List of NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award Winners

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award winners list has some incredible players who have achieved extraordinary feats to overcome adversity.

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award has been awarded to the player who has overcome the most adversity in a regular season.

Presented at the annual NFL Honors ceremony, the award is one of the greatest awards presented at the prestigious event held before the Super Bowl. The criteria for winning the award can be complex, though each winner has overcome hardship in some way.

Full List of NFL Comeback Player of the Year Winners

The exact criteria for winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award is ambiguous. Is it for who has overcome the most adversity? Or is it for the player who has performed the best after persisting?

In 2012, the NFL stated the award is “given to a player who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance.”

MORE: Why Are the Playoffs Not Counted for NFL Awards?

While each voter can interpret the criteria differently, it allows different names to be nominated for the award.

The first winners of the award were Baltimore Colts placekicker Jim Martin and San Diego Chargers running back Paul Lowe. They were joint winners as when the award first started in 1963, the Associate Press (AP) provided a winner from both the NFL and AFL.

Then, after providing winners in four seasons, the AP stopped voting on the award between 1967 and 1997. This came after the announcement of the merger between the NFL and AFL in 1966. The AP didn’t restart the award until 1998.

Since then, quarterbacks have overwhelmingly won the award. Between 2008 and 2013, there was a run of quarterbacks winning the award in six straight years.

The complete list of the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award winners is:

  • 1963 – Jim Martin, K, Baltimore Colts, and Paul Lowe, RB, San Diego Chargers
  • 1964 – Lenny Moore, HB, Baltimore Colts, and Abner Haynes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
  • 1965 – John Brodie, QB, San Francisco 49ers, and Paul Lowe, RB, San Diego Chargers
  • 1966 – Dick Bass, FB, Los Angeles Rams, and Babe Parilli, QB, Boston Patriots

*The Associated Press did not give an award for Comeback Player of the Year between 1967 and 1997.

  • 1998 – Doug Flutie, QB, Buffalo Bills
  • 1999 – Bryant Young, DT, San Francisco 49ers
  • 2000 – Joe Johnson, DE, New Orleans Saints
  • 2001 – Garrison Hearst, RB, San Francisco 49ers
  • 2002 – Tommy Maddox, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • 2003 – Jon Kitna, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
  • 2004 – Drew Brees, QB, San Diego Chargers
  • 2005 – Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers, and Tedy Bruschi, LB, New England Patriots
  • 2006 – Chad Pennington, QB, New York Jets
  • 2007 – Greg Ellis, DE, Dallas Cowboys
  • 2008 – Chad Pennington, QB, Miami Dolphins
  • 2009 – Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
  • 2010 – Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
  • 2011 – Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
  • 2012 – Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
  • 2013 – Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
  • 2014 – Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
  • 2015 – Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
  • 2016 – Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
  • 2017 – Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
  • 2018 – Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
  • 2019 – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
  • 2020 – Alex Smith, QB, Washington Football Team
  • 2021 – Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
  • 2022 – Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks
  • 2023 – Joe Flacco, QB, Cleveland Browns

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