Highway robbery against Antoine Winfield Jr.
One Buccaneer now has more bulletin board material for tomorrow, not that he needed it. Antoine Winfield Jr. was passed up for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in favor of Chase Young, and the NFL accolades have completed their transition towards a complete popularity contest.
While Chase Young is a great young man and poised for an incredible future in the NFL, his rookie campaign is officially the weakest of any pass rusher ever to win the award statistically. Far-less accomplished rookies have replicated or surpassed 7.5 sacks, ten tackles for loss, and 12 quarterback hits in the past, yet the NFL is rushing to crown Young as the next great at the expense of Winfield and the Bucs.
Just to be clear, Maxx Crosby and Josh Allen both surpassed Young in every statistical category in their rookie seasons with fewer starts, yet no one bowed down at their feet. Perhaps the stats don’t matter after all.
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Winfield Jr. is the only rookie still playing that was in contention for the award, showed out in the playoffs and the regular season, and played a meaningful role throughout the season. Winfield made it to the quarterback, forced turnovers, and finished the season with a comparable number of tackles to an off-ball linebacker.
While none of the rookies set themselves apart statistically, Young won the award for one reason and one reason alone; pre-season hype. Young was obviously one of the best prospects to come out of the past few draft classes and has an extremely high ceiling, but that isn’t what the award should be based on.
When the NFL awards Young for his pre-season expectations alone, which he frankly did not reach, they are actively detracting from careers of more deserving players like Antoine Winfield Jr. It doesn’t matter how well a second-round draft pick plays; when he is going up against the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, there was no chance from the start.
Antoine Winfield Jr. shows the issue with the award
While Winfield Jr.’s legacy is not solely based on this award, knowing he deserved it makes this sting all the more. If anything, this only proves that important individual accolades will only go to players who live in the limelight, whether they deserve it or not. Keep in mind, the national media was fine to vote Young into the Pro Bowl, but they can’t get Jordan Whitehead’s name right.
Fortunately for Winfield, a Super Bowl ring is the real prize anyway. All of the individual awards on the planet don’t matter if you can’t get to this point, so a win tomorrow could help soothe the pain of this slight, but Winfield surely won’t forget this.
The Buccaneers as a whole can’t afford to forget this either. This is just one of a long line of slaps in the face the franchise and its players have taken during one of the most surprising seasons of the modern era, yet the media continues to turn a blind eye. We’re used to it.
Tampa Bay didn’t need any additional motivation for this game as they’re already playing all-out, but a win tomorrow would force the media to start giving the Buccaneers the bare attention they deserve finally.
Make them realize their mistake tomorrow, Antoine.
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