Coordinators of the Year: Mike Shula, Buccaneers (offense); Gunther Cunningham, Chiefs (defense).
Rookies of the Year: Bucs running back Warrick Dunn (offense); Dolphins linebacker Derrick Rodgers (defense); Cowboys kicker Richie Cunningham (special teams).
Game of the Year
Chiefs 24, Broncos 22; Nov. 16; Arrowhead Stadium. It was the game that changed the AFC's balance of power. A 16-point winner when the teams met at Mile High in the season opener, Denver cruised into Kansas City with a two-game lead in the race for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. But the Chiefs sacked John Elway six times and held superback Terrell Davis to minus-seven yards on his last seven carries. After Elway led the Broncos to a go-ahead field goal with 1:00 left, the Chiefs responded with a 39-yard drive, capped by Pete Stoyanovich's 54-yard field goal as time expired. Denver lost twice more in the next four weeks while Kansas City won its last six and gained home field in the AFC. Said Chiefs linebacker Anthony Davis after the game, "The Broncos were talking all week about how many of them should be in the Pro Bowl. They can have that game. We'll take the Super Bowl."
In October, Mike Ditka told a gathering of reporters, "I would assume that you think I think you're my friends, but I know better. The media is never a coach's friend." Maybe not, but you could argue that Iron Mike was a reporter's best friend in '97. Here are five of our favorite quotes from the first-year Saints coach.
Sept. 19: "When I was a young coach, I had a perm. Because of being in the sun all the time, my hair actually turned kind of an orangish-red. A lot of people thought I dyed my hair orange because of the Bears colors. But it's a fallacy. These things are the illusions of life. I never dved it. But if they want me to—it made Rodman a lot of money."
Sept. 29, the day after a 14-9 loss to the Giants: "We had no emotion. We could have been going down Fifth Avenue for a shopping spree. We were like, 'Cabbie, over here.' If we think we're going to roll up with three-button suits on and a copy of The Wall Street Journal under our arm and conduct a businesslike game, we're crazy."
Nov. 10: "I got a call this morning from my mother wondering if I'm all right. I said, 'Why wouldn't I be all right?' She said, 'Well, you don't look all right.' "
Dec. 1: "I'm a Hake. Just write that. I got a lot of split personality. Some night, if you're at the right place at the right time, you'll probably see me in a dress."