Due to very unforeseen circumstances beyond anybody's control, the XFL was forced to cancel the 2020 season after just five weeks. But in those five weeks, we saw plenty of highlight-reel plays, memorable moments, and contenders separate themselves from the pretenders. So here are our awards for the 2020 XFL season.
Team of the Year: Houston Roughnecks
At 5-0, the Roughnecks were the XFL's only undefeated team. Head coach June Jones was in charge of the league's No. 1 scoring offense (31.6 ppg) and a defense that led the way in sacks (15), and was tied for the league lead in takeaways (12). The Roughnecks were on everyone's highlight reel on a weekly basis and were the favorites to win the XFL Championship Game, which they also were set to host.
Coach of the Year: Jonathan Hayes
The St. Louis BattleHawks head coach (and general manager) had arguably the most difficult job of his peers: He was tasked with resurrecting a forgotten fan base that had been twice deserted by the NFL. Hayes passed that test with flying colors, as the 3-2 BattleHawks were the only team to sell more than 25,000 tickets in consecutive home games, they were the most popular team on social media (109,000-plus Twitter followers), and they even surpassed the NHL's St. Louis Blues (2019 Stanley Cup Champions) in television ratings at one point. Can the BattleHawks recapture the magic in 2021?
Most Valuable Player: P.J. Walker
From Week 1, the Roughnecks quarterback has made one exciting play after another and was easily the best signal-caller in the league. His strong arm, accuracy, mobility, ability to evade the rush, throw on the run, and make defenders miss made him the subject of viral videos on a weekly basis. Walker was a prime reason why the Roughnecks went unbeaten this year, and he may have also found his way back into the NFL. Walker led the XFL in passing yards (1,338), touchdown passes (15), and completions (119). He also led all quarterbacks in total yards (1,437) and total touchdowns (16).
Offensive Player of the Year: Cam Phillips
The Roughnecks' top wide receiver caught 31 of Walker's 119 completions for 455 yards and nine touchdowns. Not only did Phillips lead the league in those three categories, he also led the XFL in yards per catch (14.7) and had the longest reception of the season (84 yards). Defenders struggled to cover Phillips all season long, and when Phillips was double-teamed, it opened up opportunities for his teammates.
Defensive Players of the Year: Terence Garvin, Dexter McCoil, and Will Hill
These three men were the anchors of the BattleHawks defense, as they combined for 105 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, three interceptions, three sacks, and two pass deflections. It was their contributions that helped make St. Louis the league leader in scoring defense (15.4 ppg) and pass defense (143.8 ypg), while finishing second in total defense (264.2 ypg).
Special Teams Players of the Year: Joe Powell and Austin Walter
These players were the only ones who were able to return kickoffs for touchdowns this season. Powell, a safety for the BattleHawks, executed an 84-yard return for a touchdown off a lateral against the New York Guardians back in Week 3. Two weeks later, we'd see Walter, a Dallas Renegades running back, make a 97-yard return against this same Guardians team. The XFL's unique kickoff rules were supposed to limit these chances, but Powell and Walter used pure speed and creativity to make those plays possible.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of @XFLRoughnecks)