After Associated Press voters threw precedent out the window by choosing San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers as the recipient of the 2013 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, there’s no shortage of players who could potentially earn the subjective honor in 2014.
The award has typically been given to a player returning from a major medical situation, such as Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in 2012 after neck surgery cost him the entire 2011 season or New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, a co-recipient of the award in 2005, who returned to play, despite suffering a stroke earlier that year.
That proved to no longer be the main criterion of the award this past season. Rivers, who hasn’t missed a single game since 2006, came back from nothing other than a season below his standards. Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno, who tied for second place in the voting, was inactive for eight games the season before, but due to poor play rather than injury.
It seems that last year, a majority of voters approached their decisions as though the award signifies the most improved player from the previous season, rather than highlighting the player who overcame the most adversity.
As a result, a prominent player who failed to play up to expectations this past season, like Rivers did in 2012, could be just as strong of a Comeback Player of the Year Award candidate as someone whose season was cut short by an injury.
There is one trend, however, that is obvious and ongoing: Since the Associated Press resumed giving out the award in 1998, 11 of its 17 recipients—including the last six—have been quarterbacks.
Given that pattern, it can be assumed that there are a number of signal-callers who are far more likely to win than an offensive lineman, tight end or defensive back, all position groups that have never been represented by either the AP’s award or the Pro Football Writers of America Comeback Player of the Year Award.