With his record-setting fifth pick-six happening in the eleventh game of the season, Cowboys cornerback Daron Bland has entered the discussion for defensive player of the year.
For at least one teammate, it’s not even a discussion.
“He got to win defensive player of the year,” safety Israel Mukuamu said, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “He’s got to. It’s mandatory. Ain’t no question.”
There is a question, because there are other viable candidates. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has 13 sacks. Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter has 12. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt and Cowboys do-it-all defender Micah Parsons have 11.5.
Yeah, Micah Parsons. One of the most consistently dominant and involved players in football. And also a member of the Cowboys.
Bland has broken the ultimate right-place, right-time record on defense. If he was a shutdown corner, he wouldn’t be getting so many chances to: (1) intercept a pass; and (2) run it back for a touchdown.
That’s not a knock on his accomplishment. It just doesn’t cry out “defensive player of the year.” That’s the irony of being regarded as a great cornerback. If you are, you don’t get the chances to show it. If you aren’t, you do.
Maybe opposing offenses have gotten him wrong and stubbornly refuse to admit it. Regardless, having five interceptions returned for touchdowns might not be able to overcome a pass rusher who approaches or beats the single season record of 22.5.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones either understands that point, or he just doesn’t want to have to figure out how to eventually pay Bland along with Parsons and quarterback Dak Prescott and other key players. The good news for Jerry is that Bland isn’t eligible for a new contract until after the 2024 season.
“I don’t know about that,” Jones told reporters about Bland as a defensive player of the year candidate, “but I sure thought he got that defensive player of the week. He [maybe] should be offensive player with the way he made that run to the end zone. Pull that one out for consideration.”
Bland is definitely in consideration for defensive player of the year. But there’s a long way to go and plenty of others who are in the hunt, too. If he gets two or three more in the last six games, it could be hard to deny him the votes.