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 2022 Off-Field Awards balloting is underway through May 1, with the winners announced May 9-13 and May 16-17.
The Off-Field 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)
Bill Nunn Jr. Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage)
Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job)
This year, the PFWA board decided to honor the Horrigan family — father Jack and son Joe — for their contributions in assisting writers over the decades in several roles by renaming the original Jack Horrigan Award (1973-2021) to the Horrigan Award.
“Both Jack and Joe Horrigan have contributed so much to pro football and the way the history of the game is covered,” said PFWA president Lindsay Jones. “It was an honor to present this award to Joe in 2019 for the way he has worked with the media for over four decades at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it is only fitting now to recognize him along with his father in the naming of this award.”
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)
Terez A. Paylor Emerging Writer Award (Rising star in pro football writing)
Here are the biographies of the 2022 nominees in each category. The links will go to the individual page for each award, with overall information, winners and finalists from each year listed.
George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed):
QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals — In the tenth game of his rookie season, Burrow tore his ACL and MCL. In his first game back in the 2021 opener, he threw for 348 yards in a victory over Jacksonville and was named AFC offensive player of the week. His 446 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Chiefs helped the Bengals clinch the AFC North and gave them their first playoff berth in six years. He helped beat the Titans in the playoffs despite being sacked nine times, an NFL postseason record. In the AFC Championship Game, he led an 18-point comeback in an upset of the Chiefs. He was sacked 70 times for the season, third most in NFL history. Burrow was named the Comeback Player of the Year and voted to the All-AFC team by the PFWA.
DE Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders — In the offseason after Crosby’s rookie season in 2020, the defensive end had a one-month stay in a treatment facility for alcoholism. He acknowledged he had problems with drinking and partying going back to his high school days. Crosby was named to the Pro Bowl after the 2021 season and was named the game’s defensive MVP. He also was named second-team All-Pro by the AP. Two years to the day after checking into the treatment facility, on March 11, 2022, Crosby signed a four-year, $98.98 million deal with the Raiders.
T Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles — The veteran offensive lineman revealed he has been dealing with anxiety since he was in junior college. He said last year he experienced severe withdrawal symptoms after getting off an antidepressant. He missed three games during the 2021 season while dealing with the symptoms, which included nausea and vomiting. Johnson started 13 games was voted second-team All-Pro by the AP. He said he shared his story to help others.
QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys — After suffering a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in October of 2020, the quarterback led the Cowboys to a division championship in 2021, twice winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He threw a career-high 37 touchdown passes.
Head Coach Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team — He is a finalist for the Halas Award for the second time in as many years. The head coach was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his neck in August of 2020. Over seven weeks during the season, he received 35 proton therapy treatments and three chemotherapy cycles. Rivera lost more than 30 pounds and had to receive IV treatments at halftime of games, but he never missed a game while leading his team to the playoffs in his first year as head coach. He made a full recovery and is considered cancer-free.
Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs):
DT Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers — Heyward did not miss an availability for the 2021 season, and those on the beat locally said he never avoided a tough question as he offered open and honest discussions about everything from on-the-field issues to the impact of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. He was cited for consistently going “above and beyond’’ to build an honest rapport with those who cover the team.
WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team — McLaurin routinely participated in 1-on-1 interviews in 2021 when few others on the team would. He was willing to offer textured answers on a variety of topics like the anniversary of 9/11, mental health issues players face, injuries, COVID or struggles others on the team were facing. On the rare occasion he missed a group session, he would always make it up the following day or the next available opportunity.
S Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos — Not only has Simmons rarely missed a snap on the field – he’s played at least 1,050 in each of the last four years – he has been one of the most consistently thoughtful and honest people in an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015. Whether it’s something for a feature story, thoughts on social justice, the nickel package or standing tall after yet another loss, few players are as willing to be as accountable as Simmons has been, both in one-on-one and group settings.
TE C.J. Uzomah, Cincinnati Bengals — Uzomah was cited for consistently being available as well as offering “colorful and insightful interviews that also further endeared him to the fan base.’’ That included being one of the players who spoke after the Bengals’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI and that he couldn’t be recommended enough for the award. He was signed by the New York Jets during this offseason.
Bill Nunn Jr. Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage)
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.
