Joe Flacco was voted Comeback Player of the Year for his heroics with the Cleveland Browns, but not everyone was pleased that the 39-year-old quarterback received the title.
Flacco defeated Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin 151-140 in the voting. Throughout the year, Hamlin was the clear favorite. He returned to play for the Bills this season after suffering a heart episode on the field in January 2023.
The Browns signed Flacco after he was released in November. He sparked Cleveland’s attack during the regular season, finishing 4-1 in starts and passing for 1,616 yards and 13 touchdowns. But turnovers were a problem. He threw eight interceptions in five regular-season games. He tossed two more against the Houston Texans in a 45-14 wild-card win. Both returned for touchdowns.
In the most recent edition of his Football Morning in America column, Peter King of NBC Sports labeled Flacco’s victory “absurd”.
“It’s ridiculous that Joe Flacco, who came back from sitting on his couch for two-and-a-half months, won Comeback Player over Damar Hamlin, who came back from having to be resuscitated back to life on a football field last January,” King said in a statement. “Is there anything stronger than ridiculous? Absurd? Okay. “It was absurd.”
Browns quarterback Joe Flacco felt that Damar Hamlin deserved the award.
King’s point of view is not unique. Flacco even claimed that Hamlin earned the honor.
“I don’t necessarily know what I’m coming back from,” Flacco stated on the Zach Gelb Show on January 26. “Most of the guys on that list, I’m not sure where we’re coming from. So that was definitely my first reaction. However, I believe that being acknowledged in this league for your performance can be flattering. So it’s definitely a wonderful group to be a part of. But, absolutely, it was my first thought.”
Flacco was a gracious winner as he accepted the honor. He thanked the Browns for the opportunity to start, which allowed him to prolong his 16-year career.
“Many thanks to the City of Cleveland and everyone in Cleveland. “I want to thank my teammates for welcoming me into the locker room at that point in the season,” Flacco stated onstage at the NFL Honors. “It is not easy to welcome a new guy, so I’d like to thank those individuals. I’d like to thank the organization for allowing me to do what I love to do: play football.
Flacco will become a free agent this offseason. He’s most certainly created a market for himself with his Comeback Player of the Year performance. The Browns would like to bring him back. However, if Deshaun Watson returns, he will serve as his backup.
Flacco has not made any decisions on his next step yet. But he did mention that a return to Cleveland is not out of the question.
“I’m open to being back in Cleveland, but I don’t want to rush any decisions,” Flacco said on January 18 during an appearance on the “Pardon My Take” podcast. “I can’t say enough good things about how this organization is being run right now.”
Watson is expected to be prepared for the start of training camp. However, this past season raised some concerns regarding his health. Having a capable veteran like Flacco waiting in the wings would be a significant advantage for the Browns.
The Browns’ other choice is Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He will be starting his second season. The fifth-round pick saw some action last year, but he has to gather more experience before settling in as Watson’s No. 2.
J.R. DeGroote writes about the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Lakers for Heavy.com. As a reporter for West Hawaii Today, he covered local and statewide sports. He also has decades of expertise in digital journalism, having worked at SB Nation and Bleacher Report. He has received numerous state, regional, and national awards for sports reporting and photography. More about J.R. DeGroote.