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 2020 Off-Field Awards balloting is underway through June 19, with the final results announced beginning June 22.
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 2020 nominees in each category.
George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed):
TE Coach Bobby Engram, Baltimore Ravens — Engram’s daughter, Bobbi, passed at the age of 20 in 2018 from complications of sickle cell disease. Despite his grief, Engram has guided the Ravens tight ends to excellent production. A wide receiver in the league for 14 years, Engram helped institute the Bobbi Engram Foundation, which funds sickle cell research.
C Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys (retired) — After being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system, Frederick sat out the 2018 season. He came back in 2019 and was selected to his fifth Pro Bowl. Frederick said playing was a struggle, leading to his retirement in March 2020 at the age of 29.
DL Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings — Griffen came back strong in 2019 with an eight-sack season following a difficult period. A 2018 police report said Griffen was acting erratically, and he subsequently underwent a mental health evaluation. His behavior was attributed to emotional distress stemming from a lifetime of painful experiences. Griffen lived in a sober house for three months and missed five games during the 2018 season.
T Russell Okung, Los Angeles Chargers — Last June, Okung suffered a pulmonary embolism due to a blood clot in his left leg and lungs that forced him to “look death right in the face.” Given what he calls a second chance in life, Okung returned to the field in late October.
TE Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders — Waller once had such a strong addiction to drugs that he says he wouldn’t have been surprised if he failed 100 NFL drug tests. Twice suspended for violations of the league substance abuse policy, Waller emerged from rehab as a new man. The Raiders signed him from the Ravens’ practice squad in 2018, and he had a breakout season in 2019 with 90 catches for 1,145 receiving yards. Thumb surgery kept him from being named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Travis Kelce.
Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs):
LB Lorenzo Alexander, Buffalo Bills (retired) — One of the nominations for Alexander put it best: “Not only as a player, but as an NFL Players Association executive, Alexander was ALWAYS available.” Announced his retirement after the 2019 season.
CB Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots — Gilmore is one of the league’s superstars on the field in how he handles his media responsibilities. National and local writers singled out Gilmore for how frequently he was available and the quality of his answers.
QB Eli Manning, New York Giants (retired) — Manning earned praise both for his body of work in his dealings with the media over the course of his career, and particularly in his approach during a difficult final season when he was moved in and out of the starting lineup as the Giants started Daniel Jones in 12 games.
QB Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers — Rivers, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason, has consistently been nominated through the years for annually being a conference-call go-to player during the season, how he works with the local media and his willingness to give thoughtful answers on a wide variety of topics.
S Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos — In the Broncos’ fourth consecutive losing season, with free agency and his own contract negotiations on the horizon, Simmons was still, without fail, available postgame as well as through the week. He offered consistently insightful responses to any and all questions.
T Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers (retired) — Staley was simply called “a gem’’ for his consistent availability to the media as well as the quality of his answers. The Pro Bowl left tackle retired from the NFL after playing 13 seasons, and he was named to the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team.
Dick McCann Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage):
Don Banks — Banks had a 36-year career in sportswriting, beginning when he covered prep sports as an intern in the Tampa Bay area for the St. Petersburg Times. He moved on to cover the Buccaneers for the newspaper, before moving to Minnesota to cover pro football for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and later the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It was there that Banks caught the eye of editors at Sports Illustrated. In 2000, he was hired as NFL columnist for the Sports Illustrated website, SI.com. After his career at SI ended in 2016, Banks moved on to write about the league for NFL.com, Bleacher Report, Patriots.com and The Athletic. The Las Vegas Review-Journal hired him as their NFL correspondent in 2019 with the impending move of the Raiders to Nevada. He died in Canton on August 4, 2019, the day after the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies. His first story for the Review-Journal was published hours before his passing.
Jarrett Bell — Bell has covered the NFL for USA Today since 1993, and he is currently the paper’s NFL columnist. He previously served as a contributor at ESPN (2013-2017), primarily featured as a panelist on the former NFL Insiders show and SportsCenter. In addition to winning dozens of in-house awards for USA Today, he won a first-place honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors in 2020 and has received multiple Dick Connor Writing Awards from the PFWA. Bell previously covered the San Francisco 49ers for The Marin Independent Journal (1990-92) and was editor of The Dallas Cowboys Weekly (1989). He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and contributors committee, and he was part of the blue-ribbon panel that selected the NFL 100 All-Time Team.
