An Examination of the NFL Award Races

Colin McGee ’22

December football signals many things: the end of a season for many teams, the beginning of a playoff run for some, and games with huge playoff implications. This is also the time of year in which the races for the NFL’s top awards come into picture. Unlike many other years, there don’t seem to be many clear front runners meaning close races all around.

Most Valuable Player

The NFL MVP Award is always heavily dominated by quarterbacks and with Tennessee Titans’ standout running back Derrick Henry being out until January at the earliest it seems a quarterback will win the award again. Kyler Murray for the first half of the season seemed to be a definite candidate leading the Arizona Cardinals to the best record in football. However, an injury which has kept him sidelined for 3 weeks and counting might remove him from contention from the award entirely.

Many quarterback names come to mind such as Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers and others. Considering the stats in which he has for his age, I would feel that Tom Brady is the most likely to win as long as he can keep his play up. No athlete has ever been able to accomplish anything near what Tom Brady has at the age of 44. Regardless, the Most Valuable Player race is sure to come down to the wire.

Offensive Player of the Year

The Offensive Player of the Year is typically awarded to the best running back or wide receiver of the season. For this award two names stick out: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp and Indianapolis Colts running back Johnathan Taylor. Kupp and Taylor are both respectively leading the receiving yards and rushing yards category by a wide margin. Both players have broken out for two teams in playoff contention.

Defensive Player of the Year

Los Angeles Rams star defensive end Aaron Donald, arguably the best overall player in all of football, is always a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. However, this year the favorite appears to be another defensive end – Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns. Through the first 11 games of the Browns’ season he has been an absolute force compiling 13.5 sacks.

Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year

The New England Patriots have been on a tear as of late, riding a 5 game winning streak and a 7-4 record at the time of writing. This success is in large part due to the consistent play of rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the top candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jones has done a good job of filling the large shoes left behind by Tom Brady in New England. Without Jones, New England would most likely not be leading the AFC East which they are right now.

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense last year was a very bad unit to put it lightly. They have enjoyed a turnaround this year on defense. One of the main contributors has been rookie linebacker Micha Parsons, the likely Defensive Rookie of the Year. Parsons has been both a tackling and sacking machine. Both Jones and Parsons seem poised to be big players in the NFL for a while. 

Comeback Player of the Year

In October 2020, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending injury against the Giants. This injury came at a rather unfortunate time for Prescott as he was having a strong start to his season and was in a contract year. He still ended up receiving a massive contract and so far has backed it up with his play. Prescott has led the Cowboys to a commanding lead in the NFC East and it has been remarkable to see his return, making him the surefire Comeback Player of the Year.

Coach of the Year

Many coaches in the NFL can be considered for this award but perhaps none more so than Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Leading up until his hiring in 2019, Kingsbury had no prior experience coaching at the NFL level as he was a college head coach. The Cardinals missed the playoffs his first two years but now have the best record in football at 9-2 as of November 23rd. Kingsbury has been able to do so while missing star quarterback Kyler Murray and star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a portion of time. The month of December will go a long way in determining who will win Coach of the Year as well as all the other NFL Awards.