AFC West awards: Coach of the year decided between Chiefs, Chargers

Anthony Lynn, right, steadied the Chargers after an 0-4 start to finish 9-7, a game behind Andy Reid, left, and the AFC West-winning Chiefs. Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was the sole unanimous pick for our postseason awards in the AFC West, so that left plenty of debate for the other three categories -- including who would win our honor for the division's top coach. Here's how the selection of choices was pared down by NFL Nation AFC West reporters Paul Gutierrez (Raiders), Jeff Legwold (Broncos), Adam Teicher (Chiefs) and Eric D. Williams (Chargers).

Coach of the Year: Anthony Lynn, Chargers

It was a difficult season to be a head coach in the AFC West, given that Jack Del Rio was fired by the Raiders and Vance Joseph was one meeting away from a similar fate before the Broncos elected to retain him. That left Chiefs coach Andy Reid and Lynn for consideration as the division's coach of the year. And yes, Reid made the playoffs as the division winner before the Chiefs lost a wild-card game last week. But Lynn dealt with the shadow of a franchise move hanging over his season, and if anyone thinks that's easy, Del Rio was just fired by the Raiders as they navigate the lame-duck period in Oakland before a move to Las Vegas, and the Rams fired Jeff Fisher last year when the team's first season back in California didn't go all that well on or off the field. And with his team playing in a soccer stadium that seats far less than half of the usual NFL homes, with those seats often filled by fans from the other team and his quarterback commuting from San Diego each day in a decked-out van to go with all of the other unanswered questions, Lynn survived an 0-4 start after the Chargers had looked to be headed for a lost season. The Bolts bounced back to go 9-3 over the final 12 games, and those three losses were all to playoff teams: the Patriots, Jaguars and Chiefs. "His vision for this team was very clear early on," Chargers QB Philip Rivers said. "I think that did nothing but solidify and hold true throughout the whole year. ... I'm excited about him as the leader of this team going into Year 2." -- Legwold

Offensive Player of the Year: Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs

What got into Smith this season, exactly? The easy answer is Kansas City drafting Patrick Mahomes 10th overall lit a fire under the veteran. Long seen as the prototypical game manager, content to check down and take what the defense gave him, Smith instead took what he wanted in 2017. He passed for 4,042 yards with 26 touchdowns -- both career highs -- despite sitting out the regular-season finale to prepare for the playoffs. The 33-year-old led the NFL in passer rating at 104.7 and took better care of the ball; his league-leading 1.0 interception rate was also a career best. "I guess it is a reflection of the group," Smith said of his stats. "As a quarterback, that is what happens. They have been doing some really good things. Coach is doing a great job putting us in good situations and then, [I have] some really good players around [me]."

Indeed, Smith was an NFL MVP candidate at the season's midway point, when the Chiefs were 6-2 after a 5-0 start. Then came a four-game losing streak that was followed by four wins in a row to close out the regular season and wrap up the AFC West title. This is about the regular season, though, so the Chiefs' flameout in the first round of the playoffs should not be held against Smith, who did his part with a 116.2 passer rating; the Chiefs' front office could feel different, however. The reason for Smith -- due $14.5 million in base salary with a cap number of $20.6 million in 2018 -- getting off to such a hot start might be the reason he could potentially be gone next season: Kansas City drafting his heir apparent in Mahomes. -- Gutierrez

Defensive Player of the Year: Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers

Bosa was seventh in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, but what Bosa did with those sacks made him truly stand out. Bosa was 10th among down linemen in the percentage of pass plays he disrupted at 2.1. A disrupted pass play can be a sack, an interception or a tipped or deflected pass. Bosa also excelled at the art of the strip sack, forcing four fumbles. For this, Bosa was selected as ESPN's AFC West defensive player of the year. He received three of the four votes from reporters covering the division. Broncos linebacker Von Miller received the other. Bosa and Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram (10.5 sacks) formed one of the NFL's best one-two pass-rush combinations, with their combined total of 23 sacks second in the league for a pair of teammates behind the Jags' Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue (26.5). "They're as a tandem right now playing, in my opinion, probably the best in the league as far as bookend guys," Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said in December before Kansas City's game against the Chargers. "When you have two guys playing in the style that they play, a lot of spin moves, a lot of games that they do and they create lanes by doing that, then on top of that they're just full of energy. They're very successful this year." -- Teicher

Rookie of the Year: Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs

Hunt was a unanimous selection as the AFC West rookie of the year for the 2017 season, and for good reason. The third-round selection out of Toledo dominated the division. Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards and was productive against AFC West foes, rushing for an average of 102 yards per game as Kansas City finished 5-1 against the division. Hunt also totaled 53 receptions for 455 yards and three scores, and had just one fumble. Hunt finished the season with 1,782 yards from scrimmage, 10th-most ever by a rookie and breaking the Chiefs' rookie record set by Joe Delaney in 1981 (1,367). "His running style is pretty impressive," Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said about Hunt, who averaged 165 total yards in two victories against the Bolts. "At any time he can break one. Everybody's drawn to him because they know what he's capable of doing. So the idea is make sure you get 11 hats to the ball and we're on our run fits, because if not you're going to get exposed." -- Williams