The NFL offseason is so boring in mid-July that the biggest story line is a player not signing a contract. Most training camps are still two weeks away and even coaches are on vacation … but players have still been in competition since last season ended. In this small window of NFL serenity, we can thread together the most fun, heartwarming, and straight-up wacky things that happened this offseason, and because everything on the internet is a competition, we can hand out some awards. Below we have listed the categories and the nominees for each. Winners are in bold.
Best Budding Friendship
Sam Darnold & Josh Allen
Saquon Barkley & Baker Mayfield
The entire Tennessee Titans roster
In April, we saw the Titans’ offensive line (likely DD’ed by Marcus Mariota) frat-chugging beer at a Nashville Predators game as left tackle Taylor Lewan held an (enormous) catfish aloft AND CHUGGED OUT OF THE FISH.
The Titans affirmed their bond at minicamp, when the team invented a real-life version of Fortnite. Every player was given a foam sword they needed to carry with them wherever they went. If they were caught without it, they could be “tagged.”
”Best kill is the first one,” Titans linebacker Will Compton told ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. “[Titans draft pick Luke Falk] was a runner, but he couldn’t escape. He wasn’t strapped. We had to take his soul. You gotta stay strapped.”
The Titans may not always have their swords, but they’ll always have each other.
Still, the Titans were no match for the Gods of the 2018 draft class, Darnold and Allen. Top prospects in a draft class often go through so many pre-draft exercises and media appearances that they can become legitimate friends. That’s how LeBron and the Banana Boat squad got acquainted, it’s how Saquon and Baker became brothers for life, and it’s how Sam Darnold and Josh Allen became so …
Yes, that is Bills quarterback Josh Allen sticking his wet finger into the ear of Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. A wet willy. Clearly, these two have become fast friends. Let’s hope the divisional rivalry between their respective teams doesn’t tear their newfound relationship apart.
Best TV Show (Series)
Von Miller, Von Miller’s Studio 58
JuJu Smith-Schuster, JuJu TV
Jay Cutler, Very Cavallari
Josh Norman, Dancing With the Stars
Mike Renner, The Bachelorette
Pro Football Focus analyst Mike Renner was on The Bachelorette briefly in one small episode for him but one large leap for sportswriters everywhere. (Renner would likely argue it was too small of a sample size to make any sweeping conclusions.)
Still, Renner loses out because he:
1. Doesn’t play in the NFL.
2. Was eliminated immediately.
Washington cornerback Josh Norman, meanwhile, got much further in this season of Dancing With the Stars.
Josh Norman starts with a JUMP. Ties for the highest judge score of the night. He will compete in next week's show. pic.twitter.com/1n2vkLHtSl— Jake Kring-Schreifels (@jakeks19) May 1, 2018
And Von Miller launched a Facebook show on which he plays a chicken scientist superhero, performs sketch comedy, and convinced Odell Beckham Jr. to rip off a lock of his hair.
That all looks impressive (and painful), but it pales in comparison with Jay Cutler’s budding media empire. Cutler has become the star of his wife’s reality show, Very Cavallari, with the poor body language and general apathy that made him unsuccessful in the NFL. Apparently what fails to unite an NFL locker room can make for must-watch television every week.
Best Celebrity Crossover Event
Antonio Brown, “God’s Plan” Music Video cameo
Beckham, hanging out in Cristiano Ronaldo’s Bugatti
Rob Gronkowski, “Gronkowski” nearly winning the Belmont Stakes
Brown played a prominent role in February’s music video for “God’s Plan,” the pinnacle of Drake’s hiding-a-child era, and toppled pre-offseason favorite Beckham from his perch as Drake’s favorite receiver. Beckham, meanwhile, got to chill in Ronaldo’s customized Bugatti, but apparently Ronaldo didn’t let him drive it.
There’s nothing new about athletes hanging with rappers or soccer stars, but there is everything new about racehorses being named after Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, the horse, inspired (and now partially owned) by Rob, was scratched from the Kentucky Derby but came in second at the Belmont Stakes, one place shy of stopping Justify from winning the Triple Crown.
“WHERE IS HE AT? WHERE IS HE AT?!?!” Gronk yells like a parent in the stands before learning his namesake lost. Don’t worry, Gronk. You’ve won this award.
