Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2020 Football Outsiders Awards

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Welcome to the results of the 18th annual Football Outsiders Awards—the best and worst players of the year, as voted on by you, our readers. For those curious about the FO Award winners in past years, you will find links to each of the previous FO Awards articles on this page. Last year's awards, specifically, are found here.

Who is the 2020 NFL MVP? (Last year's winner: Lamar Jackson, BAL)

61.4% Aaron Rodgers, GB
23.0% Patrick Mahomes, KC
7.4% Josh Allen, BUF
4.4% Tom Brady, TB
3.8% Deshaun Watson, HOU
 

While Patrick Mahomes led the league in passing DYAR, Rodgers led the league in DVOA. And completion percentage. And QBR. And passing touchdowns. Among qualifying quarterbacks, Rodgers had the highest rate of touchdowns and the lowest rate of interceptions. It also helps that the Packers went 13-3, won the NFC North championship, and earned home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Who is the 2020 Offensive Player of the Year (Non-QB)? (Last year's winner: Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR)

26.3% Derrick Henry, RB, TEN
26.3% Travis Kelce, TE, KC

23.3% Davante Adams, WR, GB
17.7% Stefon Diggs, WR, BUF
4.1% Alvin Kamara, RB, NO
1.8% Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN
0.6% Mike Evans, WR, TB
 

A very close three-way race ends with two players tying for the gold, with the bronze medal-winner nipping at their heels. For the second straight year, Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns, with just the eighth season ever over 2,000 yards on the ground. He also led the league in rushing DYAR for the first time. Speaking of DYAR leaders, Travis Kelce was the first tight end to lead all players in a season in receiving DYAR, the second-best season for a tight end on record. His 1,416 yards receiving this season set a new benchmark for his position. Though Henry and Kelce tied for the top spot, we shouldn't overlook Davante Adams, who led the league with 18 touchdown catches in only 14 games; he also led the league with 98.1 receiving yards per game, and led all wide receivers in receiving DYAR.

Who is the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year? (Last year's winner: Stephon Gilmore, CB, NE)

57.3% Aaron Donald, DT, LAR
14.5% T.J. Watt, OLB, PIT
7.4% Jaire Alexander, CB, GB
6.2% Lavonte David, ILB, TB
6.2% Xavien Howard, CB, MIA
4.2% Fred Warner, MLB, SF
3.0% Bobby Wagner, MLB, SEA
1.2% Demario Davis, MLB, NO

Football Outsiders readers have named Aaron Donald the league's best defensive player three times in the last four years. (The one exception was in 2019, when he finished second.) Donald's individual numbers were somewhat low, by his own lofty standards—he didn't lead the league in any significant categories. Still, he was in the top 10 in tackles for loss, fumbles forced, and sacks, and he was the best player on a defense that led the league in points allowed, yards allowed, and weighted DVOA. A worthy resume for defensive player of the year.

Who is the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year? (Last year's winner: A.J. Brown, WR, TEN)

45.1% Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN
42.2% Justin Herbert, QB, LAC
4.7% Tristan Wirfs, OT, TB
2.7% James Robinson, RB, JAX
1.8% Michael Onwenu, G/T, NE
1.8% Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND
0.9% Mekhi Becton, OT, NYJ
0.9% Jedrick Wills, OT, CLE

In only 15 starts, Justin Herbert threw 31 touchdown passes, four more than any rookie in league history. He also came within 38 passing yards of Andrew Luck's rookie record of 4,374. However, he was only eighth in passing DYAR, and 11th in DVOA—you can't reasonably argue that he was the league's best quarterback in 2020. Justin Jefferson, however, may well have been the league's top wide receiver. He joined Randy Moss and Michael Thomas as the only rookies to finish second at the position in receiving DYAR. He came off the bench in his first two games, catching only five passes for 70 yards; he started all 14 games afterwards, catching 83 passes for a league-best 1,330 yards over that stretch.

Who is the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year? (Last year's winner: Nick Bosa, DE, SF)

64.2% Chase Young, DE, WAS
18.0% Antoine Winfield, FS, TB
7.6% L'Jarius Sneed, CB, KC
7.3% Jeremy Chinn, OLB/SS, CAR
2.4% Jaylon Johnson, CB, CHI
0.3% Kenneth Murray, OLB, LAC

Pretty open-and-shut case here. Chase Young, the second pick in the draft, led all rookies with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss; his 12 quarterback hits were tied for first with Carolina's Derrick Brown. He was a big reason Washington finished third in defensive DVOA, the franchise's best ranking in that category since 1991.

