Our eclectic panel of journalists, players and coaching and front-office vets—plus a couple big-name ringers—make their picks for the major honors of the 2016 season

By Peter King and the MMQB Staff
January 05, 2017

If the 50-member panel of Associated Press NFL MVP voters mirrors the way this year’s 31-member awards panel for The MMQB voted this week, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will walk on stage at the NFL Honors event the night before the Super Bowl to claim his first-ever Most Valuable Player—unless, of course, the Falcons are playing in Super Bowl 51.

The MMQB panel’s voting was conducted this week, after the end of the regular season. Unlike the AP vote, which asks balloters to vote for one winner in all categories, The MMQB asked its eclectic group of voters (more about that later) to choose the top five for each award. The first-place nominee on each ballot was awarded seven points, second place five points, and 3-2-1, in order, for third, fourth and fifth place on each ballot.

The panel consisted of members of the media, from the writing staff at The MMQB to other long-time NFL journalists; active and former players (Jason McCourty of the Titans, Josh McCown of the Browns, and former offensive linemen Ross Tucker and Geoff Schwartz); former Panthers GM Marty Hurney and former coordinator Greg Roman; three Pro Football Focus tape analysts; and a slew of NFL network veterans, including Rich Eisen and Alex Flanagan. And then there are my wild-card voters—megafans whom I’ve gotten to know over the years: Grammy-winning artist John Legend and best-selling author Harlan Coben. (Full panel is listed at the end of the story.)

We’ll go through the list of awards, category by category, and let you hear from voters on why they made the picks they made.

By the way, the AP’s 50 voters had a Wednesday noon deadline for their ballots. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a major difference in the awards when they’re announced Feb. 4 in Houston.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta 17 167
Tom Brady, QB, New England 6 136
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay 4 102
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland 0 61
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas 2 46
 

Also receiving votes: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas 28 points; Matt Stafford QB, Detroit, 5; Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle, 4; Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIttsburgh, 3; David Johnson, RB, Arizona, 2; Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore, 1; Von Miller, LB, Denver, 1.

Lots of voters felt as I did: This was one of the toughest years in which to decide on an MVP. Judy Battista, of NFL.com, who went with Elliott, expressed the difficulty of choosing among the range of worthy candidates. “Utterly impossible MVP choice this year,” she said. “I can make a good argument for all of them. Zeke gets the slight edge for completely transforming the Cowboys. Ask me again in 30 minutes, though, and I may have changed my mind again.”

Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

COACH OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Jason Garrett, Dallas 12 145
Bill Belichick, New England 9 132
Jack Del Rio, Oakland 6 118
Adam Gase, Miami 4 83
Andy Reid, Kansas City 0 40
 

Also receiving votes: Dan Quinn, Atlanta, 26 points; Jim Caldwell, Detroit, 4; Ben McAdoo, New York Giants, 2; Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh, 2; Mike McCarthy, Green Bay, 1; Mike Mularkey, Tennessee 1; Bill O’Brien, Houston, 1.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Kyle Shanahan, OC, Atlanta 10 134
Rod Marinelli, DC, Dallas 3 67
Steve Spagnuolo, DC, Giants 2 65
Scott Linehan, OC, Dallas  3 61
Josh McDaniels, OC, New England 4 48
 

Also receiving votes: Dante Scarnecchia, New England, OL, 35; Romeo Crennel, DC, Houston 31;  Dave Toub, special teams, Kansas City, 21; Matt Patricia, DC, New England, 19; Bill Musgrave, OC, Oakland, 8; Mike Munchak, OL, Pittsburgh, 6; Wade Phillips, DC, Denver, 6; Jim Bob Cooter, OC, Detroit, 5; Mike Tice, OL, Oakland, 5; Tom Cable, OL/assistant head coach, Seattle, 5; Keith Butler, DC, Pittsburgh, 3; Dowell Loggains, OC, Chicago, 3; Teryl Austin, DC, Detroit, 3; Vance Joseph, DC, Miami, 3; Mike Smith, DC, Tampa Bay, 3; Brian Flores, LBs, New England, 2; Kris Richard, DC, Seattle, 2; Frank Pollack, OL, Dallas, 2; Jim Schwartz, DC, Philadelphia, 2; John Butler, secondary, Houston, 2.

“There’s a reason Shanahan is linked to four head-coaching vacancies—and counting,” said Robert Klemko of The MMQB.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Reggie McKenzie, GM, Oakland 13 148
Jerry/Stephen Jones, Owner/VP, Dallas 9 141
Jerry Reese, GM, New York Giants 2 90
Thomas Dimitroff, GM, Atlanta 1 47
Jon Robinson, GM, Tennessee 1 32
 

Also receiving votes: Bill Belichick, GM, New England, 32; John Dorsey, GM, Kansas City, 29; Howie Roseman, GM, Philadelphia, 13; Bob Quinn, GM, Detroit, 13; Scott Pioli, assistant GM, Atlanta, 6; Mike Tannenbaum, VP of football operations, Miami, 6; Kevin Colbert, GM, Pittsburgh, 2; John Schneider, GM, Seattle, 1; Jason Licht, GM, Tampa Bay, 1.

Jeff Chiu/AP

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta 5 104
David Johnson, RB, Arizona 8 102
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas 5 88
Tom Brady, QB, New England 6 84
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay 3 45
 

Also receiving votes: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh, 34; Derek Carr, QB, Oakland,18; Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta, 13; Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay, 12; Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans, 8; Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants, 7; Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City, 6; Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas, 4; Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh, 3; T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis, 2; Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami, 2; Tyron Smith, T, Dallas, 2; Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit, 1; LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England, 1; Trent Williams, T, Washington, 1; Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore, 1; Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore, 1.

