As we head into the first weekend of the Lions’ offseason, it’s time for the second annual Blue Flame Awards. The inaugural Blue Flame Awards were a success, but I think they can be a lot bigger. I’m going to announce these one at a time, an hour or two apart, updating the post and Tweeting as I go. If you’re not @lionsinwinter on Twitter, now would be a great time to start.
The envelope, please . . .Chris Spielman Heart of a Lion Award: Dominic Raiola, C
Given to the Lion who most profoundly exudes fire, toughness, and determination to win, Raiola could easily win this every single year. The moment that clinched it was Raiola’s statement in the wake of the Thanksgiving disaster: “Grow the f*** up.” And you know what? They did.Bryant Westbrook Realized Potential Award: Titus Young, WR
When the Lions drafted Titus Young with the 12th pick in the second round, fans everywhere were in shock. Who? A wide receiver? From Boise State? It seemed senseless. With several pressing defensive needs, and the first round pick already spent on a "luxury," a receiver to groom behind Nate Burleson was a total head-scratcher. When he missed most of training camp and preseason with a nagging injury, fans assumed his chance to be productive this season was lost.
But the Lions knew exactly how they wanted to use Young, and Young threw himself into being a Lion. He immediately earned Matthew Stafford's trust, and hauled in 48 catches for 607 yards and 6 touchdowns. Best of all, it's clear he's just getting started.
Tom Moore Coach of the Year Award: Shawn Jefferson, WR Coach
It's a little too easy to give this award to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan for the second year in a row—though he deserves it just as much, if not more, than last season. But the job Jefferson did with the wideouts this season was phenomenal. Besides helping Calvin Johnson reach record-breaking new heights, he helped Titus Young achieve his Blue Flame-winning potential and Nate Burleson drop that #ToeDragSwag.
For a wonderful in-depth look at the job Jefferson is doing—and why the Lions will be lucky to keep him around—see Anwar Richardson’s feature on Jefferson on MLive.
Game of the Year: Week 5, Lions vs. Bears (Monday Night Football)
The Christmas Eve demolition of the Chargers that clinched the playoffs was special, but Monday Night Football was the Game of the Year and it isn’t even close. Besides being an anticipated-for-months revenge match for 2010’s season opener, besides it being a showcase game for the Lions, Lions fans, and the city of Detroit as a whole, and besides every second of the pre-game, in-game, and post-game festivities simultaneously oozing Motown and awesome, this is the game where the blue fire of Lions fandom roared so loud the Bears couldn’t play football in its presence. It was the greatest sporting atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of.
Nine false starts later, the Lions won the biggest Lions regular season game in decades—and Lions fans—you, me—were awarded a game ball by Coach Schwartz.Mel Gray Three Phases of the Game Award: Jason Hanson, PK
At age 41, Jason Hanson entered training camp with question marks surrounding his injury—and, for the first time in nearly two decades, his job. In a legitimate kicking competition for perhaps the first time in his career, he shut out those suggesting it might be time to hang ‘em up and made 24 of 29 field goals (including blocks) and all 54 extra point tries. He proved he still has the leg, too, drilling 5 of 7 attempts from 50+ yards.
Honorable Mention: John Wendling
Mike Cofer Tecmo Super Bowl Beast Mode Award: Stephen Tulloch, MLB
After signing a one-year deal in the offseason, Stephen Tulloch stepped into the heart of the Lions defense and dominated. Besides leading the team in tackles, he led all Lions linebackers with sacks (3) and interceptions (2). He was Pro Football Focus’s seventh-highest-graded inside linebacker, at a whopping +20.8. He earned their second-best coverage grade, too: +11.2. His run-stuffing grade was the ninth-best in the NFL at +12.6.
Let’s please hope he stays.
Barry Sanders You Can Only Hope to Contain Him Award: Matthew Stafford, Quarterback
Matthew Stafford had the greatest statistical season of any Lions quarterback ever. 63.5% competions, 5,308 yards, 41 touchdowns—and only 16 INTs, almost all of which were thrown while Stafford was throwing with a glove over a broken finger. Megatron gets honorable mention here, but Stafford was asked to carry this team to the playoffs at age 23 and he did. Absolutely incredible, history-making performance.