Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis was awarded the inaugural Deacon Jones Award for leading the NFL in 2013 with 19.5 sacks. The award was presented to Mathis at the NFL Honors show in New York on Saturday night.
While Mathis did deserve the sack leader award, he did not win the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year honor. That went to Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, and rightly so. Kuechly had 156 total tackles, 2 sacks, 8 passes defended, and 4 interceptions in 2013. He was also the best player on a defense that was ranked No. 2 against the run, No. 6 against the pass, No. 2 in points allowed, and No. 2 overall in the NFL.
Kuechly's head coach, Ron Rivera, also walked away with the 2013 Coach of the Year award after guiding the Panthers to a surprising 12-4 record and the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
For Colts fans who think Mathis was snubbed, stop.
One of the unwritten rules of winning this award is the defensive unit that the Defensive Player of the Year plays on has to be, you know, good. Kuechly's defense was. Robert Mathis' wasn't. If the the overall play of the entire defense didn't matter in the selecting of this award's winner, then it should have gone to Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. He's a better player overall than Mathis or Kuechly.
Personally, I see no issue with Kuechly winning. He's a great young player. The award going to the second-year Panthers backer does not diminish Mathis' brilliant 2013 season one bit.
Congrats to No. 98 on a great season. He's an excellent inaugural recipient of the Deacon Jones Award, and it's yet-another note on his already impressive NFL career resume.
NFL defensive player of year voting breakdown: Luke Kuechly 19 Robert Mathis 11½.— Jim Lefko (@jimlefko) February 2, 2014