From the opening of the regular season, when he threw 10 touchdown passes in the first two games, to the end, when he finished as the second player in NFL history to throw 50 touchdown passes and for more than 5,000 yards, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes seemed destined to win major awards.
That became a reality Saturday night when Mahomes was named The Associated Press 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player. He received 41 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league, easily beating out Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who earned nine votes.
“I’m so humbled,” Mahomes said. “This is just the beginning. We’ve got a long ways to go.”
Mahomes appeared to be the leader in the MVP race from the start of the season to the finish. In his first season as a starter, one year after the Chiefs traded up to draft him in the first round, he led them to a 12-4 record, a third consecutive AFC West championship and to the AFC Championship Game for the first time in 25 years.
Mahomes was more than eye-popping stats, though.
He made an assortment of spectacular plays, from reversing his field twice to throw a touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers, to no-look passes. He delivered in the clutch, from a left-handed pass that allowed the Chiefs to continue what would be a game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown drive against the Denver Broncos, to a fourth-down pass across his body that allowed the Chiefs to continue what would be a tying touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens.
“The play is never dead. He can find new ways to get you the ball,” Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce said. “It may look like a screwball, a slider here or there, but it’ll get to you eventually.”
Mahomes’ breakout season also earned him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award Saturday.
Defensive Player of the Year
For the second consecutive season, Aaron Donald is the Defensive Player of the Year.
In a two-man race that wasn’t much of a contest, the defensive tackle who will lead the Rams into Sunday’s Super Bowl against New England earned 45 votes. The only unanimous member of the 2018 All-Pro team, Donald easily outdistanced Chicago edge rusher Khalil Mack, also an All-Pro, who received five votes.
Donald, the only Rams player selected for the top defensive honor, joins Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as players to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks.
“Any time you put a body of work into it and then it pays off,” Donald said, “and you’re rewarded for it, it means a lot. It’s a blessing.”
Comeback Player of the Year
Andrew Luck is the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in a landslide win over Watt.
The Indianapolis quarterback, who missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury, got 44 votes. That far outpaced the four votes for Houston’s All-Pro edge rusher Watt. Redskins running back Adrian Peterson received two votes.
Luck’s sensational return, in which he led the Colts to a 10-6 record, wild-card playoff berth and a postseason victory at Houston, erased any doubts that the 2012 top overall draft choice could be a force in the NFL again. He was second in the league with 39 touchdown passes, throwing for 4,593 yards. He established career highs in completions, attempts and percentage and was sacked a league-low 18 times.
“I truly believe there are players on every team, every roster that could be Comeback Player of the Year in their own ways,” Luck said. “Honestly, the best part was playing football again — having fun playing football and being pain free.”
He’s the first Indianapolis player to win the award.
Coach of the Year
In his first season as Bears coach, Matt Nagy won the league’s top honor for his profession.
For taking the perennial also-ran Bears to a 12-4 record and the NFC North championship, Nagy earned 24 votes. That was well ahead of the Chargers‘ Anthony Lynn, who got 10 votes.
“I want to thank the AP for selecting me as the Coach of the Year for 2018, especially considering the other deserving coaches who had outstanding seasons,” Nagy said in a statement. “This recognition is not about me, it is about our coaching staff, our players, the entire organization and the great Chicago Bears fans. We won this together as a family.”
Nagy has overseen the development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who blossomed in his second pro season, and saw a defense befitting the “Monsters of the Midway” dominate opponents at times. He is the fifth Bears coach to win the award, joining team founder George Halas (1963, 1965), Mike Ditka (1985, 1988), Dick Jauron (2001) and Lovie Smith (2005).
In a season when many coaches did exceptional work, four others also received votes. The Colts’ Frank Reich got eight, followed by the Chiefs’ Andy Reid (five), the Seahawks‘ Pete Carroll (two) and the Saints’ Sean Payton (one).
Assistant Coach of the Year
For his work as Bears defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio got the head-coaching gig in Denver. He was also named assistant coach of the year.
Fangio guided the Bears to a third-place ranking on defense and first against the run. He helped Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson become All-Pros. Chicago allowed a league-low 283 points.
Fangio received 25 votes, far ahead of Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale, who got nine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.