49ers linebacker Patrick Willis continues his rapid assent towards eventual Hall of Famer with another award yesterday. The NFL Alumni Association handed out its 2010 Player of the Year Awards and Willis won the linebacker position for the third time in four seasons (thanks to these3words for his FanShot). According to CSN Bay Area, Packers LB Clay Matthews and Dolphins LB Cameron Wake were the other two candidates for the award.
Bamm Bamm finished 2010 with relatively (for him) pedestrian numbers as amassed 128 total tackles. Of course, he added in a career high 6 sacks as he showed how his crazy athleticism can benefit the pass rush. One could argue that this season is proof that the reputation of Patrick Willis is officially sky high. He's always been a respected player, but now it seems as though he's reached that level where people just assume he's great before they completely check out the numbers. That's not to say he wasn't great in 2010, but this is the kind of thing that only builds on his Hall of Fame credentials.
The Hall of Fame should be on a somewhat objective standard, but we all know that's not the case. Reputation can have as much to do with getting in as anything else. By earning an All-Pro honors and this award for the second straight season, he's pretty much "the man" at the linebacker position. I don't know if I'm explaining myself clearly with this, but hopefully you get what I'm trying to say.
The really important question for us now is whether it's time to have a re-vote on our Niners Nation All-Time team? For those who are new to the site over the last year and a half, in September of 2009 we wrapped up our second run through the Niners Nation All-Time Team. We went position by position and came up with an entire roster. When I ran the inside linebacker vote the second time around I implemented the "Gary Plummer Rule" which required a player be on the 49ers at least four seasons before being considered for our all-time team. It was a little arbitrary, but I felt it worked best at that point.
For those keeping score at home, Patrick Willis just completed season number four. While tackle numbers aren't a perfect science, thus far Willis is averaging approximately 149 total tackles per season, 3.75 sacks per season, and an interception each season. Just for comparison's sake, Ray Lewis has average 127 total tackles per season over his career (which is still going strong).
While Bamm Bamm's numbers have likely benefitted from some awful defensive players around him at times, teams have been game-planning more and more against him. This has affected his numbers and yet they still remain insanely high. And this year we got to see him set a career high in sacks. The addition of Vic Fangio and some exotic blitzes could lead to even more sacks. I often wondered why we didn't see him rushing the passer more frequently. A defense does want him around at the level after the defensive line at times, but he's so fast and so athletic that it makes sense to send him at the quarterback whenever you get the chance. Might we see Willis hit double digit sacks in a season before all is said and done?
Given all that, I'd expect we'll re-open the vote in the next few days unless someone can provide a great reason not to do that. Additionally, if you think other positions should be up for re-vote, feel free to say so in the comments.