If the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award were given to the NFL's best cornerback, we might not be celebrating Charles Woodson's victory Tuesday. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis displayed stunning coverage and ball skills all year long.
But I think the award should be considered more broadly. So does AFC East mayor Tim Graham. There are any number of ways to accomplish the basic task of a defense -- getting off the field -- and Woodson quite simply utilized more of them than Revis.
There were games when Woodson was a true “shutdown” corner. Limiting Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson to a pair of catches on Thanksgiving Day comes to mind. There were games when he was calling out opponent's plays before they ran them, most notably Dec. 27 against Seattle.
There were games where he wreaked havoc all over the field. He had two interceptions Sept. 20 against Cincinnati, returning one for a touchdown. Then there was the Nov. 15 game against Dallas, perhaps the best individual performance by a defensive player this season. On that day, Woodson had nine tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and an interception. Two weeks later against the Lions, Woodson had seven tackles, a sack and two interceptions.
If you game plan well, it's possible to limit the impact of a shutdown corner like Revis. But when your skills cross so many platforms, as Woodson's do, it's impossible to diminish his presence.
You'll hear some grumbling that Woodson was part of a defense that got plowed by elite quarterbacks this season. And yes, it's true that he was the primary defender on two of Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald's touchdown receptions in last Sunday's 51-45 wild-card playoff loss.
The former argument has some validity. If Woodson were such a skilled all-around defender, wouldn't he have stopped, say, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger before he reached 503 passing yards last month? But here's the honest truth: It's easier to measure impact than fault. Did Woodson fall short on his assignments against the Steelers? Or in two games against Minnesota's Brett Favre? I don't think any of us have the X's and O's resources to make that claim.
Woodson's performance Sunday in Arizona has no application here. Voting occurred before the playoffs began, as it should. Defensive Player of the Year is a regular-season award.
The same would be true of Cornerback of the Year, if the award existed. It doesn't. Sorry, Darrelle.