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Helmet-to Helmet: Where things went right, and who got robbed at the NFL Honors

The NFL season has now fully wrapped up, and the Kansas City Chiefs have established their dynasty by winning their third championship in five years.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

The San Francisco 49ers are once again left with a bitter feeling after losing the Super Bowl, but at least one of their players was recognized for his outstanding season. 

Last Thursday, the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey took home the Offensive Player of the Year award, after leading the league in scrimmage yards and tied for the most touchdowns.

As for the other season-long awards given out last week, Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson took home his second regular season Most Valuable Player award, making him the third active player to have received this honor multiple times. 

This year, 49 of 50 voters selected him, with the odd man out picking Josh Allen. According to a Sports Illustrated article, Aaron Schatz of FTN Network said he voted for the Bills QB because he “was much more valuable running the ball” and had less “mediocre-to-bad” games. 

Interestingly enough, other than total touchdowns and passing yards, Lamar beats Allen in most other categories. That includes having 11 less interceptions, a higher Quarterback Rating, a higher completion percentage and more rushing yards. 

One QB also led his team to an NFL-best 13-4 record, whereas the other had to climb from a 6-6 record to clinch a weaker division in the last game. An argument can be made for Allen, but ultimately I believe Lamar should have walked away with his second unanimous MVP.

Moving over to Defensive Player of the Year, Browns DE Myles Garrett just edged out Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt. 

Watt finished only four first place votes behind Garrett, and ended the season with five more sacks and 15 more tackles. 

An argument can be made for either side, but I believe that this decision came down to a singular factor: Garrett was the best player on the best overall defense in the league. It’s hard to ignore that, but Watt deserves his flowers for a dominating presence and output in another stellar campaign. 

In terms of rookie awards, a mind-boggling turnaround in Houston saw their top two rookies getting rewarded for their efforts. 

Starting with Defensive Rookie of the Year, former Alabama star Will Anderson Jr. beat out Jalen Carter of the Philadelphia Eagles in another close race. Anderson Jr. had a great campaign, finishing as second-highest on his team in both sacks and tackles for loss. 

Unfortunately for Carter, it’s a tall task to stand out in a D-line with guys like Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis and Josh Sweat. Statistics leaned Anderson Jr.’s way, and he was more impactful for his team.

As far as Offensive Rookie of the Year goes, the battle between Puka Nakua and C.J. Stroud did not end up as close as some imagined. Nakua broke the single-season rookie receiving record, and was a key piece in fueling a late surge to the playoffs for the Rams, especially in Cooper Kupp’s absence. 

But Stroud put together one of the best rookie QB seasons of all time by many metrics — most attempts without an interception to start a career, most single-game passing yards by a rookie, third in passer rating and yards of a rookie campaign to name a few. 

He finished with a whopping 48 of 50 first-place votes, with Nakua getting as many second-place votes. I think the voters got this spot on, and it’s a shame that the trophy couldn’t be split between the two.

Comeback Player of the Year is a tricky one. Yes, Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and miraculously played football the following season. But in the five games he appeared, he only recorded two tackles. 

Joe Flacco, on the other hand, was retired and sitting on his couch until week 13, when he got the call from a QB-depleted Browns team. In five games, he averaged 307 yards and threw for 13 touchdowns to help a seemingly hopeless squad get the fifth seed in the AFC.

Now onto what I thought was the most controversial choice — the Coach of The Year Award. Take nothing away from Kevin Stefanski of the Browns, who made the playoffs despite using five different quarterbacks during the regular season without star running back Nick Chubb. 

To me, however, DeMeco Ryans deserved it more. I can’t remember a turnaround as quick as the Texans this season. 

They were the laughing stock of the league in 2022-2023 going 3-13-1, which was the league’s second-worst record. Fast forward a year later, the team under Ryans not only finished 10-7, but also made it past the first round after embarrassing a red-hot Flacco. 

Obviously the talent of Stroud and emergence of receivers like Tank Dell and Nico Collins helped, but it took a special head coach to jumpstart what was supposed to be another rebuilding year for H-town.


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