When is the last time people were this divided over a Comeback Player of the Year race? Usually this is a pretty cut and simple decision but Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning and Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson have made this year’s Comeback Player of the Year award an actual race.
It’s hard to remember when two names as big as Manning and Peterson were both in the running for the award. While Manning has been having a monster year after missing all of the 2011 season, Peterson is having his best ever season statistically during a time when he should be still recovering.
Both players are having great seasons but Peterson is on the way to shattering his career bests in rushing yards and average yards-per-carry. Peterson even hinted at what type of season he would have during the offseason.
During the offseason minicamp, Peterson wanted to show management, his coaches and his teammates how far along his knee had come so he challenged speedy wide receiver Percy Harvin to a foot race. Peterson won of course.
This was amazing considering the race occurred only five months after Peterson had suffered a gruesome knee injury. Usually it takes about a year for someone to make a full recovery from a knee injury as severe as the one Peterson suffered.
Not all of that time is rehab. Peterson was expected to be out for at least eight to nine months though after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee. Even after being cleared, a player will usually be a little tentative of making cuts and taking hits to that knee.
But Peterson has been on a tear this year and is only 160 yards shy of his season-best 1,760 total yards for a season. Peterson has been averaging over 150 yards-per-game over the past few weeks and still has three regular season games left on the year.
At his current rate, Peterson is on pace to join the 2,000-yard club. Peterson’s super-quick recovery is nothing short of miraculous.
Not that Manning’s comeback isn’t miraculous in itself. Many people thought that Manning’s career may be over after the first couple of surgeries on his neck failed to solve the problem.
It didn’t help that Peyton was unable to enlist the help of his former team’s training staff during his rehab since the league was going through a lockout around the time of his first surgery.
If Manning would have been able to come in and win a few games for the Indianapolis Colts last season, then Andrew Luck would most likely be with another team this season and the Broncos would probably still be fighting to secure a playoff spot this year.
But as things currently sit, Manning has the Broncos sitting atop the AFC West with a 10-3 record. The rest of the division only has 10 wins combined so far this year.
Not only is has Manning been able to continue his winning ways in Denver, he is also having one of his best seasons statistically. He’s on pace to pass for the second-most yards he has passed for in a season and also his second-most touchdown completions in a season.
With the exception of his 49-touchdown season in 2004, Manning hasn’t passed for more than 33 touchdowns in any other season of his career. He already has 30 touchdowns so far and the Broncos have three games left to play.
Manning is also averaging 293 yards-per-game on the season and has 3,812 total yards through 13 games. At that pace he should end the season with over 4,600 passing yards and he may come very close to passing his best mark which was 4,700 yards back in 2010.
Whether he beats his best mark or not he should easily eclipse his second-best total of 4,557 yards which he had back in his colossal 2004 season. An awesome feat when you consider that Manning was still having problems with his arm strength as the season started.
Manning also had the added burden of having to learn a new offense and develop chemistry with a whole new cast of teammates so what he has accomplished this season is truly amazing.
So who has made the better comeback of the two? Well based on the quickness of his recovery, the dominant way he has played this season and the fact that he’s been getting less and less help from his quarterback, I would have to go with Peterson for the Comeback Player of the Year.
Sure what Manning has done is great but most people expected him to have a good if not great season this year. I’m pretty sure the Broncos wouldn’t have paid him $96 million dollars if they didn’t think he would do just what he is doing now.
Peterson’s season was unexpected though. To come back that quickly from such a serious injury and to be able to dominate teams that know what you’re going to do the way Peterson has is truly amazing.
Besides, why not give Peterson this award? Manning will most likely be voted league MVP anyway.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.
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