The Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles were the runaway leaders in the NFL's offensive and defensive statistics, respectively, in 1991, so can individual honors be far behind? Five Bills, including four on offense, made my 13th All-Pro team, as did four members of the Eagle defense, including three fourths of its magnificent line.
The glue that holds that Philly defense together is outside linebacker Seth Joyner, who's equally adept at both rushing the passer and covering a receiver. He has had his finest season in six years as a pro, and he's my Player of the Year.
Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins was an easy choice for Coach of the Year. The 14-2 Skins played on a consistently high plane all season. A trio of newcomers—the Cleveland Browns' Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots' Dick MacPherson, the Eagles' Richie Kotite—did terrific jobs, too; Wayne Fontes of the Detroit Lions and Jerry Glanville of the Atlanta Falcons deserve mention for the wonders they worked.
Quarterback was a two-man race between Buffalo's Jim Kelly and Washington's Mark Rypien, but Kelly won out by a hair because of his ability to get things done in a hurry when he has to. A special citation goes to the Indianapolis Colts' Jeff George, who somehow stayed alive despite suffering a league-high 56 sacks.
My running backs, Buffalo's Thurman Thomas and Detroit's Barry Sanders, were chalk. Thomas again proved to be the game's most complete back, and Sanders is one of the greatest ever at turning a potential three-yard loss into a five-yard gain. The Los Angeles Rams' Robert Delpino, who performed with courage in a hopeless cause, was the choice at receiver-back.
The Bills' Andre Reed and the Dallas Cowboys' Michael Irvin emerged from a five-man final for the two wideout spots. The Houston Oilers' Haywood Jeffires had the most catches, but most of them were on six-yard hitch patterns. Atlanta's Andre Rison had some superb games, and the San Francisco 49ers' Jerry Rice is still the league's premier receiver—he just didn't have the best year—but Reed and Irvin got the nod for week-after-week consistency. An easier choice was tight end. The Patriots' Marv Cook ran away with pass-catching honors at that position. Normally I favor a blocker here, but this year the blockers didn't catch and the catchers didn't block.
The 49ers' Harris Barton and the Kansas City Chiefs' John Alt represent contrasting styles at offensive tackle. Barton, who's niftier, is adept at pulling either way. Alt is a pillar, a crushing drive blocker. Both can protect the passer. Just a shade behind them was Washington's Jim Lachey.
Steve Wisniewski, who had a superb game against the Seattle Seahawks' Cortez Kennedy early in the season, when Kennedy was considered unblockable, is a powerful force at left guard for the Los Angeles Raiders. And I got a real kick out of watching the savvy and remarkably quick strike of Miami Dolphin guard Harry Galbreath, who looked like he'd been watching old films of Dwight Stephenson. If I could have picked a third guard, Buffalo's Jim Ritcher would have been the man. In an agonizing decision at center, I went with the Bills' Kent Hull over the Raiders' Don Mosebar, who really came on at the end of the season. Hull won out on overall smarts.
On defense, both of Philly's ends, Reggie White and Clyde Simmons, made the team, with no challengers in sight. They are fundamentally sound, and they can close down the run or rush the passer. Their teammate Jerome Brown narrowly beat out last year's pick at tackle, Ray Childress of the Houston Oilers. On technique, Childress is the best in the business, but Brown was more dominating. And keep an eye on Kennedy, who had a great year.
Noseguard was a three-man race among Detroit's Jerry Ball, who's the toughest to block when he comes on hard; K.C.'s Dan Saleaumua, my choice the past two years; and the Denver Broncos' Greg Kragen, this year's selection because he was the hardest worker of the three and was in on the most plays.