The Committee of 101 today announced the award winners for the 2020 NFL season as the 101 Awards prepares to host a virtual presentation of the 51st Annual Salute to Professional Football. Three first-time recipients will be recognized as the NFL's top performers and will be presented during a virtual gala streamed on www.101awards.com and other platforms on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
The top achievers of the 2020 regular season, as selected by a committee comprised of 101 members of the national media, include: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans, as AFC Offensive Player of the Year; Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers, as NFC Offensive Player of the Year; T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers, as AFC Defensive Player of the Year; Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams, as NFC Defensive Player of the Year; Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns, as AFC Coach of the Year; and Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team, as NFC Coach of the Year.
In addition to the 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 significantly contributed to the NFL and its status as the preeminent pro sports league in America. The 14th annual recipient is going to 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 51-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.
Helping lead the Tennessee Titans to an 11-5 record and their first AFC South title since 2008, AFC Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry put together a historically dominant season on the ground, rushing for 2,027 yards to claim his second-consecutive NFL rushing title. Henry became just the eighth player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, and the first to do so since Adrian Peterson in 2012. His 2,027 rushing yards were 470 more than the next closest player in the league this season and stand as a single-season franchise record for Tennessee and the fifth-most rushing yards in a single season in league history. Henry is the first player to lead the league in rushing in back-to-back seasons since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006-07. While also leading the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns this season, Henry earned his first-career first-team All-Pro selection and his second-consecutive Pro Bowl selection.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the NFC Offensive Player of the Year for the third time in his 16-year career after previously earning the honor following the 2011 and 2014 seasons. Rodgers led the NFL in passing touchdowns with a franchise-record 48 scoring throws and guided the Packers to a 13-3 record and a second-consecutive NFC North championship. His 121.5 passer rating was the second-best single-season mark in league history behind only his own 122.5 rating which he registered in 2011. Rodgers led the NFL in passer rating, passing TDs, completion percentage (70.7) and interception percentage (0.95), the first QB to lead the NFL in all four categories since 1992 (Steve Young). He was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press for the third time in his career (2011, 2014) and was selected to his ninth-career Pro Bowl.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt led the NFL in sacks (15.0), tackles for loss (23) and quarterback hits (41) for the 2020 season, despite playing in only 15 games, earning his first 101 Award as AFC Defensive Player of the Year. Watt has been a dominant defensive presence in the league since the Steelers drafted him with the 30th overall pick in 2017, notching three-consecutive 10.0+ sack seasons over the course of his four years, with his 15.0 sacks this season marking a career high. Named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September and November of 2020, Watt was named to his third-consecutive Pro Bowl and earned his second-consecutive first-team All-Pro selection. Watt joins his brother, four-time 101 Award AFC Defensive Player of Year winner Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt, as the only siblings to win the same player-of-the-year award in the 51-year history of the 101.
NFC Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, has earned the 101 Award for the fourth time in his seven-year pro career, making him the first four-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year award winner in the history of the event. He previously won the award in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Donald concluded the regular season tied for second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks, the second-highest sack total of his career following his 20.5 sack performance in 2018. He added 14 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. This year marks the seventh year in a row he was named to the Pro Bowl, making him the fourth defensive player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons, joining Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and Patrick Willis. Donald was named a unanimous first-team All-Pro selection for the 2020 season, the sixth-consecutive season he earned first-team honors from the AP.
Cleveland Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski is this year's AFC Coach of the Year award recipient. In his first season as a head coach in the National Football League, the 38-year old Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record, the club's first playoff berth since 2002, and the team's first postseason victory since the 1994 season. The 11-5 Browns finished third in an ultra-competitive AFC North in 2020 and defeated their division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 48-37 to advance to the AFC Divisional Round. Stefanski's 11 regular season wins were the best among the league's first-year head coaches in 2020 and the most wins by a first-year Browns head coach since Paul Brown in 1946. Stefanski helped guide QB Baker Mayfield to his highest career passer rating and RB Nick Chubb to his second-consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, while the club's rushing attack finished third in the league, averaging 148.4 rushing yards per game. The Philadelphia native has given the city of Cleveland, one of the NFL's most proud places, a lot of hope for a very bright future.
Now a three-time NFC Coach of the Year award winner, Ron Rivera took the Washington Football Team from worst to first in the NFC East in his first season at the helm in the nation's capital, winning the franchise's first division title since 2015. Rivera's defense was a key piece to the Football Team's turnaround, ranking fourth in the league in points allowed in 2020 after ranking 27th in 2019, while accumulating 47.0 sacks to rank sixth in the league. In addition to building a coaching staff and establishing a new culture amid the unusual coronavirus-impacted offseason, Rivera was dealt a personal blow when he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in a lymph node during training camp. Rivera received seven weeks of proton radiation and chemotherapy, missing a handful of practices but never missing a game. Completing his treatment on Oct. 26, his team went on to win five of its final seven games to secure the division title. Rivera previously earned 101 NFC Coach of the Year honors in 2013 and 2015 as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers and joins Dick Vermeil (1978, 1979, 1999) as the only three-time NFC Coach of the Year honorees in the history of the award.
The virtual 101 Awards event will also recognize two Chiefs award winners— the Mack Lee Hill Award for top rookie or first-year player and the Derrick Thomas Award for the team's Most Valuable Player.
For the sixth-consecutive year, 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.