The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is given to an NFL player who has shown perseverance overcoming adversity. Winners in the past have either missed or performed poorly in the prior season, or suffered a severe injury but then excelled the following year.
While it may be too early to tell, I think Tony Romo has a good chance of winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2016.
The last QB to win the award was Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers in 2013. Rivers, statistically, had one of his best seasons. He finished in the top five in completion percentage (69.5 percent), yards per pass (8.23), passing yards (4,478), passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (105.5) — all while only throwing 11 interceptions and making the Pro Bowl. He threw for the best season of his career and propelled the Chargers into the playoffs.
But that's not to say Rivers didn't have a lot of help from his rookie wide receiver, Keenan Allen, who asserted himself as Rivers' best weapon and positioned himself as a possible Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
No kidding! The Cowboys also have a potential OROY candidate!
Before Rivers, Peyton Manning was named CPOY after missing the entire 2011 season from a neck surgery. When he returned to the NFL, Manning set franchise records in nearly every passing category. He also played his 12th career Pro Bowl, a record among QBs. He and the Denver Broncos finished the season with a 13-3 record.
Manning also earned a pair of AFC Offensive Player of the Month Awards in October and December. At the end of his 2012 campaign, Manning had thrown 400 completed passes with a 68.6% completion rate for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
In 2011, the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford, won the CPOY Award. Less than a year after his right shoulder surgery, Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns to lead the Lions to their first playoff since 1999. Stafford, who played only three games in the previous season, didn't miss a single one in 2011. He completed 421 passes in the regular season and made the playoffs.
During his 2011 season, in four of Detroit's 10 wins, the Lions had to overcome second-half deficits of at least 13 points. In all four of those comebacks, Stafford threw multiple touchdowns to rally the Lions.
Come from behind wins? That's something Romo can do.
The Comeback Player of the Year Award is well within Romo's reach. In 2014, Romo finished with 3,704 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions while leading the NFL with a 69.9 completion percentage. He led the NFL in passer rating with 113.2, made the playoffs and a Pro Bowl.
For Romo to win CPOY, he'll have to follow closely in the footsteps of the previous QB CPOYs before him. Here's how:
Have a completion percentage of around 67.2.
The combined average of Rivers' (69.5), Manning's (68.6), and Stafford's (63.5) completion percentage is 67.2. Topping that completion percentage is well within Romo's grasp considering he had a completion percentage of 69.9 in 2014.
Complete 36 Touchdown Passes.
Rivers', Manning's and Stafford's touchdowns average 36, throwing 32, 37 and 41, respectively. Romo had 34 touchdowns in 2014, two more than Rivers and three less than Manning in their own CPOY campaigns. If Romo had played a whole season in 2014, he probably would have thrown two more touchdowns.
Throw for around 4,725 yards.
Rivers, Manning and Stafford threw 4,478, 4,659 and 5,038 respectively. Those numbers average out to 4,725 yards. Besting these numbers could be the biggest stretch for Romo, seeing as he only threw for 3,704 yards in 2014. This could be attributed to how heavily they relied on the running game that season – which brings me to my next point.
Rely on Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott has the potential to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. If Rivers' success teaches us anything, it's to rely on the young fresh talent. As Rivers relied on Keenan Allen – a potential OROY in 2013, so will Romo rely on Elliott – a potential OROY in 2016.
Thrive in the Fourth Quarter.
Like Stafford, Romo will have to pull out some fourth quarter wins. Luckily for Romo, he has the highest fourth quarter passer rating in NFL history with a mark of 102.9.
Be Named Offensive Player of the Month.
Manning was named Offensive Player of the Month twice in the 2012 season. If Romo could do the same, earning that recognition for just one month, it would certainly help his chances to win the CPOY. It certainly isn't impossible for him to earn Offensive Player of the Month because he's done so four times in his career: In December of 2014, he was named Offensive Player of the Month after leading the Cowboys to a 4-0 record clinching the NFC East title. He had a passer rating of 133.7 for the month which was the best of any quarterback that month with at least 100 pass attempts.
Make the Playoffs.
Like Rivers, Manning, and Stafford, part of winning the award must include a playoff appearance. Based on his 2014 season, Romo could win the comeback player of the year and lead the Cowboys to the playoffs.
Fingers crossed, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, Tyrone Crawford, and most importantly, Tony Romo, will remain healthy enough to hopefully make it to the Super Bowl. Romo was also coming off back surgery in 2014, playing most of the season with broken bones in his back and he was still an MVP candidate. Imagine what he can accomplish in 2016 if he can stay fully healthy.
With the 2016 season on its way, I think Tony Romo is due for a comeback. The CPOY Award is well within his grasp.