MIAMI — Lamar Jackson's stunning season led to him being named MVP of the 2019 NFL season by The Associated Press, and everyone involved agreed on it.
That's right: The second-year quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens joins Tom Brady as the only players to receive every vote for MVP.
Jackson drew all 50 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league. Baltimore's All-Pro dual threat set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206) and led an offense that compiled more yards on the ground (3,296) than any in league history. The Ravens won their final 12 games of the regular season to finish at 14-2, the league's best mark in 2019.
The 23-year-old Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy as a Louisville sophomore in 2016 and was the last pick of the first round of the NFL draft in 2018, had a powerful message for kids who have been told they should change positions on the field and who face criticism and doubters.
"Make those people eat their words," he said. "It feels good when you can make those people eat their words, because they're so negative. How are you going to wake up and be so negative about somebody who's not negative toward you or don't do anything wrong? Don't worry about what they say. Do you. Stay focused because you want to be great, and you're going to be great. Just do you."
Brady was a unanimous MVP for the New England Patriots in 2010. In a dubious parallel with Brady, Jackson's special season did not include a championship, either. The top-seeded Ravens were upset by the wild-card Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.
"I'm still young," Jackson said. "I've still got a lot of work to do. I'm not really trying to dwell on what I just did. If I win a Super Bowl, you'll probably see a lot more emotion."
The Ravens were big winners Saturday night at NFL Honors, the league's annual awards show. John Harbaugh was named the top coach, and his offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, was named the best assistant.
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill earned the comeback award by one vote over Jimmy Garoppolo, who will quarterback the San Francisco 49ers as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in the Super Bowl. New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas took top offensive player honors, and New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore grabbed the defensive player award.
Rookie honors went to 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, the top overall pick in last April's draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars edge rusher Calais Campbell won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Tannehill was a longtime starter for the Miami Dolphins before being traded last spring to the Titans, who were simply looking for an upgrade at backup. After Tennessee's offense stalled during the first half of this season, though, fifth-year starter Marcus Mariota was benched in favor of Tannehill, who teamed with running back Derrick Henry to lead a turnaround that carried the Titans into the playoffs and all the way to the AFC title game.
Tannehill noted that being the chosen comeback player is a mixed blessing.
"It's an honor you never want to be up for, but it's an honor to be recognized and you had to overcome a lot of adversity," he said. "To get this point, it's special."
Thomas is only the second at his position to be named the league's top offensive player. He is in good company: The other receiver to take the honor was Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 1987 and 1993.
While Rice holds virtually all of the significant NFL receiving records, Thomas has one that made a huge difference with the voters. Thomas caught a league-record 149 passes for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. He also played five games without regular quarterback Drew Brees — yet made 42 catches in those outings.
"It was just consistency and following our leader, Drew Brees. He's been a tremendous example for everyone across the league," Thomas said. "I don't take that for granted. I take notes on how he prepares. Honestly, it's hard for me to even pat myself on the back without patting the people around me on the back, because they've helped me tremendously."
Gilmore is the first cornerback in a decade to be named the top defender
Considered one of the game's best cover cornerbacks, the All-Pro made his eighth NFL season his best with a career-high six interceptions that tied for the league lead. Gilmore was a key member of the NFL's stingiest defense in 2019; New England allowed 225 points while winning an 11th straight AFC East title.
"Each and every week, I feel like I'm going against the best receivers every game, and I was able to shut them down as much as I can," Gilmore said. "That's tough being on an island, tough playing a lot of man-to-man coverage each and every week, but I feel like I did that every week."
For leading the Ravens to the NFL's best record, including a 12-game winning streak to end the regular season, Harbaugh joined brother Jim, the former 49ers coach who is now at the University of Michigan, as a coach of the year winner. Jim Harbaugh won in 2011.
"I joke with the players all the time, you know, we're robbing the same train," John Harbaugh said. "This is a blessing. This is a privilege to be part of this whole thing. You get a chance to coach players like Mark Ingram, Lamar Jackson, Ronnie Stanley — all the guys we have, it's just something you can't take for granted."
Bosa, the second overall draft choice behind Murray, was such a force on the edge of the 49ers' line that he even received votes for the All-Pro team at a very competitive position.
Bosa's nine sacks were the fourth most for a 49ers rookie. He was third in the NFL with 68 pressures, according to SportsInfo Solutions, trailing only Cameron Jordan and Danielle Hunter, and his 16 tackles for loss tied him for fifth in the league.
Murray joined such other No. 1 overall selections as Earl Campbell and Cam Newton in being named the top offensive rookie. The fast, elusive and creative quarterback is the sixth man to do that double; Newton was the most recent, in 2011, one year after Sam Bradford did it. The others were running backs Campbell (1978), Billy Sims (1980) and George Rogers (1981).
Murray started all 16 games, going 5-10-1 with 20 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. He ran for 544 yards and four more scores.
"I think everybody sets out with individual goals, and I knew if I played well enough — that's not obviously the goal — but it was to do my part on the field," Murray said. "Lead my guys to wins and try to play as best as I can while being in the position to do so, and I had a lot of help around me."