Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award during the NFL Honors ceremony on Thursday night. The 38-year old was not signed by any team after becoming a free agent at the end of the 2022 season. Despite multiple teams needing quarterbacks throughout the 2023 season, Flacco did not get a call until later in the year.
The Browns signed Flacco and were instantly rewarded by taking a chance on him. In five games, Flacco led Cleveland to a 4-1 record to close out the year and helped them clinch a spot in the AFC Playoffs. He completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,616 yards, 13 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Flacco was not the crowd favorite to win the award, nor did he even receive the most first place votes. That honor went to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who infamously collapsed and was without a heartbeat for minutes on the field in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals last season.
A close vote for Comeback Player of the Year, won by Joe Flacco:
Voting for AP Comeback Player of the Year (5-3-1 scoring):
Joe Flacco, Cleveland, 13-26-8=151
Damar Hamlin, Buffalo, 21-7-14=140
Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay, 10-10-13=93
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 9, 2024
Hamlin returned to the field this season, though was often a healthy scratch from Bills games. Still, he managed to play 111 defensive snaps, which is quite the achievement for someone who was literally dead for a few minutes last year.
So incredible was Hamlin’s journey that many NFL fans believe he should have won the award instead.
NFL Fans Believe Damar Hamlin Should Have Won Comeback Player of the Year Instead of Joe Flacco
While Flacco had a fun story, going from the couch and playing with his kids to carrying the Browns to the playoffs, Hamlin’s story is arguably more inspiring and more deserving for the honor of Comeback Player of the Year.
At least, that is what fans from multiple fanbases were saying on social media when the announcement was made:
The NFL should be ashamed of themselves tonight. They milked the Damar Hamlin story for everything it was worth over the last 12 months, and then gave CPOY to a guy who played 5 games and had less than a 2:1 TD to INT ratio. Fucking unreal.
— Joe Goes Gaming! (@JoeGoesGaming) February 9, 2024
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?
— Ryan Wilson (@GunnerStaal) February 9, 2024
I understand Damar Hamlin didn’t fill up the stat sheet this year, but the guy literally came back from dying in front of the whole world and played football again. If that isn’t the ultimate comeback, I don’t know what is.
— Kevin Siracuse (@kevin_siracuse) February 9, 2024
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
— Sal Maiorana (@salmaiorana) February 9, 2024
“Damar Hamlin literally came back from the dead to play in the NFL again. He should win comeback player.”
“Yeah, but Joe was on the Jets.”
“ah, right, carry on then.”
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) February 9, 2024
While no one wants to take away how special Flacco’s run was, it is hard to argue that it is more worthy of the award than a man literally coming back from the dead.
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