Welcome to a very special edition of Hamm’s Pigskins of the Week. This week, I’m awarding the Pigskins of the Year from a very special 2011 season (even if Kyle Williams did ruin it!). It was especially hard naming the Pigskins of the year with so many big time performers coming up big for the 49ers this season. It was a truly magical season, 14-4 and one of the most memorable playoff wins in history. I can still feel my hear race whenever I think of that final drive capped off by Alex Smith throwing a perfect dart to Vernon Davis for the game winning touchdown against the Saints. But enough with the introductions, It’s time to hand out Hamm’s Pigskins of the Year Awards!
Offensive Pigskin of the Year: Alex Smith QB: Many 49er fans including yours truly cringed when new head coach Jim Harbaugh annotated Smith his starter. I remember dreaming of Colin Kaepernick tearing it up in the preseason just so Smith could be benched before I had to go through Alex 7.0. But what Alex and Harbaugh did together was nothing short of a miracle. The 49ers offense seemed perfectly suited to Smith’s talents and Alex got better as the season went on. Gone was the turnover, bone headed play machine of the past. And born was a new, smart player who refused to turn the ball over and always kept his team in position to win. Alex proved to us he could lead the 49ers on a game winning drive against a good team. The throws he made to Delaine Walker in Detroit and to Vernon Davis against the Saints were the type of throws you expect the Manning’s, Brees’ and the Brady’s of the world to make. Alex, you made us proud this season, you became our QB, now come get your Pigskin, you earned it.
Defensive Pigskin of the Year: I always thought I could write this column anytime I want to and insert Patrick Willis into this award and be right every year. While Willis and fellow inside linebacker Navarro Bowman had great, all pro seasons. Justin Smith was not only the best defensive player, he was probably the teams MVP this season. Smith is as unrelenting a player as I’ve ever seen in any sport. Smith was voted a starter in the pro bowl and first team all pro over some very big names. He was one of the finalists for Defensive Player of the Year but fell short to the bigger named Terrell Suggs of the Ravens. With two game winning plays for Smith, a forced fumble in Philadelphia and a batted pass in the regular season match up with the Giants make Smith an easy pick.
Special Teams Pigskin of the Year: This one was tough, the 49ers have one of the best special teams units in football. Ted Ginn Jr was one of the best and most consistent kick returners in the league this season. While Blake Costanzo and CJ Spillman made huge impacts on the coverage units. The Pigskin goes to Ginn for two reasons. He was the sole reason for the win against Seattle week 1. And all you have to do is watch those two boneheaded fumbles by Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship game that costs the 49ers a Superbowl appearance (and probably a championship) to see how valuable Ginn Jr really is.