2020 NFL Awards: Picking the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and more

The NFL regular season is officially over! It was a wild year with elements that no other NFL season has ever faced. Between social justice initiatives (that have very noticeably faded as the year has gone on), COVID-19 and no offseason, there is no question that this season will be remembered forever.

Now that we are headed for the playoffs, it is time to hand out some end of the season awards. This has been one of the most fascinating MVP races in recent memory. Defensive Player of the Year is crazy competitive as well. There could be some history made with the Offensive Player of the Year award as well.

Let’s make this clear, I am not predicting who will win these awards, simply deciding who I would vote for if I had a vote in these types of situations. There were some really tough decisions to make, so I did my best to break down why I chose these players (or coaches) to win in each category. Let’s (hypothetically) hand out some hardware!

Coach of the Year

3. Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
When you end an 18-year playoff drought, you end up getting some love for Coach of the Year. Kevin Stefanski has turned the Browns around very quickly. A year ago, the Browns were a 6-10 team without much leadership. Now, Cleveland is headed to the playoffs at 11-5 and there is stability in the locker room. Stefanksi deserves a ton of credit for finally getting this team over the hump. The five-game jump they made this year is tied for the biggest turnaround in the league. This team still has some major shortcomings and has gotten blownout a few too many times, but Stefanski has really pushed them further than any coach in recent memory has.

2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
While they did not make the same level of a jump as some of the other teams in the league this past season, it was hard to improve a whole lot from a 10-6 record a year ago. Buffalo still won three more games this year, locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC and looking incredibly consistent in the process. There were some hiccups in the form of an early-season blowout against the Titans. The defense also unquestionably took a step backwards, but the Bills still competed with some of the top teams in the league and won their first division title since 1995. Sean McDermott did an excellent job leading this group and this team is poised to win its first playoff game in 25 years.

1. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins
No team outperformed expectations more than the Dolphins this year. Brian Flores deserves so much credit for turning this team around in such a short time. Miami’s roster is full of unheralded names, players looking for a second chance and young players still learning how to acclimate with the NFL. Flores got the most out of that talent, handling a complicated quarterback situation in the process. While the regular-season finale leaves a sour taste in the mouth of Dolphins fans, finishing 10-6, one game out of the playoffs is a massive accomplishment. It bodes well for the future of the franchise and it is clear Miami has a leader in place to build behind.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

3. James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
My third spot came down to James Robinson and Jonathan Taylor. I gave the edge to Robinson in the end for being a more consistent presence on the Jaguars offense throughout the season. Keep in mind, this was a 1-15 team. Jacksonville started three different quarterbacks and none of them were good. His offensive line is not a great one either. Yet, Robinson still finished tied for fifth in rushing yards and scored ten total touchdowns. He provided a ton of stability on an offense that had very little. Is Taylor more talented? Absolutely. But, I think Robinson had a better overall season, where Taylor essentially just got hot in the final six games of the year.

2. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
When you are breaking Randy Moss’ records, you are doing something right. Justin Jefferson had an unbelievable rookie year. He finished with 1,400 receiving yards, fourth-most in the league and most by a rookie receiver in the Super Bowl era, and punched in seven touchdowns. Jefferson showed a great ability to stretch the field as well, averaging the ninth-most yards per reception this season. As if that wasn’t enough, Jefferson dropped just two passes on 125 targets this season. In just about any other year, he likely would have won this award. In 2020 though, there was another guy named Justin who broke a bunch of rookie records this year.

1. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
This is just what we all expected, right? The third quarterback taken in the 2020 draft and the guy who couldn’t beat out Tyrod Taylor to start the season wins Rookie of the Year. That’s how it goes down in my book this year. Justin Herbert shocked everyone with the level of dominance he displayed this year. He set tons of records for rookie quarterbacks, including most passing touchdowns (31) in a season and most pass completions (396) in a season. He finished 38 yards shy of Andrew Luck’s record for passing yards by a rookie, becoming just the fourth rookie to pass for over 4,000 yards. Herbert actually averaged the most passing yards per game in NFL history, but didn’t start the first game of the season. He also posted the second-best completion percentage by a rookie ever, trailing Dak Prescott. Give Herbert the award. He has earned it.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

3. Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys
This ended up being a less-than-stellar race for Defensive Rookie of the Year, but there have still been some impressive performances. Trevon Diggs had some rough moments, as you would expect most rookie cornerbacks to when they are thrown into a starting job without an offseason or a preseason. Still, Diggs took his lumps and improved over the course of the season. He finished with a top-20 completion percentage allowed at 54.2 percent. He did give up five touchdowns, but also came up with three interceptions. He missed four games in the middle of the year, which knocks him down a bit, but still put together a solid first year.

2. Jeremy Chinn, S, Carolina Panthers
Is a safety, is he a linebacker? I don’t really have the answer to that one, but he is a damn good football player. Jeremy Chinn burst onto the scene for this young Carolina defense. He led the team in tackles this year and made a big impact with his playmaking. He had two forced fumbles, an interception and two defensive touchdowns. He did struggle in pass coverage, which holds him back from ultimately winning this award, but he feels like a Budda Baker or Jordan Poyer-type asset to this Panthers defense.

1. Chase Young, DE, Washington
This was not the forgone conclusion I think many expected coming into the year. Yet, there is no doubt in my mind that Chase Young should win this award. He is a dynamic player on a super talented defensive line. Young finished the year with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He didn’t just get home either, he knocked the ball loose, tallying four forced fumbles on the season. Young also recovered three fumbles and scored a defensive touchdown. There are few players who have been such a focal point of opponent’s offensive game plans than Young. I think he comfortably wins this award.

Offensive Player of the Year

3. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
In one of my power rankings a few weeks ago, I noted that we probably take Davante Adams for granted way too often. This is me doing my best to not make that same mistake. In 14 games this season, Adams had an NFL-leading 18 touchdown catches to go along with 115 catches, which is tied for second-most and 1,374 receiving yards, which is tied for fifth. Imagine the numbers he could have put up in two additional games! What I think people overlook is Adams’ ability after the catch, where he put up the second most yards in the league, trailing only Alvin Kamara. Adams is a complete receiver and one of, if not the best one in the game right now.

2. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Whenever you run for over 2,000 yards in a single season, you end up getting consideration for the top offensive player in the league. Derrick Henry, has continued to show that he is the most difficult running back to stop in the league. He had his fair share of ineffective games this season, but his usage is also one of the most impressive in league history. What limits Henry’s claim to the award is his role as a pass-catcher in the Titans’ offense. He finished the season with just 19 receptions. Henry deserves credit for how dominant he can be on any given week, but I don’t think he managed to outshine the next player on this list.

1. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
This award was first handed out in 1972, and never in its history has it been won by a tight end. That should change. Travis Kelce has, almost quietly, put together the most dominant season by a tight end in NFL history. With 1,416 receiving yards, he broke George Kittle’s record for the most by a tight end in a single season and ranked second in the NFL among all players. He finished tied for fifth in receiving yards and receptions among all receivers as well. What shocks me most about Kelce’s season is that he is third in the league in yards after the catch. As if that wasn’t enough, he has only two drops, one of the best marks in the league. Kelce deserves this award after the season he has put together.

Defensive Player of the Year

3. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
By far the most difficult award for me to figure out, Aaron Donald narrowly edges out Myles Garrett for the third spot on the list. A fixture in the Defensive Player of the Year by now, Donald put together another stellar year, racking up 13.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Both rank among the top six in the league. He once again dominated along the interior of every offensive line he faced. Donald is the best interior pass rusher in NFL history and he has shown no signs of slowing down yet.

2. Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
Sure, interceptions are a sexy stat. That only tells half the story for Xavien Howard. He has been targeted a ton this year, and I can’t seem to figure out why. Howard has allowed just 51.5 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. While Howard did allow four touchdown passes this season, he was still one of the best lockdown corners in the league. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 48.3 when he was in coverage, trailing only Bryce Callahan for the best mark in the league. Between leading the league in interceptions and pass break ups, it is easy to see why he is in the running for the award.

1. T.J. Watt, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
No player in the NFL has been more disruptive for opposing offenses this season than T.J. Watt. He led the NFL in sacks with 15 this season in 15 games and racked up 23 tackles for loss, also the best mark in the league. He also was tops in quarterback pressures and quarterback hits. Simply stated, Watt is the hardest player to stop in the league right now. That is evidenced even more so by him having the best pass-rush win rate in the league. ESPN detailed earlier this year how Watt has the fastest pass-rush get off in the league. Teams have had all year to try to figure out how to stop him, and right now, no one has an answer for Watt.

MVP

3. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
A few weeks ago, it seemed like Patrick Mahomes was running away with the award. Then he just kind of slowed down. He still put together a fantastic season. Mahomes finished with an impressive 38 touchdowns to just six interceptions. His 4,740 passing yards ranked second in the NFL, behind his draft mate Deshaun Watson. The biggest knock on Mahomes is his completion percentage, which is still solid at 66 percent. However, that ranks 16th in the league overall. Mahomes absolutely deserves to be an MVP finalist, but I don’t think he did enough to win the award again.

2. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
If you asked me at the beginning of the year, I would never have believed Josh Allen would be in the MVP conversation. Yet, here we are. Allen scored 45 total touchdowns in 2020, 37 through the air and eight on the ground. What has really jumped him from fringe starter to elite quarterback though has been his improved accuracy. Allen has always had a rocket for an arm, but he polished his technique. His completion percentage jumped up to 69.2 this year, the fourth-best mark in the league. As a result of all of this, he has the fourth-best passer rating and third-best QBR in the NFL. He has led this Bills offense that is solid, but lacks elite playmakers to a 13-3 record and put together a season that in most years would be enough to win this award. Unfortunately, he had to come up against this next guy.

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
It took me a while to recognize just how great Aaron Rodgers has been this year, but I’m not missing it now. With 48 touchdowns, only five interceptions and a passer rating over 120, Rodgers put together one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. His QBR and completion percentage were the best in the league as well. What is even more impressive than any of that though is Rodgers throwing a touchdown on 9.1 percent of his passes this year. Russell Wilson had the second-best mark at 7.2 percent. Only Peyton Manning in 2004 and Ken Stabler in 1976 had better marks in the Super Bowl era. Without a doubt, Rodgers is deserving of the award this year.

Making a case from the bench

This past week saw Steph Curry take on a new role for the Golden State Warriors. A spot on the bench. Curry missed back-to-back games for the Dubs due to a lower leg injury. He is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Nuggets.

Stephen_CurryIn the two games that Curry has missed so far, the Warriors have struggled. First came a blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks in which Dallas shot over 50 percent from the field while Golden State only hit 40.7 percent of their shots. The next was a narrow win over the Rockets where the Warriors were sloppy with the ball, turning it over 18 times.

There is no doubt that the Warriors are worse off with Curry on the bench but this raises an interesting question. Does this solidify Curry as the league’s MVP yet again? It seems a bit crazy but it actually makes some sense.

Peyton_ManningThis type of idea originated for the first time for me when it came the 2011 NFL season. Peyton Manning missed the entire season due to an offseason neck surgery. The Colts went from a 10-6 playoff team in 2010 to a 2-14 debacle in 2012. It made many people wonder just how valuable Peyton was to Indianapolis if his absence could make that much of a difference.

Obviously, this is not the same scenario and no one actually voted for Manning as the MVP for that season but it still presented the idea. The reason why it could genuinely work in Curry’s favor is because he has actually played during the season and is not expected to miss an extend run of games.

