Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson may not be the best thing since sliced bread, as Warren Sapp derisively said, but he is the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The defensive tackle, who started from the day he joined Gang Green, was honored Saturday at Radio City Music Hall.
The 295-pound Richardson was the heart of the Jets’ defense, starting all 16 games and finishing with 77 tackles, third-best among defensive linemen. And while Hall of Famer Sapp derided him, Richardson had his day.
“Let’s not anoint this kid the next best thing since sliced bread yet,’’ Sapp said, calling him a run-stopper in a pass-rushing league and added the Jets rookie was “not that highly-skilled of a pass rusher.’’
Saturday, Richardson couldn’t care less.
“It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m having a blast. Any questions?’’ said Richardson. Naturally, the first was what he thought Sapp might say after seeing him with his award. “I have no idea, and I really don’t care at the moment.’’
Richardson had a modest 3 ½ sacks, but he one of the linchpins to Gang Green’s stout defense. He is the first Jet to win the award since linebacker Jonathan Vilma in 2004. He ended up with 23 votes to edge Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso’s 19.
“I’m surprised,” Richardson said. “Kiko and [Arizona Cardinals safety] Tyrann [Mathieu] definitely had outstanding rookie years. It was a toss-up to me. Kiko had a lot of tackles and Tyrann made a lot of plays. Unfortunately, he got hurt. It was a close race.’’
After being the 13th selection in April’s draft — the pick acquired from Tampa Bay in return for Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis — Richardson has repeatedly talked about having a chip on his shoulder about where he had been drafted, and said if the draft were done over he would have been the No. 1 pick.
Asked Saturday at Radio City if his Defensive Rookie of the Year award was a statement to the teams that passed him over, Richardson took the high road.
“I don’t really pay much attention to it. I’m most definitely happy to accept this award, though,’’ Richardson said.
Peyton Manning won his fifth Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award in a landslide.
The Broncos’ record-setting quarterback, who threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards in leading Denver to the AFC’s best record, earned 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members. Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady got the other vote.
Manning won his other MVPs with Indianapolis in 2003, ’04, ’08 and ’09. He was the runner-up last season to Adrian Peterson.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who led the team to a 12-4 record, the NFC South title and a first-round playoff bye, won the AP NFL Coach of the Year award. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was voted the top defensive player. … Packers running back Eddie Lacy was voted the league’s top offensive rookie. … Chargers QB Philip Rivers was named the Comeback Player of the Year. He led the league with a 69.5 completion rate and threw for 32 TDs against 11 interceptions.