Who was the best offensive lineman of 2020? (Last year's winner: Ronnie Stanley, OT, BAL)

29.2% David Bakhtiari, GB
12.2% Quenton Nelson, IND
9.1% Trent Williams, SF
8.5% Wyatt Teller, CLE
4.4% Jack Conklin, CLE
3.4% Corey Linsley, GB
3.4% Joel Bitonio, CLE
2.8% Tristan Wirfs, TB

David Bakhtiari missed four games in the regular season and two more in the playoffs. Green Bay went 4-2 in those games, which sounds good, but they were 10-2 with Bakhtiari in the lineup—and one of those losses came in overtime. In his dozen starts, Bakhtiari committed only four penalties (two false starts, two holds); Sports Info Solutions only counted four blown blocks for him all season, including zero on run plays. For the sake of comparison, Jacksonville's Jawaan Taylor led all tackles with 40 blown blocks; Las Vegas' Kolton Miller finished first at the position with 11 blown blocks on run plays.

We should also point out that in a write-in category, three different Cleveland linemen made the top 10. Maybe it was the Browns offensive line instead of running backs we should have nominated in our next category.

What is your choice for Unit of the Year in 2020? (Last year's winner: San Francisco defensive line/edge rushers)

37.0% Kansas City wide receivers/tight ends
16.4% Washington defensive line
16.1% Green Bay offensive line
10.4% Los Angeles Rams secondary
9.0% Cleveland running backs
5.1% Tampa Bay wide receivers/tight ends
3.3% New Orleans offensive line
2.7% New England special teams

The Chiefs receiving corps starts with Travis Kelce, the co-offensive player of the year. It also includes Tyreek Hill, second among all wide receivers in total DYAR (including rushing). The dropoff after those two is steep—Kelce and Hill had 46% of Kansas City's receptions this year, and 54% of their receiving yardage—but four other wide receivers combined to catch 10 touchdown passes.


The following section of the 2020 Football Outsiders Awards has been brought to you by the Buffalo Bills.

Who is 2020 NFL Head Coach of the Year? (Last year's winner: John Harbaugh, BAL)

30.5% Sean McDermott, BUF
23.4% Kevin Stefanski, CLE
16.6% Brian Flores, MIA
11.5% Andy Reid, KC
8.3% Ron Rivera, WAS
5.0% Matt LaFleur, GB
3.6% Frank Reich, IND
1.2% Mike Tomlin, PIT

Who wins 2020 Bill Arnsparger Award for Coordinator of the Year? (Last year's winner: Greg Roman, BAL offense)

37.9% Brian Daboll, BUF offense
18.8% Eric Bieniemy, KC offense
17.3% Brandon Staley, LAR defense
6.9% Robert Saleh, SF defense
4.8% Jack Del Rio, WAS defense
4.5% Matt Eberflus, IND defense
3.6% Josh Boyer, MIA defense
3.6% Arthur Smith, TEN offense
1.8% Keith Butler, PIT defense
0.9% Patrick Graham, NYG defense

Who wins 2020 Art Rooney Jr. Award for Executive of the Year? (Last year's winner: John Lynch, SF)

50.2% Brandon Beane, BUF
29.1% Jason Licht, TB
13.5% Chris Grier, MIA
3.3% Brian Gutekunst, GB
2.1% Les Snead, LAR
1.8% Steve Keim, ARI

That's a clean sweep for the braintrust in Orchard Park, New York. The Buffalo Bills went 10-6 and made the playoffs in 2019, but our readers voted them as the postseason team most likely to miss the playoffs in 2020. Instead the Bills got significantly better, winning 13 games in the regular season and two more in the playoffs, the first postseason wins for the franchise since 1995. That's a clear sign that the folks in charge know what they're doing. It starts with Brandon Beane, who in one offseason made the blockbuster trade for Stefon Diggs; added two veteran starters (Daryl Williams and Brian Winters) along the offensive line and two more (defensive tackle Vernon Butler and linebacker A.J. Klein) on defense; and found several rookie contributors (running back Zack Moss, wide receiver Gabriel Davis, kicker Tyler Bass) in the draft. Brian Daboll's primary achievement is taking Josh Allen—a wild-armed athlete whom we once called "a parody of a quarterback prospect"—and turning him into a legitimate MVP candidate. And Sean McDermott was at the center of it all, guiding the Bills to a 6-1 record in one-score games (including the wild-card win over Indianapolis). We will spoil one of our upcoming awards now and just let you know that the Bills did not repeat as the playoff team most likely to miss the playoffs in 2021.

The preceding section of the 2020 Football Outsiders Awards was brought to you by the Buffalo Bills.


