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Windy City Gridiron picks the 2019 NFL Honors

Pat Mahomes is awesome, Matt Nagy changed the Bears for the better, and more in our picks for the NFL Honors.

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs
It was Pat Mahomes’ NFL in 2018. Everyone else was just playing in it.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Saturday before the Super Bowl is always an interesting one because it allows us to reflect on the NFL season that was. We relive the dramatic and controversial moments from the previous five months as if they’ll live on forever. We remember the players that captured our hearts and rose to stardom at the same time. And we consider the rapid turnarounds and culture shifts that instill hope in anyone that follows this beautiful game.

What the NFL Honors is, as often as the presentation itself can be contrived (Rob Riggle and Steve Harvey as hosts, really?), is a night to celebrate stellar pro football players, coaches, and why we all watch this simultaneously dumb, but complex game.

Finally, a night to revel in their accomplishments, am I right? (I kid, I kid.)

From MVP to Coach of the Year, here’s how the Windy City Gridiron staff sees the 2019 NFL Honors in Atlanta shaking out.

Most Valuable Player

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs
Was there any doubt?
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

In becoming just the third ever person to throw for 50 touchdowns in an NFL season, Mahomes enjoyed one of the greatest ever year by a quarterback. The future is bright for this 23-year-old dynamo and first-year starter (!).

Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

His historical season better be rewarded with MVP, and if anyone else wins I’ll know the fix was in.

Jeff Berckes: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

For awhile, it looked like Drew Brees might get it as a lifetime achievement award but Mahomes proved to be a transcendent talent with historic numbers.

Jacob Infante: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

Mahomes topped 5,000 yards, 50 touchdowns, and led his team to a 12-4 record. This one isn’t up for debate.

Sam Householder: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

What else can be said? These days if you lead your team to a No. 1 seed and have the most touchdown passes in the league, the MVP is coming your way.

ECD: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

He’s basically had this award since Week 4 of the regular season.

Ken Mitchell: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

This is a no-brainier, he had a great season.

Offensive Player of the Year

Divisional Round - Indianapolis Colts v Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes might not be going home with a Lombardi trophy this year, but could he take home two pieces of individual hardware?
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski: Julio Jones, Falcons

Jones may not have the best touchdown marks, but he’s still one of the NFL’s two best pass catchers. His second career receiving title is a testament to the special ability of the future Hall of Famer.

Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

I get wanting to split the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year at times, but this isn’t the year for that.

Jeff Berckes: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

Jacob Infante: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

I wanted to pick Brees, but his late-season collapse in New Orleans makes Mahomes a candidate to win another award.

Sam Householder: Julio Jones, Falcons

There are lots of good candidates, but I think Jones gets the nod because he was brilliant all year.

ECD: Todd Gurley, Rams

Gurley is a touchdown machine who can score as a runner and receiver. He would have owned the rushing title had he not been injured to close the year.

Ken Mitchell: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

Nobody is even close.

Defensive Player of the Year

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints
The greatest interior pass rusher in decades adds another trophy to an impressive resume.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski: Aaron Donald, Rams

This is not a narrative award. Khalil Mack may have had more of an impact on the Bears’ defense, but Donald had the by far more impressive statistics and carries the Rams almost by himself.

Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Aaron Donald, Rams

If Mack had been healthy for 16 games then he likely would have won, but Donald is freakishly good.

Jeff Berckes: Aaron Donald, Rams

If Mack plays all 16 games, this is a real nail biter. No one else is in Donald’s stratosphere.

Jacob Infante: Aaron Donald, Rams

Donald had the best season of an interior defensive lineman in NFL history. A second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award is in his future.

Sam Householder: Aaron Donald, Rams

Donald puts up unbelievable numbers for an interior defensive lineman every year and 2018 was no different.

ECD: Khalil Mack, Bears

Donald had the better statistics, but Mack had the bigger impact.

Ken Mitchell: Khalil Mack, Bears

Mack transformed a good Chicago defense into the NFL’s best. I get that Donald will win the award, and he deserves to win, but ask me which of these two players I would want on my team for 2019 if we used 2018’s performance? Mack, and it’s not a tough choice.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns
Cleveland is in good hands with Mayfield as their future.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski: Baker Mayfield, Browns

Mayfield had one of the greatest rookie quarterback seasons ever. If not for a few early season foibles, he also would’ve broken Cleveland’s playoff drought. Give the man his due.

Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Baker Mayfield, Browns

The only thing that will stop Mayfield from winning is if his swagger rubs voters the wrong way. While the GiantsSaquon Barkley had a great year in his own right, Mayfield transformed a franchise.

Jeff Berckes: Baker Mayfield, Browns

Mea culpa on my terrible take on Mayfield at the draft. He’s great and he’s going to be part of the future of this league that is so much fun right now.

Jacob Infante: Baker Mayfield, Browns

It wouldn’t surprise me if Barkley won the award due to his flashy numbers, but Mayfield turned around a Browns franchise and gave them life for the first time in an eternity.

Sam Householder: Baker Mayfield, Browns

I don’t see how it could be anyone else. What he’s done to jolt the Browns for the better and overcome an awful coaching situation warrants the honor.

ECD: Baker Mayfield, Browns

He won games despite starting his career off with Hue Jackson as his head coach. Once Jackson was fired, Mayfield played playoff-caliber football.