Best Gift for Mom
Derwin James, House for Mom
Derrius Guice, Car for Mom
Saquon Barkley, House for Mom and Dad
Not everything is a competition. All three moms are winners here. Barkley bought his parents a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, near where he grew up. Chargers first-round pick Derwin James also bought his mother a house earlier this month. The most tear-inducing video came from Washington’s second-round pick out of LSU, Derrius Guice, who bought his mother a car.
I’m glad it’s raining in that video so I don’t have to hear the sound of my tears cascading down my cheeks and pooling on my laptop.
Most Heartwarming Life Update
Jason Kelce, #TwoRingSeason
Baker Mayfield, proposing while wearing gym shorts
Saquon Barkley, having a child two days before the NFL draft
First overall pick Baker Mayfield proposed to his girlfriend in a “d’awwww” inducing Instagram last month.
The couple, first spotted together in January, is now engaged, but Baker loses out on the award because he proposed in gym shorts, a decision even more perplexing considering his now-fiancée seems dressed for the occasion. WYD, Baker???
The man taken directly after Mayfield, Saquon Barkley, became a father two days before the NFL draft. Having the baby before the draft meant Giants fans (I’m talking about me) couldn’t properly fawn over the baby, which was really poor planning by Saquon and his girlfriend, Anna Congdon. Having a child and becoming an NFL player in the same two-day span would be too much to put on the shoulders of a lesser-sculpted man, and, quite honestly, it sounds too stressful to be 100 percent heartwarming. Instead, we can bask in the ecstasy of Eagles center Jason Kelce, brother of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who got married two months after winning the Super Bowl.
#TwoRingSeason is the true ultimate goal for any NFL player, plus centers never get individual trophies. Enjoy the first—and only—individual recognition of your career, Jason.
Best Music Career
Le’Veon Bell, No Announcement
Cole Beasley, The Autobiography
This offseason, Le’Veon Bell released another rap album and even gave a live performance with Trippie Redd at Number Fest in April.
For the first (and probably only) time in his life, Bell was overshadowed by Cole Beasley, the Cowboys wide receiver who dropped his own album in May. Usually, a football player releasing a rap album is like Quavo playing quarterback on his birthday. (We get it, you were a legend in high school.) But Beasley makes it clear he’s more than a football player. Congrats, Cole, you are sort of a rapper now.
Funniest Viral Video
Smith-Schuster, JuJu goes back to school
Jared Goff, pretending to be a transfer QB
Gronkowski, dance-off with Shaq at Ultra
Mark Sanchez, Jon Gruden impression
Mark Sanchez nailed the Gruden impression, which is hysterical because of how perfectly he says “throws a strike” in his Gruden voice—and also because Sanchez looks so at home as a substitute teacher.
Jared Goff is a bit too natural pretending to be the annoying transfer quarterback at Ventura College with a neck tattoo and flowing brown lettuce. Also, Goff loses points because he didn’t exactly run away with the competition or win over the team as much as he should have (shout-out to no. 18, a true locker-room glue guy for standing by Ventura’s original starting quarterback).
JuJu pulls the exact opposite stunt as Goff, and it’s clear how much he relishes walking through his alma mater as the BMOC. Dressed in full pads, cleats, and his Steelers jersey and helmet, Smith-Schuster parades around USC’s campus, hops in a soccer game and stiff-arms students on the track (3:58), eats some churros, walks into a lecture hall and begins taking notes (8:00), and runs routes against random kids at the quad (10:05).
Unfortunately, Sanchez, Goff, and JuJu never had a chance, because here is Rob Gronkowski and Shaq doing a dance battle to “Get Low” by Lil Jon at Ultra Music Festival in Miami.
There are not many people in the world who would attempt to put Gronkowski on their shoulders, but there is Shaq, wearing a Superman T-shirt and nestling his head between Gronk’s legs. Shaq almost throws his back out before giving up, but then Gronk just launches himself in the air and climbs over his back for the ultimate Hack-a-Shaq. He scales Mount Shaqtus and hoists himself onto his shoulders. With two men combining to stand more than 13 feet tall and 550 pounds, the entire crowd begins screaming, “Get low, get low, get low …”
Who says the NFL offseason is boring?