Sports Illustrated has selected its 2020 Sportsperson of the Year, choosing five athletes who shared the same label in 2020: The Activist Athlete. This list includes five athletes, including two members of the Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, LeBron James, Breanna Stewart and Naomi Osaka.
SI will continue to tell the story of the honorees beginning on Monday, but the announcement came with short summaries of why each athlete was chosen for this honor.
A Super Bowl victory—complete with game MVP trophy—cemented his status as the NFL’s top player, but it’s what Mahomes has done off the field since that’s elevated him to a new level of importance.
He was the starting right guard for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. But he’s also a doctor, and when the pandemic came, Duvernay-Tardif traded in his uniform and cleats for medical scrubs.
The Jaguars’ offense ranks 28th in points scored after 13 weeks of NFL football, and there are different reasons behind the unit’s dearth of production. The main one is their lack of a franchise quarterback, something their next general manager will certainly address in the offseason.
The Jaguars are projected to have the second overall pick in the 2021 Player Selection Meeting. They could use that selection on a prospect such as Justin Fields or Zach Wilson, but regardless of whom they draft, they will need the right person to mentor him and develop him. Eric Bieniemy can be that man.
Under Bieniemy’s tutelage, Patrick Mahomes has become arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, and even if he isn’t the best, he is among the top 3. While the former Texas Tech quarterback owes most of his success to his natural play-making prowess, his offensive coordinator has put in the time to tap that talent.
During last year’s hiring cycle much of the attention on Andy Reid’s staff went to offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who met with multiple owners but did not land a head coaching job. Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka also had the opportunity to interview for at least one head coaching opening, sources said, but, still learning under Reid as a young coach, he declined.
More teams are expected to pursue Kafka this offseason, with Kansas City’s offense still the envy of the NFL and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, whom Kafka has trained since he was drafted, likely headed for a second MVP award in three years. While getting the opportunity to call plays and operate as an offensive coordinator — a certainty in Kansas City in 2021 should Bieniemy land a head coaching position — would be greatly appealing to Kafka, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he partake in a head coaching interview should the right opportunity arise in 2021.
The Steelers can keep churning along winning games — if they beat Washington and then take down Buffalo on the road, they’ll get more respect — and very obviously have a real chance at an undefeated regular season.
But because the NFL is an offense-driven league, and the Chiefs are the defending champs, capable at their best of fireworks no other team can match, the Steelers still won’t garner the same level of national respect. Only a few monster routs of the best teams remaining on their schedule will change the narrative, and even then, there will be skeptics.
The only way for Pittsburgh to shut up the pundits is to get themselves to a showdown with the Chiefs, and win it. Until that hypothetical showdown happens, the Chiefs will get the benefit of the doubt, as both Super Bowl champions, and a particularly impressive team in the eye-test category.
Around the NFL
The New Orleans Saints had to hang on throughout a fourth quarter that got way too close for comfort on Sunday.
But in the end, they became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff spot.
The Saints (10-2) held on for a 21-16 victory at Atlanta — their ninth consecutive win. And they officially earned their way into the postseason because of the Chicago Bears’ late collapse against the Detroit Lions.
The Saints need one more win or one more loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) to clinch the NFC South title, since they swept the season series.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson is expected to be activated from the reserve/COVID list and start vs. the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday night, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said on NFL GameDay Morning, per a source.
The news comes a day after the Ravens activated running back Mark Ingram and defensive lineman Calais Campbell and Jihad Ward. The Ravens had 10 players remaining on the reserve/COVID list on Saturday, including Jackson, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thanksgiving.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to comment on Jackson’s availability on Sunday.
Rivers will likely need surgery after the season to repair a plantar plate rupture, a source tells NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Rapoport added that this is a “pretty serious toe injury” on NFL GameDay Morning, describing it as something more severe than turf toe.
Rivers has been playing through the injury since sustaining it in Week 11 vs. the Green Bay Packers. Rivers has started every game this season for the Colts (8-4), who beat the Houston Texans, 26-20, on Sunday.
After the game, Rivers brushed off the injury, telling reporters, “Rather than getting into the details, I’m just working each week to be able to be out there. I don’t feel any limitations out there. It’s just managing it.”
The public has begun speculating on Pederson’s future, and some in the building have done the same, fearing that Pederson’s job is on the line. They can sense the tension, the frustration, the disgust and the search for a resolution.
Pederson said this week he hasn’t received any assurances about his future from owner Jeffrey Lurie, who is also frustrated and has been around far less this year than in years past (which could also be related to the COVID-19 protocols). Lurie also did not attend the Week 11 loss at Cleveland, a rarity, though a team spokesman said it was because he was being careful health-wise as he planned to see his mother for Thanksgiving.
The case of Chargers coach Anthony Lynn is more curious. Inside the Los Angeles building, Lynn is widely respected as a leader and a very good coach, someone who went 21-11 in his first two seasons in the middle of relocation and won a road playoff game after going an AFC-best 12-4 two years ago.
But there have been struggles the last two seasons, with several in-game situations not meeting his usual standard and four losses by three points or fewer. It hasn’t worked.
It’s fair to say his status is in doubt, as well.
While Santa Clara County restrictions on contact sports prohibited the San Francisco 49ers from practicing and playing at home and forced the team to relocate to Arizona indefinitely, Los Angeles County has not taken similar measures. That means the Rams and Chargers are expected to be allowed to play at home for the foreseeable future, league sources told ESPN.
Los Angeles County and the state of California have yet to prohibit the teams from participating in contact sports as part of COVID-19 restrictions, the way the Niners were. The Rams and Chargers won’t have to relocate, which has forced the 49ers to confront challenges they wouldn’t have had by remaining home.
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This offseason, Broncos general manager John Elway will be entering the last season of his contract. Even with the possibility of new ownership looming over him, bringing in a coach like Bieniemy — who could be able to provide a fast improvement in offensive production — could help Elway keep his job.
Denver may be the most appealing geographical move for Bieniemy; he’s spent eight years of his football career playing (or coaching) in Colorado. But would Bieniemy want to coach a team whose GM only has one year remaining on his contract — and that may soon change hands? Probably not. The dynamics of the situation would need to stabilize in order for the Broncos’ head coaching job to be appealing to someone who will likely have multiple offers.
Thinking back to how many wanted the Chiefs to sign Clowney. He finished the year without a sack. https://t.co/TcfLxjDjw8— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) December 6, 2020
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