Generally the NFL Comeback Player of the Year is not one of the more hotly contested awards. There’s usually one player who is the feel-good story of the season, that everyone agrees should get what usually amounts to a consolation trophy. But in 2012, two of the league’s top players are in line for the award, and there is serious debate flying around as to who should get it more.
There was a time when if you mentioned Comeback Player of the Year, and Peyton Manning in the same breath, most would think you were a few feet short of a mental first down. But in 2012, after taking a year off, Manning is now at the top of the list for the honor.
Manning’s well publicized neck problems–and the four surgeries to correct it–were a huge reason that the Indianapolis Colts decided to part ways with their living legend, and go get Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Manning missed all of the 2011 season recovering, and trying to strengthen his neck and upper vertebrae, and by the time he deemed himself fit to play again, there were a few teams vying for his services.
The Denver Broncos were the lucky winners, and based on the their 13-3 record and No.1 seed in the AFC playoffs they must feel like they won the quarterback lottery.
The case for Manning winning the award: his age (36), the fact that he had four surgeries…on his NECK, he missed an entire season, and he has the Broncos in contention for a third Super Bowl title.
Now, Adrian Peterson is a different story. The Minnesota Vikings running back has always been one of the more feared rushers in the league, but last December when he suffered what doctors called one of the worst knee injuries they had ever seen, there was speculation as to whether or not Peterson would even be able to play this season.
But play he did, and play not only well, but nearly the best that anyone ever had at his position. A.D. finished the season with 2097 rushing yards, just eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record set in 1984. Although he didn’t eclipse Dickerson’s yardage total, he did help lead the Vikings to the playoffs for the first time in the post-Brett Favre era. (Gah, did I really just mention that name?)
Peterson’s knee was a mangled mess, with both a torn MCL and ACL, last year, but just a few days removed from the the one-year anniversary of the injury, he managed to run for 199 yards and nearly broke a record in the process.
The case for Peterson: The extent of his injury, the fact that he’s a running back that depends on the strength in his knees to make cuts, the brevity of his recovery, and his ability to carry the Vikings to the playoffs.
In the end, I’d have to give the award to Adrian Peterson. While both players had serious injuries and amazing comebacks, Peterson’s just seems more miraculous. He didn’t have to take a full year off, he played a huge part in leading a team that had missed the playoffs for two straight years back to the postseason and–most importantly–the last time I checked, Peyton Manning doesn’t throw the ball with his neck, but Peterson definitely runs the ball depending heavily on his knees.
Oh by the way – both players are also in the discussion for the MVP of the league, but that’s a story for a different column.