Ken Mitchell: Baker Mayfield, Browns

What a franchise-changing year he had!

Defensive Rookie of the Year

New York Giants v Indianapolis Colts
Produce at the level Leonard did and you’ll always be honored.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski: Darius Leonard, Colts

Someone like Roquan Smith may turn out to be the better overall pro, but Leonard had the better rookie season. Leonard is the main reason the Colts were relevant on defense and the sky’s the limit for his future.

Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Darius Leonard, Colts

Leonard had a ridiculous year for Indy.

Jeff Berckes: Derwin James, Chargers

I think I got one right from the preseason. James was all over the field for the Chargers this year and represents what the future of an NFL defensive back looks like.

Jacob Infante: Darius Leonard, Colts

When you lead the league in tackles and get voted a First-Team All-Pro as a rookie, you’re a pretty safe bet to win this award.

Sam Householder: Darius Leonard, Colts

I looked at this every which way to see if there was someone more deserving. There isn’t. Smith was good all year but he didn’t need to be great with the talent around him. Leonard had to be great and was.

ECD: Darius Leonard, Colts

This pick went under the radar for the Colts during the 2018 NFL Draft. He was not only snubbed of a Pro Bowl nomination, he helped to make the Colts’ defense respectable as a rookie.

Ken Mitchell: Darius Leonard, Colts

Criminally underrated, Leonard was a beast as a rookie. Let’s be fair, there were a lot of good defensive rookies in 2018, but Leonard was the best.

Comeback Player of the Year

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans
One of the game’s greats was back to his regular self this fall.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski: Andrew Luck, Colts

Come back to sit near the top of most relevant passing statistics and take your team to the playoffs, and this award’s in the bag for Luck. He was exclusively throwing Nerf balls in the spring! What throwing shoulder injuries?

Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Andrew Luck, Colts

Luck had some help from an offensive line makeover, but we’re talking about a guy that missed an entire year to come back and have his best career season.

Jeff Berckes: Andrew Luck, Colts

Good call by Robert.

Jacob Infante: Andrew Luck, Colts

Luck recovered from a serious shoulder injury to not only put together an elite season, but lead his team to a playoff appearance.

Sam Householder: Andrew Luck, Colts

What a story. To come back from legitimate questions about if he’d ever play effectively again and then lead the Colts to the playoffs was amazing. If it weren’t for Luck, I think J.J. Watt would win this hands down, but quarterbacks over defensive ends.

ECD: Andrew Luck, Colts

People were speculating that Luck’s career was virtually over prior to the 2018 regular season. He took the Colts to the playoffs in his first year back from his shoulder injuries.

Ken Mitchell: Andrew Luck, Colts

Zero (as in we didn’t know if he could even throw a football) to hero (lead his team into the playoffs). That’s as comeback as you can get.

Coach of the Year

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears
The Visor is off to one of the best starts in Bears coaching history.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Robert Zeglinski: Matt Nagy, Bears

The Bears have been a cellar dweller for most of the past decade. They’ve enjoyed no stability at most relevant positions, and have had a joke of a culture. In one year, Nagy changed all that. In one year, Nagy gave the Bears an identity and turned them into a Super Bowl contender. He even broke George Halas’ rookie coaching record for wins. The Visor is well on his way toward becoming one of the greatest Bears coaches ever.

Lester Wiltfong Jr.: Matt Nagy, Bears

Nagy deserves this award not only for leading his team to 12 wins, but for legitimately changing the culture of the franchise.

Jeff Berckes: Matt Nagy, Bears

The other correct preseason call of mine (and many on here). Nagy fits the profile of the guy that wins this award most frequently. He’s built a completely new culture in one season and everyone has bought in 100 percent. This guy is here to stay and I’m all for it.

Jacob Infante: Matt Nagy, Bears

I can see a serious argument for Frank Reich here, but the improvement that the Bears saw under Nagy’s watch was nothing short of fantastic.

Sam Householder: Frank Reich, Colts

I can’t go to chalk to what others have said. Yes, I think Nagy deserves it (and will likely win it) but there’s a good argument for Reich. He was a last-second option, was hired very late in the off-season after Josh McDaniels backed out, and had coaching assistants that he didn’t get to choose. All looked lost when the Colts started 1-5 but from there they turned it around dramatically and made the playoffs, which is incredible. Don’t sleep on that story swaying voters from Nagy.

ECD: Matt Nagy, Bears

Is there any other choice here? Nagy broke a nearly 100-year-old franchise record previously set by Halas for most wins in their first season as the Bears’ head coach. Plus, the culture and the atmosphere was the most fun and electrifying that I ever remember seeing for a Bears team.

Ken Mitchell: Matt Nagy, Bears

Most of these awards I have to say are not as close as this one because Reich is extremely deserving. But Nagy took a listless 5-11 team from 2017 and turned it into a 12-4 contender this year. We talk about “buy-in”, well Nagy reinvented buy-in season in Chicago.

WCG Contributors: Jeff Berckes; Patti Curl; Eric Christopher Duerrwaechter; Kev H; Sam Householder; Jacob Infante; Aaron Lemming; Ken Mitchell; Robert Schmitz; Steven Schweickert; Jack Silverstein; EJ Snyder; Lester A. Wiltfong, Jr.; Whiskey Ranger; Robert Zeglinski; Like us on Facebook.