IRVING, Texas -- On Saturday night, the Dallas Cowboys were well represented at the NFL Honors program.
DeMarco Murray was named the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. Zack Martin finished second in the Rookie of the Year race to New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Jason Garrett finished tied for second with Houston’s Bill O’Brien in the Coach of the Year race. Rolando McClain finished tied for second in the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Rod Marinelli was second in the Assistant Coach of the Year award, with Scott Linehan finishing third.
Tony Romo finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting. He also received a vote for Offensive Player of the Year.
He did take home the “Greatness on the Road” award, so he’s got that going for him.
In the spirit of that award, let’s come up with some other “awards” from the Cowboys' season.
Best assistant coach not named Marinelli or Linehan: Without a doubt it has to be linebackers coach Matt Eberflus. He lost Sean Lee in the offseason. He had to do more mixing and matching than a mom with Garanimals during the season with injuries to Justin Durant, Bruce Carter and McClain. He had to teach rookie Anthony Hitchens three linebacker spots, and Hitchens excelled at all three. At some point he should receive defensive coordinator consideration from the league.
Best "no, no, no, yes, yes, yes" play: Cole Beasley’s 24-yard touchdown catch against the Chicago Bears. Beasley was supposed to be “hot” at the snap with defensive end Willie Young unblocked thanks to the Cowboys’ blocking scheme, but he forgot. Romo was able to slide away from Young and float a pass to Beasley down the sideline for the receiver’s second touchdown of the game. So if you’re a coach, how do you grade that? A minus for the missed assignment, a plus for the touchdown?
Best rookie not named Martin: I already mentioned him. It has to be Hitchens. The coaches credited him with 100 tackles. He started 11 games. When he was picked in the fourth round, the Cowboys hoped he could back up Lee and help on special teams. By the end of the season he was a vital part of the defense and showed grit playing through a high ankle sprain.
Best player nobody talked about all season: Tight end James Hanna. He only caught four passes for 48 yards, but his blocking was top notch throughout the season. The Cowboys were a big “12 personnel” team in 2014, and in part that was because of the blocking of Hanna. He showed up to the Cowboys with the reputation as a speedy pass-catching tight end but has really elevated his game.
Backup of the year: Since Hitchens started 11 games, he is ineligible for this “award.” Same with Hanna because he started 12 games. Since Beasley already has an award, he’s out, too. Jermey Parnell did a decent job in replacing Doug Free at right tackle, but I’m going with cornerback Sterling Moore, who started seven games. (Give me some leeway on the “backup” talk.) He didn’t have an interception but was a solid third corner. Had Morris Claiborne not gotten hurt, I think Moore eventually would have supplanted the former first-round pick behind Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick.
Best use of playing time: Murray only came off the field when the coaches had to drag him off the field, which meant little work for Joseph Randle. But he still managed to rush for 343 yards on 51 carries. He also had three touchdowns in his final 29 carries. If the Cowboys do not re-sign Murray, they can feel confident Randle will be able to rush for more than 1,000 yards if given the chance in 2015.
Out of nowhere award: McClain would be a solid candidate since he hadn’t played since 2011. The Crawfords -- Tyrone and Jack -- would be too. Tyrone missed 2013 with a torn Achilles, but the Cowboys had high hopes for him. Jack signed before the season and had it end early with a broken thumb, but he had two sacks. My vote goes to undrafted rookie Tyler Patmon. He wasn’t really an undrafted rookie in the truest sense. He earned a training camp spot after playing well on a tryout basis in the rookie mini-camp. He played well in the preseason with a pick-six against Miami. He added a pick-six in the regular season with a 58-yard return against Arizona. From off the street to an NFL touchdown, that’s out of nowhere.