Who is your choice for the 2020 Keep Choppin' Wood Award (player who hurt his team most, on or off the field)? (Last year's winner: Antonio Brown, WR, OAK/NE)

52.4% Carson Wentz, QB, PHI
42.2% Dwayne Haskins, QB, WAS
1.8% Sam Darnold, QB, NYJ
1.5% Dan Bailey, K, MIN
1.2% Vic Beasley, OLB, TEN
0.6% Andrew Thomas, OT, NYG

This was clearly a two-horse race, as two quarterbacks from Philadelphia and Washington combined to take nearly 95% of the vote. Dwayne Haskins of the Football Team was last in the league in passing DVOA; he only threw five touchdowns in 241 passes, a rate of 2.1% that was worst among qualifying passers. And it's not like he was running in multiple scores à la Cam Newton, Kyler Murray, or Josh Allen; he only ran for one touchdown all season. Off the field, Haskins was even worse—he was fined multiple times for violating COVID-19 protocols, putting his entire team (including head coach Ron Rivera, who was undergoing cancer treatment all season) at an enhanced risk of exposure to the virus.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Carson Wentz finished last in the league in passing DYAR, and joined Jon Kitna and Blake Bortles as the only quarterbacks to lead the NFL in interceptions thrown and sacks taken in the same season. And he did all that despite being benched for the last four games of the season; he was even a healthy scratch in Week 17. And though he wasn't caught breaking league rules concerning safe behavior in a global pandemic, rumors have been floating for years that Wentz was selfish and hard to get along with; his toxic attitude may have cost Doug Pederson his job only three years after winning a Super Bowl (a game he won without Wentz).

In the end, Wentz may have won this award because of the effects his season is going to have on the franchise beyond 2020. It's certainly not a good thing for Washington that they released Haskins, a former first-round draft pick, before the end of his second season, but now that it's done it's nearly a clean separation, with only $4.3 million in dead money in 2021. Wentz's contract extension, signed in 2019, still has four more years and over $78 million in salary remaining. Even if Wentz is traded this offseason, the fallout from his 2020 performance is going leave a mark on the Eagles roster for years to come.

Who is your choice for the 2020 Keep Choppin' Game Film Award (most ineffective head coach or coordinator)? (Last year's winner: Freddie Kitchens, CLE head coach)

58.9% Adam Gase, NYJ head coach
26.8% Matt Patricia, DET head coach
4.5% Mike Nolan, DAL defense
3.9% George Stewart, LAC special teams
3.6% Doug Pederson, PHI head coach
2.4% Doug Marrone, JAX head coach

Almost nothing went right for the Jets this season. Things were especially bad on offense, which was supposed to be Adam Gase's specialty. New York finished last in the league in points scored and yards gained, and next-to-last in DVOA. Sam Darnold, who hadn't performed very well in his first two seasons to begin with, regressed in his third year and was clearly outplayed by a washed-up Joe Flacco. But there was little sign that Gase was interested in winning; despite playing from behind all season, the Jets only went for it on fourth down 12 times, fewer than all but one other team (Carolina). There was also little sign Gase was building for the future, as New York's leader in yards from scrimmage was Frank Gore, a 37-year-old running back whose time in the NFL is near its end. It looked like Gase was just showing up on Sundays to pick up his paycheck as a 40-3 loss to Seattle dropped them to 0-13. Most thought Gase would be fired then, but he stuck around through end of the season … just in time to win a pair of useless games against the Rams and Browns (playoff teams, at that!) and ensure that Trevor Lawrence would be playing home games in Duval, not the Meadowlands. Gase finishes his Jets tenure with a win-loss record of 9-23; the only coach in franchise history with a worse mark in two-plus seasons is Rich Kotite (4-28).

Who was the least deserving pick for the Pro Bowl (not including injury replacements)? (Last year's winner: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB)

43.6% Evan Engram, TE, NYG
17.5% Maurkice Pouncey, C, PIT
12.3% Josh Jacobs, RB, LV
10.7% Kyler Murray, QB, ARI
5.8% Quandre Diggs, FS, SEA
5.5% Frank Clark, DE, KC
3.7% Matthew Slater, ST, NE
0.9% Marshon Lattimore, CB, NO

Evan Engram's election is an excellent example of the effects of evaluating players on the extent of their exploits rather than examining their efficiency. His 63 catches for 654 yards were both third in the NFC amongst tight ends and his best since his rookie year in 2017. However, he averaged a career-low 10.4 yards per catch and scored only one touchdown, and also fumbled for the first time as a professional. As such, he was next to last at his position in both receiving DYAR and DVOA. Enough, already.