Mary Kay Cabot — Cabot has covered the Cleveland Browns for nearly four decades for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com. Her career has encompassed Bill Belichick’s coaching tenure, Art Modell’s move to Baltimore and the franchise’s 1999 rebirth and too many quarterback changes to count. She is an at-large member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee, was voted 2015 Ohio Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and has been an analyst for NFL Network and Cleveland television and radio.
Gary Myers — Myers has covered the NFL since 1978. He began covering the NFL for the Associated Press’ New Jersey bureau from 1978-80 and spent one year as the Giants beat writer at the New York Daily News before he headed to the Dallas Morning News to cover the Cowboys in 1981, eventually becoming its columnist. He was the Daily News’ NFL columnist from 1989-2018. 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 Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee member.
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 36 Super Bowls for AP, oversees the AP postseason awards voting and is a longtime Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee member.
Horrigan Award (League, club or other official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job):
GM Kevin Colbert. Pittsburgh Steelers — Named the Steelers’ general manager in 2000, Colbert has been considered one of the most accessible executives for local and national media, offering interesting and valuable feedback on the Steelers’ operation, as well as league issues. With the Steelers having won two Super Bowl titles during his tenure, Colbert is retiring after the 2022 NFL Draft.
COO Kevin Demoff, Los Angeles Rams — Demoff was a driving force in the push to bring a Super Bowl to Los Angeles and the Rams’ championship run after the 2021 regular season. Local and national media have come to rely on Demoff’s candid opinions on a variety of issues related to the team and the league.
VP, Communications Brian McCarthy, NFL — McCarthy, who joined the NFL in 1994 is a key point person in the league office. He is involved with all aspects of public relations, including the dissemination and/or confirmation of information on a variety of issues, and the organization of regular conference call briefings.
SVP, Football and International Communications Michael Signora, NFL — Signora has been with the NFL since 1996. He is responsible for organizing and implementing media policy for all writers and other media, leads media operations at NFL events, and also oversees the league’s international media operations. Signora was the 2013 Horrigan Award winner.
GM Les Snead, Los Angeles Rams — Now in his 11th season as the Rams’ general manager, Snead built the Rams into Super Bowl champions with an aggressiveness that has included the hiring of Sean McVay as the league’s youngest coach and a flurry of trades and free agent signings. Along with that team-building excellence has come an open-door policy with the media, who have relied on him to discuss and analyze his decisions.
Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media):
Baltimore Ravens — A three-time winner of this award, the Ravens in 2021 consistently made an effort to accommodate one-on-one interview requests from local and national writers and were responsive for player requests for podium interviews. Chad Steele and his staff also worked hard to navigate COVID protocols and provide media workspace within the facility.
Denver Broncos — The Broncos’ PR staff routinely made a variety of players available in group and one-on-one settings and went above and beyond with access to coaches, including position coaches, and front office during the 2021 season. The Broncos PR staff, led by Patrick Smyth, have won this award three times, most recently in 2016.
Detroit Lions — The Lions’ PR team, led by Eamonn Reynolds, received multiple nominations for the proactive way they worked to provide access to new head coach Dan Campbell and new general manager Brad Holmes in 2021. The Lions facilitated one-on-one interviews and were receptive to unique story angles during a difficult season on the field.
New England Patriots — The Patriots PR staff, led by Stacey James, have been a finalist for this award each of the previous three seasons, and PFWA members frequently cited the team’s overall professionalism, particularly during the challenging media climate in 2021, during which James’ staff coordinated 857 news conferences or video conferences.
Washington Football Team — Led by Sean DeBarbieri, Washington’s communications staff navigated a relentless and at-times challenging flow of news with professionalism and poise. Washington’s PR staff was constantly available, and made sure the team’s coaches and players were available, too, and that includes 30 players who gave exit interviews to the media at the end of the season.
Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL) — TWO RECIPIENTS IN 2022:
Keith Butler — Butler spent 23 years as an NFL assistant coach, the last 19 with the Pittsburgh Steelers until his retirement in January 2022. After a 10-year NFL playing career, Butler started his coaching career in college at Memphis and Arkansas State. His first NFL coaching job came with Cleveland (1999-2002) as the Browns’ linebackers coach. He moved to Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ linebackers coach from 2003-14, and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2015 and served in that position until his retirement. The Steelers led, or tied for the lead, in overall sacks each season from 2017-21, setting an NFL record in 2020 when they led the league for the fourth consecutive season. Pittsburgh also set the record for most consecutive games with a sack (75) during his tenure. He coached in three Super Bowls (XL, XLIII, XLV), all with the Steelers and was part of two titles.
