With the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl, the 2012-2013 NFL season has come to a close. But we will remember it fondly, and our remembrances in particular will have to do with these 18 guys/teams/tattoos who made the year what it was. Cue the Vitamin C graduation song while you read it, because football is very, very sentimental. I am literally crying right now.
1. Most Impressive: Adrian Peterson
Much like how the first cut is the deepest, this first award is the easiest: Nobody has shit on Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season. In less than a year, Purple Jesus went from having his knee Eli Roth-ed to running like a buffalo on Adderall, and he carried a Vikings team with Jason Biggs at quarterback all the way into the playoffs. His 2,097 yards this season were the second-most by a running back of all time, missing the record by only nine yards, also known as the length Adrian Peterson moves in his sleep thanks to sheer momentum. Adrian Peterson is the Perpetual Motion Machine.
2. Most Likely to Succeed: Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson will take you home to meet your own parents. Russell Wilson makes football seem ethically pat. Russell Wilson can throw and run for a touchdown on the same play. You may think Russell Wilson is short, but he’s even shorter than you think he is, and it doesn’t even matter. Russell Wilson got Osama bin Laden. Roger Goodell lets Russell Wilson fine him.
3. Best-Looking: Robert Griffin III
I’m not talking about strict handsomeness here, though RGIII does cut a nice sort-of-modern buccaneer look, like he’d slot well into a Brooklyn-located modern update of an Alexandre Dumas book costarring Orlando Bloom. Instead, I’m referencing Griffin’s game, which couldn’t have been better imagined by Stanley Kubrick. It’s an aesthetically perfect version of football, sleek and modern, a synthesis of air and ground. Let me put it this way: The U.S. military will be basing its next version of Predator drone on the way Robert Griffin moves around a football field.
4. Teacher’s Pet: Arian Foster
Did you know that Arian Foster is smart? Did you know he studied philosophy in college? Did you know that he’s a direct descendant of Socrates, Aristophanes, and Aristotle, despite the fact that none of them were related? Did you know that he once challenged Heidegger to darts? He won.
5. Saddest Person: Alex Smith
Pity poor Alex Smith. Halfway into the best season of his career, the former number-one overall pick sustained a concussion, and backup Colin Kaepernick played so well in his stead that Smith stayed on the bench after he recovered. Then Kaepernick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Smith came along because, you know, it’s the Super Bowl. Could be kinda cool. Smith had always wanted to go to the Super Bowl, he just never really pictured it being like this. It’s OK, though. It’s fine. Seriously, he’s good. Seriously. Stop asking. The Jets’ll be fun.
6. Saddest Walrus: Andy Reid
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS FOOTBALL, BITCH.
7. Most Likely to Be a Real, Actual Witch: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning missed last season because of his SPINE. Not like, his hand, or his knee, or his ankle, or whatever. The injury that kept Peyton Manning out for 12 months had to do with that long column of vertebrae and whatnot that keeps your body from turning into a broken Muppet. And then Manning comes back and immediately plays MVP-quality football? At age 36? GET OUTTA TOWN, WITCH. I don’t like the cut of your jib. Cool hat. Where’d you get that hat? From the WITCH CONVENTION? I’m on to you, Manning.
8. Angriest Dude: Jim Harbaugh
Angry Jim Harbaugh probably remains angry, considering his 49ers just lost the Super Bowl. But angry Jim Harbaugh has been around for a minute now — angry Jim Harbaugh is Jim Harbaugh. He’s all of us ever exasperated by a sports thing. He is you, he is me, he is the world, he is the children. Unleash your inner Jim Harbaugh, but only in approved locations.
9. Most Heartrendingly Disappointing: The Detroit Lions
Last season, the Detroit Lions made the playoffs for the first time since our calendar started putting “20-” at the front of the year. (Still a remarkably bold move.) This is a team that has become synonymous with ineptitude, that seemed to almost revel in it, making draft picks that were the football equivalent of self-sabotage. (Unless they were planning on running an 11-receiver offense, in which case, bully.) So, what’s a team to do when it completely bucks the identity that it has spent a decade carefully cultivating? Revert to form immediately! The Lions sucked this year despite one of the best seasons of all time from its best wide receiver. The Lions will always hurt you.
10. Most Surprising: Joe Flacco
Nobody expected to see Joe Flacco named Super Bowl MVP. Not this year, not ever.
11. Most Likely to Leave You Bleeding out in a Roadside Ditch in South Dakota: Bernard Pollard
Super Bowl champion Bernard Pollard is basically the hazards of football made flesh, a land-shark speed missile that destroys and demolishes and does very little else. During the AFC Championship Game, Pollard added Stevan Ridley to the long list of New England Patriots he has significantly injured, and he as much as any other player represents the obstacles the NFL has to overcome if it hopes to exist as a sport and not the modern American equivalent of gladiatorial combat.
12. Most Likely to Boil Down Roadkill and Use It as a Performance-Enhancing Drug: Ray Lewis
Now that Ray Lewis is retiring, he has an implausible amount of deer antler spray to get off his hands. This girl already bought like, 37 gallons. Get yours today.
13. Most Likely to Be a Spambot: Darnell Dockett
The Darnell Dockett experience is a strange one. First, he hit on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend. Then, his Twitter continued to be so weird and implausibly profane that it had to have been hacked, until it went on for so long that it couldn’t have possibly been hacked. The majority of Dockett’s tweets last night had to do with either Beyoncé’s, uh, allure, or how his Aston Martin somehow related to the Ravens. Either way, it’s a miracle he hasn’t been fined a zillion dollars by Goodell yet.
14. Sexiest Tattoo: Rex Ryan
Awww yeah. Mmm hmm. Uh-huh.
Sidenote: When planning a tattoo, don’t combine details of your very temporary players (say their numbers…*cough* Mark Sanchez *cough*) with an image of your hopefully permanent wife.
15. Best Hipster: Connor Barwin
Best hipster? Only hipster? Either way, Barwin established a very NBA identity for himself as an NFL player by using Instagram and various other forms of multimedia to show himself as a dude who wears jorts, likes good music, and has a very deliberate haircut. JORTS.
16. Most Likely to Be the Next Thomas Edison: J.J. Watt
Ignore the Express shirts: J.J. Watt is an INNOVATOR. The Texans’ lineman and defensive player of the year basically invented a new way to impact a football game, swatting down passes and rushing the quarterback with equal levels of effectiveness. He’s like the Ronald Reagan–era Star Wars space-missile defense system, except playing football, and real, and actually effective.
17. Dumbest Club: The Arizona Cardinals Quarterbacks
John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer like to get together after school and throw footballs through a tire swing. Except the football never actually goes through the tire swing; it usually ends up just hitting the nearest parked car, usually belonging to someone more important, like Larry Fitzgerald. Larry keeps getting pissed.
18. The Worst: Mark Sanchez
The combined works of Sartre and Camus were really just a preparatory braising to prepare the world for the black hole of angst and despair that is Mark Sanchez.