Every season is dominated by NFL awards chatter. Discussion over MVP, Rookies of the Year, Coach of the Year and more is commonplace among fans and media members alike. It can prove to be divisive. It can define careers and legacies.
Winning an NFL award can be a personal goal. For some, it will be a specific target when the season begins. Others will see it as a pleasant reward for team success.
Let’s take a look at the main NFL awards, featuring the current holders and a bit of NFL history.
A trend present through the majority of categories, the Associated Press NFL MVP is recognised as the official NFL MVP award.
Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers was the first winner of the AP NFL MVP back in 1961. The Packers are the most successful franchise in the history of AP NFL MVP.
In recent years, the Super Bowl jinx has emerged, with multiple players winning MVP and losing the Super Bowl in the same year. This fate has hit numerous times since the turn of the century. Only 10 players have managed to win MVP and the Big Game in the same season.
There’s been nine multiple MVP winners, including 2021 NFL MVP winner Aaron Rodgers.
NFL MVP winner 2021: Aaron Rodgers
Coach of the Year
The NFL Coach of the Year award is handed to the head coach who has done the most outstanding job with the talent at his disposal. This doesn’t always mean the best record. It can be recognition of a team making a surprise playoff push.
Since the award was first handed out in 1957, only 13 times has it gone to the coach of the eventual Super Bowl winners.
12 coaches have won the award more than once. Don Shula’s tally of four makes him the most successful, winning it for a final time with the Super Bowl winning Miami Dolphins in 1972.
NFL Coach of the Year winner 2021: Mike Vrabel
Rookie of the Year
The Associated Press Rookie of the Year is considered to be the official NFL honour. These awards were first handed out back in 1967, and have been split between offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year since.
The Chiefs, Chargers and Niners have had the most Defensive Rookie of the Year winners. Fittingly, the Bosa brothers have each won the award for the Niners and Chargers.
With six awards, the Minnesota Vikings are the most successful franchise in Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Interestingly, Offensive Rookie of the Year is shared around positions much more than MVP.
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year winner 2021: Ja’Marr Chase
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year winner 2021: Micah Parsons
Comeback Player of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year is given to a player who has bounced back from severe injury, not being in the league or poor performance.
This has been awarded by various different organisations over the years, with the Associated Press, Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly all giving a version of the award out over the last few years.
There is generally a consensus across the three. For instance, Alex Smith was the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year after recovering from an horrific broken leg which threatened his NFL career.
Unlike others, this award is rarely controversial.
AP Comeback Player of the Year winner 2021: Joe Burrow
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award
This was known as the NFL Man of the Year award until the death of Walter Payton. It was renamed after the NFL icon in 1999.
Winning Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year is an honour to signify a combination of humanitarian work off the field and success on it. Winners of the award wear are a patch on the uniforms for the remainder of their career.
Despite being renamed over two decades ago, the trophy itself has not been altered to reflect Payton. The initial hardware was modelled on Packers tackle Steve Wright.
In 2020, Russell Wilson became the first Seahawk since 1988 to win the award.
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner 2021: Andrew Whitworth