On the evening prior to Super Bowl Sunday (February 2nd, 9 p.m. ET on CBS), Alec Baldwin will return to host the second annual "NFL Honors" show, recognizing the top players of the 2012 NFL Season.
This year, a pair of Denver Broncos are deserving of recognition.
Quarterback Peyton Manning, after not playing in all of the 2011 season, returned to football with the Broncos in 2012 and helped lead Denver to a 13-3 record while breaking franchise records in nearly every major passing category, including completions (400), completion percentage (68.6), passing yards (4,659), touchdown passes (37) and quarterback rating (105.8).
All of that was accomplished at age of 34 after coming off multiple neck surgeries. That's over 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns after not playing an entire season.
Who Should Win Comeback Player of the Year?
"This season has been unlike any season I’ve ever dealt with just because of the transition," Manning told reporters on January 2 in Dove Valley. "I really didn’t know how we would mesh together and what the offense would end up looking like so it’s been—because I really didn’t have any expectations. I guess if I had some, I definitely would have to say that it’s exceeded the expectations and some things have come together, probably, quicker than I expected."
"There’s still some things that I wish would be better and I think you kind of have to pick and choose your battles. 'Hey, we’ve only had 16 games together, we’re not going to be able to fix that. Let’s try to get really good at this. Let’s be as good as we can at that.' Some things just take time."
If that is not good enough to merit Comeback Player of the Year honors, nothing is.
Peterson, another comeback candidate, rushed for over 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 after recovering from ACL and MCL injuries suffered in 2011. In an ideal world, Peterson and Manning would split the MVP and Comeback Player of the Year awards, winning one a piece.
After two such remarkable seasons, it would be a shame for one player to win both awards and the other to walk away empty handed. As for Manning, he deserves consideration for both.
Another Bronco, star outside linebacker Von Miller, will receive consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. In 2012, Miller totaled 68 tackles (28 for losses), forced six fumbles, returned an interception for a touchdown and set a franchise single-season record with 18.5 sacks—remarkable numbers.
Miller, of course, is unlikely to win the award over Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who recorded 81 tackles (42 tackles for losses), forced four fumbles and recorded 20.5 sacks—numbers even more remarkable than Miller's.
In defense of Miller, the second-year linebacker does not rush on every play, dropping into pass coverage on far more occasions than Watt gives him fewer opportunities for sacks and even tackles. With that said, Watt is the clear choice to win, and rightly so. But that does not belittle Miller's career year; the young linebacker will have plenty more opportunities to win DPOY down the road.
Another award that was announced on Monday, the 2012 Executive of the Year Award, was won by Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson. Denver's John Elway was second in the voting, coming just why vote shy of Grigson.
As B/R's AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen has pointed out, Grigson brought in far more players who played significant roles in Indianapolis, but Elway has brought in higher quality players at several positions of need. Since 2011, Elway has secured 23-of-the-33 players that started for the Broncos in 2012, including Manning and Miller.
"One of the things around the league that I’m not sure John got enough credit for was being in that role but I think he’d been a part of a lot of championship teams, a lot of Super Bowl teams and winners so he understands what a football player looks like and at the end of the day that’s probably the best job description you can have in that role," head coach John Fox said of Elway earlier in the year (quote provided via Denver's PR team).
Taking over a 4-12 team in 2010 and leading them to back-to-back AFC West championships, Elway may not have been the top executive of 2012, but there are not many teams that can boast of a better front office than that of Denver's.
There may not be an abundance of awards won by the Broncos this weekend, but the building blocks have been set in place. At the end of the day, the only award—a trophy, rather—that every coach, player and executive care about is the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
In 2013, the Broncos will again focus on chasing that trophy—the award that outweighs all others.