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The Winners and Losers of NFL Honors

Lamar Jackson won MVP. Christian McCaffrey won Offensive Player of the Year. Everything went as expected—wait … Joe Flacco won Comeback Player of the Year?!

AP Images/Ringer illustration

If you actually watched the NFL Honors broadcast Thursday night, you’re a sicko. If all you did was turn on tweet notifications for Ian Rapoport or Adam Schefter (or pick your favorite NFL Twitter aggregator), you didn’t miss much outside of an awkward trapeze performance and watching Kirk Cousins dance with some random shirtless men. Either way, this blog will hit the highlights and the lowlights of the NFL’s bathetic announcements without mentioning any of the 16 (!!) presenting sponsors.

Loser: The Jets

Damar Hamlin nearly died after going into cardiac arrest on the field in January of last year. It’s a true miracle that he’s able to continue to pursue his dream in the NFL. His comeback story is among the most celebrated in sports, yet it’s still not enough to win AP Comeback Player of the Year over Browns quarterback Joe Flacco, who came back from playing for the Jets for three seasons.

Winner: The Browns

What Flacco did to captain the Browns to a playoff berth without many of the team’s best players is wildly impressive, especially considering that he did it all at 38 years young. He threw for over 300 yards and multiple touchdowns in five of his six starts to close out the season. His success was emblematic of that of head coach Kevin Stefanski, who led the team to the postseason without his two starting offensive tackles, star running back Nick Chubb, and starting quarterback Deshaun Watson for most of the year and won the Coach of the Year award. Add in that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz won Assistant Coach of the Year and defensive end Myles Garrett won Defensive Player of the Year, and it’s fair to say it was a good day at the office for the Browns.

Losers: West Coast Sickos and the 16 Sponsors

You probably weren’t going to watch anyway, but you also couldn’t have if you live on the West Coast. I, like a lot of other people, had to find another way to watch the broadcast. After some deep research (scouring Reddit), it looks like the NFL Honors will air on tape delay at 9 p.m. PT—three hours after the actual start time—for West Coasters because it’s in conflict with local affiliates.

Winner: QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, at just 27, became the 11th NFL player to win multiple MVP awards, a crowning achievement for one of the league’s brightest stars. Although the take artists will home in on his throw into triple coverage in the AFC championship game that ended the Ravens’ season, what Jackson accomplished leading up to that moment was truly special. He leveled up in ways under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken that many never expected from him. He is one of the NFL’s most prolific passers and runners and athletes. A second MVP award rightfully solidifies him among the most special people to ever play the game.

Loser: The Voting Deadline

Huh? The deadline to submit votes for all the awards is the Wednesday after the regular season. Yes, that means all of the votes are cast before the most important games of the season are even played. THERE ARE TWO WEEKS BETWEEN THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS AND THE SUPER BOWL WHEN ALL ANYONE DOES IS REINVENT WAYS TO TALK ABOUT THE SAME TWO TEAMS UNTIL THEY ASK AI TO GIVE PLAYERS FACE TATTOOS. I understand that there would be less time to prepare for the illustrious broadcast no one watches, but is that a good enough reason to prevent voters from factoring in the most defining moments of the year? Make it make sense.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead

Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua and defensive tackle Kobie Turner didn’t win Offensive Rookie of the Year or Defensive Rookie of the Year Thursday night, but the fact that they were both named finalists as former fifth- and third-round picks, respectively, is a good reason to give Snead his flowers. The “f--- them picks” mantra that led the Rams to land Matthew Stafford and win a Super Bowl two years ago forced Snead to find more diamonds in the rough: that is, on days two and three of the NFL draft. And, boy, has he found some diamonds. Nacua’s rookie-year success is well documented in the history books. He broke the rookie single-game receptions record in Week 2 and finished the season with both the receptions and receiving yards records, hauling in 105 passes for 1,486 yards and six touchdowns. Turner, who finished third in DROY voting, behind Will Anderson Jr. and Jalen Carter, didn’t quite have the same level of success, but among rookies, he still finished the season ranked first in sacks and fifth in pressures. (And that doesn’t even get into the successes of other recent second- and third-day picks like guard Steve Avila, running back Kyren Williams, defensive end Byron Young, and linebacker Ernest Jones IV.)

