The 49ers have a few players and coaches among the top five finalists for the AP NFL post-season awards. Highlighting that group are quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey, both of whom are finalists for the AP NFL MVP award. McCaffrey is also an Offensive Player of the Year finalist, while head coach Kyle Shanahan is among the top five vote-getters for Coach of the Year according to the AP’s Josh Dubow.
While Purdy’s MVP case derailed some on Christmas night when he tossed four interceptions in a game where MVP favorite Lamar Jackson played exceedingly well, it’s noteworthy that he was still one of the top five in voting. There were cases made in media that he didn’t deserve credit for what San Francisco was doing, but he was always going to garner MVP attention for putting up 4,280 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 69.4 percent of his throws and averaging a league-high 9.6 yards per attempt. He was also the NFL’s highest-rated passer at 113.0. His MVP case is strong, but he’s not likely to win the award over Jackson.
McCaffrey because of his position was always more destined to be the NFL’s OPOY. It’s hard for a running back to win MVP, as illustrated by the fact no non-QB has won that award since 2012 when Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson took it home.
The 2023 campaign was as good a run as any non-QB has made at the award since that Peterson season. McCaffrey finished the season with the league lead in rushing yards (1,459), touches (339), yards from scrimmage (2,023) and total touchdowns (21). Had Jackson not had such a stellar end to the season, or had the Ravens not had the best record in the NFL, there’d be an extremely strong case for McCaffrey to be the league’s MVP.
McCaffrey is much more likely in line to land his first Offensive Player of the Year honor. He’s among the top-five in voting for that award as well, and the OPOY has become the de facto non-QB MVP award. Jackson and Prescott are also finalists here, along with Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill and Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb. Given his consistent dominance all year and his place among the MVP finalists it would appear McCaffrey is the frontrunner to take this trophy home.
The final 49er represented among the AP NFL award finalists is head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is one of the five finalists for Coach of the Year. It’s hard to envision him winning because the criteria so often leans toward a coach doing more with less. Had Purdy not been as good or had the team dealt with high-profile injuries, then Shanahan might have had a better case. But he’s in the running with DeMeco Ryans from the Texans, Kevin Stefanski from the Browns, Dan Campbell from the Lions and John Harbaugh from the Ravens.
That’s not to say Shanahan did a poor job. He coached a team to the No. 1 seed while that group put up sensational offensive numbers. However, Ryans turned around a franchise, Stefanski’s club went 11-5 despite perhaps the worst QB situation in the league, and Campbell got Detroit to the playoffs. All of them are more likely to win than Shanahan, who oversaw a dominant effort from a top-flight roster that was already expected to be great.
That the 49ers have three finalists for these awards is a testament to how good they were this season, and underscores why they find themselves in the NFC championship game.
Winners of the AP NFL awards will be announced February 8 at the NFL Honors ceremony at 6:00pm Pacific Time.