The NFL recognized the top players and performances of the 2020 season on the weekend of Super Bowl 55 at the 10th annual NFL Honors ceremony.
This year’s event was a virtual celebration rather than a gala at the Super Bowl venue because of COVID-19 restrictions.
SN’s NFL AWARDS: Full list of 2020 winners
Several of the award recipients also received Sporting News honors as voted by fellow players. Aaron Donald was SN’s Defensive Player of the Year and Washington QB Alex Smith was Comeback Player of the Year; both received the same honors from The Associated Press’ voters.
One major difference was Offensive Player of the Year: SN voters (i.e., players) chose Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes while AP voters went with Titans running back Derrick Henry. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, edged out Mahomes for AP Most Valuable Player.
The NFL Honors program also included the announcement of the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
Here’s everything you need to know as Sporting News lists all the NFL Honors award winners.
MORE NFL AWARDS: Sporting News 2020 NFL All-Pro team
NFL Honors 2021 award winners
Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Rodgers is now a three-time AP MVP after zooming past early favorite Patrick Mahomes in an otherworldly second-half. Beginning with Week 9, Rodgers completed 75.1 percent of his passes, averaged 261.2 yards passing, threw 28 touchdowns to three interceptions (he threw five picks all year), averaged 8.5 yards per attempt and racked up a 129.2 passer rating. Green Bay went 8-1 in those games on its way to winning the NFC North and clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
Henry was the heart of Tennessee’s offense in 2020, with 397 total touches, 2,141 total scrimmage yards and 17 total touchdowns. He also became the eighth member of the NFL’s 2,000 club, rushing for 2,027 yards on a league-high 378 carries.
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Rams
Donald turned in a typical season by his standards, which is to say, he was elite again: a team-leading 13.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 28 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. All of that from a lineman who usually lines up inside. That’s DPOY No. 3 for Donald.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers
Former LA coach Anthony Lynn had to play Herbert in Week 2 after Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung while receiving an injection. Lynn reluctantly stayed with Herbert as the 2020 first-rounder (sixth overall) quickly grew into the starter’s role. In 15 games, Herbert posted a rookie-record 31 touchdowns (to 10 interceptions), 7.3 yards per attempt and a 98.3 passer rating. He also rushed for 234 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chase Young, DE, Washington
Young brought boundless energy to Washington’s defense after the Team selected him second overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Ohio State product notched 7.5 sacks, recovered three fumbles and made 10 tackles for loss in 15 games.
Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith, QB, Washington
Could it really be anyone else? Smith almost died of an infection that developed after surgeries to repair a gruesome leg injury in 2018. He returned to the field in Week 5 of the 2020 season and took over as Washington’s starter in Week 10. He made six starts in all, with Washington winning the last five en route to winning the NFC East. Smith finished the season completing 66.7 percent of his passes with a 6:8 TD-to-interception ratio, but the numbers are secondary to Smith being able to resume his career.
Coach of the Year: Kevin Stefanski, Browns
Stefanski came over from the Vikings last offseason and promptly guided Cleveland to the franchise’s first playoff berth in 18 years. The Browns finished 11-5 during the regular season, capped by a two-point win over the rival Steelers in Week 17. While the Browns’ playoff blowout of Pittsburgh the next week in the wild-card round wasn’t a factor in the voting (this is a regular-season award), it still showed the progress the team has made under Stefanski.
Walter Payton Man of the Year: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Wilson’s tireless commitment to Seattle Children’s Hospital, which began when joined the Seahawks as a rookie, and his social justice work through his Why Not You Foundation (WNYF) earned him the NFL’s annual humanitarian honor. “It’s been one of the greatest gifts God’s given me, it’s just to be able to have influence and a little bit of change, too,” Wilson said of his connection to the hospital for a story by The (Tacoma, Wash.) News Tribune.
Assistant Coach of the Year: Brian Daboll, OC, Bills
Daboll drew up Buffalo’s high-powered offense in 2020 and pushed Josh Allen to execute it at a high level. Allen and Stefon Diggs became one of the league’s most dangerous QB-wide receiver combinations. The Bills finished second in the NFL with 501 total points in 2020.
Clutch Performance Play of the Year: Hail Murray, Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins
Murray’s desperation heave into the end zone for Hopkins turned a loss into a last-second win for the Cardinals against the Bills in Week 10.
Fantasy Player of the Year: Josh Allen, QB, Bills
Allen helped pile up points for his team and fantasy owners throughout 2020. He finished with 436.1 points in DraftKings’ fantasy scoring.
FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers; Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
These were the obvious choices. Rodgers, who was also named AP NFL MVP on Saturday, led the NFL with 48 touchdown passes; Henry led the league with 2,027 rushing yards.
Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Panthers
Bridgewater was recognized for outstanding sportsmanship on the field in 2020. The award is named for Rooney, the founder of the Steelers.
Celebration of the Year: Steelers celebrate Chase Claypool’s touchdown
This Week 10 end zone performance in Jacksonville after Claypool’s 31-yard TD reception from Ben Roethlisberger took the prize.