Loser: DE Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders

To be clear, Crosby isn’t a loser. He’s a superstar pass rusher. The problem is he isn’t the league’s only superstar pass rusher. T.J. Watt, Micah Parsons, Nick Bosa, and Myles Garrett—who rightfully won his first DPOY Award on Thursday—are all fellow phenoms playing in the peaks of their careers at the same position on better teams. Only one of the last 10 DPOY winners (J.J. Watt, 2014) has earned the award without also making the playoffs that same season. Crosby played in all 17 games and over 1,000 defensive snaps despite suffering through multiple injuries, including knee and hand injuries that required surgery in the offseason. He’s a real-life Iron Man with elite-level production to boot. He was one of eight players with 14 or more sacks on the year, and he finished the regular season ranked fourth in total pressures. Blame Josh McDaniels or the glut of premier talent in the league at defensive end. It’s not your fault, Maxx, it’s not your fault.

(Just because he didn’t win DPOY doesn’t mean my guy didn’t show up absolutely fitted.)

Loser: Detroit Lions HC Dan Campbell

What Campbell has done to reinvent the Lions franchise is miraculous. In just three seasons, Detroit has gone from a disaster to a legitimate NFC contender. The second-half collapse against the 49ers in the NFC championship game doesn’t change that. Yet he’s still a loser following NFL Honors because he missed his best chance to win Coach of the Year. Campbell was the preseason favorite to win the award but ultimately lost to head coach Kevin Stefanski, who led an injury-plagued Browns team to a playoff berth. That stinks for two reasons:

  1. Voters had to submit their votes for Coach of the Year a few days before Stefanski’s Browns were blown out, 45-14, in the wild-card round of the playoffs. It ultimately doesn’t matter that Campbell and the Lions won two more playoff games than the Browns.
  2. The bar has officially been raised for Campbell. He’s no longer the underdog you need to be to win Coach of the Year in the NFL. For whatever reason, the honor is usually handed to the coach who exceeds preset (or injury-set) expectations, not purely the best coach in football.

The good news is that Campbell wasn’t called by a different name after winning the award. That was Steven Stefanski.

Winner: PR/KR/WR Devin Hester

Hester is widely considered the best return man in NFL history. His touchdown return on the opening kickoff of the 2007 Super Bowl is iconic. He has four more career punt return touchdowns than any other NFL player, six kickoff return touchdowns, and a 108-yard return for a touchdown on a missed field goal. He is now the first player announced to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his returning abilities, and he may also be the last. Kickoff returns are going the way of the dodo with all of the recent rule changes encouraging players not to take kicks out of the end zone. Fortunately for all of us, Hester played well before all of that.

Winner: Houston Texans

Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud and defensive end Will Anderson Jr. won Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, respectively, making it back-to-back years in which the same team won both awards (Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Sauce Gardner won last season). The difference is that the Texans have found their quarterback. Stroud finished the 2023 regular season ranked sixth in expected points added per dropback. He ranked sixth in the same statistic among all rookie quarterback seasons since 2000. Head coach DeMeco Ryans also finished second in Coach of the Year voting, and longtime Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson officially made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was a big night for Houston, and the future with Stroud, Anderson, and Ryans couldn’t be brighter.

Loser: WR Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs

If Toney lined up just a few inches farther back, the Chiefs would have likely beaten the Bills in December on the Travis Kelce pitch play that never was, and the Chiefs would have probably gone on to earn the top seed in the AFC. A nice reminder of that is that offside penalty also cost the Chiefs the Next Gen Stats Moment of the Year, as that would-be play definitely would have won over CeeDee Lamb’s 92-yard touchdown. It’s arguably the most incredible regular-season play of the past 20 years. But, again, it didn’t count because, well, Toney.