San Francisco 49ers

Easy pick: 49ers’ MVP is no contest for local media

Safety Antoine Bethea ran away with the media’s vote for 49ers team MVP
Safety Antoine Bethea ran away with the media’s vote for 49ers team MVP AP

Cheer up, Antoine Bethea. You may have been snubbed in Pro Bowl voting* but, gee whiz, you cleaned up here. I asked the traveling 49ers beatwriters on Tuesday to give me their pick for team MVP. Last year there were four different nominees. This year, well …

▪  Chris Biderman, Niners Digest, @ChrisBiderman

Pick: S Antoine Bethea

He played nearly every defensive snap and quickly became a leader in a secondary that lost three starters and played rookies at nickel - while compensating for the decimated group of inside linebackers. Somehow, the 49ers go into Week 17 with a top-five defense, and Bethea was the most consistent contributor throughout the year both playing the run and preventing explosive plays downfield. Bethea’s arguably the only player on the roster worthy of Pro-Bowl and All-Pro consideration for 2014. Without his performance in Week 4 against the Eagles, there’s no telling what a 1-3 start would have done to this team that might finish .500.

▪  Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, @Eric_Branch

Pick: S Antoine Bethea

The winner can’t come from that unsightly offense, right? The 49ers’ fifth-ranked defense has limited quarterbacks to the fourth-lowest passer rating in the league (80.3) and Bethea is a big reason why: He ranks second on the team in tackles (82) and interceptions (4) and, at 30, has remained remarkably durable: He’s started 110 straight games and was one of four defensive players to start each of the first 15 contests. He also hasn’t had a penalty this season after the safety he replaced, Donte Whitner, was flagged seven times in 2013.

▪  Cam Inman, Bay Area News Group, @CamInman

Pick: S Antoine Bethea

He replaced Donte Whitner with aplomb – and nary a penalty. His veteran poise kept together an injury-depleted defense, as well as a young secondary that’s allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards. He has the second-most tackles and interceptions

▪  Matt Maiocco, CSN Bay Area, @MaioccoCSN

Pick: S Antoine Bethea

A lot of people thought the 49ers' secondary would be in bad shape when Donte Whitner left. Through all the injuries, he helped keep the defense together. He was actually an upgrade over Whitner, and the only 49ers player who performed consistently at a Pro Bowl level.

▪  Mindi Bach, CSN Bay Area, @MBachCSN

Pick: S Antoine Bethea

Honestly, my first thought for MVP is Vic Fangio. He is the Most Valuable PERSON for how his defense continues to rank in the top 5 in the league amid an season of endless injuries. As for Most Valuable Player, no surprise, Antoine Bethea. His play in his first season with the 49ers has placed him among the top three safeties in the league, especially in pass coverage.

▪  Matt Barrows, The Sacramento Bee, @MattBarrows

Pick: S Antoine Bethea

The 49ers' secondary was supposed to be a weakness after starters Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown left in free agency in the offseason. Instead it's been a strength. Bethea has been the leader of the group both on the field and in the meeting room where his professionalism promises to rub off on youngsters like Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward.

* Bethea was named a Pro Bowl alternate on Tuesday. The coaches also agreed with the media, voting him the winner of their Bill Walsh Award as the team’s MVP.

Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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