Tonight is the NFL Honors, where a handful of awards will be given to some of the league's elite voted by journalists. Following the culmination of the regular season in Week 18, journalists came together to put in their votes for seven awards including the MVP, Coach of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year.
It is apparent that certain players will be winning awards before they are even announced, but here is how I would have voted if given the opportunity after this 2021 NFL Season.
MVP: Tom Brady
TB12 may have only just retired, but his season was just ridiculous. He threw for 5316 passing yards, a career-high, 43 passing touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Aaron Rodgers is clearly the favourite for the award with journalists, but the season that Brady just had was incredible, even without acknowledging the fact he is 44 years old. The recently retired quarterback had a 102.1 passer rating and had his best year as a rusher in a decade. A smaller detail in his season, but one that shows just how great it was for Brady. The former Patriots and Bucs quarterback also threw nearly 200 more passes than Rodgers, so to have 67.5% passing accuracy is rather impressive. Considering Rodgers' was only 1.4% higher in less of a gunslinging offense adds to that. It is a shame that Brady will not win the MVP in his final year, especially since he had a fair shot of winning it. However, the game is all about opinions, and that is what makes it so great.
Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp
It was a year that saw the emergence of many stars. Kupp, Deebo Samuel and Jonathan Taylor all had sensational seasons. Samuel became a two-headed monster by himself as he took over in the rushing and receiving game, while Taylor literally became the Colts offense with 1811 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. However, both were overshadowed by a player that may receive MVP votes in Kupp. He took over the league this season and elevated himself into an absolute star. He led the NFL in every receiving category as he had a sensational year. He had the second-most receiving yards in league history with 1947, and he had the second-most receptions for a season with 145. Kupp helped bring Matthew Stafford's game to a level that he has not reached before, and although it was after the voting, he was crucial in getting his team to the Super Bowl.
Defensive Player of the Year: TJ Watt
Watt continued the fantastic start to his NFL career by making history. He led the NFL and equalled Michael Strahan's sack record with 22.5 on the season. What makes that statistic more impressive is that Watt did it in one less game as he spearheaded the Steelers' late-season charge to the playoffs. Watt would also lead the NFL in tackles for loss and quarterback hits, the second successive season that he has achieved that feat. He was a disruptor all season and had five forced fumbles with three recoveries. For what was a putrid offense for the majority of the season, Watt was the man that kept Pittsburgh competitive throughout and without his contributions, Big Ben's final season may well have looked a lot different.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja'Marr Chase
It seems like a lifetime ago when Chase had struggles catching the ball in pre-season, and people were showing grave concern as to whether he could hang in the NFL. Having opted out of his final college season at LSU due to COVID-19. Chase had not played a game of any sort since the National Championship. His selection by the Bengals was heavily scrutinised after they passed on Penei Sewell, and his pre-season struggles added to the criticism. I was one of those people scrutinising the pick, but how he shut us all up. Chase elevated the Cincinnati offense to one of the most exciting in the league and helped Joe Burrow and co to the AFC North title. After finishing dead last at 4-12-1 in the previous season, the wide receiver played a crucial role in helping the Bengals go from worst to first. He was that difference maker as he ended the season with 1455 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns and 81 receptions. His elite performances did not stop there though. It may not count in the voting, but he continued his sensational season in the postseason as he tallied two 100-yard games against the Raiders and Titans, the first rookie to ever do so. Chase had a sensational season and will deservedly win the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Parsons
Probably the easiest decision made in the NFL Honors. Parsons played like a five-year veteran in his rookie year, and what makes it even more sensational is the fact that he played with a hyperextended knee for the entirety of the 2021 season. He showed his versatility throughout the year as he lined up on the defensive line as an edge rusher while also playing at linebacker, where he caused constant mayhem. Parsons deservedly earned a Pro Bowl berth and was voted as a first-team All-Pro. He ended the year with 13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 84 total tackles. It was an incredible season for the linebacker, who has now set ridiculously high standards for himself.
Comeback Player of the Year: Joe Burrow
It was a fantastic second year for Burrow. Having seen his rookie year end with a brutal ACL tear in Washington, there were grave concerns as to how the young quarterback would bounce back, especially with the offensive line issues. However, he looked like a player that had not suffered a devastating knee injury the season beforehand. Burrow showed his toughness throughout the season as he was sacked 51 times. For a quarterback coming off an injury of that magnitude, that sort of beating would be enough to send a player into hiding, but Burrow kept getting back up. He was unaffected by that and led the league in completion percentage. Burrow ended the season with 4611 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. It is also important to add that the former number one overall pick was the most efficient quarterback in the league with his completion percentage as a whole and on the money plays on third and fourth down. He was cool as ice, and although Dak Prescott was the favourite for the award for the majority of the year, it is hard to look beyond Burrow. He took his team from worst to first, was sacked the most times, and was the NFL's most efficient quarterback in his second year. He more than deserves the award with a potential Super Bowl winners ring looming.
Coach of the Year: Zac Taylor
Mike Vrabel and Matt LeFleur are both the favourites for this award, but for me, Taylor should be the one stepping up on that podium and accepting it on Thursday night. Before the season had started, Taylor was the odds on favourite to be the first Head Coach fired, having struggled in his first two seasons. He came into the year with no offensive line, a suspect defense, and a quarterback that was afraid of any contact. He managed to turn that team into AFC North champions. People will be championing LeFleur for how he managed the Aaron Rodgers adversity, but ARod still played the entire season. They did not have major changes in the offseason and kept the majority of the team together. Vrabel should have a better shot after losing what seemed to be half of his roster to injury, but in the context of the situation, Taylor managed to turn one of the NFL's worst teams into one of the best in just a year. Now on the eve of Super Bowl weekend, the third-year Head Coach has made a Super Bowl before the other two. The work he has done to transform the culture and fortunes of one of the most unfortunate teams in the NFL is something that should be rewarded.