Who is the most deserving offensive player left off the Pro Bowl roster? (Last year's winner: Dak Prescott, QB, DAL)

24.1% Tom Brady, QB, TB
14.2% Wyatt Teller, G, CLE
13.7% Robert Tonyan, TE, GB
8.0% Calvin Ridley, WR, ATL
7.5% Corey Linsley, C, GB
7.1% James Robinson, RB, JAX
5.2% Garrett Bolles, T, DEN
4.7% Ryan Tannehill, QB, TEN

Tom Brady's Pro Bowl absence is especially glaring after his latest Super Bowl win, but seemed strange even before the playoffs began. Only Aaron Rodgers threw for more touchdowns in 2020; only Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes threw for more yardage, and you'll note that neither of those men played in the same conference as Brady. Oh, and Brady was also third in DYAR and fourth in DVOA. 2020 was a very high-offense year with great passing statistics all over the place, but Brady's numbers stand up with most anyone else's.

Who is the most deserving defensive player left off the Pro Bowl roster? (Last year's winner: Za'Darius Smith, OLB, GB)

32.1% DeForest Buckner, DT, IND
25.5% Lavonte David, LB, TB
10.8% Devin White, LB, TB
7.1% Roquan Smith, LB, CHI
6.6% J.C. Jackson, CB, NE
3.3% Quinnen Williams, DT, NYJ
3.3% Trey Hendrickson, DE, NO
2.8% Jordan Poyer, S, BUF

In his first season in Indianapolis, DeForest Buckner led the Colts with 9.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 26 quarterback hits, and he did that all from the interior as a defensive tackle, on a unit that ranked in the top 10 overall and against the run and pass in DVOA. He finished on a high note, being named AFC defensive player of the month in December, when he had 5.0 sacks in four games, then added two more sacks in Week 17.

Buckner is followed here by a trio of NFC linebackers, which shows you how ridiculously deep the conference is at the position even behind Bobby Wagner and Fred Warner. After watching them tear offenses apart in the playoffs (64 tackles in four games!), it's hard to imagine that neither Lavonte David nor Devin White made the Pro Bowl roster, but of course voting is done prior to the postseason.

Who is the most deserving special teams player left off the Pro Bowl roster? (Last year's winner: Harrison Butker, K, KC)

18.8% Gunner Olszewski, PR, NE
15.8% Jason Myers, K, SEA
14.5% Tress Way, P, WAS
13.9% Jason Sanders, K, MIA
10.9% Corey Bojorquez, P, BUF
6.1% George Odum, ST, IND
4.2% Graham Gano, K, NYG
3.6% Devin Duvernay, KR, BAL
3.6% Justin Bethel, ST, NE
1.8% Michael Dickson, P, SEA

Gunner Olszewski averaged 17.3 yards on punt returns in 2020, for a total of 346 yards with one touchdown. All of those numbers led the NFL, solid credentials even ignoring that he was also New England's primary returner on kickoffs. Olszewski is the rare player who failed to make the Pro Bowl despite being named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.

Who is the player most likely to break out in 2021? (Last year's winner: 18.8% Kyler Murray, QB, ARI)

11.1% Tua Tagovailoa, QB, MIA
6.0% Jerry Jeudy, WR, DEN
5.0% Joe Burrow, QB, CIN
3.5% Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SF
3.5% J.K. Dobbins, RB, BAL
3.0% Denzel Mims, WR, NYJ
3.0% Sam Darnold, QB, NYJ
2.5% Jameis Winston, QB, NO
2.5% Michael Pittman Jr., WR, IND
 

Voting in this category is always diverse, in part because nobody can agree on the exact definition of a breakout and who is and is not eligible. This year's winner is Tua Tagovailoa, who only started nine games as a rookie, but won six of those starts (even though he sometimes needed relief pitcher Ryan Fitzpatrick to come out of the bullpen to pick up the save). Jerry Jeudy, Tagovaila's teammate in college at Alabama, led the Broncos with 52 catches and 856 yards; his 92-yard touchdown catch in Week 17 against Las Vegas was the longest such play in the league all season. Joe Burrow makes it a clean sweep of the medal stand for SEC rookies; he was second in the league in both pass attempts and completions at the time of his torn ACL in Week 11.

Who is the player most likely to significantly decline in 2021? (Last year's winner: Tom Brady, QB, NE)

30.5% Tom Brady, QB, TB
11.4% Derrick Henry, RB, TEN
7.1% Josh Allen, QB, BUF
6.2% Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
6.2% Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
4.3% Jared Goff, QB, LAR
2.9% Ryan Tannehill, QB, TEN
2.4% Justin Herbert, QB, LAC
2.4% Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
 

