The Kansas City Chiefs could make a big haul on Saturday night in the annual NFL Honors telecast. Here’s what’s coming:
Patrick Mahomes, NFL Most Valuable Player
After his first year as a starter, Mahomes has already won numerous NFL MVP awards — the most recent being named the NFL MVP by Pro Football Focus. But the one being announced on Saturday night is the big one: the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player award. This is the one with the most prestige associated with it, and is considered the official NFL MVP award.
The voting — which is done by a panel of 50 national NFL writers — was conducted before the postseason began, which guarantees that voters are only considering what happened in the regular season. The results are kept under wraps until the awards telecast the night before the Super Bowl.
Mahomes is now considered the front runner. At about the halfway point of the season, he was thought to be neck-and-neck with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was also having an outstanding season. But in the second half of the season, Mahomes seemed to pull away from Brees in the estimation of national writers.
In an article published on Wednesday, a panel of 20 NFL Network analysts voted for their choice as league MVP. 19 picked Mahomes, and only one picked Brees. In voting by CBS Sports analysts on January 2, all five picked Mahomes. It’s not hard to find other such indicators. But the biggest one is that Mahomes was named the quarterback of the Associated Press All-Pro team on January 4. These players are chosen by the same group of writers that vote on the AP MVP, and 45 of 50 chose Mahomes as the quarterback. Since no other players seem to be in serious consideration for the MVP, this is a very clear sign Mahomes will win the MVP award.
Best bet: Mahomes wins it going away.
Tony Gonzalez, Pro Football Hall of Fame
We’ve spent a good chunk of Gonzalez’ career automatically typing certain first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in front of his name. But the way players are elected to the Hall Of Fame can be a little dicey.
The Hall of Fame Selection Committee consists of 50 people — a media representative from each NFL market, plus 16 at-large members (also media people) and two representatives of the Hall of Fame itself. On Saturday, the committee will meet to consider 15 modern-era finalists: Steve Atwater, Champ Bailey, Tony Boselli, Isaac Bruce, Don Coryell, Alan Faneca, Tom Flores, Steve Hutchinson, Edgerrin James, Ty Law, John Lynch, Kevin Mawae, Ed Reed, Richard Seymour... and Tony Gonzalez.
In addition, the committee will consider two contributor finalists — Pat Bowlen and Gil Brandt — and one senior finalist: Johnny Robinson.
According to Hall of Fame bylaws, the committee can elect between four and eight people to be enshrined in the Hall; it’s up to them to decide how many there will be in each class. How the committee decides exactly how many nominees will be inducted each year is unknown; the committee’s deliberations are supposed to be confidential, and we know very little about what happens in the room once the doors close. In addition, each player enshrined in the Hall must receive 80 percent support from the committee.
So this isn’t a situation where a ballot is handed out, and each member of the committee votes for X number of players, the top X players get in, and everybody goes back to the hotel bar.
Instead, presentations are made for each finalist. The committee discusses the merits of each one. Somehow — we don’t know exactly how — they decide how many will be enshrined, and then choose them. Or maybe they do it the other way around — they decide which ones are deserving, and then they decide how many there will be. While those inducted must have 80 percent support from the committee, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every finalist with 80 percent support is elected.
So it’s not hard to imagine scenarios where a deserving first-ballot finalists might get pushed into the next year because the committee decides that another deserving finalist who is on their third or fourth ballot needs to get in first.
For example, former Rams receiver Issac Bruce is on his third ballot, is slightly ahead of Gonzalez in receiving yards, has a greater per-catch average, and has a Super Bowl ring — which is supposedly one of the factors the committee might consider. This is not to argue that Bruce is more deserving, but instead to show the kinds of points that might come up in the committee’s deliberations.
All that said, few sportswriters believe Gonzalez won’t be elected on his first ballot.
Best bet: Gonzalez will be fitted for a gold jacket this summer.
Johnny Robinson, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Robinson — the lone senior finalist — is on his seventh Hall of Fame ballot; he was a modern-era finalist six different times from 1980 through 1986.
Like a modern-era finalist, Robinson must have 80 percent support from the committee to be elected, but there is an important difference: senior and contributor finalists are considered separately, before the modern-era finalists.
So this goes back to the question of how many finalists will be elected. What if all three senior and contributor finalists are elected by the committee before they get around to the modern-era finalists? Over the last few years, the committee has elected seven or eight of the final 18, so if Robinson, Brandt and Bowlen are elected, that leaves only four or five spots available for the 15 modern-era finalists — assuming the committee decides to elect that many.
Robinson is certainly qualified to be enshrined in the Hall — which brings up the question of why he didn’t make it on six previous nominations. One possibility is the anti-AFL bias that was alleged to have been part of the selection process is the early years after the AFL-NFL merger. There is also the possibility that in the 1980s, Robinson might have had a black mark against his name because he chose to be an assistant coach with the quickly-defunct World Football League’s Jacksonville Express in the mid-1970s.
But even if those things were true then, they probably would have little bearing on Robinson’s election now -- and there’s a strong point in Robinson’s favor that wasn’t part of the equation in the early 1980s: the Johnny Robinson Boys Home, which he opened in 1985. It is a full-time charity effort that Robinson — at age 80 — still operates today, and has received the support of NFL Charities. In 1986 — the last year Robinson was before the committee — the Boys Home was in its infancy. Today, it represents Robinson’s longstanding commitment to personal community service, and that will likely carry a lot of weight with committee members.
In any case, once senior nominees make it to this point, they are generally elected. Every senior finalist since 2010 has been elected to the Hall, and only three of the senior finalists named since 1993 have not been been inducted.
Best bet: Robinson’s long wait will end on Saturday night.
The NFL Honors telecast will be taped the afternoon of Saturday February 2, and will air at 8:00 Arrowhead Time that evening on CBS — locally on KCTV5.