Each year, the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) vote for several off-field awards given to people working in or associated with the NFL. The 2017 Off-Field Awards balloting is underway through June 9, with the final results announced in mid-June.
The awards the PFWA membership will vote on:
George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed)
Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs)
Dick McCann Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage)
Jack Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job)
Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media)
Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL)
Here are the biographies of the 2017 nominees in each category.
George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed):
QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots — Brady was suspended — unjustly, many believe — for the first four games of the season as a result of “Deflategate”. Then, the 39-year old had one of his most remarkable seasons, winning 14 of his 15 starts including the playoffs, and throwing 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He was voted MVP of Super Bowl LI after engineering perhaps the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants — After Pierre-Paul disfigured his right hand in a fireworks accident in 2015, he signed a one-year deal with the Giants, and came back strong with seven sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 2016.
TE Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens — Pitta fractured his right hip in 2013 and again in 2014, and he did not play in 2015. After being told by doctors that it was not safe for him to return to the field, he came back in 2016 to lead all NFL tight ends with a career-high 86 catches.
OL David Quessenberry, Houston Texans — After Quessenberry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014, he sat out the 2015 and 2016 seasons before returning to the field for the Texans’ 2017 spring OTA practices as a cancer survivor.
DE Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins — At the age of 34, Wake came back from a torn Achilles tendon suffered late in the 2015 season, to post 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs):
WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals — Fitzgerald was cited for his professionalism overall and willingness to provide both time and substance in interviews on both football and community activities off the field.
S Malcom Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles — Jenkins was nominated for consistent availability as well as willingness to comment thoughtfully on issues of the day away from the field – particularly on 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the National Anthem.
QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons — Ryan was nominated for his professionalism and availability during what became an MVP season. He was consistently lauded in nominations for not dialing back availability as the season wore on and the team’s success grew as well as his own MVP chances.
WR/ST Matthew Slater, New England Patriots — In a difficult environment for players and availability overall, Slater was consistently nominated for willingness to be a prominent voice throughout the week and not just on a pre-determined day of availability.
TE Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys — Witten was nominated for willingness to speak to team and league issues regularly to a large media contingent and treat those involved in the process with a high level of professionalism.
Dick McCann Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage):
Ron Borges, Boston Herald — Borges worked 24 years at the Boston Globe and has been a columnist for the Boston Herald since 2008. He has been named Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year five times. Borges represents New England on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and also serves on the Hall’s senior selection committee.
Vinny DiTrani, Bergen Record (retired) — “The Sage,” as Bill Parcells called him, covered the New York Giants for 34 years. DiTrani became the first media member to announce a pick at the NFL draft in 2010 at Radio City Music Hall. He formerly served on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.
Jeff Legwold, ESPN.com — Legwold has written about the NFL for over 25 years. He covered the Broncos for nine years for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News before joining ESPN.com in 2013. He represents Denver on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is a member of the Hall’s senior selection committee. Legwold was the PFWA president for the 2015-16 seasons.
Adam Schefter, ESPN.com — Schefter has covered the NFL since 1990, first as a writer for over 15 years with the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, before working from 2004-08 at the NFL Network. He moved to ESPN in 2009 as a NFL Insider and contributes to network platforms, including ESPN.com. He was the PFWA president for the 2001-02 seasons.
Ed Werder, ESPN.com — Werder has covered the NFL since 1984 with stints with the Dallas Morning News (1992-96) and Fort Worth Star-Telegram (1989) covering the Dallas Cowboys. He also worked as an NFL beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel (1991) and served as a Denver Broncos beat writer for the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera from 1984-89. He was an NFL reporter for The National (1990-91), and a correspondent for Sports Illustrated (1987-95). After spending 1997-98 at CNN/CNNSI, Werder worked at ESPN from 1998-2017.
Jack Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job):
Dean Blandino, former NFL SVP of officiating — Before leaving the NFL in the 2017 offseason to pursue a career in television, Blandino had the difficult task of explaining any and all controversial officiating calls, of which there were many during his tenure. He was readily accessible in taking the time to detail the reasons behind a given call.
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner/president/general manager — Jones has been a leading voice in the NFL since purchasing the Cowboys in 1989, and he continues to be a strong presence today. His influence has grown over the years, to the point where he is one of the league’s most influential owners. But his availability to the media continues to be very robust, and he is never without an opinion on any subject.
Mike Mayock, NFL Network analyst — Mayock has been a frequent nominee in recent years, to no one’s surprise. He is one of the brightest and most knowledgeable people on personnel issues, both in the league and in the draft, and is indefatigable when it comes to sharing that knowledge during his frequent interviews throughout the year.
Brian McCarthy, NFL VP of communications — McCarthy has been with the NFL for more than 22 years, and he has been involved with many issues over the years, particularly after the NFL’s recent reorganization of its public relations department. A point man for all the big stories, Brian is quick to respond to inquiries and has a very good feel for what we need on any given subject.
