On Thursday, January 25th, the National Football League announced the finalists for the multiple awards for this past regular season. All of the finalists have made sound arguments as to why they should take home the hardware. But there can be only one winner, and not everyone will be satisfied when the winners are announced on February 8th.
Here are some early favorites to win each of the coveted honors for the 2023 regular season.
AP Coach of the Year: Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions
Not enough can be said about the work Dan Campbell has done in the Motor City. After starting his coaching tenure with the Detroit Lions 3-13, Campbell led the Lions to their first NFC North Title since 1993. Plus, he ended a 30+ season playoff drought and is led his team to the NFC Championship game. Campbell may have had his hands full against fellow finalist, San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan, but his “back down from no man” attitude has won over the locker room and Lions fans everywhere.
Runner-Up: DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans
AP Assistant Coach of the Year: Mike Macdonald; Defensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
As much as the Ravens offense clobbered opposing defenses left to right in 2023, the defense deserves equal amounts of praise, with coordinator Mike Macdonald as its mastermind. Under Macdonald’s tutelage, Baltimore’s defense has allowed fewer points than any other team this season.
Only two other teams have relinquished fewer than 300 points across the entire 17-game campaign. Baltimore may have allowed more yards than they would’ve liked, but few experts can deny that this core is elite, and the resume from the regular season speaks for itself.
Runner-Up: Ben Johnson, Offensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions
Comeback Player of the Year: Baker Mayfield; Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Say what you will about Baker Mayfield’s abilities as a signal caller. But his desire to “leave it all on the field” is rivaled by a very small handful of current players. The journeyman field general posted career-highs in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and pass completion percentage in this past outing. Just as he lifted Cleveland from obscurity in the 2020 campaign, Mayfield helped Tampa Bay take the NFC South title and upset the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Tampa Bay ought to look into keeping Mayfield around for at least a little longer.
Runner-Up: Matthew Stafford; Quarterback, Los Angeles Rams.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kobie Turner; Defensive Tackle, Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have enjoyed a welcomed turnaround from the dismal 2022 season, and their rookie class of 2023 has been a driving force in their playoff return. One such rookie, Wake Forest product Kobie Turner, has formed a formidable tandem with future Hall-of-Famer, Aaron Donald, in the trenches. Turner has tallied 57 total tackles and nine sacks on the season. Turner has the potential to be a multi-time Pro-Bowl nose tackle, and could be a cornerstone for the currently-revamping Rams defense.
Runner-Up: Devon Witherspoon; Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
Offensive Rookie of the Year: C.J. Stroud; Quarterback, Houston Texans
Apparently, nobody told the Houston Texans that 2023 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. First-year head coach, DeMeco Ryans, and Ohio State product, C.J. Stroud, had plans to make an impact right out of the gate, and they certainly did. Despite missing a few games due to concussion protocol, Stroud excelled in the pocket and helped lead Houston to not only an AFC South title, but a dominant win over the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card Round. C.J. broke numerous NFL rookie records along the way, and became the youngest starting quarterback ever to win a playoff game.
Runner-Up: Puka Nacua; Wide-Receiver, Los Angeles Rams
Check back next week to see who are some early favorites to win Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, and the 2023 Most Valuable Player.
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