Although the official midpoint of the schedule won't come until the end of Sunday night's Dallas-Philadelphia tilt (the 128th game of the season), many publications and Web sites already have begun to cite early-line favorites for the NFL's various prestige awards, such as most valuable player, rookie of the year and comeback player, among others.
There is still half a season to be contested but, truth be told, some players clearly have separated from the pack when it comes to such honors.
And so have some league executives.
Given his body of work, and the fact Indianapolis has overcome so many key injuries to remain unbeaten, it's difficult not to vote for Colts president/general manager Bill Polian for the NFL's executive of the year, an award he has captured a record five times. But right there with him is New Orleans executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis, who won executive-of-the-year honors in 2006 and who could become only the fourth front-office executive (joining Polian, George Young and Jim Finks) to seize the title multiple times.
Often regarded by his critics as "just a bean counter," a salary-cap manager who was in over his head when it came to evaluating personnel, Loomis, like Polian, has assembled a terrific support staff: veteran director of college scouting Rick Reiprish, director of pro scouting Ryan Pace, and head coach Sean Payton and his assistants.
Most notably, Loomis is the person most responsible for bringing Payton (perhaps the NFL's premier playcaller) to New Orleans, and for signing free-agent quarterback Drew Brees when other suitors had backed off because of a shoulder injury. Also notable is that there isn't a single player on the 53-man roster, a bunch that could take the Saints (7-0) to the Super Bowl, who predates Loomis' appointment to the GM job by owner Tom Benson in 2002.
While Polian has built the Indianapolis roster mostly through incredible draft acumen and savvy use of undrafted free agents, Loomis has used every manner of acquisition available to him to cobble together the Saints' roster. The current roster includes 18 draft choices, 24 players signed as unrestricted or "street" free agents, six undrafted college free agents, four players acquired in trades and one veteran claimed on waivers.
As noted, it's still early in the season, and perhaps premature to begin touting folks for year-end awards. But given the Saints' performance to this point, and given what the franchise and its die-hard fans have overcome the past few years, Loomis certainly deserves a nod.