I love year end lists, and I love award shows, believe it or not. 2015 was a big year for football, not only because of the cards, and it brought some things that were both very good and very bad. I want to take some time to offer my recap now that Flawless marks the end of the grind. Its funny how far into 2016 the older products have stretched, but we finally have a good picture of the way it worked out.
Product of the Year: 2015 Definitive Collection
I dont think this was even close. Very few products generated the type of buzz that Topps had with DC, and its something that wasnt hampered by the huge amount of redemptions they had to use because of the release date. Seeing that most of the cards that should have been in boxes are already done and shipped, it only makes this product more impressive. Every big hit was better than the next, including a few that literally made my jaw drop.
Check out this product in all its glory:
Its rare to see a high end product jump in price as much as this set did, especially with the way most of them perform when ripping them by the box. Definitive Collection offered some of the most impressive and beautiful cards of the year, and collectors jumped all over it.
In my opinion, this consistently offered in design and content what Flawless should offer at its price tag, and Topps should be proud to end their football license on this note.
Hobby Rookie of the Year: Marcus Mariota
This was a tough call, because Jameis Winston was definitely a contender as well. Both had a productive rookie campaign, and both have bright futures if their teams improve. The reason I chose Mariota is because of two things – collector perception and signing consistency. Plus, Mariota has a great looking signature.
Because both QBs had about the same level of productivity give or take, its quite difficult to say one deserves the award over the other from that perspective. That being said, I see collectors have a much better view of what Mariota is capable of, over what Winston eventually will accomplish. I personally think Winston is the better QB, but I know that isnt all there is.
Mariota also signed most of his cards and was rarely a redemption in any product. Winston’s cards in the second half werent live for Panini, which means that the bigger sets like NT had a big hole there. Although they were done shortly after the fact, it prevented collectors from pulling them in video breaks and left Winston a bit short in buzz for me.
Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston
Most Underrated Set: Topps Supreme
I know that the majority of this set is stickers, so you should be shocked that I would give this distinction. That’s how good Supreme was this year, and even I was surprised. Being that the set has been good for a number of years isnt really a consideration when the license is ending, but Topps really went out with a bang here.
Check these out:
Intricate die cuts and layering made the cards look spectacular in hand, and almost made you forget that the autographs werent hard signed. Im actually curious how some of the cards were built, as they just look so unique compared to others from previous years. I think this might have gone overlooked because you cant see the construction when you scan them.
Additionally, it did have on card content including some cool inscriptions and hard signed rookie content. The checklist also featured some great names and a lot of amazing pairings for the multisigned cards.
It kind of got lost in the end of year shuffle for Topps, and that really sucks. It deserved a lot more credit.
Honorable Mention: Immaculate Collection
Worst Product of the Year: Panini Spectra
I get it, some people like crazy busy cards that are too gaudy for their own good. I hate them. I also hate the stickers signed in neon paint pens, and the design they used for almost every card in this set. Using Topps’ Superfractor pattern for their 1/1s reinforced the lack of creativity Panini has in branding their own products, and that was only the start of the major issues.
To package this garbage in a box that costs 300 plus is just certifiably insane to me, so much so that I put it on my worst products of the last 10 years list a few months back. People were awfully forgiving of the horrendous look because the top rookies were inserted at a nice clip, but some of the designs were so bad, it wouldnt have mattered to me if it were Tom Brady.
If you strip away the trashy late 90s approach to the stock and patterns, the base look of each card was among the worst I have seen in their own right. Weird pictures, big boxes for the stickers, and terrible design composition. The dual auto patches were so bad it was funny.
Honorable Mention: Topps Fire
Biggest Hobby Disappointment: Johnny Manziel
Last year, there was no bigger autograph than Money Manziel, and when he went nuclear this year off the field, I believe I could hear all those voices crying out in terror. People spent THOUSANDS on his cards, only to find him in treatment, out of treatment, partying again, and now without representation and a team. He has basically ensured that his career is over, and that is not good for the hobby.
Considering how many top value rookies have flamed out in glorious fashion (RGIII anyone?), it should serve as a cautionary tale to many people. As it happens more often, alongside careers being shortened as a whole, things are not great in the future of football and hobby longevity on the player level.
Manziel is the next in the long line of top rated busts, which includes some major names from the last few years. Kaepernick, RGIII, Tebow, among a number of others.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck
Biggest Product Disappointment: Panini National Treasures
Only Panini would release National Treasures, and mere weeks later flood the market with Flawless. Coming off what was their best year in the entire run of the set, Panini followed success with a giant turd of a release in Treasures.
Horrible photo choices? Check. Weird design choices? Check. Stickers everywhere? Check. Released too late? Check. Overshadowed by Flawless? Check. Looks like its a sweep of shitty situations for a product that people were waiting for.
My biggest complaint had to be the overwhelming amount of posed photographs used in the product instead of the more dynamic action shots they have used more exclusively in years past. There is a reason Topps RARELY uses these types of photos, and its because it looks like fucking trash. Football is about action, not glamorous runway poses of players gripping footballs and screaming at the camera like tools.
As a whole, Treasures needed to be big, and it was a dud in theme and concept. It made me long for 2014, which is funny considering the massive debacle with Teddy and OBJ’s cards that happened. Only shows how big of a disappointment it was this year.
Honorable Mention: Panini Flawless
Biggest News Item: Panini’s Quest for World Domination Extends into the NFL
This is literally the worst possible news for football cards. Much like basketball, where the company who made the best cards DID NOT get the exclusive, Panini’s blank check from Italy landed them another big fish.
Football was the only sport left that not only prevented player autograph exclusives from being signed, but also league license exclusives werent on the table for many years. Now under Panini’s exclusive banner, the people responsible for some of the worst products of the modern era now are the only game in town. Oh, and they have to build twice the amount of products, and print the shit out of them to meet minimum guarantees.
As if that werent bad enough, a company in Topps, who just celebrated their 60th year of history in football is now out of the game. With that departure goes years of iconic sets and products that most of us have grown up with. All that name recognition is gone too, replaced by a company who most non-hobby people have never heard of. Going to be great, people. Cant wait for this year.
That’s a wrap folks, and with it the last year of football cards as we know it. I have a horrible feeling that next year wont have any winners of any sort, but that’s for Panini to prove now. I think its going to be interesting to see what this list looks like next year, to be honest, or if it will even be worth writing about. Who knows?