This is the fifth year in a row Tom Brady has won this award. In the four years since his first win after the 2016 season, he has gone 47-17 in the regular season, throwing for over 17,000 yards and 125 touchdowns, ranking second (behind Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, respectively) in both categories. He has thrown 20 more touchdowns and won nine more games, including two of his three Super Bowl appearances, in the postseason. And yet here he is again, being named most likely to decline with nearly triple the votes of the next-highest candidate. Why? Because Brady will be 44 years old by the time the 2021 season kicks off. Here is a list of each of the 12 touchdowns in league history thrown by a quarterback age 44 or older. The last to do it was Vinny Testaverde, who threw a pair of touchdowns for Carolina in a 31-14 win over San Francisco in 2007. Testaverde had four touchdowns that season, while Steve DeBerg threw three touchdowns for the Dirty Bird Falcons in 1998 and George Blanda threw five for the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s. (Blanda's last touchdown pass was thrown on his 45th birthday in 1972; Brady would need to come back in 2022 to break that record.) That's it, that's the list. Will Brady beat the numbers of Blanda, DeBerg, and Testaverde? Almost certainly. Will he match the 40 touchdowns he threw in 2020? Highly unlikely—but then, Brady has been doing highly unlikely things for two decades now.

CORRECTION: I missed one old-man touchdown pass: Blanda actually threw one at age 47, bringing the total to 13.

Which of the following teams is most likely next season's surprise Super Bowl contender? (Last year's winner: Arizona Cardinals)

32.6% Dallas Cowboys
14.3% Atlanta Falcons
13.1% Carolina Panthers
9.5% Denver Broncos
7.9% Cincinnati Bengals
7.9% New York Giants
4.3% New York Jets
4.3% Philadelphia Eagles
3.0% Jacksonville Jaguars
1.8% Detroit Lions
1.2% Houston Texans
 

The Dallas Cowboys went 6-10 in 2020, finishing one game behind the Washington Football Team in the NFC East, and they did it for the most part without Dak Prescott, who started only five games before breaking his ankle. Prescott had been having a fine season—he actually threw enough passes to qualify for our leaderboards and finished eighth in DVOA—so it stands to reason that the Cowboys will be much better with a healthy Prescott in 2021. This assumes Prescott will still be in Dallas; he's about to enter free agency, though the Cowboys will likely franchise him if they can't sign him to a long-term deal. It's also ignoring that Dallas only won two of Prescott's five starts (including the game in which he was injured), or that they had the best quarterback in the division even after Prescott was hurt, or that the defense finished 23rd in DVOA. A full season of Prescott will help things this fall, but there are still a lot of holes on this roster.

Which playoff team is most likely to miss the postseason in 2021? (Last year's winner: Buffalo Bills)

44.5% Chicago Bears
18.5% Washington Football Team
11.6% New Orleans Saints
10.7% Pittsburgh Steelers
3.3% Cleveland Browns
3.3% Indianapolis Colts
2.4% Seattle Seahawks
2.1% Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1.5% Los Angeles Rams
0.9% Tennessee Titans
0.6% Baltimore Ravens
0.3% Buffalo Bills
0.3% Kansas City Chiefs
0.0% Green Bay Packers

The Chicago Bears, who won a wild-card berth at 8-8, doubled the votes of the Washington Football Team, who won the NFC East at 7-9. I'm … not sure what that says about either team, frankly. It's unknown who will be quarterbacking either club in 2021; the Bears have been the most heavily discussed team in the Carson Wentz trade rumors, while Washington can't possibly turn to Alex Smith two years in a row, can they? The Saints finished in third place; it's not certain who their quarterback will be either. The Steelers finished in fourth place, but first by a wide margin among AFC teams; it seems that they are trending downwards, while each of their three rivals in the AFC North are perking up.

Which of these turnaround units is most likely to keep its improvement and fight off regression to the mean in 2021? (Listed with DVOA rank in 2019 and 2020)(Last year's winner: Baltimore offense)

42.2% Buffalo offense (21/5)
18.6% Tampa Bay offense (23/3)
16.5% Washington defense (27/3)
12.9% Miami defense (32/11)
9.9% Indianapolis defense (19/7)
 

Remember all those awards that Buffalo's coaches and front office won earlier? Between that and Josh Allen's excellent campaign, there's little sign of a drop-off for the Bills offense. Only two starters on that side of the ball—offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams—are about to enter free agency, and the Bills still have first-, second-, and third-round picks in April's draft to find replacements.

