The NFL season and we've all had time to digest how it went down. The Bolts From The Blue staff has convened and voted on the 2014-15 BFTB San Diego Chargers Awards. Let's get to it.
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
Winner: Philip Rivers (8)
The most valuable player on a team isn't necessarily the best player on that team but the player that the team could least afford to be without. Philip Rivers is that player for the Chargers. San Diego would have been competing for a top draft pick instead of a playoff spot if they were starting Kellen Clemens over Rivers this season.
This wasn't Rivers' best season, but 4,286 passing yards and 31 touchdowns against 18 interceptions is still a top 10 quarterback in the National Football League and it's awfully difficult to be more valuable to your team than that. That Rivers put up those numbers behind a fifth string center and some of the worst guard play you'll ever see makes his production even more impressive.
Others receiving multiple votes: Eric Weddle (7)
Offensive Player of the Year
Winner: Antonio Gates (10)
Future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates was an easy choice for offensive player of the year as he nearly equaled his career high in touchdown receptions with 12 (nearly double the next highest total on the team). His 821 receiving yards were good for second on the team behind only Malcom Floyd. Gates was also seemingly the only target that Rivers could trust on 3rd downs for most of the season. Gates still regularly commands and beats double teams and outside of Rivers is the player that most makes the offense really work.
Others receiving multiple votes: Philip Rivers (5)
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Eric Weddle (9)
The only first-team All Pro on the roster, Eric Weddle was once again magnificent at Free Safety. The Chargers defense wasn't great, but they were good enough for the majority of the season as they executed John Pagano's bend-but-don't-break defense. Arguably the biggest reason that worked as well as it did was that you can always count on Eric Weddle to be exactly where he's supposed to be and to make nearly every play he should.
Others receiving multiple votes: Corey Liuget (4), Brandon Flowers (2)
Special Teams Player of the Year
Winner: Darrell Stuckey (8)
As the AFC's Pro Bowl special teamer, it's pretty easy to call Stuckey the Chargers' best special teams player especially when Mike Scifres was lost for the season thanks to a blown block by Donald Brown and Nick Novak was one fo the worst kickoff specialists in football. The lack of competition undersells Stuckey's contribution, though. He's as good on coverage teams as anyone the Chargers have had since Kassim Osgood was allowed to leave to pursue his dream of being a crappy wide receiver.
Others receiving multiple votes: Nick Novak (4), Kavell Conner (2)
Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Malcom Floyd (10)
Less than a year after suffering what looked like it might be a career-ending injury, Malcom Floyd played in all sixteen games for only the second time in his 10-year career. He led the team in receiving yards with 856 and matched his career high of six receiving touchdowns. It's a borderline miracle that Floyd ever played another game. The fact that he had one of the best seasons of his career is simply incredible.
Others receiving multiple votes: Manti Te'o (2)
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Jason Verrett (9)
This was a tougher call than it seemed like it would be at the beginning of the season. Jason Verrett seemed like the runaway favorite from his very first action of the year. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending injury after only six games. Most of the staff was so impressed by those six games, however, that they still voted for him over the very impressive Chris Watt and the shockingly productive Branden Oliver.
Others receiving multiple votes: Chris Watt (4), Branden Oliver (2)
Pleasant Surprise of the Year
Winner: Branden Oliver (5)
This was a close vote, but Branden Oliver takes it based on some of the staff apparently expecting Manti Te'o's massive rebound from his rookie year based on how injured he was in 2013. Oliver was the definition of a pleasant surprise. Hardly anyone even expected him to make the roster after the Chargers added Donald Brown in free agency and Marion Grice in the draft. He wouldn't be denied, though, beating out Grice for a spot on the 53-man roster and then taking over from Donald Brown as the primary back after Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead suffered injuries. He totaled 853 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns while drawing ridiculous yet flattering comparisons to Darren Sproles.
Others receiving multiple votes: Manti Te'o (4), Ricardo Mathews (2)
Disappointment of the Year
Winner: Donald Butler (7)
Donald Butler was awful in 2014. At times, he was the worst player on the field. After signing him to a huge extension the previous offseason, the Chargers couldn't afford to have Butler's level of play collapse. The improved play of Andrew Gachkar helped to mitigate the disaster that was Butler's 2014, but he was still undeniably the biggest disappointment on the team.
Others receiving multiple votes: Chad Rinehart (2), Frank Reich (2), Mike McCoy (2)
Best Offseason Acquisition
Winner: Brandon Flowers (14)
Our only unanimous vote was for the best offseason acquisition. When you sign one of the top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL for pennies on the dollar and he stays mostly healthy, that's damn near impossible to beat. Brandon Flowers was great and Tom Telesco looked like a genius yet again.