Headed down the back stretch for the NFL’s major awards, the 49ers could be in line to be honored at the league’s annual awards night on Feb. 9 the week of Super Bowl LVII.
Edge rusher Nick Bosa is a prime candidate to be the 49ers’ third-ever Defensive Player of the Year, joining Dana Stubblefield in 1997 and Deion Sanders in 1994.
Christian McCaffrey, who joined the 49ers by trade on Oct. 20, has had a rebound season worthy of consideration for Comeback Player of the Year award won by Garrison Hearst in 1991, Bryant Young in 1999 and Joe Montana in 1986.
Coach Kyle Shanahan could get some support as NFL Coach of the Year, which was won by Jim Harbaugh in 2011 and Bill Wash in 1981.
DeMeco Ryans, who coordinates the NFL’s top defense, should receive votes for the NFL’s Assistant Coach of the Year which was instituted in 2014. No 49ers coach has won it, although Shanahan was honored in 2016 as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.
A panel of 50 media members from throughout the country will vote for the top five candidates for MVP and the top three candidates from the other awards.
Here’s a guess at how the races are looking with three weekends to play:
Most Valuable Player
1. Jalen Hurts, Eagles: The best player on the best (regular-season) team. Has 747 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns rushing and 3,422 yards passing for 22 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Shoulder injury could give nod to . . .
2. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs: Can be penciled in for No. 1 or 2 in perpetuity, health permitting. Has 4,496 yards passing, 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Has become more patient and efficient without Tyreek Hill.
3. Joe Burrow, Bengals: Guided Cincinnati to back-to-back double-digit winning seasons. Beat the Chiefs in the regular season as he did in last year’s title game. Has 3,885 yards passing, 31 TDs, 10 interceptions. Best anticipatory thrower in the game.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Tyreek Hill, Dolphins: Hill is as physical as they come on contested catches and can break tackles. And his speed is more feared throughout the league than any other player. Has 109 receptions for 1,529 yards, seven touchdowns and will have a better statistical year than he ever did in Kansas City.
2 Justin Jefferson, Vikings: With 111 receptions, 1,623 yards and seven touchdowns, Jefferson is running neck and neck with Hill. Receivers drafted in front of Jefferson at No. 22 included Henry Ruggs (12), Jerry Jeudy (15), CeeDee Lamb (17) and Jalen Reagor (21).
3. Josh Jacobs, Raiders: Leads the NFL with 1,495 yards and an average of 106.8 yards per game and 11 touchdowns after the club declined his fifth-year option. It’s the best season for a Raiders running back since Marcus Allen had 1,759 yards in 1985. Also has 46 receptions for 363 yards.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Nick Bosa, 49ers: The NFL leader with 15 ½ sacks and 16 tackles for losses despite the usual holding treatment given to NFL pass rushers. Should become the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL this offseason.
2. Micah Parsons, Cowboys: Parsons, an outside linebacker who can line up anywhere, has 13 sacks, 24 quarterback hits and 14 tackles for losses although not as consistent game-in and game-out as Bosa.
3. Maxx Crosby, Raiders: Would probably be neck and neck with Bosa if the Raiders were a playoff team. Effort level is unmatched by any player in the NFL. Has 11 ½ sacks and an NFL-high 19 tackles for losses.
Coach of the Year
1. Nick Sirianni, Eagles: The Eagles appear destined for the top seed and Sirianni has devised an offensive system that accentuates the strengths of Hurts. Huge turnover margin (plus-12) is always the sign of a well coached team.
2. Kyle Shanahan, 49ers: Ordinarily a team that made the playoffs one year doesn’t have a coach considered for Coach of the Year the next. But how many other coaches have a system in place to survive the loss of two starting quarterbacks and become the first team to win their division?
3. Brian Daboll, Giants: Daboll has gotten the most out of quarterback Daniel Jones and has New York in the No. 6 playoff position. Watch out for Detroit’s Dan Campbell (7-7 after a 1-6 start), who could rise to the top if the Lions make the postseason.
Assistant Coach of the Year
1. DeMeco Ryans, 49ers: Ryans’ work with the NFL’s top-ranked defense in terms of total yardage, points per game and rushing yardage should make him a hot head coaching candidate for the 2023 season.
2. Shane Steichen, Eagles: Steichen took over play-calling duties for Philadelphia this season and helped make Hurts into something special.
3. Mike Macdonald, Ravens: In his first season running a defense, Macdonald has crafted a unit that is fifth in average points per game (18.8), third in rushing defense (85.6) and third in third-down percentage (32.3).
Comeback Player of the Year
1. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers: Limited to 10 games in the 2020-21 seasons because of injuries with Carolina, McCaffrey has 200 rushes 927 yards, 74 receptions for 623, 10 touchdowns and has even thrown a touchdown pass. The 49ers’ haven’t lost since he began playing full-time.
2. Saquon Barkley, Giants: Barkley was limited to 15 games in the previous two seasons, including a torn ACL, but has rebounded with 1,170 yards rushing and 47 receptions for 294 yards. He has scored nine touchdowns.
3. Geno Smith: Seahawks: Completing 71.4 percent of his passes with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The question is, what did he come back from? Hadn’t started 14 games since his rookie year in 2013.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
1. Garrett Wilson, Jets: The No. 10 pick in the draft, Olave has 67 receptions for 966 yards and four touchdowns for a resurgent team with quarterback issues. But he’s just a hair of his Ohio State teammate . . .
2. Chris Olave, Saints: Another Buckeye, Olave went No. 11 and has 63 receptions for 940 yards and three touchdowns. Oh, what Olave would have done with Drew Brees at quarterback.
3. Dameon Pierce, Texans: Houston got a fourth-round bargain in this Florida product, who leads all rookie rushes with 939 yards on 220 carries (4.3 per attempt).
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1. Tariq Woolen, Seahawks: A rangy 6-foot-4 cornerback who had a 4.26 time in the 40-yard dash somehow lasted until the sixth round. And he’s got six interceptions and has started all season. Lacks polish, but production is undeniable.
2. Sauce Gardner, Jets: In reality, Gardner has looked like the top cornerback in the draft as advertised. He’s not giving up much, but he’s not being tested much either. It’s getting lonely on his side.
3. Aiden Hutchinson, Lions: The No. 2 overall pick has been mostly productive and health permitting should be solid for the next 10 years. Has seven sacks, 13 quarterback hits and seven tackles for losses for Detroit.