It was a disappointing, albeit not entirely surprising, night for the Miami Dolphins when the NFL Honors awards presentation took place.
Zach Thomas was not among the five modern-era finalists announced to be part of the 2021 Class for Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Xavien Howard and Brian Flores each finished third in the voting for league-wide awards.
Flores received six of the 50 votes for Coach of the Year to finish behind winner Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns (25 votes) and Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills (7).
Other coaches who received votes were Ron Rivera of Washington (4), Matt LaFleur of Green Bay (3), Andy Reid of Kansas City (3) and Sean Payton of New Orleans (2).
While we'll never know for sure, we can't help but think that what happened in Week 17 ultimately decided this award and the difference was Cleveland making the playoffs and the Dolphins coming up short.
That's not entirely fair on two levels, from this standpoint, because Cleveland faced in Week 17 a Pittsburgh team that rested several key starters, including Ben Roethsliberger and NFL Defensive Player of the Year runner-up T.J. Watt, while the Dolphins faced a Buffalo team that used all its front-line players until the game was out of reach.
It also could be argued that Cleveland has a better roster than the Dolphins, therefore Flores getting Miami to 10-6 might have been more impressive than Stefanski getting the Browns to 11-5.
In the Defensive Player of the Week category, Howard came in a distant third with three votes, while the Rams' Aaron Donald got 27 to win the award for a third time and Watt got 20.
Howard had a strong case because he was the first NFL player to reach 10 picks in a season since 2007, but Donald and Watt both played for top three defenses in terms of yards allowed and points allowed while the Dolphins were sixth in points allowed by 20th in yards allowed.
Here's another key factor at play: It's very rare for a cornerback to win that award. Yes, Stephon Gilmore won it in 2019, but new Hall of Famer Charles Woodson is the only other cornerback since 2004 who also won.
Howard's season metrics measured up to those of Gilmore from 2019 for most of the 2020 season, though they ultimately fell a bit short, but more importantly New England was first in both fewest points and yards allowed last season.
This is why we suggested it looked like a long shot for Howard to win the award. We also pointed to the PFWA awards to serve as predictors for the AP awards, and Stefanski and Donald won those as well.
Then there's the Hall of Fame where Thomas was a finalist for the second consecutive year.
Thomas released a statement through the Dolphins that said: "It was an honor to be among all the worthy finalists and wish the Class of 2021 my most sincere congratulations."
Among the modern-era finalists chosen were longtime Tampa Bay and Denver safety John Lynch and longtime Steelers and Jets guard Alan Faneca. Lynch was a finalist for the eighth time and Faneca for the sixth.
Also elected were three first-year-eligible candidates: Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Woodson.
Hall of Fame voter Gary Myers said on the Ross Tucker Podcast on Friday that he believes Thomas eventually will get in.
"I really believe that anybody who makes it to the final 15 will eventually get in," Myers said. "That's kind of been the history of it. The numbers bear that out. So any of the 10 who did not get in this year, I'm fairly certain that at some point you will and you just have to wait your turn. That's how it goes."
Thomas is hoping to become the 11th member of the Dolphins — not counting those who had only brief stints in Miami — to make it to the Hall of Fame.
Also elected to the Hall of Fame were seniors committee nominees Tom Flores, Drew Pearson and Bill Nunn.
In other awards:
-- MVP: Aaron Rodgers won the award with 44 votes, followed by Josh Allen with four and Patrick Mahomes with two.
-- NFL Offensive Player of the Year: Tennessee running back Derrick Henry won with 32 votes, followed by Rodgers (5), Mahomes (5), Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (3), Allen (3) and Saints RB Alvin Kamara (2).
-- NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: Chargers QB Justin Herbert won with 41 votes and Vikings WR Justin Jefferson got the other nine.
-- NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Washington DE Chase Young easily won, getting 42.5 votes, followed by Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn with 4.5, Baltimore LB Patrick Queen with two and Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield Jr. with one.
-- Seattle QB Russell Wilson was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Kyle Van Noy was the Dolphins nominee for the award.
-- Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater of the Panthers won the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
-- "Hail Murray," Kyler Murray's last-second touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins to help Arizona beat Buffalo earned the Play of the Year award. That ended the Dolphins' two-year streak winning the award — with the Miracle in Miami in 2018 and "Mountaineer Shot" in 2019.
-- Finally, Brian Daboll took home the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award with 28 votes, easily outdistancing Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley with 5.5, followed by Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy with 5, Tennessee OC Arthur Smith with 3.5, Tampa Bay DC Todd Bowles with 2, and Cleveland O-line coach Bill Callahan, Pittsburgh DC Keith Butler, New Orleans DC Dennis Allen, Buffalo DC Leslie Frazier, Washington DC Jack Del Rio and Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton with one vote apiece.