppers will be worth every penny when he becomes a game changer over several years and possibly brings home more hardware than a defensive player of the year award.
 
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So while this Chicago Bears season may be unexpected and watching the defense reminds us each week of that 2006 season, it will be really hard to reward Julius Peppers an award that he simply has not played up to the level to earn.  I would be willing to bet that Peppers himself probably does not care too much for the award, but for people like my guy Mully to be putting him up with the best of the best in this year's NFL is not using common sense.  Although Peppers may be a mainstay in Chicago for years to come by no means makes him the best of the best this season where his impact is not "sexy" enough for a "sexy" award.
 
-RoCk
 
Rock Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and co-host of The Joe O And Rock Show on WSCR 670AM The Score
 
You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at twitter.com/mullyhanley
 
You can follow The Joe O And Rock Show at twitter.com/joeoandrockshow



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