Let’s talk about the NFL honors now that we have some free time. We can start with the newest inductees of the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Devin Hester, Patrick Willis, Andre Johnson, Legacy choice Steve McMichael, and Legacy choice Randy Gradishar. I don’t have anything to say about the two old guys, they were before my time and I’m unfamiliar with them. I have zero qualms with the choices of Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, Willis, and our big beatdown buddy Andre Johnson. Andre Johnson was a monster and him taking Cortland Finnegan out behind the shed is a core football memory for NFL fans. This moment is so great that the Houston Texans website proudly shows the video of what is, remind you, a very illegal fight. You are not allowed to just obliterate another player like that. But everyone who saw that fight understands that if Andre Johnson reached that point then Cortland Finnegan deserved it. Andre was a quiet, stoic competitor who rarely even spoke. Finnegan was an asshole and his NFL legacy is taking two now Hall of Famer punches to the face.

I have slightly more issues with Hester. He feels like a guy who got in based on the strength of his one real skill. He was unquestionably one of the best kick returners ever, and that’s pretty much his entire argument. He was nothing as a wide receiver. Most of his impact was made in his rookie year when he had 6 return TDs, including a then-NFL record 108-yard return on a short field goal vs the Giants. I don’t think I really have a problem with Hester getting into the Hall overall and we are all going to remember him, but I think my bigger issue is did he really deserve it over Antonio Gates? Or Jared Allen? Hell even Rodney Harrison or Torrey Holt? I guess the debate is do you enshrine a guy who was one of the best ever at a very niche skill over a guy who made maybe a less monumental impact playing a much more important position? I’d have replaced Hester with Gates and given us the “played Basketball in college” class (Peppers also played). But the more I think about it, it is the Hall of Fame, not just the hall of stats. Hester is a landmark player for those who watched him. I’m okay with him being there.

By the way, Eli is eligible next year, so brace yourself for that nightmare discourse in 2025.

MVP – Lamar Jackson – This was one of the weakest MVP classes I can remember seeing. Lamar feels like he got the award because he was the last QB standing in the regular season. This was pretty much the best possible year to give the award to someone who isn’t a QB, and CMC was right there. Hell, I kinda feel like Stroud might have a better argument than Lamar, but they’ll never give a rookie MVP. They need to just end the entire MVP award and rebrand it exclusively as a QB award. There is no position nearly as valuable in the entire sport so the award is just inherently biased to QBs. Just convert it to be official and be done with it. Give Football our own version of the Cy Young.

OPotY – McCaffery – Pretty much the guaranteed spot for any MVP candidate who isn’t a QB. Just make it offensive MVP. This is the obvious choice.
DPotY – Myles Garrett – Acceptable I guess, Garrett kinda vanished over the last third or so of the season but his work before then was certainly incredible.
ORotY – CJ Stroud – Yeah, pretty much had to be Stroud.
DRotY – Will Anderson – Christ the Texans really nailed it in 2023.

Coach of the Year – Kevin Stefanski – This was certainly an acceptable choice. This award tends to waffle between 2 trains of thought: do you give it to the coach of the best teams in the league, like, say, a Kyle Shanahan, or do you give it to a coach who faced more adversity and was more surprising? Stefanski was the latter this season and he unquestionably got dealt a bad hand with the injuries the Browns faced. But I think credit should be given to DeMeco Ryans after that Texans turnaround, and even Shane Steichen of the Colts, who did his best with a bad roster and his rookie QB gone by week 4. Dan Campbell would be the other guy who most deserved a nod and maybe my personal choice.

Comeback Player of the Year – Joe Flacco – This award needs to be reworked. Split in two, imo, to separate a comeback from injury and comeback from irrelevance. Flacco took the award narrowly over Damar Hamlin, and they pretty much both represent opposite visions of this award. Flacco’s comeback was not a comeback from injury but a comeback from irrelevance. Flacco was shit for a few years now as a mercenary backup floating around the league. He came in off the couch for a desperate Cleveland and made a significant impact on the field. That’s deserving. On the other hand, Damar Hamlin came back FROM THE DEAD. I would like to repeat that: Damar Hamlin briefly died before our eyes last year. The fact that he even put on the uniform this season is a miracle. But, as dissenters will point out, he made zero impact on the field. So, do you give the guy who sucked before but made an actual football impact the award, or do you give it to the guy with the undeniable inspirational injury comeback award who didn’t make an actual impact? There is precedent to both sides here. Geno Smith won last year after coming back from irrelevance to make an impact on the field. Alex Smith won in 2020 after coming back from a horrific leg injury that almost cost him his life, but he only played a few games and didn’t make much of an impact on the field.

The funny part is you can see the split thinking in the voting tally. The NFL went with a ranked-choice voting system that ended up breaking down like this:
(5-3-1 scoring)
Joe Flacco,  13-26-8=151
Damar Hamlin,  21-7-14=140
Baker Mayfield,  10-10-13=93

Flacco won because he got everyone’s second-place vote and the math worked out. Hamlin easily got the most first-place votes but the lowest second-place votes, which tells me this- People who value on-field impact were going to vote for either Flacco or Mayfield, and then whoever they didn’t pick would get the second-place vote. People who were more inspired by the Hamlin story easily voted Hamlin first, but then were likely to just give Flacco the second place vote. Flacco got pretty much everyone’s second vote. Both of these guys (and even Mayfield) were pretty deserving in their own right but for such vastly different reasons. That’s why I say they should split this award up. Coming back from injury and coming back from irrelevance. The injury player doesn’t need to make such a grand impact, and it can be renamed the inspirational award or something. Comeback player can remain for dudes like Flacco or Smith who’s careers we thought were over but came out of the shadows to shine again.

Please god don’t let Aaron Rodgers win this award next year.