Leslie Frazier — Frazier is in his 24th season as a coach in the NFL in 2022, and his sixth with Buffalo as defensive coordinator. He also has been the Bills’ assistant head coach since 2020. In 2021, Buffalo had the NFL’s number one total defense in yards allowed and the number one scoring defense, and in 2020, the Bills’ defense was third in total takeaways. Frazier’s Buffalo defenses have been ranked in the NFL’s top five in total defense yards in three of the last four seasons. After a six-season NFL playing career in which he was a part of the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears, Frazier made college coaching stops at Trinity International (head coach) and Illinois. His first NFL assignment was as the defensive backs coach for Philadelphia (1999-2002), and he moved on to Cincinnati (2003-04) as defensive coordinator. Frazier spent two seasons with Indianapolis as a defensive assistant (2005) and assistant to the head coach/defensive backs coach (2006). He joined Minnesota as defensive coordinator in 2007, and added assistant head coach duties from 2008-10. He was made the Vikings interim head coach for the final six games of 2010, and was head coach from 2011-13. Frazier served as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator for two seasons (2014-15) and moved to Baltimore as the Ravens’ secondary coach in 2016 before joining the Bills in 2017. He has coached in one Super Bowl with the winning Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
Greg Knapp — Knapp had just started his 26th season as an NFL assistant coach when he was killed in a bicycle accident in July 2021 after he had joined the New York Jets as passing game coordinator. After a four-year playing career at Sacramento State, Knapp worked nine years (1986-94) at his alma mater as an assistant coach, and he was in multiple NFL training camps as a player and a coaching intern, including Kansas City (1986), Los Angeles Raiders (1987-90) and San Francisco (1992-94), all while coaching at Sac State. He was hired by the 49ers in 1995, and was San Francisco’s offensive quality control coach (1995-97), quarterbacks coach (1998-2000) and offensive coordinator (2001-03). He served as offensive coordinator for Atlanta (2004-06), Oakland (2007-08) and Seattle (2009). He was the quarterbacks coach in Houston in 2010-11, and returned to the Raiders as offensive coordinator in 2012. He joined Denver in 2013 as quarterbacks coach, and added passing game coordinator duties from 2014-16. He rejoined to Atlanta as quarterbacks coach from 2018-20, before going to the Jets.
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 wrote 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, after a final season as a player/coach with Washington in 1970, was with the Miami Dolphins as a scout who assisted with the defense (1971-73). That was followed by stints with the New York Giants (1974-75), 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.
Terez A. Paylor Emerging Writer Award (Rising star in pro football writing):
Michael-Shawn Dugar, Seattle Seahawks beat reporter, The Athletic — Dugar has covered the Seattle Seahawks for The Athletic since 2018 and co-hosts the Seahawks Man 2 Man podcast. He is a graduate of Washington State University and previously worked at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and the Seattle P-I. Dugar has built a strong network of sources on the Seahawks’ beat and consistently reports and writes creative and in-depth features and analysis pieces.
Jori Epstein, Cowboys/NFL reporter, USA Today — Epstein, a graduate of the University of Texas, has covered the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys for USA Today sports since 2018 after starting her career at the Dallas Morning News. She’s a diligent and dedicated reporter who has quickly established herself as a go-to source for news on one of the NFL’s most competitive beats.
Emmanuel Morgan, NFL reporter, New York Times — Morgan, a graduate of Elon University, recently completed his first full season covering the NFL for the New York Times. He previously was a sports reporter at the Los Angeles Times. Based in LA, Morgan has balanced writing news and game coverage with feature reporting and received commendation from his peers for his work ethic and enthusiasm.
Tashan Reed, Las Vegas Raiders beat reporter, The Athletic — A graduate of the University of Missouri, Reed has covered the Las Vegas Raiders since 2020, after previously covering Florida State for The Athletic. Despite starting on his new beat during a pandemic and without locker room access, Reed has managed to build relationships with players and find unique story angles, and has brought a different perspective and voice to Raiders coverage.