Patrick Mahomes has been voted Sporting News Offensive Player of the Year for the second time in three years. He was the majority choice among his fellow NFL players, adding 2020 to his victory in 2018, when he was also named NFL MVP.
Given the Chiefs’ quarterback didn’t have the unquestioned standout statistical brilliance usually attached with OPOY, it might be a surprise. Mahomes (4,740 yards passing, 38 TDs, six INTs, 8.1 yards per attempt, 108.2 passer rating) was special and well deserving in his own right, but consider the fact he beat out both Titans running back Derrick Henry and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the award.
Henry rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. He became only the eighth player in NFL history to join the 2,000-yard club.
Rodgers arguably had his best passing season at age 37 (4,299 yards, 48 TDs, five INTs, 9.6 yards per attempt, 121.5 passer rating). Except for yardage, he was both more prolific and more efficient than Mahomes.
But Mahomes edging Henry and finishing with a solid lead over Rodgers suggests that Mahomes has a mythical presence among his peers. He’s regarded as the league’s most intimidating offensive force — not Henry — and perceived as the best QB in the league, period — not Rodgers.
Henry isn’t alone in rushing for 2,000-plus yards and not winning SN OPOY. Eric Dickerson lost to Dan Marino in 1984. Both Jamal Lewis (2003) and Chris Johnson (2009) lost to Peyton Manning, who won five times in his career. Adrian Peterson won in 2012, but he was the last running back to do so. Otherwise we’ve seen 13 quarterbacks win SN OPOYs in 14 years, including Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Cam Newton, Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
It’s not unusual for the NFL MVP (the “official” Associated Press version) to not also win SN OPOY. Just in 2016, Brady beat out Matt Ryan for SN OPOY. In 2001, Marshall Faulk was SN OPOY while Rams teammate Kurt Warner was MVP.
NFL players don’t get to see every top offensive player on the field. They don’t look so much at numbers or break down everything in making such a decision. They simply look at a guy who always plays at a high level and a guy they don’t want to play in a game they want to win. They went with the reigning best NFL player on the NFL’s best team. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Coaches had the same respect for Mahomes, easily voting to make him the first-team QB on SN’s All-Pro team over Rodgers, too. In many previous SN OPOY votes, Manning or Brady were so good for so long, they kept getting recognized for reputation. In just three seasons of starting in the NFL, it’s incredible Mahomes already has gained that level of award-winning respect around the league.