The AAF has unfortunately met its end after a thrilling and exciting eight weeks of action. Controlling owner Tom Dundon didn’t want to run the league without NFL practice squadders, and Dundon ultimately shut the whole thing down midway through the season. While official awards won’t be handed out, we here at Last Word on Pro Football can name our unofficial AAF MVP and other superlative winners.
Unofficial AAF MVP, Superlative Winners
MVP: Garrett Gilbert, Orlando Apollos
This one was easy. Orlando Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert was easily the best player in the league at the game’s most valuable position. While he admittedly had a great supporting cast, Gilbert was the engine that powered the whole machine. The Southern Methodist product finished his season completing 60.6% of his passes for 2,152 yards, 13 touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Not only did Gilbert put up fantastic numbers, but he looked great while doing it. Gilbert easily had the best pocket poise of all the AAF passers and routinely moved on to his third and fourth reads when the initial play wasn’t there. Most AAF quarterbacks didn’t have this next-level cerebral mastery of the position. Gilbert looked so impressive that he could earn a job as an NFL backup in 2019.
Offensive Player of the Year: Charles Johnson, Orlando Apollos
The Orlando Apollos had the best offense in the league, in large part because they had the best wide receiver and quarterback in the AAF. Former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson looked like a man amongst boys, finishing the year with 70 receptions for 687 yards and five touchdowns. His receptions and yardage led the league while his touchdown total was second to Arizona Hotshots wide receiver Rashad Ross.
Johnson hasn’t played an NFL snap since the 2016 season, but he was once an intriguing young wideout. The Grand Valley State product recorded 31 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. While he never managed to improve upon that production, this eight-game sample shows that there still is something in Johnson’s tank. Just like Gilbert, Johnson should earn an invite to an NFL training camp.
Honorable Mentions: John Wolford, D’Ernest Johnson, Rashad Ross, Jhurell Pressley
Defensive Player of the Year: Damontre Moore, San Diego Fleet
San Diego Fleet defensive end Damontre Moore and Salt Lake City defensive end Karter Schult are neck-and-neck for this award, but Moore gets the nod. Damontre Moore had a phenomenal season, finishing the year with seven sacks, 25 quarterback hits, 22 tackles, and five tackles-for-loss. On top of that, Moore also deflected four passes and forced two fumbles. Moore never took a week off, as the defensive end recorded a sack in seven of his eight games.
This isn’t a shot against Schult, who could just as easily take home this award. Appearing in all eight games, Schult finished his season with seven sacks, 21 quarterback hits, 25 tackles, and 13 tackles-for-loss. These two were basically the Khalil Mack and Von Miller of the AAF, although they obviously weren’t on that level of play. Regardless of who you think was better, both should be in an NFL training camp come July.
Hororable Mentions: Jamar Summers, DeMarquis Gates, Derron Smith
Coach of the Year: Steve Spurrier
Who else would earn the honor other than the legendary Steve Spurrier? The collegiate legend proved that he’s still got it, coaching the Orlando Apollos to the best record in the league. Orlando had the best offense and one of the best defenses in the AAF, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Spurrier’s inventive playcalling and scheming.
The AAF may mark the end of Spurrier’s fantastic coaching career. The 73-year old hasn’t coached since the 2015 season and might not want to go back to the college sidelines. The AAF offered a perfect scenario for Spurrier, and other leagues cannot match the flexibility allotted by the AAF. If this is the end of the road, then Spurrier went out with the best collective team in the AAF.
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