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.
“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.
AP Comeback Player of the Year
Joe Flacco 13-26-8 = 151 Damar Hamlin 21-7-14 = 140 Baker Mayfield 10-10-13 = 93 Matthew Stafford 1-6-7 = 30 Tua Tagovailoa 4-0-1 = 21 Breece Hall 0-0-3 = 3 Brock Purdy 1-0-1 = 6 Calvin Ridley 0-1-0 = 3 Aaron Donald 0-0-1…
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.
What a joke the NFL awards were. Damar Hamlin loses out on the the comeback award to Joe Flacco? Why, because Flacco was able to get off his couch and play pretty good for a few weeks? More of a comeback than a guy nearly dying yet returning to play? Idiots who voted. All of them
Damar Hamlin losing comeback player of the year to Joe Flacco reminds me when Kris Letang didn't get the Masterton Trophy after a stroke because Devan Dubnyk "survived" playing on the Oilers. Why even have the award?
I’m sorry. How does Damar Hamlin lose Comeback Player of the Year? He almost died playing football. Joe Flacco returned from being old and unwanted. Hamlin’s tale is the best comeback story in NFL History. What a disgrace.
Damar Hamlin came back from the dead, but that wasn't enough for him to win comeback player. He apparently needed to wait three days until he rose from the dead to impress the eight voters who left him off their ballot. https://t.co/mlAJdJ1yBj
Joe Flacco was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year over Damar Hamlin. Which only goes to show that, in pro football, returning to play after standing at the brink of death is less impressive than leading the Cleveland #Browns to the playoffs.
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.