Tough call on 49ers team awards

Tough call on 49ers team awards
January 4, 2013, 8:45 am
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Will the real Allin Smithernick please stand up?

The 49ers had a league-high nine players selected to the Pro Bowl. That's the first indication it is a difficult task to name the winners of team awards.

But we're going to give it a try. . .

Most Valuable Offensive Player: Allin Smithernick
That's right, the combination of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick wins this award, as this season featured the 49ers' most efficient play from the quarterback position since the 1994 regular season -- the last time the franchise won the Super Bowl.

Smith and Kaepernick combined for a 101.2 passer rating. It's the best the 49ers' quarterback have fared in that category since Steve Young carried the day to a 111.4 rating in 1994.

Smith and Kaepernick combined to complete 66.3 percent of their passes for an average per attempt of 8.1 yards. Smithernick threw 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Kaepernick also was the 49ers' second-leading rusher with 415 yards and five touchdowns. Smith added 132 yards on the ground.

Smith was playing at an all-time best level until exiting the lineup on Nov. 11 with a concussion. Kaepernick stepped in and played remarkably well, prompting 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to make the controversial switch to lead the team the rest of the way and into the playoffs.

Offensive Player(s) of the Year: Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree
Gore carried the 49ers early in the season, and Crabtree came on late in the year, as the 49ers' ground and air leaders accounted for more than 2,500 yards of total offense.

Gore was named to his fourth Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns. Crabtree did not get any Pro Bowl recognition, but he became the 49ers' only legitimate option in the passing game down the stretch. Crabtree recorded 85 catches for 1,105 yards -- coincidentally, the exact same numbers Dwight Clark compiled in 1981 when the 49ers went on to the franchise's first Super Bowl. Clark had four touchdowns in the 1981 regular season; Crabtree had nine this season.

The 49ers' offensive line of Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis deserves special mention for strong play both in run blocking and pass protection.

Most Valuable Defensive Player: Justin Smith
Smith, a defensive tackle who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time, factors greatly into every aspect of the 49ers' defense. He attracts double-team blocks and often beats them to make the play himself. He occupies blockers, which allows his teammates, including the linebackers, to roam freely and make plays. In the final 10 quarters to end the season when Smith was out with a partially torn triceps tendon, the 49ers surrendered 79 points on defense. The defense allowed just 180 points in the first 13 1/2 games of the season with Smith on the field for nearly every snap.

Defensive Player(s) of the Year: Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis
Aldon Smith set a 49ers' team record of 19.5 sacks on the season, breaking the previous official mark of Fred Dean (17.5, 1983) and the unofficial record of Cedrick Hardman (18.0, set in 1971 before the NFL recognized sacks as a statistic). Smith also did a commendable job as he made the transition in his second season to an every-down outside linebacker.

Willis continued on his Hall of Fame arch as he became the first 49ers player in franchise history to earn a Pro Bowl trip in each of his first six NFL seasons. He was the team's second-leading tackler and he excelled in pass coverage, which is unique for an inside linebacker.

Leading tackler NaVorro Bowman and hard-hitting safety Dashon Goldson also played well enough to warrant serious consideration.

Most Valuable Special Teams Player: Andy Lee
Lee and long-snapper Brian Jennings were the constants for the special-teams units that saw its share of ups and downs this season. Again, Lee was remarkable. He led the NFL with a net punting average of 43.2 yards, as he provided the hang time and directional punting to allow his coverage unit to secure the tackles on punt returners and win the field-position game.