This award is always confusing. If you’re the Most Valuable Player, how can someone else win the offensive player of the year?

I’ll give you my reasoning this year. I voted for Johnson, with Ryan second and Elliott third. I believe this award goes to the best offensive performance of the year. While Ryan’s performance was terrific and the best overall clearly among the quarterbacks, I think Johnson’s 16-game effort (well, 15.5; he got hurt in the last game of the year for the Cardinals, at Los Angeles) is one of the best by a back in years. Consider that in his first 15 games, Johnson, playing behind a mediocre offensive line, became the second back ever to top 100 rushing/receiving yards in 15 straight games.

John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Oakland 13 143
Von Miller, OLB, Denver 8 135
Landon Collins, S, New York Giants 5 94
Vic Beasley, OLB, Atlanta 1 50
Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles 3 44
 

Also receiving votes: Eric Berry, S, Kansas City, 29; Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle, 23; Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City, 13; Sean Lee, LB, Dallas, 8; Aqib Talib, CB, Denver, 4; Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia, 2; Malcolm Butler, CB, New England, 2; Olivier Vernon, DE, New York Giants, 1; Lorenzo Alexander, LB, Buffalo, 1; Zach Orr, LB, Baltimore, 1; Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle, 1; Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver, 1; Earl Thomas, S, Seattle, 1.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas 24 202
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas 6 166
Tyreek Hill, WR/KR, Kansas City  0 64
Jack Conklin, T, Tennessee 0 40.5
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago 0 35
 

Also receiving votes: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans (18.5), Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia,10, Cody Whitehair, C, Chicago, 9, Taylor Decker, T, Detroit, 6, Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee, 3; Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland, 2; Malcolm Mitchell, WR, New England, 1; DeAndre Washington, RB, Oakland, 1.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Alex Stern of the league’s official stat-keeper, the Elias Sports Bureau, has watched the league longer than I have, and he thought Elliott had a rare season. (Which he did.) “Ezekiel Elliott was the game’s leading individual rusher—for both teams—in all 13 Cowboys wins this season,” Stern said. “His 132.9 yards from scrimmage per game this season was the highest average over the last 10 years for any player on a top-playoff-seeded team, and also the highest over the last decade for a player on a team that won at least 13 games.”

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego 28 209
Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville 3 127
Keanu Neal, S, Atlanta 0 50
Chris Jones, DE, Kansas City 0 45
Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta 0 38
 

Also receiving votes: DeForest Buckner, DE, San Francisco, 29; Leonard Floyd, OLB, Chicago, 15; Eli Apple, CB, New York Giants, 10; Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay, 9; Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville, 6; Brian Poole, CB, Atlanta, 2; Noah Spence, DE, Tampa Bay, 2; James Bradberry, CB, Carolina, 1; Karl Joseph, S, Oakland, 1; Sean Davis, S, Pittsburgh, 1.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Bosa, who missed the first four games of the year with a hamstring injury, was a surprising landslide pick over Jalen Ramsey, who played a strong corner for the Jags much of the year. Veteran NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz explained why: “I talked with multiple offensive lineman who played against Bosa this season and they all said he’s the best rookie pass rusher they have faced. He’s super-advanced with his hand usage which is commonly the toughest thing for rookies to learn. He has good raw power and change of direction. I think what impressed me is his knack for finishing plays. Lots of defensive linemen get close, but the difference between an elite lineman and just a good one is being able to finish. That last burst to get to the quarterback or the runner—that’s something that can’t be taught and Bosa does it well.“

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  First-Place Votes Total Points
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay 21 177
Cameron Wake, DE, Miami 5 113
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh 1 59
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle 1 32
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee 0 31
 

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Also receiving votes: Steve Smith Sr., WR, Baltimore (29), Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis (28), Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego (19), Terrell Suggs, OLB, (14), Nate Solder, LT, New England, 10.5; Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore, 7; Eric Berry, S, Kansas City, 5; Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants, 5; Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina, 3; Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants, 3; Marcus Cannon, T, New England, 2.5; Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh, 1; Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore, 1.

 

 

The panelists:

Don Banks, NFL.com
Judy Battista, NFL.com
Andy Benoit, The MMQB
Albert Breer, The MMQB
Harlan Coben, author
Steve Cohen, SiriusXM
Rich Eisen, NFL Network
Khaled Elsayed, Pro Football Focus
Alex Flanagan, NFL Network
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
Fred Gaudelli, NBC Sports
Neil Hornsby, Pro Football Focus
Marty Hurney, former GM
Emily Kaplan, The MMQB
Peter King, The MMQB
Robert Klemko, The MMQB
John Legend, musician
Robert Mays, The Ringer
Jason McCourty, Titans DB
Josh McCown, Browns QB
Tom Peliserro, USA Today
Ian Rapoport, NFL.com
Tim Rohan, The MMQB
Greg Roman, longtime offensive coordinator
Aaron Schatz, Football Outsiders
Geoff Schwartz, podcaster, author, former NFL OL
Mike Silver, NFL.com
Alex Stern, Elias Sports Bureau
Ben Stockwell, Pro Football Focus
Ross Tucker, NBCSN, SiriusXM
Jenny Vrentas, The MMQB

 

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.
 

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