Stephen_Curry2Curry has already made a pretty good case to be the league’s MVP again. He leads the NBA in points per game by a decent margin and is second in shooting percentage among guards. He has chipped in a healthy 6.4 assists per night and fourth in thefts per game. He has the best box plus/minus rating and the highest number of win shares in the league this season. Not to mention that the Warriors have only lost one game that Curry started.

His absence underlined how important he is to the team. There are some noticeable changes to the Warriors game without Curry. When Curry starts, Golden State scores 114.8 points per game. Without him, the Dubs averaged only 102.5. Their three-point shooting and overall shooting dropped off. It became apparent very quickly that no matter how deep the Warriors seem, they need their leader on the court to be a contender.

Yes it is a very small sample size and it is clear that Golden State is a good team even without Curry. I really think that missing those two games strengthened his campaign for a second consecutive MVP award. He showed his true value as the most important piece on the league’s best team.

Should a player be named MVP because of the drop off his team suffers when he doesn’t play? Maybe not in the case of Peyton Manning back in 2011, but I think in the case of Curry in 2016, it helps. The award is not designed for the league’s best player, but it’s most valuable one. His value was underlined in those two games.

Does this mean that Curry has locked up the MVP race? Absolutely not, but I think he just strengthened his resume by spending two nights in late December sitting on the bench.

NBA MVP debate

Three Second Look writers decided to talk about who the NBA Most Valuable Player should be for 2015. Here are the cases for who we think should be crowned league MVP.

Anthony_Davis

Anthony Davis has only improved in his first three seasons in the NBA. He had career highs across the board and played 68 games for the first time in his career. Most importantly, Davis carried his New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs, and that is the reason why he is a dark horse MVP contender.

Let’s first compare Anthony Davis to other power forwards, and when one looks he is by far the best power forward. He has the highest the PER among all power forwards with 30. The next highest one was Blake Griffin with 22. LaMarcus Aldridge is not as efficient as Davis is, does not average as many points or rebounds and his defense is nowhere close to the level of Davis’.  Moreover, Griffin missed more games than Davis and did not even average anything close to a double double. Clearly, Davis has the clear advantage over his power forward peers.

Davis is the unanimous MVP of the Pelicans. When one looks at the other players they see that no one comes close.  Only four other players on the team averaged over 10 points, and no other player other than Davis averaged over 20 points. Davis’ MVP stock goes down because his team was an eighth seed. However, I think this is where Davis’s main argument for MVP comes in. This team had no business of getting into the playoffs without him. If you look at the 14 games Davis missed, New Orleans went 6-8 without him. The Pelicans are a below .500 team without the Kentucky product in the lineup. The fact that they were even an eighth seed in the stacked West should amaze most people.

The real comparison comes to the rest of the league though and Davis comes out on top. He led the whole league in PER this year. Better then both leading MVP candidates Harden and Curry. He also had a lower usage percentage then most of the top ten players and still averaged over 24 points a game. Davis was also in the top five in scoring, top ten in rebounding and led the league in the blocks. Stats like this prove he is a two-way player and a true MVP-caliber player.

When you look at Davis’ resume, he should win the MVP. He is the best power forward in the league. He is far and away the best man on the Pelicans not to mention the catalyst for their postseason berth. Davis was the most efficient player in the league and is arguably the most well-rounded player in the league. Many of players with a PER over 30 during a single season have won MVP. He should win this year, but the truth is, even if he doesn’t, he will be a candidate for the award for years to come.
Brian Mandel

James_Harden

For individuals, this basketball season may go down as one of the best in history. Here we are in April, season having ended a few days ago, and there are 6 players with legitimate MVP candidacies, whom in any other year may have run away with the title.

