The Philadelphia sports landscape is most certainly different than it was 365 days ago.
The Eagles were ending an up and down first season with Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson. The 76ers hadn’t reached their January surge yet, but Joel Embiid was impressing “Hinkie-ites” and those who didn’t support Sam Hinkie. The Flyers were a couple weeks removed from an exciting 10-game winning streak. And the Phillies were leaving some (me included) to believe they could be a .500 baseball team in 2017.
A year later, the Birds are 13-2, possessing the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. The 76ers are finishing up a brutal month of December after starting 13-9. The Flyers are puzzling because they clearly possess talent to compete in a very tough Metropolitan Division, but don’t show up sometimes, especially to inferior opponents. The Phillies, again, are making their fans hopeful that Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and J.P. Crawford can be the next core that brings the franchise back to postseason contender.
So, it is with great honor that I bring you the second annual Philly Influencer Awards. Like 2016, they are solely my decision, so if you disagree, I’m on Twitter (@MrUram) and you can email me at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just comment below.
Here they are:
Co-Rookies of the Year: Ben Simmons (76ers) and Rhys Hoskins (Phillies)
At first, Simmons was the winner of this unofficial award because him averaging 16.8 points, 7.6 assists and 8.7 rebounds in 36.2 minutes per game in his “red shirt rookie season” is outstanding and should be very exciting for the future.
If Simmons and the 76ers can learn how to win games, stop giving up leads and minimize their turnovers, like I wrote before, watch out.
But, the reason Simmons is sharing Rookie of the Year with Hoskins, is because how can you ignore what the 24-year-old Phillie accomplished? Just about everyone of his 18 homeruns were miraculous. It was a nightly show watching the Sacramento native. It was Hoskins’ world and we were living in it as spectators.
• Corey Clement, Eagles
• Derek Barnett, Eagles
• Joel Embiid, 76ers
Most Improved Player: Nelson Agholor (Eagles)
No debate on this one. If Agholor wasn’t a former first round pick who would’ve been a nasty cap casualty, you could speculate his job security was at risk.
However, the USC standout overcame his mental block, rebounded from his embarrassing struggles, and has 59 receptions, 757 yards and eight touchdowns.
• Sean Couturier, Flyers
• Brandon Graham, Eagles
Hustler of the Year: T.J. McConnell (76ers)
Handing out this award was much tougher than last year because no one dove into the stands like Joel Embiid did a season ago.
As far as McConnell is concerned, how many times does he come up with a timely steal or a loose ball? The Pittsburgh native wouldn’t be where he is in the NBA if he wasn’t a kid who never hesitated to get his uniform dirty, even though that’s kind of impossible on the basketball court.
• Brandon Graham, Eagles … Graham leads the Eagles in sacks. He should be a Pro Bowler. The reason McConnell beat him out was getting sacks is part of the defensive end’s job.
• Chris Long, Eagles … The veteran has recorded four strip sacks this season for the Birds. Impressive.
• Derek Barnett, Eagles … The rookie usually falls on the forced fumbles, recovering two this season and taking one back to the house against the Raiders.
• Nick Williams, Phillies …. The outfielder had a reputation of not hustling in the minors. His play was quite the contrary after he came up to the Phillies. It always seemed like Williams, who possesses speed, was busting it out of the box. Williams needs to prove he will continue to do so in his second season.
• Freddy Galvis, Phillies … The man always hustled during his Philadelphia tenure. Best of luck in San Diego. Galvis was a solid Phillie that deserved to play on better teams.
• Wayne Simmonds, Flyers … Hard to find someone who crowds the net better on the Flyers.
• Joel Embiid, 76ers
Most Frustrating Sports Figure of the Year (Formally Chip Kelly Fraud of the Year): Bryan Colangelo (76ers)
In changing the theme of this negative award from a mean name to a fair title, this award goes to the person who made the city pull its figurative hair out more often than not. This distinction goes to someone who should of been better in his overall performance.
Sam Hinkie’s successor was supposed to bring a different vibe to the Sixers. Except, it was one that lacked transparency, especially with the Joel Embiid knee and Ben Simmons foot injuries. The Markelle Fultz shoulder mystery could be added to the list as well. Colangelo acknowledged the Sixers need to be more forthcoming, so kudos to him, but the President frustrated a lot of “Hinkie-ites” and non Sam Hinkie supporters in 2017. The returns he got in the Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor trades didn’t help either.
• Matt Klentak, Phillies
• Michael Saunders, Phillies
• Odubel Herrera, Phillies
• Maikel Franco, Phillies
• Vince Velasquez, Phillies
• Dave Hakstol, Flyers
• Claude Giroux (2016-17 Version), Flyers
• Jim Schwartz, Eagles
Coach of the Year: Doug Pederson (Eagles)
It’s not even debatable and there are no runner-ups. Pederson proved those who doubted him (me included) wrong. On top of being infinitely more likable than his two predecessors, Pederson is adaptable, a smart game manager and a risk taker who’s gambles workout more often than not. He, along with his assistants groomed Carson Wentz brilliantly in his second season.
From what I like to call “The Eye Sore of Philadelphia Sports” based on his infamous stint in 1999, to the head coach of the 13-2 Philadelphia Eagles, tip your cap to Pederson. Sean McVay will probably win NFL coach of the year. It should be Pederson. He at least wins this unofficial award.
• Jay Wright, Villanova Men’s Basketball
General Manager of the Year: Howie Roseman (Eagles)
Unfortunately for Roseman, there is no award for “Executive Vice President of Football Operations.” But, the de facto general manager of the Eagles is the clear cut winner. Again, there is no second place finisher. The rest of the GMs in town had bad 2017’s, while Roseman shined.
His offseason signings have all worked out for the most part, including Torrey Smith, who stretches the field. Roseman’s trade for Jay Ajayi was brilliant. Most importantly, his hiring of Joe Douglas was probably the biggest acquisition of the season, as Jeffery Lurie shared a very similar sentiment.
Like Pederson, Roseman’s story in Philadelphia sports is one of the best in recent memory. Just think about how good their tales will be if the Birds win the Super Bowl.
• Ron Hextall, Flyers
Most Valuable Player: Carson Wentz, Eagles
The second year quarterback from North Dakota was having a dream season and one many of us expect him to have for years to come.
The Eagles could still win the Super Bowl, but the task would be much easier with Wentz. The Oakland game, which they barely won, proved they’re a much different team without him. He was the engine that made this well oiled offensive machine run. If the Birds fail miserably in the playoffs, this fake award will hold even more legitimacy.
It’s a shame his season ended the way it did.
• Joel Embiid, 76ers … The Sixers record without the center speaks for itself.
• Joel Embiid, 76ers
Moment of the Year: Jake Elliott’s Game Winning 61-Yard Field Goal versus the Giants
There are so many moments from this amazing Eagles season that define what happened. Not that the Birds would be bad if Elliott’s field goal didn’t in, but their season would include more road bumps. The kick sent the Birds into the direction of elite while it booted the Giants to a dysfunctional mess.
Carson Wentz was brilliant against the Panthers and Redskins on Monday Night Football, but Elliott got the magic started.
• Kris Jenkins’ Buzzer Beater to Win a National Championship for Villanova
Team of the Year: Eagles
No explanation needed.
• Villanova Men’s Basketball
Thanks for reading PhillyInfluencer.com all year. Look forward to more columns in 2018. Happy New Year!