Amidst a season where his team started off 2-5, and then a stretch run where he was playing with essentially one hand, throughout the season J.J. Watt still maintained his usual super-human level of energy and, aside from the three one-handed weeks, his super-human level of production. Still, when the season ended, there was mild concern that those three weeks, in addition to the usual boredom that the media seems to experience voting for the same guy every year, would cost Watt his third Defensive Player of the Year award in five seasons.
In the end, not only did Watt win the award, but he won it in a landslide, destroying the competition the same way he destroyed quarterbacks numerous times this season in the pocket. On Saturday night, at the NFL Honors awards show, Watt became the second three-time winner of the league's Defensive Player of the Year award, joining Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. He also became only the second player to win the award in back-to-back seasons, again joining Taylor.
The voting constituency is the 50 AP writers who vote on all of the usual awards, such as MVP and the All-Pro teams. Voters can pick one player. Here are the final numbers in what turned out to be a very lopsided vote:
J.J. Watt, Houston ... 37 votes
Aaron Donald, St. Louis ... 7 votes
Luke Kuechly, Carolina ... 4 votes
Josh Norman, Carolina ... 2 votes
Watt led the league in sacks (17.5), QB hits (50) and tackles for loss (29), while also knocking down eight passes. Since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, Watt and Reggie White are the only players with at least 17 sacks in three different seasons. His 101 QB hits over the past two seasons are more than any other player has notched over a THREE-year span since the statistic was first created in 2006. In short, nobody dominates team sports compared to the next wave of players at his position the way J.J. Watt does.
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All of this makes the Texans' need for improvement next season that much more acute. Von Miller was the second overall pick in the same draft in which J.J. Watt went 11th overall, and you could argue that Miller, MVP of last night's Super Bowl, has made more plays that truly matter in this postseason than Watt has made in his entire career. Languishing on a 9-7 team that has a rotating door of inept quarterbacks is no way for the greatest defensive player on the planet to burn the daylight of his prime years, and yet, that's what Watt is dangerously close to doing. It bears watching, especially as the game takes even more of a physical toll on the normally indestructible Watt, who left the Texans' 30-0 playoff loss with a shredded groin muscle, a harrowing sight for Texans fans used to seeing Watt seek and destroy at will, like it's the last 45 minutes of a Transformers movie.
Watt saved his finest moment on Saturday night for his speech, in which he didn't spend a ton of time thanking teammates, family members or fans. Instead, he kept it short and sweet, and decided to remind his naysayers that they're all idiots (I'm paraphrasing): "I was a two-star recruit coming out and now I have three (Defensive Player of the Year) awards. So...screw all of you guys for doubting me."
If this is the beginning of a subtle Watt heel turn, count me in!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.