The Greater NFL Community Is Up In Arms About Joe Flacco Edging Out Damar Hamlin For Comeback Player Of The Year

Joe Flacco
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Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco was named Comeback Player of the Year at the NFL Honors, but not deservedly so in the eyes of many. Nope, Flacco’s inspiring tale of coming off the couch to keep the Browns afloat, elevate their passing attack to another level, and guide them to the playoffs wasn’t enough.

Never mind that Flacco was stuck on the cratering New York Jets for the two preceding seasons. Ask Zach Wilson, or really any Jets QB since Joe Namath, how hard that is to overcome.

…But Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s heart stopped on the field during last season. It was one of the eeriest moments in sports history. Hamlin was literally brought back to life.

In the spirit of healthy debate, I went to the web dot org archives to dig up the official CPOY criteria:

“The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is presented by the Professional Football Writers of America to the player in the National Football League (NFL) who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, overcoming a severe injury, or simply a poor performance.”

OK so Flacco was basically out of the NFL for most of 2023. He came in as a pinch hitter to a totally new team and offensive system. At age 39, Flacco averaged over 323 passing yards over the course of five starts, threw for 13 TDs and posted a 4-1 record. No single position is more impactful than the one Flacco plays. In addition to technically fitting the “not being in the NFL” requirement, in 2022 with the Jets, Flacco averaged only 5.5 yards per pass attempt with a 75.2 passer rating. Definitely overcame poor performance, too.

“Overcoming a severe injury” doesn’t even begin to describe how Hamlin “overcame adversity.” Pretty compelling case, that. However, Hamlin barely played for the Bills in 2023, which is presumably the reason he didn’t win Comeback Player of the Year. He appeared in only five games and registered just two tackles.

Just the fact that Hamlin came back and played at all would be reason enough to give him the award. For a lot of folks out there, Hamlin should’ve beaten out Flacco without a second thought. This is reflected in Hamlin earning the most first-place votes.

Second- and third-place votes are counted as part of the new voting system, though. That gave Flacco the edge, as eight voters left Hamlin off their ballots altogether.

Check out how much of a reaction this particular award incited.

Fascinating. I see both sides of the debate. Baker Mayfield’s “comeback” if you want to call it that was pretty special as well. It does seem like the NFL needs to take a cue from the NBA and come up with a Most Improved Player accolade. That’d eliminate some of the gray area/confusion on what a “comeback player” is. As long as that’s the outcome that this controversy leads to, I’m all for it.

PS: Congrats to anyone who tailed Flacco CPOY +25000. That’s sickeningly sharp.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock