2023 PFWA Off-Field Award finalists announced

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 2023 Off-Field Awards balloting is underway through May 1, with the winners announced later in the month.

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)

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 (NFL writer under the age of 30 who carries on the legacy of Paylor through his or her work ethic, professionalism, and dedication to the craft and commitment to improving diversity in NFL media)

Here are the biographies of the 2023 finalists 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):

RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants — After dealing with everything from a torn ACL, sprained ankles and hamstring injuries that hampered the last three seasons of his career, Barkley rebound in 2022. He set career-highs in rushing attempts (295) and rushing yards (1,312) while adding 10 touchdowns. He was a catalyst in leading the Giants back to the postseason for the first time in five seasons.

S Damar Hamlin, Buffalo Bills — In a January 2 game at Cincinnati, Hamlin collapsed to the turf after making a routine tackle. Hamlin needed to be resuscitated on the field and was rushed to a nearby hospital. Hamlin was later released and became an inspiration to many around the NFL in his recovery efforts. Though he didn’t return to the field, Hamlin visited teammates, attended games and in April met with lawmakers to discuss a bill increasing access to defibrillators in public and private elementary and secondary schools. It was a defibrillator that helped save Hamlin’s life.

RB Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers/Carolina Panthers — A series of injuries, shoulder, hamstring and ankle, slowed McCaffrey’s ability to showcase his skills over a two-year period. He played in just 10 games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. In 2022, McCaffrey returned to form. In 17 games he rushed for 1,139 yards with eight touchdowns. In three playoff games with the 49ers, McCaffrey carried 40 times for 238 yards with two touchdowns. He also had 12 catches for 61 yards and one touchdown.

RB Brian Robinson Jr., Washington Commanders — Prior to the start of his rookie season, the third-round pick from Alabama, was shot twice by a teenager exiting a store in Washington. Robinson was shot in the hip and knee and needed surgery which delayed his season. Despite getting shot in August, Robinson made his debut in October. He finished the season with 797 rushing yards on 205 carries and two touchdowns.

QB Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks — After numerous years as a backup, Smith finally got another opportunity to become a starter and led the Seahawks to the postseason after a 9-8 finish. Smith, who led the NFL with a 69.8 completion percentage, was named Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year. Smith set career-highs in passing yards (4,282) and touchdowns (17).

Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs):

DE Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles — The Eagles’ longest-tenured active player is also one of their most helpful to the media. Graham’s honesty and respect toward the media was on display ahead of Super Bowl LVII, and has been consistent throughout his time in Philadelphia. His work off the field is just as notable. Through his Team Graham foundation, he’s given back to Philadelphia and Detroit, his hometown, with charitable fundraising events, providing meals to healthcare workers and mentoring young girls and boys.

RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders — Jacobs was voted by the Las Vegas PFWA chapter as the winner of the Craig Long Award for his “professionalism and collaboration” with the media last season. A first-team all-pro selection and the league’s leader in rushing yards, Jacobs was cited as a player who never skirted open locker room periods, even in times when he said, “I didn’t want to talk to y’all.” Rather, he was open and genuine and kept it real with reporters, no matter if the conversation centered on football, his contract status or the emotions of playing the season finale while his father was in the hospital.

C Ted Karras, Cincinnati Bengals — Karras is regarded as one of the most media-friendly players in the Bengals’ locker room, often going above and beyond in his dealings with local reporters last season. When player availability dwindled in the middle of the season, he spearheaded an effort to move the team’s media time from before practice to after practice, which was welcomed by the players and beneficial to the media. Karras won the Cincinnati chapter’s Media Cooperation Award in his first season with the team.

C Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles — Kelce has been a staple of the Eagles’ offense for 12 seasons and has invested heavily in Philadelphia through his charitable efforts and his rapport with media. His accountability and honesty while talking to reporters has been as consistent as his play.  As Zach Berman of The Athletic said: “What [Kelce] says carries weight, and he’s aware of his platform and the value of  his words. He likes to say that players write their own narratives, and he’s been professional and accommodating in allowing us to write about his narrative.”

WR Terry McLaurin,  Washington Commanders — McLaurin was selected as the winner of Washington’s local Good Guy Award last season, becoming the only three-time winner in the club’s history. He routinely did one-on-one interviews outside of his normally scheduled day to talk to media, was always available after wins and losses and was a sound and willing voice during the franchise’s tumultuous moments. McLaurin never shied from the tough questions; quite the opposite — his answers were always thoughtful, a reflection of his respect for the reporters who cover the team regularly.