Chris Paul had a pretty typical year for him, to the point where now voters expect this out of him rather than recognize his brilliance as the undisputed best pure point guard in the league today. LeBron James did not impress enough on the stat-line, in spite of his 25.3 PPG, 7.4 APG, and 6 PPG. Russell Westbrook only playing 67 games, and many others without Kevin Durant, will cost him a trip to the playoffs and the MVP. Anthony Davis won’t win, even though he lifted the Pelicans into the playoffs for the first time. When Steph Curry is off the floor, Golden State is still a great team.

Yes, James Harden should be the MVP. When I look at value, it is beyond just the stat sheet (although 27.4 points, 7 APG, and 5.7 RPG is nothing to scoff at either). Harden is the only reason that Houston sits as the #2 seed in a stacked Western Conference. With injuries throughout the season to Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverly, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Motiejunas, Harden was forced into shouldering the lead for the Rockets; he responded by leading the league in minutes played all season. Take out Harden, and this team does not come close to making the playoffs, let alone have home court advantage for the first two rounds.

Harden was put into the limelight and had to singularly take on teams for himself, knowing that he had no other weapons to shield him from opposing teams. This especially comes into play on defense, a spot where Harden is known for his struggles in the past. This season, Harden did the beginning of a 180, tying for 5th in the league with 1.9 steals per game.  While he will never be recognized as a defensive force, he easily played his part in a weakened defense. Head into the playoffs now with Howard back lurking and Josh Smith on the wings, and Houston’s defense is strong enough to make opposing defenses sweat, especially when they have to outscore the Beard on offense.

If you take the player off the team, how much of a difference would it make? For me, the Rockets are nothing without Harden. He is the most valuable player for their team, by a landslide. The Rockets performed very well against the rest of the league, especially in one of the toughest schedules in basketball (Do you want to play the Spurs, Mavs, and Grizzlies 4 teams a year? I wouldn’t). For that, James Harden should win one of the most competitive and coveted Most Valuable Player awards in history.
Matt Luppino

Stephen_Curry

I know it is the easy to just say Steph Curry should be the NBA MVP, but he truly earned it. He piloted the Warriors to the top seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. This sharp-shooting phenom took the league by storm and should rightfully walk away with the MVP award.

Chris Paul might be the best pure-point guard (and should be the runner-up for the award) but Curry edges in terms of all-around player. He might have only been sixth in scoring but he was also sixth in assists per game. Curry is a true marksman, drilling shots from anywhere on the court. He led all point guards in shooting percentage. He finished third from beyond the arc and led the league when it came to shooting from the free throw line. Not to mention, he finished tied third for true shooting percentage and second in effective field goal percentage. Curry is the most lethal shooter in the NBA, making him invaluable to any team.

Defensively, Curry showed he could mix it up with anyone as well. He ranked fourth in the league with two steals per game. He vastly improved his pick and roll defense this year preventing big men from rolling to the basket and not allowing guards to drive as easily. He upped his perimeter defense as well. There is still plenty of room for Curry to improve on the defensive side of the ball but he definitely has reached the level of being a great two-way player. Anthony Davis was the only player other than Curry to rank in the top 15 for offensive and defensive win shares.

Beyond all of that, Curry is the most important cog in this Golden State machine. Curry played in 80 of the teams’ 82 games this season. The Warriors lost both of those games and neither of those games were against playoff bound teams. When you consider that Golden State only lost 15 games all season that is even more significant. The Warriors need Curry to be an elite team. He has the highest value over replacement rating in the NBA this year. The all-star point guard finished third in the league in total win shares. Breaking that down even further, Curry led the league in win shares per 48 minutes played. Curry earned his team the most win shares per full game played of anyone in the league. Curry might have a great supporting cast but they are nowhere near as effective without their leader.

The man they call the “Baby-Faced Assassin” had an incredible year as the best player on the league’s best team and was the integral part to their success. Curry demonstrated that he not limited to just being an efficient scorer. He can facilitate a team’s offense and provide an impact on defense. Curry’s incredible all-around play should land him his first MVP award, and with the level that he plays at, it might not be his last either.
Chris McGlynn