Aaron Rodgers

TAMPA: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named NFL’s Most Valuable Player for a third time on Saturday after a stellar 2020 campaign in which he led the Packers to a league-best 13-3 regular-season record. Seeded first in the NFC, the Rodgers and the Packers missed out on a Super Bowl berth when they fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC championship game.

Rodgers, 37, had perhaps the best season of his 16-year career, leading the NFL with 48 touchdown passes and a completion rate of 70.7 percent. He threw just five interceptions all season. Rodgers joins a short list of three-time winners that features Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and his own former Green Bay teammate, Brett Favre.

“The guys on that list are guys I grew up watching, idolizing,” said Rodgers, who also won the award in 2011 and 2014. “To join that list of guys who’ve won it more than twice is pretty special. To have won it in my fourth year as a starter was very special, and now to win it in my 13th year as a starter, in a new offense, is pretty amazing and something I’m really proud of,” Rodgers said.

The NFL announced its season-ending awards in a televised ceremony on Saturday night as part of the festivities surrounding last night’s Super Bowl 55 in Tampa. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald scooped his third Defensive Player of the Year award in four seasons. Donald was the best defensive player on the Rams’ top-ranked defense in 2020.

He generated a league-high 76 quarterback pressures, including in playoff games, with 13 1/2 quarterback sacks. The 29-year-old’s 85.5 career sacks rank third-most in a player’s first seven seasons since the NFL began tracking individual sacks in 1982. He’s just the third player ever to win three Defensive Player of the Year awards, joining JJ Watt and Lawrence Taylor.

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith was named Comeback Player of the Year, making his first appearance in a game in week five since November 18, 2018, when a grisly right leg injury ended his season and threatened his career. Smith, who endured a severe infection and 17 surgeries, played eight games and went 5-1 as a starter to help Washington make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. He missed the first-round game against Tampa Bay with a calf injury. He finished with 1,582 passing yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Coach of the Year honors went to Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski, who guided the Browns to their first playoff win in 25 years in his first season at the helm. Stefanski garnered half of the 50 votes, with Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott earning seven. Stefanski’s Browns posted their first 11-win season since 1994 — the last time Cleveland won a playoff game. His offensive system allowed third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield to flourish, and helped make the Browns the league’s third-best offense in the red zone.

Hall of Fame
Quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive great Charles Woodson and legendary Lions receiver Calvin Johnson are headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. The trio were among eight 2021 inductees named on Saturday in the television broadcast celebrating the NFL’s 2020 award winners.

Manning was the first, and as of Saturday night, the only starting quarterback to lead two different teams to Super Bowl titles. Manning, 44, guided the Indianapolis Colts to the 2007 Super Bowl crown and led the Denver Broncos to the 2016 Super Bowl title in the final game of his 18-year NFL career. Manning threw for 71,940 career yards and 539 touchdowns, rewriting the league record books with such efforts as 55 touchdown passes in a season and 5,477 passing yards in a season.

Woodson helped Green Bay win the 2011 Super Bowl but spent most of his 18-year career with the Oakland Raiders. He made 65 career interceptions and matched an NFL record with 13 defensive touchdowns. Johnson made 731 catches for 11,619 and 83 touchdowns for Detroit from 2007 through 2015, leading the NFL in receptions in 2012 and in receiving yards in 2011 and 2012.

Current San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, who played for the Buccaneers and the Broncos, and former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca were also elected. Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson was elected as a senior inductee, former Steelers personnel executive Bill Nunn will be posthumously enshrined as a contributor and former Raiders and Seahawks coach Tom Flores will be enshrined in a ceremony in August in Canton, Ohio. For Pearson, 70, it was a long wait for the Hall of Fame call. He played 11 seasons with the Cowboys and won one Super Bowl with the team, finishing his career with 489 receptions for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. – AFP