HONOLULU - JANUARY 30: Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs hands the ball off to Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl against the National Football Conference (NFC) at Aloha Stadium on January 30 2011 in Honolulu Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
With the hardware handed out, a meaningless Hawaiian game played out and the attention centered on a pair of celebrated old-school franchises, it's the perfect time to look back at a most unexpected season from the Kansas City Chiefs. From a 4-win season to a division winner, Scott Pioli executed another masterful job of roster creation, and you can't say enough about the coaching jobs done by Todd Haley, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel overall.
Yet perhaps the most surprising thing to me above any record turnaround, divisional placement or coaching performance was the fact that the Chiefs had a very viable candidate for every single award the NFL handed out this week. From rookies to veterans, players to coaches, offense to defense, the Chiefs performance in every aspect revealed that this season's success stood on the shoulders of many.
Think about how incredible it is that the Chiefs could have plausibly been represented by every NFL trophy:
Offensive Player of the Year: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe
Defensive Player of the Year: Tamba Hali
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tony Moeaki
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Eric Berry
Coach of the Year: Todd Haley
Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe
Sure, the Chiefs didn't walk away with wins here, but it's amazing to think that there were even viable candidates all around. Certainly this season featured some of the most impressive rookies the NFL has seen in some time, but in years past, Moeaki and Berry would have garnered a lot more attention. It's ridiculous that Bowe led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (15) by three over the next competitor (Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson with 12), yet has anyone even noticed it wasn't close? Say what you want about the Jones/Charles rotation, but the Chiefs had two of the top 20 rushers in the NFL.
That doesn't even touch the defense, anchored by a revitalized Tamba Hali. The former Penn State star was much admired for his work ethic coming into the league, and it's been that leadership and determination that finally allowed him to break through with 14.5 sacks, good for second in the NFL (DeMarcus Ware had 15). Brandon Carr led the NFL in passes defended (25), while Derrick Johnson had the most (15) among linebackers, showing the Chiefs range of coverage behind the defensive line.
Several other players enjoyed tremendous years, whether along the lines or a bit lower in statistical rankings. Brandon Flowers, Wallace Gilberry, Jovan Belcher and Glenn Dorsey all became important players, while names like Berry, Lewis, Moeaki and McCluster still have bigger and brighter futures ahead of them. Kansas City is more loaded across the board than anyone could have hoped for just one year ago, and the season-ending loss to the Ravens shouldn't cloud that.