The Committee of 101 today announced the award winners for the 2019 NFL season as the 101 Awards prepares to celebrate its golden anniversary with the presentation of the 50th Annual Salute to Professional Football. Six first-time recipients will be recognized as the NFL's top performers and will be presented with their respective trophy by a former 101 Award legend at the black-tie gala in Kansas City on February 29, 2020. The event is presented by CommunityAmerica Credit Union and will be televised at a later date on NFL Network.
The top achievements of the 2019 regular season, as selected by a committee comprised of 101 members of the national media, include: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens, as AFC Offensive Player of the Year; Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints, as NFC Offensive Player of the Year; Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots, as AFC Defensive Player of the Year; Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona Cardinals, as NFC Defensive Player of the Year; John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens as AFC Coach of the Year; and Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers, as NFC Coach of the Year.
In addition to the player and coach awards, the 101 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 a person or group that significantly contributed to the NFL and its status as the preeminent pro sports league in America. The 13th annual recipient is the late Bart Starr, legendary quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.
Each full season since the AFL-NFL merger, 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 50-year history, the 101 has recognized many of the greatest players and coaches ever to take the field, and this year's class adds to the impressive list of award winners.
Leading the Ravens to the league's best record (14-2) and the AFC's No. 1 seed, AFC Offensive Player of the Year Lamar Jackson shattered the single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback, finishing with 1,206 yards to break Michael Vick's mark set in 2006. In just his first full season as a starter, the dazzling Jackson added another 3,127 yards through the air, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He also tossed a league-high 36 touchdown passes. He also became the youngest quarterback to notch a perfect passer rating (Week 1) and later became the second player in NFL history to post two perfect passer ratings in a single season.
NFC Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints put together the most prolific receiving year in history, smashing Marvin Harrison's (143) NFL single-season receptions record with 149 regular-season catches. Finishing the regular season with a league-leading 1,725 yards along with nine touchdowns, Thomas earned a unanimous first-team All-Pro selection—his second overall—and his third Pro Bowl selection. Helping the Saints to a 13-3 record and an NFC South title, Thomas set the NFL record for the most receptions by a player through his first four seasons with 470. Thomas' league-leading receptions and yardage totals both topped the NFL in 2019 and were just two of his league-leading stats, which also included receiving first downs with 91.
On the defensive side, Stephon Gilmore of the New England Patriots was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year after turning in one of the best seasons by a defensive back in recent years. Dominating opposing receivers throughout the season, Gilmore helped New England to a 12-4 record and a spot in the playoffs for the 19th consecutive season. Statistically he finished the regular season tied for the league lead in interceptions (six) and first in passes defended (20). He anchored a Patriots defense that ranked first in the NFL in total defense, scoring defense and turnover differential. Gilmore captured his second consecutive All-Pro recognition, earning a unanimous first-team selection.
NFC Defensive Player of the Year Chandler Jones, an outside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals, also turned in a dominating year with 19.0 sacks, notching double-digit sacks for the sixth time in his eight-season career. A force in the league since the Patriots drafted him with the No. 21 pick in 2012, Jones joined the Cardinals in 2016 and has averaged 15.0 sacks per season over the course of his four years. This season, he also co-led the league in forced fumbles with eight and notched a career-high five passes defended. Named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December after totaling 6.5 sacks in the Cards' five games, Jones was named to his third Pro Bowl and earned his second first-team All-Pro selection.
Earning AFC Coach of the Year honors for the first time, Baltimore's John Harbaugh led the Ravens to a league-best 14-2 record—the product of a 12-game winning streak to finish the regular season. Setting a franchise record for single-season wins, Harbaugh earned a reputation for gambling on fourth downs and calling big plays, which ultimately paid off with the AFC North title and top seed in the AFC playoff bracket. Offensively dominant, Harbaugh's Ravens set an all-time franchise record for team rushing yards in a season with help from Jackson, his star quarterback, and produced 12 Pro Bowlers and five first-team All-Pro selections. Harbaugh has become the winningest coach in Ravens history and, during his 12-year tenure in Baltimore, his teams have achieved the fourth-most wins in the NFL over that span.
On the NFC side, NFC Coach of the Year Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers led his team to a remarkable worst-to-first turnaround in just his third season as head coach. Despite repeated injuries to key players, he directed the 49ers to eight consecutive wins to start the season and finished the regular season with a 13-3 record, tying for best in the NFC. Shanahan brought the first division title to San Francisco since 2012, earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the NFC's No. 1 seed. The son of former two-time AFC Coach of the Year Mike Shanahan, Kyle and his dad become just the second father-son tandem to win 101 awards in the 50-year history, joining Jim Mora and Jim, Jr.
As recipient of the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, Starr embodied the characteristics of the award's namesake both on the field, as one of the great quarterbacks of all-time, and off the field, as a man of integrity. The Pro Football Hall of Famer is one of the most respected players of a generation. Starr is the only quarterback in history to lead his team to five NFL titles in the same decade. That includes three consecutive championships from 1965-67 and he was named MVP of the first two Super Bowls. His son, Bart, Jr., will accept the award during this year's 101 ceremonies.
The 101 Awards event in Kansas City will also recognize two Chiefs award winners— the Mack Lee Hill Award for top rookie and the Derrick Thomas Award for the team's Most Valuable Player.
For the fifth 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.