First-year sensation Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and new NFL career passing yards leader Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints—the two players who have dominated the NFL MVP conversations—have captured the offensive player awards from The Committee of 101 for their performances during the 2018 season. Mahomes has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Year while Brees earned the same award for the NFC. On defense, the player honorees are powerhouse linemen J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, who earned AFC and NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors respectively. AFC and NFC Coach of the Year honorees Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts and Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears round out the list of 101 Award winners who will be honored at a black-tie awards dinner presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union on March 9, 2019, in Kansas City.
The nation’s longest-running salute to professional football, the 101 Awards annually honor the outstanding achievements in the NFL based on votes by a selection committee comprised of 101 members of the national media. Founded in 1969, the 101 Awards has recognized many of the greatest players and coaches ever to take the field throughout NFL history, and this year’s class adds to the impressive list of award winners.
Leading the Chiefs to an AFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff bracket, AFC Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Mahomes made headlines throughout the season for his ability to make jaw-dropping plays. In just his first year as a starter, Mahomes became only the second quarterback in NFL history to notch 50 touchdown passes and 5,000 passing yards during the regular season, posting outstanding numbers such as a league-leading +38 touchdown/interception differential, 52 completions of 25-plus yards, 35 red-zone touchdown passes and a 113.8 passer rating. Guiding the Chiefs to a 12-4 regular season record and a spot in the AFC Championship Game, Mahomes was named the league’s MVP and Offensive Player of the Year by the PFWA, earned first-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press and was named to his first Pro Bowl.
Earning his fourth 101 Award for AFC Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014, 2015), Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt led the AFC with 16.0 sacks—his fourth season with 16.0 or more—and tied for the league lead with seven forced fumbles. Already a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Watt returned to full form after missing most of the previous two seasons due to injury. Adding 46 pressures as noted by Pro Football Focus to his stat line, Watt earned his fifth first-team All-Pro honor, fifth PFWA All-NFL nod and fifth Pro Bowl selection. He has become the first defensive player in the 49-year history of the 101 to earn four awards.
Rounding out the AFC honorees is Indianapolis Colts first-year head coach Frank Reich, who was named the AFC Coach of the Year. Inheriting a team that went 4-12 in 2017, Reich rebuilt the Colts quickly, turning them into a 10-6 playoff team. After losing five of their first six games, Reich rallied his team in dramatic fashion and finished the regular season with a 9-1 record in the last 10 games, capturing a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Earning a postseason appearance for the first time since 2014, the Colts became just the third team in NFL history to make the playoffs following a 1-5 start.
On the NFC side, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees earned his fourth 101 Award as NFC Offensive Player of the Year. Guiding the Saints to a 13-3 record and their second-straight NFC South division championship, Brees turned in some of the best numbers of his illustrious 18-season career, setting an NFL record for single-season completion percentage (74.4%) and leading the league with a single-season career-high passer rating (115.7). He orchestrated a league-best eight game-winning drives and posted an impressive +27 touchdown/interception differential en route to his 12th Pro Bowl selection and fifth All-Pro honor (first-team 2006, second-team 2008, 2009, 2011, 2018). Brees’ crowning achievement, however, came in Week 5 during a win over the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, when he set a new mark for one of the NFL’s most prestigious records, passing Peyton Manning for total career passing yards.
In just five pro seasons, Rams defensive end Aaron Donald has earned the 101 Award for NFC Defensive Player of the Year three times. Also taking the honor for his performances in 2015 and 2017, Donald recorded a dominant season in 2018, leading the league with 20.5 sacks, setting a new NFL single-season record for an interior lineman and a new franchise record. While establishing a new league mark by recording 183.5 sack yards, Donald also recorded career highs with 25 tackles for loss and 41 quarterback hits while adding four forced fumbles. Earning PFWA Defensive Player of the Year and All-NFL honors, Donald notched his fifth Pro Bowl selection and fourth first-team All-Pro honor.
In just his first season as an NFL head coach, NFC Coach of the Year Matt Nagy led the Chicago Bears to a 12-4 record and their first NFC North division title since 2010. With the Bears winning just 14 games between 2015 and 2017, Nagy guided the Bears to an impressive worst-to-first turnaround in the NFC North. Making key additions to the roster such as outside linebacker Khalil Mack, tight end Trey Burton and a group of talented draft picks, Nagy and the Bears took aggressive steps toward improvement this season with positive results for the organization. The rookie head coach’s immediate success in Chicago, following his stint as Chiefs offensive coordinator under Andy Reid, also earned Nagy the PFWA Coach of the Year honor.
In addition to the player and coach awards, The Committee of 101 also will recognize a member of the Super Bowl Champions during a special on-stage segment and conclude the event by presenting the prestigious Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which was created after the 2007 NFL season to honor the life and legacy of the Chiefs founder. This award recognizes a person or group that significantly contributed to the NFL and its status as the preeminent pro sports league in America. The winner of the Lamar Hunt Award will be announced in February.
The 101 Awards event in Kansas City will also recognize two Chiefs award winners—Mack Lee Hill Award winner Andrew Wylie and Derrick Thomas Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes—as well as the announcement of the Chiefs 2019 Hall of Fame inductee.
For the fourth-consecutive year, the beneficiary of the 101 Awards will be The University of Kansas Health System’s Sports Medicine & Performance Center, which strives to prevent injury and improve the health and wellness of student-athletes throughout the region. The University of Kansas Health System is a not-for-profit organization and receives no state or local funding, relying instead on philanthropy and sound fiscal management.
The 101 Awards show will be broadcast on NFL Network at a later date following the event.