Rick Spielman, Minnesota Vikings general manager — Spielman has a long history in the NFL, working his way up as a Lions scout in 1990 to general manager with the Dolphins and now with the Vikings. Well-versed in the inner workings of the game, Spielman has long been a valuable asset to reporters looking for straightforward and useful insight on the game.
Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media):
Baltimore Ravens — Chad Steele, VP of public relations; Patrick Gleason, director of public relations; Tom Valente, public relations manager; Kevin Byrne, senior VP of public and community relations; Marisol Renner, publications and public relations specialist
Cincinnati Bengals — Jack Brennan, public relations director; P.J. Combs, director of media relations; Inky Moore, public relations assistant; Emily Parker, director of communications; Pete Schramm, manager of media relations
Houston Texans — Amy Palcic, senior director of communications; Brett Maikowski, communications manager; Omar Majzoub, communications coordinator; Allie LeClair, corporate communications coordinator
Miami Dolphins — Jason Jenkins, senior VP of communications and community affairs; Matt Taylor, director of football communications; Theresa Manahan, corporate communications manager; Brett Brecheisen, football communications manager; Renzo Sheppard, football communications manager; Gayle Baden, communications coordinator; Sydney Wade, communications coordinator
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Nelson Luis, senior director of communications; Michael Pehanich, senior public relations manager; Allen Barrett, public relations manager; Chris King, public relations coordinator; Brooke Skelley, public relations assistant.
Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL):
Bud Carson — Carson was the architect of one of the NFL’s best all-time defensive units, Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain”, and was part of two Steelers’ Super Bowl-winning teams. He entered the NFL as the defensive backs coach for Pittsburgh in 1972 and was the club’s defensive coordinator from 1973-77. He served as defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams (1978-81), Baltimore Colts (1982), Kansas City (1983) and the New York Jets (1985-88). After two seasons (1989-90) as Cleveland head coach, he was defensive coordinator for Philadelphia (1991-94) and the St. Louis Rams (1997), and he consulted for the Rams in 2000. Carson coached in Super Bowls IX and X with the Steelers and Super Bowl XIV with the Rams.
Gunther Cunningham — Cunningham, a renowned defensive coach, spent 35 years as a NFL assistant/head coach, starting in 1982 with the Baltimore Colts as a defensive line/linebackers coach. He coached for the Colts (1982-84), San Diego (1985-90), L.A. Raiders (1991-94; defensive coordinator 1992-93), Kansas City (1995-2000; defensive coordinator 1995-1998, head coach 1999-2000), Tennessee (2001-03), Kansas City (2004-08; defensive coordinator) and Detroit (2009-16; defensive coordinator 2009-13).
Bruce DeHaven — DeHaven coached several outstanding special teams units over three decades in the NFL. He started as the special teams coach for Buffalo (1987-99), as the Bills went to four straight Super Bowls. He was the special teams coach for San Francisco (2000-02), Dallas (2003-06), Seattle (2007-09), Buffalo (2010-12) and Carolina (2013-16). He also spent three seasons (1983-85) coaching in the USFL. DeHaven coached in Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII and XXVIII with Buffalo and Super Bowl 50 with Carolina.
Jim Hanifan — Hanifan, an outstanding offensive line coach who was a part of two Super Bowl-winning teams, worked in the NFL for 30 seasons. He started with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973-78, before going to San Diego for the 1979 season. Hanifan returned to the Cardinals as head coach (1980-85), and after a year off from coaching, returned to the NFL with Atlanta (1987-89), including a short stint as the Falcons’ interim head coach in 1989. He then was an offensive line coach for Washington (1990-96) and the St. Louis Rams (1997-2003). Hanifan coached in Super Bowl XXVI with Washington and Super Bowls XXXIV, XXXVI with St. Louis.
Bobb McKittrick — McKittrick, who developed undersized offensive lines during 21 years and five Super Bowl titles with San Francisco, spent 28 years as a NFL offensive line coach. His 49ers lines protected quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young during 21 seasons (1979-99) with San Francisco. McKittrick was an assistant for the Los Angeles Rams (1971-72) and San Diego (1974-78) before joining the 49ers in 1979. He coached in five Super Bowls (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXIX) with the 49ers, winning all five, and was one of only four 49ers coaches who were part of all five title teams.
The 2017 PFWA Off-Field Awards will be announced each day from June 12-16, with the Dr. Z Award announcement set for June 19. The announcement schedule (release time 1 pm ET each day on ProFootballWriters.org, @PFWAwriters on Twitter and by email to members and media outlets)
Monday, June 12: George Halas Award
Tuesday, June 13: Good Guy Award
Wednesday, June 14: Dick McCann Award
Thursday, June 15: Jack Horrigan Award
Friday, June 16: Pete Rozelle Award
Monday, June 19: Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award