Prime Time Awards 1943-2017

Named in honor of Deion Sanders, the greatest cover man of all time, even when he wasn’t fully invested in football, the Prime Time Award goes to the top cornerback in the league each season. The position is a highly volatile one, and you can see evidence of that in how few players won the award multiple times, and the fact that no one won it more than four times. When handing out awards for cornerbacks, there is much subjectivity, and value is in the eye of the beholder. The great showdown between Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson in 2009 is a perfect example of this. Revis had an all time great season in coverage, shutting down top receiver after top receiver. Woodson wasn’t on that level as a shutdown specialist, but he was all over the field and made numerous high leverage plays. Ultimately, most voters favored the playmaker for defensive player of the year awards, while fans of pure cover specialists stood in awe of the young buck. With that in mind, I expect cornerback to be the most widely debated position.

I don’t have a set preference, that I know of. In some years, I went with the playmakers who picked off a ton of passes and forced fumbles. Other years, I went with pure shutdown corners. I did give more credit to the playmaking corners of yesteryear based on the possibly flawed belief that pure coverage wasn’t quite as important prior to the Mel Blount Rule. I looked at stats, of course, but those explain so little of on field performance that the derided eye test had to take precedence. Without further ado.

Prime Time Award Winners

The table below lists every Prime Time Award winner since 1943. Read it thus: In 1943, playing in the NFL, Don Hutson of the Packers won his first Prime Time Award.

YearLeagueCBTeam#
1943NFLDon HutsonGreen Bay Packers1
1944NFLBill PetrilasNew York Giants1
1945NFLRoy ZimmermanPhiladelphia Eagles1
1946NFLBob DavisBoston Yanks1
1946AAFCTom ColellaCleveland Browns1
1947NFLBob ForteGreen Bay Packers1
1947AAFCBill SchroederChicago Rockets1
1948NFLDan SandiferWashington1
1948AAFCOtto SchnellbacherNew York Yankees1
1949NFLDon DollDetroit Lions1
1949AAFCJim CasonSan Francisco 49ers1
1950NFLWoodley LewisLos Angeles Rams1
1951NFLOtto SchnellbacherNew York Giants2
1952NFLNight Train LaneLos Angeles Rams1
1953NFLNight Train LaneLos Angeles Rams2
1954NFLNight Train LaneChicago Cardinals3
1955NFLBibbles BawelPhiladelphia Eagles1
1956NFLNight Train LaneChicago Cardinals4
1957NFLMilt DavisBaltimore Colts1
1958NFLCarl TaseffBaltimore Colts1
1959NFLDean DerbyPittsburgh Steelers1
1960NFLBernie ParrishCleveland Browns1
1960AFLChris HarrisOakland Raiders1
1961NFLErich BarnesNew York Giants1
1961AFLDick HarrisSan Diego Chargers1
1962NFLHerb AdderleyGreen Bay Packers1
1962AFLFred WilliamsonOakland Raiders1
1963NFLDick LynchNew York Giants1
1963AFLFred WilliamsonOakland Raiders2
1964NFLPat FischerSt. Louis Cardinals1
1964AFLWillie BrownDenver Broncos1
1965NFLHerb AdderleyGreen Bay Packers2
1965AFLDave GraysonOakland Raiders1
1966NFLHerb AdderleyGreen Bay Packers3
1966AFLButch ByrdBuffalo Bills1
1967NFLCornell GreenDallas Cowboys1
1967AFLMiller FarrHouston Oilers1
1968NFLLem BarneyDetroit Lions1
1968AFLMiller FarrHouston Oilers2
1969NFLLem BarneyDetroit Lions2
1969AFLWillie BrownOakland Raiders2
1970NFLJimmy JohnsonSan Francisco 49ers1
1971NFLJimmy JohnsonSan Francisco 49ers2
1972NFLJimmy JohnsonSan Francisco 49ers3
1973NFLWillie BrownOakland Raiders3
1974NFLEmmitt ThomasKansas City Chiefs1
1975NFLMel BlountPittsburgh Steelers1
1976NFLMonte JacksonLos Angeles Rams1
1977NFLRolland LawrenceAtlanta Falcons1
1978NFLLouis WrightDenver Broncos1
1979NFLLemar ParrishWashington1
1980NFLLester HayesOakland Raiders1
1981NFLRonnie LottSan Francisco 49ers1
1982NFLEverson WallsDallas Cowboys1
1983NFLEverson WallsDallas Cowboys2
1984NFLDave BrownSeattle Seahawks1
1985NFLMike HaynesLos Angeles Raiders1
1986NFLHanford DixonCleveland Browns1
1987NFLFrank MinnifieldCleveland Browns1
1988NFLFrank MinnifieldCleveland Browns2
1989NFLAlbert LewisKansas City Chiefs1
1990NFLRod WoodsonPittsburgh Steelers1
1991NFLDeion SandersAtlanta Falcons1
1992NFLRod WoodsonPittsburgh Steelers2
1993NFLRod WoodsonPittsburgh Steelers3
1994NFLDeion SandersSan Francisco 49ers2
1995NFLDeion SandersDallas Cowboys3
1996NFLRod WoodsonPittsburgh Steelers4
1997NFLAeneas WilliamsArizona Cardinals1
1998NFLTy LawNew England Patriots1
1999NFLSam MadisonMiami Dolphins1
2000NFLCharles WoodsonOakland Raiders1
2001NFLRonde BarberTampa Bay Buccaneers1
2002NFLPatrick SurtainMiami Dolphins1
2003NFLTy LawNew England Patriots2
2004NFLChamp BaileyDenver Broncos1
2005NFLChamp BaileyDenver Broncos2
2006NFLChamp BaileyDenver Broncos3
2007NFLAsante SamuelNew England Patriots1
2008NFLNnamdi AsomughaOakland Raiders1
2009NFLDarrelle RevisNew York Jets1
2010NFLChamp BaileyDenver Broncos4
2011NFLDarrelle RevisNew York Jets2
2012NFLRichard ShermanSeattle Seahawks1
2013NFLRichard ShermanSeattle Seahawks2
2014NFLChris HarrisDenver Broncos1
2015NFLPatrick PetersonArizona Cardinals1
2016NFLChris HarrisDenver Broncos2
2017NFLCasey HaywardLos Angeles Chargers1

Night Train Lane, Rod Woodson, and Champ Bailey are the only players to win four Prime Time Awards. Lane was a dangerous cover man and feared tackler. Woodson is among the most versatile players to man the position, effective in coverage, against the run, and as a blitzer. Bailey is one of the few modern shutdown corners, excelling in an era when that should hardly be possible. He casually eliminated top receivers and was a sure tackler.

Three time winners include Herb Adderley, Jimmy Johnson, Willie Brown, and Neon Deion himself. Adderley was a premier playmaker, while Johnson was a shutdown cornerback before the term even existed. Brown perfected the art of bump and run coverage, and Sanders is rightly remembered as the purest of all cover corners.

That’s it. No other cornerback has earned more than two Prime Time Awards. Like I said, it’s a crazy position, rife with instability.