Former Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, currently of the Bengals, was name the Halas Award winner today by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
The Halas Award goes to the individual in the NFL who overcame the most adversity to succeed last season.
Zimmer’s wife, Vicki, passed away suddenly on Oct. 8 in the family’s home. The couple had been married 27 years.
Three days later, Zimmer was with the team for their game in Baltimore, which they won, 17-14. For the 2009 season, the Bengals ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense, their highest ranking since 1993.
“Anytime your name is mentioned with George Halas, and all the other people who have won this award in the past, it’s
a terrific honor,” said Zimmer, who was the Falcons defensive coordinator for the 2007 season. “It’s a credit to our players and coaches, (head coach) Marvin (Lewis), and my kids. They helped me hang in through the adversity. If I hadn’t had them, it would have been harder to continue on. Our veteran core group of players really helped me in a number of ways. They were a strength for me.”
In the other awards presented by the PFWA, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, NFL.com and Sirius radio’s Gil Brandt, the Houston Texas communications staff and longtime New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney also received awards.
Brees was voted the winner of the Good Guy Award, which goes to the player who best helped the media do its job.
“I am honored to be recognized by the Professional Football Writers Association with their annual Good Guy
Award,” Brees said. “The media is our strongest connection to our fans and it is important that we make ourselves available and be accountable when the time calls for us to meet with the media. The media tell our story and I recognize the important job that they have. Joining a select group of previous winners such as Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis shows that it is not only important to lead on the field like
these guys have, but also to lead off of it as well.”
The Horrigan Award, honoring a person (not a player or team media relations staffer) who helped the media best do its job last season was won by Brandt, the former Dallas Cowboys personnel director.
“It’s an honor to win an award voted on by the Pro Football Writers,” Brandt said. “I value my relationships with the writers, some of those going back decades, and many of whom
I now consider friends.”
For the third time since 2004, the Houston Texans were selected as winner of the Rozelle Award, which goes to the league public relations staff that best helped the media do its job. The Texans also won in 2004 and 2007.
The Atlanta Falcons staff was a finalist for this award for the second consecutive year.
Tony Wyllie, the Texans’ vice president of communications, recently left for the Washington Redskins where he will
be a senior vice president. He was also on the staff of the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans when their staffs won the Rozelle Award in 1997 and 2000, respectively.
Finney is the winner of the McCann Award, which honors a PFWA member for long and distinguished service to the profession.
Finney is in his 64th year covering sports in New Orleans. After missing Super Bowls I and II because his editor thought the game was “a fad,” Finney covered 40 straight Super Bowls. He represents New Orleans on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s board of selectors.
(Disclosure: The AJC’s D.Orlando Ledbetter is the 2nd vice president of the PFWA).