Joe Flacco, who led the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs after taking over as their starting quarterback, was named the AP NFL 2023 Comeback Player of the Year.
Flacco just beat Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who he thought should’ve received the award, 151-140, when voting was counted. Flacco received 13 first-place votes, while Hamlin received 21.
Flacco joined fellow Browns Myles Garrett (Defensive Player of the Year) and head coach Kevin Stefanski (Coach of the Year) as award recipients on Thursday night.
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The 39-year-old Flacco’s journey this season wasn’t supposed to be performing with the playoffs on the line. But if it wasn’t for his 4-1 record in the last five games, perhaps the Browns don’t make it to the playoffs.
Before Flacco’s arrival, the Browns’ season appeared to be lost when starting quarterback Deshaun Watson learned he needed season-ending shoulder surgery late in the year. Along with the losses of running back Nick Chubb, and both tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Willis, the Browns could’ve easily hung it up and focused on 2024.
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But Flacco signed on Nov. 19 as the backup to rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson. When Thompson-Robinson couldn’t play in Week 13, Stefanski gave the Super Bowl champion the nod.
Flacco’s comfortability in Stefanski’s system was there despite the loss to the Los Angeles Rams, throwing for 254 yards and two touchdowns to one interception on 23-of-44 through the air.
From there, Flacco didn’t lose a game on the way to the playoffs. He defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, and New York Jets.
Flacco threw for 13 touchdowns to eight interceptions as well as 1,616 yards with a 90.2 quarterback rate.
Flacco wasn’t able to take down the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, in the wild card round.
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But he proved to everyone in the NFL that he can still spin a football with the best of them. Perhaps he’ll be doing so with another team in 2024.