Photo By: Giorgio Trovato from Unsplash
With the NFL regular season coming to an end, it’s once again time to recognize the accomplishments and misfortunes of a number of different teams and players across the league.
I’ll quickly start off with my picks for the awards that the NFL actually gives out, because I find those a lot less interesting than my alternative awards.
- MVP: Aaron Rodgers.
- Honourable Mentions: Tom Brady, Cooper Kupp, Joe Burrow
- Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp.
- Honourable Mentions: Jonathan Taylor, Davante Adams
- Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. Watt.
- Honourable Mentions: Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons, Aaron Donald
- Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Marr Chase.
- Honourable Mentions: Mac Jones, Jaylen Waddle, Najee Harris
- Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Parsons.
- Honourable Mentions: Patrick Surtain, Odafe Oweh, Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah
- Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel.
- Honourable Mentions: Bill Belichick, Zac Taylor, Nick Sirianni
Now for the fun part; here are the “winners” of my made up awards.
Most Surprising Team – Cincinnati Bengals
I can’t imagine giving this award to anyone other than the Bengals. A team full of inexperienced players, with a second-year QB coming off a torn ACL and MCL, and coming off a record of 4-11-1 last year, somehow managed to find themselves at the top of a very talented AFC North. With statement wins against the Ravens, Steelers, and most recently the Chiefs, Zac Taylor’s squad exceeded all expectations en route to their first playoff berth since 2015.
Joe Burrow proved that he may already be a top five QB in the AFC with 4,611 passing yards and 34 passing TDs in 16 games. Ja’Marr Chase had one of the best rookie WR seasons of all time with 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns of his own. Throw in young studs like Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, and Trey Hendrickson, and the future’s looking bright in southern Ohio.
Honourable Mentions: Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, and the New Orleans Saints.
Most Disappointing Team – Cleveland Browns
On the other end of the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns put up, without question, the biggest letdown of the year. After pushing the Chiefs to the brink in the AFC’s second round last season, the Browns appeared to finally be on the come up. Instead, an 8-9 season left them out of the playoffs and with many more questions than answers.
Plenty of injuries to key players had the roster in constant turmoil, though a lacklustre season-long performance from the oft-maligned QB Baker Mayfield was the true difference from last year. Mayfield had a worse completion percentage, less total yardage, fewer touchdowns, and more INTs than he did last season, and the soon-to-be fifth year former number one overall pick could be heading for a new home this offseason.
(Dis)honourable mentions: Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Football Team
Best Backup QB Performance – Mike White vs. CIN
Backup quarterbacks are one of my favourite random aspects of the NFL season each year. Injuries (and COVID-19) always strike, and when they do, teams often have to rely on their benched signal callers to keep them afloat. On top of that, it’s fun to predict which backups will stick in the league, supplant their current starters, or move to a new team on a big contract.
Jets backup Mike White may not do any of those things, but there is no denying his magical performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in week eight of the season. White, who had almost no NFL experience prior to filling in during Zach Wilson’s stint on the IL, staged one of the biggest upsets of the year in a 34-31 shootout against Burrow’s Bengals. White threw for 405 yards with three TDS, and 82.2 completion percentage. Likely due to his name being the most generic of all time, White’s performance was as shocking as it was hilarious for NFL fans.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the magic alive, getting injured the next week against the Colts and then throwing four interceptions against the Bills before returning to the bench. Nonetheless, Jets fans won’t soon forget chanting his name as he went for one of the best single game performances in recent franchise history.
Honourable Mentions: Gardner Minshew @ NYJ, Tyler Huntley @ CLE
Play of the Year
Not much more can be said about this unforgettable play from Dolphins’ offensive lineman Robert Hunt. I’ll let the video speak for itself. (The non-joke winner is probably Justin Tucker’s record-breaking game-winning 66-yard field goal).