Vic Carucci — Carucci is in his fifth decade of covering the NFL as a writer and broadcaster, and is currently covering the Buffalo Bills and the league for The Buffalo News, as well as serving as a co-host on SiriusXM NFL Radio. He returned to the News in 2014, after previously working for the newspaper for 17 years (1982-99) during the Bills’ Super Bowl era. In between his stints in Buffalo, he worked as a national editor at NFL.com for 12 years (1999-2011) and as a senior editor with the Cleveland Browns (2011-14). He began covering the NFL as the Philadelphia Eagles beat writer at the Courier-Post (N.J.) from 1979-81. Carucci has authored 10 books about football, including multiple New York Times bestsellers, was president of the PFWA during the 1993-94 seasons and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee.
Jeff Legwold — Legwold has written about the NFL since 1988, and he is currently a senior writer for ESPN.com. He covered the Broncos for nine years for the Denver Post (2004-09) and Rocky Mountain News (2009-13) before joining ESPN.com in 2013 as the Broncos’ reporter. Prior to his time in Denver, he covered the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans for The Tennessean (1995-2004), the Buffalo Bills for the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Steelers for Gannett Newspapers. Legwold represents Denver on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, and he is part of the senior selection committee. Legwold was the PFWA president for the 2015-16 seasons.
Gary Myers — Myers has covered the NFL since 1978, and he was the New York Daily News‘ NFL columnist from 1989-2018. He began covering the NFL at the New Jersey state bureau of The Associated Press (1978-80) and spent one year as the Giants beat writer at the Daily News, before he headed to Dallas to cover the Cowboys in 1981 for the Dallas Morning News and later became the paper’s columnist. A prior contributor to The Athletic who also has done extensive TV work including as the inside info reporter for HBO’s Inside the NFL from 1989-2001, Myers is a bestselling author of the books “The Catch”, “My First Coach”, “Brady vs. Manning” and “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys”. He is a member of the selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Barry Wilner — Wilner has been covering the NFL for The Associated Press since 1985, helping lead and organize the national and local coverage while also covering the league’s news and events on a national scale. He has also regularly broken stories for the AP during that time, using his numerous connections he has made in league circles over the last 35 years. Wilner first covered the New York Jets as the AP’s beat writer from 1985-2004. He added national duties in 1988, also covering NFL-wide news and events, while also staying on top of the Jets beat. Wilner switched to covering the NFL as a whole in 2005, and he eventually took over as the AP’s point man for all things NFL when the late Dave Goldberg retired in 2009, and he has served in that role since. He has staffed the last 34 consecutive Super Bowls for AP, oversees the AP postseason awards voting and is a longtime Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee member.
Jack Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job):
GM Chris Ballard, Indianapolis Colts — A multi-time finalist for the Horrigan award, Ballard is frequently available for on-the-record conversations about all aspects of the Colts. He holds film sessions with local writers after the draft, a move that has since been emulated in other markets, but he is most respected for his candor and transparency.
EVP Kevin Byrne, Baltimore Ravens — Byrne spent nearly 40 years with the Ravens franchise in Baltimore and Cleveland before retiring in May. In his role leading the Ravens’ media relations department, he was the consummate professional in his dealings with the media. Byrne mentored rising sports PR professionals, and he helped build the Ravens PR staff into a three-time winner of the PFWA’s Pete Rozelle Award.
Owner/President/GM Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys — Jones is the rare NFL owner who remains directly involved in personnel decisions, and he’s also the rare team owner who regularly meets with reporters. He speaks after each Cowboys game, and his insights into his own team as well as league issues are invaluable to the reporters covering the Cowboys and the league at large.
Head Coach Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers — Lynn received nominations for his consistent professionalism and honesty when dealing with the media. He has been particularly open about his personal life and the issues he cares about.
