Written by Matthew Slinn
Images by Axel Raven
Very soon, the SFL Honours will be announced for Season 16. These awards are reserved for the best of the best – the elite. Only a career-changing season warrants a nomination for one of these awards, and Commissioner Irvine and the other ‘high-ups’ within the SFL do a great job in picking the right players for the voting poll. Every player on the honours poll this season most certainly deserves to be there. They have all had outstanding seasons and are a credit to their team. However, as with all things, the SFL Honours brings with it a variance of opinion. The exclusive club is so tough to get into that there are sometimes worthy players who get left on the side-lines. Players who have performed above and beyond for their teams this season – players who, in my eyes, deserved a shot at prestigious individual accolades. Once again, this article is not here to decry from any of the selections that were made – they are all worthy. This piece is here to give some love to those players who deserve it. These are the top 5 players who were ‘snubbed’ in the Honours poll (in no particular order).
Josh Miller, Quarterback, Denver Nightwings
The Season 16 Champions were as clutch as it gets on offense this season, and there’s no question that the engine of the operation came from running back, Jarred McChesney, nominated for SFL MVP and OPOTY respectively. Because of this, I think that many of us look over how good the Nightwings’ passing game was too. Josh Miller, almost quietly, had an excellent season, finding all of his receivers consistently and spreading the ball around like the experienced QB that he is. When we compare Miller to the three QBs nominated for an award, his numbers hold up well. The most glaring number that appears is Miller’s QBR of 94.5, good for second in the SFL and above that of Ace Fenech and Tom Pepper. Miller’s completion percentage also ranks second, behind Ron Cockren, and his YPA and TD/INT ratio looks very healthy too. Many of you may be wondering what the reason of his absence is. When you look at the attempts Miller had and the yards he threw for in comparison to Cockren, Pepper and Fenech, there’s no competition. Miller threw for just under 3,000 yards, nearly 500 less than Cockren and over 1,000 less than Pepper. It is this fact that gives me understanding as to why Miller was left out, but personally, I still think he was unlucky. It appears that the veteran was a victim of being outshone by McChesney, who, if we’re honest, had a pure MVP calibre season.
Robert Redford, Running Back, Vancouver Legion
It’s not often that a player rushes for nearly 1,400 yards, hits nearly 6 yards per carry and scores 16 TDs and STILL doesn’t make it into the awards nominations. This unfortunate fate befell Vancouver Legion running back, Robert Redford, who was passed up in place of Jarrod McChesney and Mexico City rusher, Phoenix Jones. Redford is a running back of excellent calibre – a player who has been at the top of his game for 3 or 4 seasons now. If you watched him and the Vancouver Legion offense this season, the sheer explosiveness style that they displayed might make you think Redford was a shoe in for OPOTY honours. Look closer, however, and it becomes a little more clear why he missed out. Ball security. Whilst putting up huge numbers across the board, ‘R squared’ racked up the totals in the fumbles column, dropping three balls during the season and losing two. McChesney and Jones (who scored a mammoth 19 TDs by the way) never dropped the ball and remained turnover free all season. Still, despite this, Redford clearly had a season to remember. Maybe, much like Miller previously, he was in the shade of his offensive counterparts, Tom Pepper and his receivers acting like the lightning to Redford’s thunder. As we know, lightning shines the brighter. I just think that Redford’s thunder was loud enough to warrant attention too.
Bob Funk, Free Safety, Portland Fleet
Choosing defensive players for the DPOTY award must have been an unenviable task – there were so many great performances this season! An unprecedented amount of stars on the defensive side of the ball impressed, some who don’t even make it into my ‘Top 5 Snubs’ list. One player who does make it however, is Bob Funk, safety for the much improved Portland Fleet. Portland’s young defense has always been a tough nut to crack, and they added even more layers this season. I have been a fairly loud supporter of Bob Funk over the last few weeks and was somewhat surprised he didn’t squeak his way in to a DPOTY nomination. Funk may not have led the league in any one category, but across the board, he has been excellent – especially in coverage. Funk positively affected 24 passes this season, deflecting 12 and, more importantly, making 12 interceptions too. That number of two-dozen is good for second in the SFL, with the dozen INTs also coming in at second behind DPOTY nominee, Succo Lohmano. I took a look back into the history of the SFL, way back to Season 4 and (bar Season 15, the stats of which I couldn’t find readily available) no other player had replicated Funk’s achievement of 12 PDs and 12 INTs in a single season. Yes, many have knocked down more passes and even snagged more picks, but the combination of the two – nope! Funk’s tackling stats are a bit low compared with nominees like Troy Loshaw and Lohmano, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that he is one of the best, if not the best, coverage players in the SFL.
Max Jackson, Strong Safety, Las Vegas Fury
If there is one player you want as the rear-guard for your team, it’s Max Jackson. Jackson has held down the strong safety position in Vegas for a few seasons now and is often in the conversation as one of the best in his position that season, if not, all-time. The all-round nature of Jackson’s play style is what sets him apart from many, and that was on full display in Season 16. Against the run, #37 sat near the top for his position in every category, hitting just over 100 tackles, 5 of those for a loss and a further 2 forcing a fumble, 1 of which he recovered. Then we look at his pass defense. Jackson picked the opposition QB off 10 times in an all-action season, whilst also knocking 17 passes down for good measure. Having an impact on 27 passes this season ranks Jackson at the top when you combine PDs and INTs. The next closest is the aforementioned Bob Funk, who combined for 24 pass break-ups. It seems that the Vegas safety missed out on a nomination because of the ridiculous INT numbers put up by the nominated safeties, Lohmano and Loshaw picking off QBs 13 and 12 times respectively, but when you look at the overall picture, it’s hard to deny Jackson’s place on the ballot. For those who may call this selection into question given my ties to Vegas, your question is valid. All I can do I ask you to put your trust in my integrity as a writer. I hope the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Max Jackson.
John Banfield, Wide Receiver, DC Dragons
Last, but not least, we come to a rookie. More specifically, a rookie wide receiver on a DC team comprised of 75% rookies, catching passes from a returning QB who had a decent, not great, season. Jeff Banfield is one of the best young talents in the SFL, and despite being on a team with a very crowded receiver room, he managed to shine brightly above most rookies in the league. Quickly establishing himself as DC’s number 1 target, Banfield lit up defenses, catching 66 balls for 879 yards at a clip of 13.3 yards per reception. The catches and yards were best of all rookie pass catchers, his 13.3 YPC only bested by Lone Star’s Deuce Fenech, a player who was nominated for the OROTY. These facts alone would tempt me to include him as a nomination. So then, why did he miss out? It’s fairly simple. Touchdowns. Banfield did cross the whitewash for 6 points this season, but he only did it 4 times. It seems that the youngster was excellent between the red zones, or when catching a long pass and taking it to the house. His red zone chops were just not quite up to it though to warrant a nomination comparatively to the other nominees. Fenech, previously mentioned, had 6 TDs. This was enough to push him over the top of Banfield. In my book, Banfield did enough to make it onto the ballot. Of all the rookies, he was the most unlucky.
For one, I can’t wait for this season’s awards to be announced. Whoever wins will be most deserving and there should be no complaints at the result. However, like we stated, these things breed opinion. As such, we may take a look at who we think should have been crowned the winner of each award, after the results have been announced. If you would like to read another article discussing the ins and outs of the SFL Honours, check back with us soon.