Which ad wins the "Get Your Story Straight" Award for best commercial or ad campaign during NFL games this season? (Last year's winner: Head & Shoulders, "Mahomes vs. Polamalu")

44.4% Progressive's "Don't Turn Into Your Parents"
17.7% Geico's Tag Team "Scoop There It Is"
16.0% Progressive's "At Home With Baker Mayfield"
6.6% ESPN's "Welcome Back Football/It's All Coming Back to Me Now"
5.6% Fan Duel's "Real Tackle from James Harrison"
4.9% Capital One's "Samuel L. Jackson/John Travolta"
2.4% Geico's "John Stamos Knits a Scarf"
2.4% Greenies' "Dog Eats Snowman's Arm"

I don't have FO readership demographics in front of me, but I would guess that a big chunk of our fan base is right at that age when turning into your parents becomes both a legitimate fear and a realistic possibility. That would partly explain why Progressive's ad campaign was such a big hit with them. That's also pretty close to the same age group that remembers when "Whoomp! (There It Is)" was a massive hit, and can relate to doing the Kid 'n Play kickstep in the kitchen and dealing with embarrassed teenagers. Progressive wins the gold and bronze here, as Baker Mayfield found himself struggling with home ownership … which, come to think of it, is a common headache for that same age range.

Which ad wins the "John Mellencamp Must Die" Award for worst commercial or ad campaign during NFL games this season? (Last year's winner: State Farm, Aaron Rodgers/Patrick Mahomes nightmare game)

29.7% State Farm's "Rodgers Rate vs. Patrick Price"
23.5% AT&T's "Word of Mouth Advertising"
13.0% Progressive's "Football Chain Gang"
12.3% Bud Light's "Cutout Giants Fan"
10.6% Discover's "No Annual Fees"
5.8% Geico's "We Have Aunts"
5.1% Geico's "Clogging Problem"
 

Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes: good at throwing footballs, bad at pitching insurance. They win this award for the second year in a row. What's most notable about these two categories is how they are dominated by Geico, Progressive, and State Farm. Apparently football fans by a lot of insurance.

Which was the best touchdown celebration of 2020? (Last year's winner: IND, Quenton Nelson kegstand)

31.4% GB: Aaron Rodgers does the Hingle McCringleberry
22.6% IND: Soul Train
19.3% ARI: Bowling
12.2% TB: Rowboat celebration
8.4% KC: Tyreek Hill's piggyback ride
6.1% PIT: JuJu Smith-Schuster's birthday celebration

You may not like Aaron Rodgers selling insurance, but you love Aaron Rodgers making pelvic thrusts. Rodgers won the first award in this column, so it's only right he wins the last one too.

Thanks to everyone for voting in this year's awards, and thanks for reading Football Outsiders during another season.

Comments

28 comments, Last at 22 Feb 2021, 7:30am

1 One award where I…

One award where I consistently find myself in the minority year in and year out is best commercial. I've watched the turn into your parents commercial a few times and I still can't understand what's going on or what it has to do with insurance.

4 It's a joke about how buying…

It's a joke about how buying homeowners insurance is something that older, mature people do (ie boring old people, like your parents).  Young hip cool people don't care about such things!  So if you're buying insurance you're at risk of turning into an old dork like your parents, the people you grew up rebelling against (or at least rolling your eyes at). 

6 Oh to be young and hip...

Like those cool kids often shown having generic "fun" in T-Mobile commercials jumping on each other's backs and spinning around with wacky hats on, then posting pictures of said fun on social media so they can be the envy of all their friends.

 

Those are the trend setters the NFL should be trying to appeal to in order to extend its run as America's most popular sport.   You've got to do more than just trying to bring excitement back to the extra point, as important as that might be.

22 The Dr. Rick commercials…

The Dr. Rick commercials definitely target a 30's-40's age group. I'm 43, and they're hilarious specifically because my parents do some of those things and I do some of those things. It's a very Seinfeld approach to finding humour in everyday occurrences, but it's only funny if you've actually thought about those things before.

The actual goal of advertising isn't to inform you about the brand/product, it's to increase your interest in the brand/product. Writers are just trying to make the brand/product memorable in a positive way, whether that's through product information, comedy bits, a well-liked celebrity, music/jingles, or some other pitch. More often than not, it's a combination. State Farm hits you with Mahomes/Rodgers, and then signs off with the "like a good neighbour" tag line that they've used for decades.

I'm Canadian, so I don't buy US insurance, but I could definitely rhyme off Progressive, State Farm, and All State due to seeing so many of their commercials over the years. Plus Met Life, because of the Snoopy blimp.

(this comment was written entirely so that I could reference the Snoopy blimp)

2 Time to retire this award

Who is the player most likely to significantly decline in 2021?

Brady’s “decline” has been better than most QBs’ careers. Maybe he should be given a lifetime achievement award for performance decline, and give someone else a chance at this one.

”Mr. Brady, we’d like to give you this award for -“

”I decline.”

3 Drink everywhere.  I…

Drink everywhere. 

I apologize for associating you with good solid statistical analysis. You've made me laugh before, but I really didn't expect that I shouldn't drink before reading. Lesson learned.

I also understand others might not find this as funny, but it was right in my wheelhouse.

5 Brady will someday decline…

Brady will someday decline enough that he decides to retire. 2021 could be it. It’s been funny to see people say that every year for half a decade or more. They’ll be right some year. They have to be, right?