VP, Communications Brian McCarthy, NFL — McCarthy is consistently available to help reporters on all sorts of league issues, from facilitating conference calls with league executives, answering policy and procedure questions and making sure the media has what they need to do their jobs at each of the league’s major events.
Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media):
Baltimore Ravens — The Ravens’ media relations department has shown consistent excellence with executive vice president Kevin Byrne, Chad Steele, Patrick Gleason, Tom Valente and Marisol Renner. Byrne retired after the 2019 season, and Steele succeeded him as the club’s senior VP of communications. Baltimore is a three-time Rozelle Award winner (2011, 2013 and 2017).
Denver Broncos — The Broncos’ staff of Patrick Smyth, who was recently promoted to chief communications officer, Erich Schubert, Seth Medvin and Aspen Odom do a splendid job year in and year out for the media who cover the team. Denver has won the Rozelle Award three times (1990, 2014 and 2016).
Indianapolis Colts — The Colts, under vice president of communications Steve Campbell and staff members Matt Conti, Christian Edwards, Pam Humphrey, Hayden Clark and Kaila Lewis did a terrific job dealing with the Andrew Luck retirement story, among others. Indianapolis won the Rozelle Award in 1996.
New England Patriots — The Patriots have enjoyed unprecedented success in the Super Bowl era, and vice president of media and community relations Stacey James has been there for all six title runs. James and his staff of Aaron Salkin, Michael Jurovaty and Anne Noland have worked more Super Bowls than any staff in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers — Under director of communications Burt Lauten and his staff of Michael Bertsch, Angela Tegnelia, Alissa Cavaretta and Thomas Chapman, the Steelers communications department consistently does an outstanding job of helping PFWA members cover the organization. Pittsburgh is a two-time Rozelle Award winner (1991 and 2015).
Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL) — TWO RECIPIENTS IN 2020:
Bill Arnsparger — Arnsparger joined forces with Don Shula in 1964 in Baltimore, joining the Colts as Shula’s defensive line coach. He followed Shula to Miami in 1970, and the Dolphins reached their greatest heights over the next four seasons (1970-73). Would those Colts and Dolphins teams under Shula have been as successful without Arnsparger pulling the levers on defense? He was the mastermind behind the Dolphins’ “No Name Defense” as Miami was perfect in 1972 and won the Super Bowl again in 1973. He left to become the New York Giants’ head coach from 1974-76. When Arnsparger was fired by the Giants at midseason in 1976, Shula rehired him immediately as defensive coordinator, and Arnsparger stayed with the Dolphins through 1983. His “Killer B’s” defense helped Miami to another Super Bowl berth in 1982. After a stint as LSU head coach and as athletic director at Florida, Arnsparger returned to the NFL with San Diego for three seasons as defensive coordinator (1992-94), and his defense led the Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance to date in 1994. He coached in six Super Bowls with three different franchises (III with Baltimore, VI, VII, VIII, XVII with Miami and XXIX with San Diego) with two victories with the Dolphins.
Romeo Crennel — Crennel is in his 38th season in 2020 as a NFL coach, and seventh with the Houston Texans, where he serves as associate head coach after time as the team’s defensive coordinator. He came to Houston following a three-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs (2010-12) where he served as defensive coordinator (2010-11), interim head coach (2011) and head coach (2012). He was also the Cleveland Browns head coach from 2005-08. From 2001-04, Crennel was the defensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, where he helped the team win three Super Bowls and was the PFWA’s Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003. He also was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator/defensive line coach in 2000, defensive line coach with the New York Jets (1997-99) and the defensive line coach for New England (1993-96). He began his NFL coaching career with the New York Giants for 12 seasons (1981-92) as defensive line coach, special teams coach and special teams/defensive assistant coach. He is the quintessential defensive coordinator, and he was a key component to the success of three Bills – Parcells, Belichick, and O’Brien. He has coached in six Super Bowls (XXI and XXV with the Giants and XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX with the Patriots), with five titles.
