Coach of the Year
Bill O’Brien—Head Coach, Houston Texans
The 2015 NFL season has seen extraordinary efforts by a multitude of head coaches around the league, all deserving of the award. Unfortunately for them, Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans had a masterful season and deserves to be named Coach of the Year. The Texans were not expected to make any rumblings in 2015. When the pre-season ended, Bleacher Report ranked the Texans 28th on their power rankings, way behind their AFC South rival Indianapolis Colts who were at no. 2. It turns out the predictions were dead wrong. O’Brien was a quarterback whisperer this season and coaxed a career year from starting quarterback Brian Hoyer and won games with backups Ryan Mallett, TJ Yates, and Brandon Weeden. This quartet of journeymen and backup quarterbacks should never have been able to lead a team into the playoffs in today’s NFL—somehow O’Brien managed that monumental feat and wins Coach of the Year because of it.
Rookie of the Year
Todd Gurley—Running Back, St. Louis Rams
Forget Jameis Winston as rookie of the year, Todd Gurley ran away with this award. Despite missing the first three games of the season due to a lingering ACL tear, the first year running back finished third in NFL rushing yards with 1,106 yards on the ground. What’s more impressive is that Gurley managed to accomplish this feat playing on possibly the worst offence in the NFL. With the uninspiring tandem of Nick Foles and Case Keenum taking snaps at quarterback, the Rams ranked 32nd in total offence this year. Gurley undoubtedly deserves rookie of the year for establishing himself as a top-five talent at the running back position on a team seemingly doing everything it could to hinder its own offence.
Defensive Player of the Year
J.J. Watt—Defensive End, Houston Texans
The only reason to not give this award to Watt every year is to break up the monotony and give someone else a chance. With a league-leading 17.5 sacks, J.J. once again proved he is the best player in the entire NFL. No longer able to fly under the radar, Watt told the Tampa Bay Times that he has been attracting more triple-teams this season than ever before. Think about that for a second; most teams use five linemen and one or two tight ends at any time. In a basic four-man rush, J.J. Watt is attracting up to three of those five linemen, leaving the three other rushers free to attack the quarterback. Despite the triple-team, Watt still led the league in sacks. This complete and total domination of the NFL assures Watt this award not only for this year but for many more to come.
Offensive Player of the Year
Deandre Hopkins—Wide Receiver, Houston Texans
2015 was surely the year of the wide receiver. Twenty-seven different receivers posted 1,000-yard seasons and four different receivers went for over 1,500 yards. One of those four stands above the rest: Deandre Hopkins, who played on a team that lacked any credible threat under centre. Receiving passes from four different quarterbacks, most would not expect much from the Texans passing offence. Hopkins’ 111 receptions for 1,521 yards this season was the engine that kept the offence going week in and week out. He dominated on a regular basis regardless of the competition. In a week 11 matchup against the Jets, Hopkins outcompeted Darrelle Revis to the tune of five receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns. No other receiver has Hopkins’ combination of route running, speed and circus catch ability. He combines the best parts of Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown to create the ultimate pass-catcher and is 2015’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Most Valuable Player
Cam Newton—Quarterback, Carolina Panthers
Could it be anyone else? While Tom Brady and Carson Palmer might look better on paper, it’s what Newton does on the field that puts him ahead of the pack. Leading a Carolina Panthers team that finished with a league best 15-1, Newton took a team that features punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. as its number one target and drove it to historic status. With a grand total of 45 touchdowns in 2015 (35 passing and 10 rushing), he leads the league by a sizeable gap. But Newton doesn’t just put up points, he also inspires his team to be better with his animated personality and leadership skills. Always making the NFL seem fun, Newton encapsulates what it means to be an MVP, combining historic production, a great team, and leadership skills that inspire those around him to play better. Newton might never get another MVP award in his career, but this one is special because he earned it from his ability to win rather than gaudy statistics.