And I’m not sure how to take your apology. When I do football stats seriously, I do try to be solid and serious about it. Sometimes I like a hot take, just like anyone. If you had a good laugh, mission accomplished.

7 Maybe I am missing the…

Maybe I am missing the obvious but its not some big surprise people pick Brady to decline every year. The man is 200 in football years. The fact that has forestalled total collapse for the last 5 years is a ridiculously incredible feat. But it doesn't make the process wrong. When you get to a certain age, statistics(and common sense) suggests a collapse is imminent. 

Getting tails 5 times in a row does not prove that the coin is unfair. 

13 Since the 2001 Super Bowl…

Since the 2001 Super Bowl against the Greatest Show on Turf I've learned not to bet against Tom Brady.

He might lose once in a while, sure, but your best bet is to assume he continues to play well and wins. Again.

I don't think he'll ever decline much. He'll either get injured or just calls it quits himself.

23 This calls for a Scrubs…

This calls for a Scrubs reference.

"Statistics Mean Nothing to the Individual".

https://youtu.be/pJqDOyPasCU?t=22

I agree that Tom Brady is likely to decline based on his age, and at the same time I don't expect it to happen since he's defied logic repeatedly, and that can't be a fluke. He's an outlier, and he's messing with the data. So if the question is, "most likely to decline", there's a case to be made that Derrick Henry will struggle more to repeat his performance, because he hasn't proven himself to be an outlier.

I'd make an argument that Justin Jefferson is unlikely to match his rookie stats next year. He's still in a run-first offense, and teams will have more tape on him. There were a few games where defenses treated him like a WR1, and he disappeared for long stretches. I don't want to see it happen, but it feels like he's a regression candidate.

24 I agree with pretty much all…

I agree with pretty much all you wrote. I didn't vote for Brady in this category for the reasons you state above: the "normal" rules don't seem to apply to him. (I think I voted for him last year.) This year, I voted for Derrick Henry, again, for the reasons you stated above.

8 Even here

yall are voting for the 5th most rushing yards (2nd among active players, hello AP) over the guy that broke the TE receiving yards record...and in only 15 games. SMH. Also who voted for Mike Evans? No disrespect to him but not his year.

9 The irrelevance of the RB

Eventually we will never see a RB at the top of a list of an offensive player of the year award even when we take out the QB.   We are not there yet.

10 This assumes the pass trend…

This assumes the pass trend doesn't reverse at some point. It hasn't yet(ever?), but you get a sense at some point every linebacker will be a hybrid safety - every corner will be specialized from slot to outside and both safeties will be effectively converted corners and defense will move exclusively to dime.

The defensive line will no longer feature any giant nose tackle. D tackles will be 3-4 defensive ends. 

Such a world could exists and potentially curb this offensive explosion. Or maybe there's not enough supply of such defenders for it ever materialize.  

12 A variation of your defensive theory has been used successfully

https://www.nfl.com/news/chargers-speedy-secret-plan-stopped-ravens-0ap3000001008744#:~:text=The%20Los%20Angeles%20Chargers'%20formula,in%20the%20Wild%20Card%20round.

Above you can read about the Chargers who used 7 DB's against the Ravens in the 2018 playoffs on 58 of 59 plays, shut them out cold for most of the game (Raven's had negative passing yards in the 3rd quarter and trailed 20-0).  

Since so much of rushing yardage today is by the QB (Jackson is simply the extreme), I do expect much faster defenders on the field.  Lumbering lineman have little chance against Jackson, Allen, Murray, etc.

If a team coached by Anthony Lynn can figure this out, and it is a copy cat league, why hasn't any one else tried this defense?  It shows that if used properly, your practice squad DB may be more valuable then linemen or linebackers against certain offenses.

 

14 It wasn't quite the 7 DB all…

It wasn't quite the 7 DB all the time, but the Packers played a 2-3-6 as their base and would often be seen in a 1-3-7 or 2-2-7 with Caper's as their coordinator for years. This really starting around 2013, and for years they would get thrashed by running QB's. 7 DB's was not uncommon for them either. So it's not revolutionary. But it's not as simple as practice squad DB is better than a lineman or linebackers. 

While the saying that "if they could catch the ball all DB's would WR" is not true it is true that the number of humans that can successfully play DB in the NFL is limited, as are the number that can play WR. So this does lead to the faster and taller people with even an inkling of talent at catching getting funneled to WR first. But that isn't the only reason the DB's tend to be smaller than WR. Shorter people have a lower center of gravity and that does making changing directions easier. While both the offense and defense need to be able to change direction well, the offensive player generally knows when they are going to do so, which is easier than reacting to someone else like the defense has to do. So a great WR who might be a poor DB because they would get burned by decent moves because they are slightly slower at directional changes or just not as good at reacting to directional change.