Dick Hoak — After a 10-season career with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a running back, Hoak spent his entire NFL coaching career – 35 seasons – with the Steelers as the franchise’s running backs coach from 1972-2006, working under head coaches Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher. From the Franco Harris through the Jerome Bettis eras in Pittsburgh, he was essentially the Steelers’ run-game coordinator. Ed Bouchette, who has covered the Steelers since 1985, calls Hoak “among the smartest coaches I’ve ever been around.” Hoak coached in six Super Bowls with the Steelers (IX, X, XIII, XIV, XXX and XL), with five titles.
Rod Marinelli — Marinelli is entering his 25th season as a NFL coach, and his first as the defensive line coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. He spent seven years (2013-19) with the Dallas Cowboys as defensive coordinator (promoted in 2014) and defensive line coach. He entered the NFL as a defensive line coach, and later assistant head coach, for Tampa Bay (1996-2005). After three seasons as Detroit head coach (2006-08), he was Chicago’s assistant head coach/defensive line coach in 2009, and was promoted to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator (2010-12). A premier defensive line coach, the Buccaneers led the NFL in overall sacks during his tenure there, and the Bears led the league in interceptions (24) and takeaways (44) in 2012. In Dallas, the Cowboys defense improved each year, including a jump from 32nd to 19th in 2014, when Dallas went 12-4, and finishes of eighth (2017) and seventh (2018). Marinelli has coached in one Super Bowl (XXXVII) with Tampa Bay, when the Buccaneers dominated Oakland for the title.
Bobb McKittrick — McKittrick, who developed athletic, 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. Sports Illustrated said McKittrick “may be the most successful position coach of his era” since “few coaches have done so much with so little.” 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.
Floyd Peters — Peters, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle as a player, served as an assistant coach in the NFL – mostly as a defensive coordinator – for 23 seasons. His first stop was with the New York Giants (1974-75), followed by stints with San Francisco (1976-77), Detroit (1978-81), St. Louis Cardinals (1982-85), Minnesota (1986-1990), Tampa Bay (1991-94) and Oakland (1995-96). Peters – a.k.a. Sgt. Rock – had a big impact as a defensive coach. From the “Gold Rush” in San Francisco, to the “Silver Rush” in Detroit, to those record-setting lines in St. Louis and Minnesota, Peters found the best way to use his personnel wherever he went.
Buddy Ryan — Ryan, who coached in pro football for 26 seasons, put defensive coordinators on the map and quarterbacks on the ground. He constructed the most fearsome defense the NFL has ever known, the “46” defense with the Chicago Bears. The Bears defensive unit tallied a record 72 sacks in 1984, and the following season, overwhelmed New England with seven sacks in a dominating 46-10 victory in Super Bowl XX. After years as a high school and college assistant, Ryan was hired by the AFL’s New York Jets in 1968 as the defensive line coach, and the Jets stifled the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III. He stayed with the Jets through the 1975 season, before Bud Grant hired him in Minnesota. He was the Vikings’ defensive line coach for two seasons (1976-77), before he made his mark in Chicago (1978-85) as the Bears’ defensive coordinator. Ryan moved on to become head coach in Philadelphia (1986-90), and after two years away from the NFL, was defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers in 1993 before a two-year stint as head coach for the Arizona Cardinals (1994-95). Ryan coached in three Super Bowls (III with the Jets, XI with Minnesota and XX with Chicago) and was part of two championship teams.
Bobby Turner — Turner is in his 25th season as a NFL assistant coach in 2020, and his fourth as San Francisco’s running backs coach. Turner is responsible for overseeing three of the top nine rookie rushing seasons in the NFL since 1970 with Alfred Morris, Clinton Portis and Mike Anderson. He also served as running backs coach with Atlanta (2015-16), Washington (2010-14) and Denver (1995-2009). In Denver, he worked with top-shelf Broncos backs including Terrell Davis, Anderson, Olandis Gary, Portis, among others, as the franchise was in the NFL’s top five in rushing during 10 of his 15 seasons there. He has coached in four Super Bowls with three different franchises (XXXII, XXXIII with Denver, LI with Atlanta and LIV with San Francisco) and has a pair of victories with the Broncos.