The Dolphins didn't hand out an MVP award last offseason because, among other things, the team didn't want to embarrass some player for being the best player on the NFL's worst team.
Things are different this year.
Moments ago, the Dolphins announced their 2008 award winners with quarterback Chad Pennington and linebacker Joey Porter sharing the Dan Marino Most Valuable Player Award.
Pennington, as you know, joined the Dolphins during preseason as a castoff from the New York Jets and only threw 19 touchdown passes with seven interceptions while completing 67.4 percent of his passes in leading the Dolphins offense.
Porter was the cornerstone of the defense, leading the team with 17.5 sacks for 96 yards in losses. He ranked first in the AFC and second in the NFL in the sacks category. Porter, by the way, had some thoughts about the coming season that shows what the Dolphins think of all the love the New England Patriots are getting from pundits:
"We proved that that the AFC East comes through Miami, and having that feeling, knowing that we're the champions until proven otherwise," Porter said, according to colleague David J. Neal. "Our mindset is to win the division, set ourselves up for a playoff spot and then anything can happen once we reach the playoffs."
But what about the Pats?
"I don't understand how you put someone in front of us and we were the AFC East champs," Porter said. "We won the championship. We're the AFC East champs. You gotta beat someone to be the champion."
Porter apparently isn't a lone voice in the wilderness on this thought. Neal asked general manager Jeff Ireland if he agreed with Porter's assessment that the division title runs through Miami. The general manager went into a bit about how Porter is known for speaking his mind and so forth before offering this endorsement of the idea:
"It does," Ireland agreed.
Pennington, who received NFL MVP votes last season, also captured the Don Shula Leadership Award, annointing him the voice of the Dolphins locker room.
The Nat Moore Community Service award goes to Akin Ayodele while the Ed Bock Courage Award has been awarded to running back Ronnie Brown. Ayodele has been indefatigable in his service to underprivileged young people while Brown made an eye-popping recovery from a scary knee injury that not only threatened his season but his career.
The awards were handed out at Joe's Stone Crab on Miami Beach. As we speak they are serving breakfast. Steak, eggs and crab cakes are on the menu.
As this is a blog and, more specifically, my blog, I am today officially expanding the list of awards winners. As late as 1995, the Dolphins would give out awards to every position and in other categories. Jimmy Johnson killed that tradition ...
... And Armando Salguero is unofficially reviving it. So here now are the unofficial Mandos:
Newcomer of the year: Pennington, of course. Were it not for his arrival, the Dolphins might have won more like seven games instead of 11.
Outstanding offensive back: Brown. The guy scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 4.3 yards per carry behind an offensive line that had a center team management didn't like, had a hole at RG team management was constantly trying to fill, and had two new starters on the left side.
Outstanding receiver: Greg Camarillo. He was leading the team in receptions and yards through the first 11 games and impressed the team so much, he earned a new contract. He missed the final five games after suffering a knee injury but still finished only one catch off the team lead for receptions.
Outstanding offensive lineman: Jake Long edges out Vernon Carey simply because his arrival not only improved the left side, but also allowed the Dolphins to put Carey back at his natural RT spot -- thus affecting two positions positively.
Outstanding defensive back: You guys know how much love I have for Yeremiah Bell. But Andre' Goodman was lockdown city the last half of the season and led the team with five interceptions.
Outstanding linebacker: Porter obviously gets the prize but you have to admire the work Matt Roth did in converting to a new position and playing with a torn groin muscle much of the season.
Outstanding defensive lineman: Jason Ferguson. He played only 35 plays or so per game, but he was an anchor in the middle and one reason the Dolphins went from last in the NFL against the run in 2007 to 10th in 2008.
Rookie of the Year: Long, but Davone Bess and Dan Carpenter deserve recognition.
Outstanding special teams performer: Carpenter. The kid did the improbable by beating out a veteran kicker despite not being drafted and then he didn't miss a field goal from 39-yards and in all year long. He was also 10 of 14 from 40 yards and beyond. And this year he's the only player on the roster with no one competing for his position.
Outstanding Media Relations person: Fitz Ollison came to the team as the No. 3 media relations guy and brought a depth of experience and expertise from his other NFL stops -- which included San Francisco and Detroit -- that added to Harvey Greene's capable staff. He is No. 2 on the media relations depth chart this year.
Outstanding team executive: He does not talk to the media but his moves speak volumes. Bill Parcells hired budding star GM Jeff Ireland, hired excellent head coach Tony Sparano, and retained outstanding college scouting director Chris Grier. Three excellent moves and there were about two dozen more after that.
Outstanding assistant coach: Quarterback coach David Lee had very little to work with midway through training camp, as both John Beck and Josh McCown struggled at times while rookie Chad Henne was, well, a rookie. Then Pennington shows up and Lee gets him ready to play in the span of about three weeks. Then the team is in desperation mode and Lee shows everyone the Wild Cat package that would surprise New England and become all the NFL rage. Good work.
By way of a prize, each award winner has the option of spending five minutes with me, spilling every team secret he knows, so I can pass them along to you.
So give me your award winners ... And what are your thoughts on the AFC East? Do you agree with Porter?