The Green Bay Packers finished the regular season with a 13-4 record, first place in the NFC North and atop the NFC. They were the first team to clinch a playoff berth and had the No. 1 seed locked up in Week 17. That sounds like a pretty good season for a team with a lot of uncertainty in June.
How did the Packers get to this point, and who were the biggest contributors to the cause? We evaluate the 2021 season’s biggest stars.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
When you’re probably going to win the Most Valuable Player award for the entire league, you earn that same award from your team. Rodgers went from considering not playing to putting forth back-to-back MVP-caliber seasons.
Rodgers’ season was marked by controversy. But despite his offseason beef with the Packers’ organization, his controversial and bizarre vaccine takes, and his polarizing new hairstyle, Rodgers proved that he’s still the league’s best player. Whatever you think of him as a person (*cough* certain bums *cough*), he’s the most valuable player on the field.
Runner-up: Davante Adams
Offensive Player of the Year: Davante Adams
Adams wins the most important, non-Rodgers offensive player award because even when he’s not doing anything, he’s doing something. Adams forces teams to account for him at all times, influencing defensive scheming. The Baltimore Ravens tried to counter Adams by double- and triple-covering him, which allowed Marquez Valdes-Scantling to feast. Other teams will scheme around No. 17 only to be gashed on the ground by Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.
By being the best receiver in the league, Adams controls the gameplan, even if he doesn’t have a big numerical day. And if you don’t account for him? He’ll destroy you while making it look easy. Adams commits heinous crimes in single coverage, and it looks like a breeze. It makes zero sense that he and I are from the same species.
Runner-up: Elgton Jenkins (despite missing a good deal of season)
Defensive Player of the Year: De’Vondre Campbell
Rasul Douglas was a close second due to his ball-hawk skills, tenacity, and rising to meet big moments. But last Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions was a reminder of what a Campbell-less defense looks like, and it wasn’t pretty.
Green Bay has neglected the outside linebacker position for an eternity, but this season should be eye-opening. Campbell makes the middle of the field so much better. He can tackle well and perform in coverage, a rarity for a Packer ILB. More importantly, Campbell brings a strong sense of leadership to the defense, allowing everyone around him to perform at a higher level. Campbell may be a Pro Bowl snub, but he makes up for it with this equally important Hendershott DPOY award.
Runner-up: Rasul Douglas
Coach of the Year: Adam Stenavich
Okay, like, obviously LaFleur should be COTY for the league. He’s been outstanding. But for a team-only award ceremony, it should go to an assistant coach, and no assistant coach has punched above their weight class like Stenavich.
As the team dealt with major injuries, Green Bay’s offensive line has been shaken up like an Etch-A-Sketch from week to week. Most of the linemen available were young players still learning the game, including Day 3 picks and project players. And yet Rodgers mainly remained unscathed in the face of mighty defenses. The run-blocking may not have been amazing, but the patchwork unit still thrived at pass protection — credit to Stenavich, who should start receiving some OC buzz in the future.
Runner-up: Probably Jerry Grey
Rookie of the Year: Eric Stokes
The Packers’ first-round pick proved the most valuable this season. Stokes was forged in fire during training camp, going against Rodgers and Adams daily. Once the season came around, it appeared Stokes would learn in limited opportunities behind Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.
Stokes performed well in his early tests, but he saw significant playing time early thanks to injuries in the secondary. And the young corner made the most of these opportunities. Like any rookie, Stokes took his licks. But in the end, he emerged victorious over some very good receivers and built a solid foundation. Stokes can be a star, and it started with a strong rookie season.
Runner-up: Royce Newman
Most Improved: Preston Smith
The Smith Bros were sack machines in 2019, but Preston took a massive step back in 2020. Many expected he’d be a cap casualty going into the 2021 season, but he restructured his contract to stay with the team.
That worked well for Green Bay and Preston. With Za’Darius Smith missing 17 games, it was up to P. Smith and Rashan Gary to man the edges, and they were pressure machines. Preston looked more like his 2019 self and attributed his success to Joe Barry’s scheme. Barry let Preston Smith do what he does best and put the linebacker in the best spots to succeed.
Runner-up: Dean Lowry
Comeback Player of the Year: Randall Cobb
He literally came back to the Packers, and he deserves this after spending time with the Houston Texans. I will not be entertaining any other options.
“I Like This Player A Lot, But He Doesn’t Fit One of These Existing Category” Award: Marcedes Lewis
Look, I just like him a lot.