As I'm fond of pointing out, modern football is a game of inches not because of how the ball is spotted, but because we are dealing with lots of humans doing things on the edges of human ability and small differences matter more at the edges. 

The NFL and college football do mold athletes. We know how to help people get stronger and faster, but every human has limits and the people that can play on the line are generally not going to be transformable into someone who can play LB or safety. 

As we've discussed before, I don't think the running game is ever going to go away simple because of the nature of the games and the rules about number of players on the line of scrimmage and who can and can't be a downfield receiver. There are too many bodies dedicated to things that lend themselves to running on the offensive side of the ball. Especially if defenses continually play to stop the pass and don't just bust out a game plan for it every now and then.

But I agree that you don't have to have a great RB to run. H-backs, TE, some WR, or a RB that is more dedicated to the passing game (Kamara types) can cover it in most situations. Clock management at end of halves when you can't run the ball can get ugly though. I've got too much experience with that with the McCarthy Packers. Where they tried to run and failed, or they tried passing because they knew they couldn't run, and still failed. Watching leads disappear is not fun. It's not something you can just pull out of a hat without practice and if every team is going pass happy all the time, keeping the ball and limiting opponent scoring opportunities increases in value as well. As mentioned in a previous discussion, even if the percentage of passes intercepted doesn't go up, turnovers per game will go up if you turn more plays that used to be runs into passes because turnovers happen more frequently in the passing game. I'd have to dig up the post to find the rate but I think a turnover was times more likely on a passing play in 2020 (even if that rate was still only like 2%) it's not all just because of desperate passes because a team is behind either. Logically the ball is out of your control longer when it's in the air than if you hand it off. The less time you control it the easier it is for an opponent to do so. Sure it affects both teams but optimal strategy means you want to minimize it happening to you which means that you'll eventually want to have some running to optimize that.

I do think the optimal balance is probably closer to 80/20 pass/run than the current 60/40 but I bet a 90/10 is likely worse than 80/20. Obviously individual games might be better off 95/5 or even 45/55 if the opponent is playing a shell that lets you get 6 yards a run why pass? Just run, chew clock, score, and limit their opportunities while they play the more likely to turn the ball over passing game.

While it's a copy cat league there are also some very smart people in it. The 2002 Bucs defense was so good because the Tampa-2 Defense broke the West Coast Offense and it's offspring and variations. Eventually that defense was figured out, and inside running was part of the solution. If you knew what you were doing you could basically get 4-6 yards a run all day long and eventually the defense had to adjust to stop it, and then you could finally pass again. Teams that didn't normally run much still generally couldn't take advantage of this well enough, it also requires talent at middle linebacker that isn't easy to find so I'm back to my first point again.  

15 Why did you link to that…

Why did you link to that racist CBS article about Wentz? Wasn't there another article you could find about Wentz being a bad team mate?

 

18 Commercials

I pretty much watch the NFL (and all sports) with the sound off these days. I will only unmute if something unusual has happened. For commercials, I only unmute if it looks like there might be something funny. So I absolutely do not understand how your list of best commercials did not include:

1) Mark Hamill and Patrick Stewart

2) Satan and 2020 on match.com

3) The E-Trade bear market (weaker than the two above but better than every choice you listed)

25 I found the Hamill-Stewart…

In reply to by LyleNM

I found the Hamill-Stewart ads to be annoying. I don't think the dialogue was well written, and so the ads seemed hammy to me.

 

Didn't see the other two ads (I'm in the UK), but the Satan and 2020 on match.com already sounds hilarious. Am off to watch that now.

19 2021 Breakout

I think Rashan Gary has a shot. He definitely played better in 2020 plus it's highly likely that Preston Smith is cut leaving Gary to start in 2021.  So the combination of more playing time and improved play should lead to better 'counting' stats

21 Agreed

In reply to by big10freak

Since I don't follow the whole NFL well enough my write in for break out tends to be a Packer and Gary was my pick this year as well for the reasons listed.

26 Gary refined his bull rush

In reply to by DisplacedPackerFan

Now he needs to add some more rush moves to complement an excellent bull rush.

 

I have posted before but it's really stunning how little Gary was coached at Michigan.  As a long-time Big10 guy I do not know the explanation as to why Gary was pretty much ignored (at least seemingly) by the MI coaching staff during his time with the team.  Pretty much everything now part of Gary's game came from the Packers.  Which Gary has freely discussed in various interviews or on social media posts.  

 

Michigan had this guy with impressive physical gifts and apparently for several years they used him to take up blockers and.............................not much else.  I find this baffling