Rams Sweep NFL Awards With Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year
(l to r) Rams head coach Sean McVay, running back Todd Gurley, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald (left and middle photo by Robert Torrence, right photo by Associated Press)
At the annual NFL Honors awards ceremony, Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year for 2017 – making him the youngest head coach to win the award at 31 years old – and Rams DT Aaron Donald and RB Todd Gurley II won Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, respectively.
Upon being named the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, McVay inherited a team that finished 2016 with a 4-12 record and as the league’s worst-scoring offense. In just one season, the rookie head coach transformed the Rams into the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense and catapulted the franchise to its first NFC West championship since 2003. The club also had a league-high eight Pro Bowl selections – the highest total the team has boasted since 1999 – in McVay’s first year leading the Rams.
McVay is the fourth Rams head coach to win the league award behind Dick Vermeil (1999), Chuck Knock (1973), and George Allen (1967). Of these four, only McVay and Allen were first-year head coaches. In NFL history, McVay is just the 14th rookie head coach overall to receive the award after Detroit’s George Wilson first won the honor as a first-year head coach in 1957.
McVay joins an impressive list of other notable rookie head coaches to win the award, including Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi, legendary Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowner and former Giants Heat Coach Jim Fassel. The only other active head coach to win the award as a first-year head coach is Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints (2006). Among the 14 rookie head coaches that were named Coach of the Year, the Rams’ 11-5 finish ties McVay on the list for fourth-most wins, just two shy of Jim Harbaugh’s 13 wins with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.
On Saturday night Donald became the first player in Rams history to ever earn the distinction of AP Defensive Player of the Year. This past season, Donald racked up 52 tackles, 31 solo (according to coaches’ stats), 11 sacks for 95 yards, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two passes defensed despite playing in only 14 games. Donald had team highs in sacks (11.0), quarterback hits (27) and forced fumbles (5).
His year also concluded with First Team All-Pro recognition for the third-consecutive season and he was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth-consecutive season.
Donald is only the seventh defensive tackle in NFL history to earn Defensive Player of the Year since the award started in 1971. The list of past tackles to receive the award includes Hall of Famers Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy, Joe Green and Alan Page. He is also the first defensive tackle to win the award since Sapp in 1999.
Saturday’s announcement marked the second time in Donald’s young career that he earned a league-wide award at the NFL Honors. The first-round draft selection was a recipient of the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award following the 2014 season.
Gurley made a strong case to win Offensive Player of the Year after leading the NFL in touchdowns (19), points scored among non-kickers (114) and scrimmage yards (2,093) in addition to finishing second in rushing yards (1,305). The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year was among the best receiving backs in the NFL this season, finishing second in the league in receiving yards by a running back (788) and posting the best reception average among running backs (12.3 yards per reception). On the season, Gurley averaged 6.1 yards per touch, which is over one yard per touch better than Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell (4.8) who finished second in the NFL in scrimmage yards.
Of Gurley’s 19 overall touchdowns, he had 13 rushing and six receiving. He was one of five players in NFL history to record 2,000-plus scrimmage yards, 10-plus rushing touchdowns and five-plus receiving touchdowns in a single season, including Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson (1975) and Marshall Faulk (2000 & 2001). On the year, the two-time Pro Bowler accounted for 37.25 percent of the Rams’ 51 touchdowns – the highest percentage in the league among all non-quarterback players.
Gurley is the first Ram to win Offensive Player of the Year since Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk took home the award in 2001. Faulk (1999, 2000, 2001) and fellow Hall of famer Eric Dickerson (1986) were previously the only Rams to earn AP Offensive Player of the Year honors.