The last four NFL Comeback Player of the Year winners have been quarterbacks. According to CBS Sports HQ’s Ryan Harris, New Orleans Saints signal caller Jameis Winston could be the fifth in a row. Winston is considered the odds-on favorite to win the award this year as he returns from a season-ending ACL injury in last year’s Week 7 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Harris, a former NFL offensive tackle who has protected the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Peyton Manning recently shared why he’s “fired up” about Winston’s return:
“I’ve got Jameis Winston as the Comeback Player of the Year. Last season, the Saints had over nine starters at different times on the (injured reserve list), and two of them were quarterbacks. So this was a championship-now team. They have a championship focus this year. Plus, they (add Jarvis Landry). They secure Michael Thomas long-term. I think Jameis Winston could be playing in that NFC Championship, they could even be hosting that game. So, look for Jameis Winston to have an amazing season after that surgery and the talent that’s around him. Plus a defense that even got improved. I really like the Saints and what Jameis Winston has as an opportunity.”
Winston certainly has the cast of characters around him to help support his revenge tour throughout the 2022 season. The Saints invested a lot to make sure they snagged wideout Chris Olave in this year’s draft in addition to the return of Thomas and addition of Landry. The question will be whether or not the absence of Sean Payton will factor in negatively to Winston’s progress.
He certainly looked good with his 14 touchdown passes to only 3 interceptions last year while not lacking in any big time throws. Last year, Winston ranked second in the NFL amongst qualifying passers (more than 100 dropbacks) in Pro Football Focus’ “Big Time Throw” metric. The rate measures accurately thrown passes downfield and in tight windows. Sure, Winston did not get to throw a ton of passes last year, but the quality of those he did let loose speak in his favor. Not to mention a defense that looks ready to put the ball back in his hands as often as possible.
The next level will be to see if Winston’s 2022 success translates in additional awards across the team. A great year by the former first-overall selection could translate into end-of-year recognition for receivers like Olave and Thomas. The last five quarterbacks to play a full season and win the comeback player award averaged over 4,600 passing yards, 36 touchdowns thrown and fewer than 14 interceptions surrendered. If Winston is able to hit around those marks, it’s not out of the question to assume he won’t be the one accepting an award at next year’s awards ceremony.