Many Dolphins fans are probably wondering, “What is the Man of the Year Award?”, and “How does one go about winning this award?” Fortunately, NFL.com gives us a detailed breakdown of the award and the attributes of those who are nominated. (See below)
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The award was established in 1970. It was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton. Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.
As you can see, this award is not simply given to the best athlete in the league. Rather, this award honors the NFL player who not only demonstrates “Excellence on the field”, but also displays excellence in their surrounding community as well. It is important to highlight that every single team gets to nominate a player from their active roster. Dolphins quarterback, Ryan Tannehill and Giants quarterback, Eli Manning just happen to be the only two quarterbacks who were nominated for the award this season. Which is interesting considering how many talented quarterbacks in the league are actively involved in their communities.
Analyzing Tannehill’s Qualifications
If this award is really to recognize “excellence on and off the field”, many could argue that Ryan Tannehill has hardly been “excellent” on the field this season. Currently, Tannehill ranks 21st amongst 32 starting NFL quarterbacks. He has completed just 61.45% of his passes through 12 games and currently has a QBR of 34 (30th in the NFL). Now, if Tannehill’s personal stats were below average but he was still leading the Dolphins to victories, we wouldn’t be picking apart his stats right now. But currently, the Dolphins are 5-7 and 4th (dead last) in the AFC East. Therefore, by the NFL’s own definition of the award, Tannehill doesn’t qualify.
Despite the NFL’s claim that this award honors “excellence on and off the field”, it has become apparent over the past few years that in all actuality, it is nothing more than a community service award. I certainly do not aim to downplay the importance of community service or the impact it has on the individuals who are being assisted. Rather, my aim is to bring awareness and understanding as to what this award really means for those who are nominated.
There were a few “big names” nominated this year including J.J. Watt (Houston), Richard Sherman (Seattle), Matt Forte (Chicago), and Eli Manning (New York). However, the majority of the players nominated were not exactly Pro Bowl caliber. Here are a few of the lesser known players who were nominated: Zane Beadles (Jacksonville), Eric Wood (Buffalo), and Patrick Dimarco (Atlanta). My point is that quite frankly, the Walter Payton Man of The Year Award is not a player performance award. It is 100% a community service award. I only highlight this so that Dolphins fans take Tannehill’s nomination with a grain of salt.
One thing about Tannehill’s nomination is indisputable though. That is the fact that he truly does participate in a great deal of charity work within Miami Dade County. He and his wife, Lauren started a charity called ACES (Achieving Community and Education Success). This charity helps high school students from Hialeah and the surrounding Miami area. They set the students up with personal mentors who teach and assist the students in completing college applications and building job resumes. The Tannehill’s also participate in the “Make a Wish” foundation and even stay active in the community during the Holidays. This year, the Tannehill’s took students grocery shopping at Publix for Thanksgiving meal supplies, and even volunteered to host a holiday toy event with Miami Dolphins Women’s Organization at the Dolphins team facility.
Regardless of Tannehill’s individual slump this season, the Dolphins coaching staff still nominated him for this award. And this gesture by the Dolphins coaching staff and front office should not be taken lightly. Nominating Tannehill implies a great deal of faith in him as a long-term asset of the franchise. Certainly an Interim Head Coach like Dan Campbell wouldn’t make a decision of this magnitude alone. Campbell likely consulted his coaching staff, VP Mike Tannenbaum, GM Dennis Hickey, and possibly even Owner, Stephen Ross. If so, this could be a push from Miami’s front office to display a level of trust and belief in Tannehill; his character, and his abilities on the field. To some degree, the front office always stands behind players they give big contracts to (or spend high draft picks on), because they don’t want to look bad when it’s all said and done. Mike Tannenbaum is a perfect example of this, as his GM career came to a screeching halt in New York after putting all of his eggs in the Mark Sanchez basket.
Tannehill has taken more than his fair share of the blame for the past four years of mediocrity in Miami. Despite being hit more than any other quarterback in the NFL for the 4th year in a row, Tannehill has yet to be seriously injured. So while he may be underqualified for player performance awards, he certainly deserves a team “Iron Man” award for his toughness. All that should matter to Tannehill is that the coaching staff and front office appear to be behind him. For any speculative Dolphins fans out there calling for the acquisition of Colin Kaepernick, Peyton Manning, or Robert Griffin III this offseason; sorry to break your hearts, but Tannehill doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
The winner of the 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award will be announced during the 5th Annual NFL Honors awards show, a 2-hour primetime special on February 6, the night before Super Bowl 50.
(9:00PM-11:00PM ET on CBS)