Article by Peter Caceci
Now that the Super Bowl is over, it's time to discuss the 8th Annual NFL Honors Award Ceremony, that was held on February 2, 2019 at Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. This ceremony is typically held the night before the Super Bowl, and discusses the personnel and players who have made a difference both on and off the field.
Most Valuable Player & Offensive Player of the Year
After an electrifying season, starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes was awarded MVP for the regular season. With this being his first full season as a starter, Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions, which was the most touchdowns in the league. Other interesting statistics that solidified his strong presence on the field are 5,097 passing yards, which was second in the league, and a quarterback rating of 81.8%, which was a league best. At only 23 years of age, the Chief’s organization has a fantastic chance of being the next powerhouse in the AFC for years to come. They were one overtime drive away from beating the Patriots in the AFC Championship, and with Brady not getting any younger, the Chiefs and Mahomes won't be slowing down anytime soon.
Defensive Player of the Year
We are truly in the presence of one of the greatest defensive tackles in the history of the game. Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, was presented with his second Defensive Player of the Year award, which is an extremely rare feat to accomplish. Considered to be a major threat by various teams, the 27-year-old led the league in sacks with 20.5, and also had 4 forced fumbles. As seen in the very relaxed Super Bowl, Donald had one of the few highlights by throwing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to the ground like a rag doll (without getting a personal foul). The Rams should consider themselves blessed that they have a person with such talent who can rattle an entire offense for an entire game week in and week out.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
Penn State All-Star running back Saquon Barkley has already blasted his way through many defensive lines for his rookie year on the New York Giants. Being the only shining light upon an organization with over-the-hill quarterback Eli Manning, and drama-feasting wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon took the reins and gave his team a higher chance of obtaining points than in recent years. The 22-year-old gathered 11 touchdowns, 5th in the league, and 1,307 yards for 261 attempts. This kid has already started to reach the potential that was seen in his later college days. Can anyone stop him once he breaks through the line? So far it has been a great challenge; expect even greater numbers once the offense starts to build around him.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Being on a team that was originally projected to finish last in the entire league, linebacker Darius Leonard was one of the key pieces that helped revive the Indianapolis Colts. For being a rookie, he led the Colts in tackles with 153, which was a franchise record. He also added 4 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, and 7 sacks in the regular season for good measure. It is safe to say that the Colts have a strong chance to make it to the top spot of their division with this man leading the defense. For being a second-round pick, it is very surprising how the elite teams did not even look at this man, even though South Carolina State has not been a major powerhouse for bringing players to the NFL.
Comeback Player of the Year
If there was a player that deserved this award for this specific season, it is Andrew Luck. After the previous disaster of a season, Andrew Luck threw for 39 touchdowns, which was second in the entire league. He also ranked 5th in the league in passing yards this season with 4,593 with only 15 interceptions. Originally projected to be the next Payton Manning, Andrew Luck has had his highs and lows, including his entire NFL future being in doubt due to the constant shoulder injuries. Hopefully in the next few years, he can continue to put up numbers like this, and turn the Colts into a regular AFC powerhouse with other young pieces like Eric Ebron, Marlon, Mack, and Darius Leonard around him.
Coach of the Year
The Chicago Bears were another team that was not projected to do so well this season. Head coach Matt Nagy, after leaving the Kansas City Chiefs, came to the Bears that were seemingly in a rebuild mode. After a complete runaround in play calling, utilizing young quarterback Mitch Trubisky, and obtaining Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders, this man should have gotten the award immediately after the season. The only other person that could have been in the conversation was Colts head coach Frank Reich, who also did a complete turnaround of a reeling team. Nagy and his leadership can push this team to be a Super Bowl contender year in and year out if they keep that elite defensive core in tact.
Walter Payton Man of the Year Award
The man who should have gotten this award last year, for giving away his ENTIRE salary, Chris Long, has finally gotten the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. This year he, on top of being a strong leader and player for the defense of the Eagles, helped aid poverty-stricken towns all over the world with clean water, military appreciation, and youth education. He specifically focused on a new idea to boost his impact to society through the “First Quarter for Literacy”, which provides underprivileged Philadelphia children with books, literacy resources, and mentoring services to further the eager young minds of tomorrow. Honestly, with this being one of the many organizations that he has produced, who knows what he will do next to make this world a better place.
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