Bill Nunn Jr. Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage)

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.

D. Orlando Ledbetter — Ledbetter has covered the Atlanta Falcons for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2006. He has covered the Michael Vick dog-fighting case, Bobby Petrino’s less than one season tenure and the Falcons Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Ledbetter also helped cover the Bengals for the Cincinnati Enquirer and Packers for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee and a past winner of Georgia Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. He also is a past president of the Professional Football Writers of America.

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.

Jim Trotter — Trotter has covered the NFL for nearly three decades. For eight seasons at the San Diego Union-Tribune as the lead beat writer for the San Diego Chargers and spent an additional four as a national NFL columnist. He covered the league for Sports Illustrated from 2007-14, ESPN 2014-18 and NFL Media from April of 2018 to March of 2023. He wrote two books on Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, and he co-authored a book with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Trotter is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and a past president of the Pro Football Writers of America.

Barry Wilner — Wilner covered the NFL for The Associated Press from 1985 until his retirement in July 2022. He helped lead and organize the national and local coverage while also covering the league’s news and events on a national scale. He also regularly broke stories for the AP during that time, using his numerous connections he made in league circles. 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 served in that role until his retirement. He staffed 36 Super Bowls for AP, oversaw 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 John Lynch, San Francisco 49ers — In a Hall of Fame career that lasted 15 seasons, Lynch became known as one of the best talkers in the game. That has continued into his seven-season career as the 49ers’ general manager. He is as quotable as he is accessible, making as much news as any general manger in the league.

VP, Communications Brian McCarthy, NFL — McCarthy, who joined the NFL in 1994, facilitates national and local media requests on a variety of topics. He serves as the point on off-the-field matters ranging from league policies to stadium issues to personal conduct matters. He has helped promote the league’s events, such as the combine, draft, schedule release, and turned them into marquee programs.

Head Coach Ron Rivera. Washington Commanders — The day he arrived as Washington’s head coach in 2020, Rivera became the face of the franchise. A camera-shy owner placed Rivera in the role of the team’s day-to-day spokesperson on nearly every aspect of the organization, and that responsibility has only grown the past three seasons as the team heads toward new ownership.

GM Les Snead, Los Angeles Rams — Now in his 12th season as the Rams’ general manager, Snead built the Rams into Super Bowl champions with an aggressiveness that included the hiring of Sean McVay as the league’s youngest coach and a flurry of trades and free agent signings. He has maintained an open-door policy with the media, who have relied on him to discuss and analyze his decisions.

EVP, Football Operations Troy Vincent, NFL — Since 2014, he has been the league’s point man for on-field issues, including rules changes and adjustments. He also has become an important voice in promoting diversity hiring for teams and for the NFL.

Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media):

Dallas Cowboys — A finalist for the first time since 1993, the Cowboys in 2022 were led by first-year vice president of communications Tad Carper, formerly of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Under Carper, the Cowboys’ PR team regularly facilitated off-the-record access to the team’s top decision makers.

Detroit Lions — A finalist for the second straight year, the Lions’ PR team continued to provide beat writers exclusive access to coach Dan Campbell, his assistants, and members of Detroit’s front office, often going above and beyond to honor requests. They orchestrated a lunch with assistant coaches and coordinators at the scouting combine and facilitated one-on-one interviews with free agent signees during the offseason.

Miami Dolphins — The Dolphins are a two-time winner of the award, most recently in 1999. This is their 10th year as a finalist. In 2022, Miami dealt with the loss of senior vice president of communications and community affairs Jason Jenkins, who died suddenly on Aug. 27. He was 47. While dealing with tragedy, the Dolphins PR’ team remained incredibly helpful to beat writers during the regular season.

Minnesota Vikings — The winner of the Pete Rozelle Award in 2018, the Vikings’ public relations staff is consistently punctual when responding to requests and doing their best to ensure those requests are fulfilled, whether for a coach, executive or player. Led by executive VP and chief communications officer Jeff Anderson, Minnesota’s PR team routinely scheduled off-the-record conversations between beat writers and coach Kevin O’Connell during the regular season.

Pittsburgh Steelers — A finalist for the third time in four years, the Steelers are unique in their willingness to grant open locker room access before and after practice during the regular season and implore longtime coach Mike Tomlin to be of service to local beat writers. Pittsburgh is a two-time award recipient, winning in 2015 and 1991.

Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL) — TWO RECIPIENTS IN 2023:

Tom Catlin — Catlin, a long-time defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, began his coaching career with the Dallas Texans in the early days of the AFL. Known for his stoic demeanor and penchant for precision – Chuck Knox once said “no one was going to be out of alignment’’ – Catlin’s career spanned three decades, 19 of those alongside Knox. In Catlin’s 10 years as the Seattle Seahawks assistant head coach or defensive coordinator, Kenny Easley won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1984 and Cortez Kennedy was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.. The Seahawks 1991 defense allowed just 261 points, which was a franchise record for a 16-game season until the Super Bowl winning 2013 Seahawks allowed 231. He spent five seasons as Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator, 12 as the Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach after he had started his coaching career with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL. After Catlin’s death in 2008 from complications from surgery, former Seahawks defensive tackle Joe Nash said: “He dissected the other team, and he got us so well prepared. It was almost like he knew what they were doing before they knew what they were doing.”

Don “Wink” Martindale — Don Martindale, known as Wink to most everyone in the NFL, is currently the New York Giants defensive coordinator. Known for his wit and his creative blitz schemes out of a variety of fronts, his best defenses have also defended the run with discipline. He has a resume that shows a gritty climb that included a year as a truck driver for a company his uncle owned before collegiate coaching stints at Defiance College, Cincinnati, Western Kentucky, Western Illinois as well as three Ohio high schools before he broke into the NFL in 2004 as a linebackers coach with the Oakland Raiders. Martindale spent 10 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, including four as the defensive coordinator. His defenses were among the league’s top three in scoring in three of those four years as the Ravens’ coordinator, including No. 1 in his first season with the team. Martindale was on the staff for the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII win. Current Jets, and former Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, who earned a Pro Bowl trip as a Baltimore rookie with Martindale, has called Martindale “just a real guy, a real coach.”

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.

John Mitchell — Mitchell, who broke the color barrier as a player at Alabama and was the first African-American defensive coordinator in the SEC, spent five decades as a college (including three years as an assistant for Paul “Bear” Bryant) or NFL coach. Twenty nine of those years were with the Pittsburgh Steelers until Mitchell retired in February. His tenure with the Steelers included three Super Bowl trips and two Super Bowl wins. In his time with the Steelers five defensive linemen were named to at least one Pro Bowl – Casey Hampton, Cam Heyward, Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith and Joel Steed.  When Mitchell retired, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said: “I’m not sure that I can offer sufficient praise and admiration for Mitch — as both a man and football coach. Mitch has been a central figure in the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers for nearly three decades. He has coached some of the best players in this franchise’s illustrious history, and each one of them, to a man, would tell you their success was a direct result of not only Mitch’s coaching acumen, but also his mentorship, leadership and character.”

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 (NFL writer under the age of 30 who carries on the legacy of Paylor through his or her work ethic, professionalism, and dedication to the craft and commitment to improving diversity in NFL media):

Ben Arthur, AFC South reporter, Fox Sports — Ben covers the AFC South for Fox Sports and previously covered the Tennessee Titans for The Tennessean for two seasons. He also covered the Seattle Seahawks for Seattlepi.com for two years. The multimedia journalist delivers insightful work that not only includes quality game coverage, but also shows the human side of athletes.

Emmanuel Morgan, NFL reporter, New York Times — Morgan, a graduate of Elon, recently completed his second full season covering the NFL for the New York Times. He previously was a sports reporter at the Los Angeles Times. Based in Los Angeles, Morgan has balanced writing news and game coverage with feature reporting and received commendation from his peers for his work ethic and enthusiasm.

Daniel Oyefusi, Miami Dolphins beat reporter, Miami Herald — Oyefusi just completed his second season on the Miami Dolphins beat for the Miami Herald, delivering strong coverage with features, analytical pieces and news. Prior to that, he covered the Ravens and other breaking sports news for the Baltimore Sun.

Tashan Reed, Las Vegas Raiders beat reporter, The Athletic — A graduate of Missouri, Reed has covered the Las Vegas Raiders since 2020, after previously covering Florida State for The Athletic. Reed has quickly established himself as one of the leading voices on the Raiders beat, and this year delivered an impressive narrative podcast, Between the Lines, which focused on the Black experience in the NFL.

Josh Tolentino, Philadelphia Eagles beat reporter, Philadelphia Inquirer — Josh has covered the Eagles for the last two seasons, helping chronicle the rise of Philadelphia under Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts. He has tackled complex stories, including Lane Johnson’s battle with mental health. Prior to coming to Philadelphia, he covered the Dolphins, Tampa Bay Rays and Packers for The Athletic.

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