Tom Brady is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, the Cleveland Browns have a winning record and the NFC East is a disgrace to football fans everywhere. The 2020 NFL season has been full of exciting storylines, from a heated MVP race to one of the most inspiring stories in sports history. Nine weeks in, it is time to discuss midseason awards.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers
The Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates list only has two candidates left. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is eighth in the league in passing yards, has a budding connection with fellow rookie wide receiver Tamaurice Higgins and has the poise expected of a reigning Heisman winner. He is also spending most games scrambling from defensive linemen chomping at his heels. Herbert, however, has comfortably outplayed the 2020 number one pick. Herbert is among the top 10 quarterbacks in passer rating, passing touchdowns, adjusted yards gained per pass attempt and yards per completion, while Burrow lurks near the bottom of the pack. With strong measurables, gaudy numbers and impressive efficiency, Herbert deserves Offensive Rookie of the Year, despite the Chargers’ poor record.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Chinn, Safety, Carolina Panthers
While defensive end Chase Young, linebacker Patrick Queen and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. could all claim this award, Chinn has been underappreciated. He has already adopted the role of someone like New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins; he flies around the field making tackles, breaking up passes, pressuring the quarterback and converting fake punts. With the 13th most tackles in the league, he leads Queen among rookies by a large margin. In coverage, he allows a lower completion rating than Winfield and a passer rating of 99 to Winfield’s 130.9. Though he lacks name recognition, Chinn has been the best, most versatile defensive rookie.
Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith, Quarterback, Washington Football Team
Smith earning playing time on an NFL field this season makes this award unquestionably his. To see Smith go from potentially losing his life and leg to then suiting up for Washington in just over two years is enough to make any sports fan’s eyes well up. An honorable mention goes to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but there is no argument against Smith. He is the comeback king of comeback kings.
Offensive Player of the Year: Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
The only argument against Mahomes being the Offensive Player of the Year is that he is actually the MVP of the entire league. He just put together a 372-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 9 against Carolina while becoming the fastest player to throw for 100 career touchdowns. Kansas City is 8-1, with Mahomes blowing up box scores and highlight reels every Sunday, and his 25:1 passing touchdowns to interceptions ratio is the most telling stat of the team’s pure, unopposed dominance. Penciling in Mahomes as the Offensive Player of the Year or MVP is now routine.
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Los Angeles Rams
This award could go to Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett, Donald or Pittsburgh linebacker TJ Watt. They mirror one another in most standard stats. Despite such razor-thin margins, however, the honor belongs to Donald. Watt has the help of a Pittsburgh defense laden with stars, from defensive tackle Cameron Heyward to safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Garrett does not have the same help, but Cleveland’s defense also does not have the same results. Los Angeles, however, is second the best team in preventing yards and points. He remains the best defensive player in the league as he seeks his third Defensive Player of the Year career award.
Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Not recognizing what Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores has done for the team would be criminal. Miami has no right to be as good as it has been with the talent on its roster. Flores deserves all the credit for the team’s transformation. But, where Miami’s 5-3 record is impressive, Tomlin’s Pittsburgh team is perfect. It stands alone at 8-0, with key wins over Cleveland, the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens. With a quarterback who had not played football in a year and lackluster offensive support, this year’s team was, on paper, unlikely to become the first 8-0 team in franchise history, but Tomlin’s magic did its work.
Most Valuable Player: Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle SeahawksWhile he had a horrible performance this past week against the Buffalo Bills, Wilson is still the midseason MVP. It is contradictory to say that he is not while also recognizing Seattle’s historically, hilariously bad defense and reckoning with the fact that it is number one, tied with the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans in the NFC with a 6-2 record. No team so devoid of talent on one end of the ball should be able to make a postseason run, let alone be championship contenders, but Wilson defies reason. At the season’s halfway point, he is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s single-season passing record. If he can rebound from his Buffalo showing and continue making 30-point games on a typical Sunday occasion, he will hold onto the award over Mahomes.
Saar Shah is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. The Fifth Quarter appears online every other week.