Two coaches who captured the best regular season record in their respective conference, two offensive players who achieved record-breaking seasons and two linebackers who consistently dominated games have been selected as winners of the 101 Awards for the 2021 NFL season.
These top performers, as selected by a committee comprised of 101 members of the national media, include: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts, as AFC Offensive Player of the Year; Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams, as NFC Offensive Player of the Year; T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers, as AFC Defensive Player of the Year; Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys, as NFC Defensive Player of the Year; Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans, as AFC Coach of the Year; and Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers, as NFC Coach of the Year. This marks the second consecutive 101 Award for Watt while the other five honorees are first-time recipients.
The honorees will be presented with their awards at the 52nd Annual 101 Awards Gala, scheduled for Thursday, March 10, 2022 in Kansas City.
In addition to the annual player and coach awards, the 101 Awards event will conclude by presenting the prestigious Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which was created in 2008 to honor the life and legacy of the Chiefs founder. This award recognizes an individual or group that has made significant contributions to the NFL and its status as the preeminent pro sports league in America. The 14th annual recipient will be announced at a later date prior to the 101 Awards.
Each full season since the 1969 campaign, the 101 Awards have honored the top players and coaches of the year, making it the nation's longest-running awards event dedicated exclusively to the National Football League. In its 52-year history, the 101 has recognized many of the greatest players and coaches in pro football history. This year's class adds to the illustrious list of award winners.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor was named AFC Offensive Player of the Year after a dominant season in which he was the NFL's most productive ball-carrier. He led the NFL with 2,171 yards from scrimmage and 1,811 rushing yards. Taylor displayed a knack for finding the end zone, leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 18 and finishing tied for the league lead in total touchdowns with 20. He set single-season franchise records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns on his way to being named a unanimous First Team All-Pro and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl for the first time. Taylor became the youngest player in NFL history with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 scrimmage touchdowns in a single season.
NFC Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams had one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history for a wide receiver. Kupp became the fourth player since the AFL-NFL merger to capture the league's receiving triple crown. He led the NFL in receptions with 145, receiving yards with 1,947 and receiving touchdowns with 16. Kupp finished just five receptions and 18 yards shy of breaking the NFL single-season record for each category, good for second-most in the league's record-books for both receptions and yards. He broke the Rams' franchise single-season record for receptions and receiving yards, shattering Isaac Bruce's mark for each category which hadn't been touched in 26 years. Kupp was a unanimous First Team All-Pro selection and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
On the defensive side, T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year after turning in one of the best seasons by an edge-rusher in NFL History. Watt tied the NFL's single-season sack record, racking up 22.5 sacks in just 15 games as he missed two games due to injury. The sack-specialist was equally good against the run in 2021, tying Nick Bosa for the most tackles for loss in the NFL this year with 21. Watt gave opposing quarterbacks nightmares, dishing out 39 quarterback hits on the year. He had 64 combined tackles (48 solo) and forced five fumbles while routinely wrecking opponents' offensive game plans. Watt was named a unanimous First Team All-Pro, earning his third straight All-Pro selection. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in his career.
NFC Defensive Player of the Year Micah Parsons, linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, had one of the most impressive rookie seasons in recent memory. Parsons ranked second in the NFL in both pressure percentage and sack percentage, finishing at 21.8% and 4.6% respectively. His 13 sacks on the year broke a franchise record for a rookie and was tied for the third-most sacks by a rookie in NFL history. The Penn State product finished the year with 84 combined tackles (64 solo) and three forced fumbles. Parsons was a First Team All-Pro selection and named to the Pro Bowl. He is the only rookie on the entire 2021 AP All-Pro team.
Earning AFC Coach of the Year for the first time, Tennessee's Mike Vrabel led the Titans to a 12-5 record, tied for the AFC's best regular season won-loss mark of 2021. When star running back Derrick Henry, arguably the Titans' best player, was lost for the regular season in Week 8 due to injury, Vrabel was adamant that the team would not make any excuses. His team responded, posting a 6-3 record the rest of the way en route to locking up the AFC's first overall seed. Henry was one of many injuries the team experienced throughout the season and the Titans utilized more players with game action than any team in NFL history. Vrabel handled adversity with prowess and class, leading the Titans to their second consecutive AFC South title.
Green Bay's Matt LaFleur earned NFC Coach of the Year after leading the Packers to their third 13-win season in as many years since taking over as head coach. LaFleur has enjoyed unparalleled success to start his NFL head-coaching career. After defeating the Cardinals in Week 8, LaFleur improved to 33-7 as a head coach, marking the highest win percentage through 40 games for any head coach in the Super Bowl era at .825. He has led the Packers to the NFC North title in all three seasons since taking over the helm. Green Bay secured the top overall seed in the NFC, finishing 13-4 for the season and continuing the successful three-year run under LaFleur's leadership.
The beneficiary of the 101 Awards will be The University of Kansas Health System, a not-for-profit organization that receives no state or local funding, relying instead on philanthropy and sound fiscal management.