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Alex Smith: Comeback Player of the Year?

by EricPaolini
Jan 23, 2014 6:04 PM EST



We are in the middle of awards season. Many are from Hollywood and surrounding entertainment, but sports awards has their place at the moment. As the NFL season comes to a close, awards from the season are being handed out.
I'm pro-awards to a certain extent. It's fun to debate and get into arguments, especially about subjective art like filmmaking. While sports have a level of objectivity that can't really be duplicated in film analysis, awards for athletes are the most subjective.
In a little over a week when the Broncos and Seahawks play, one team will be the Super Bowl champions. There won't be a vote of who played better and is deserving of the championship. Sometimes we ask inane questions like, "Did team X win this game or did team Y lose."
Yesterday, CBS Sports awarded Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith as the Comeback Player of the Year. This is insane, even for an award I can't imagine anyone will remember in a few weeks. CBS Sports' logic is that Smith played a vital part in the revitalization of the Chiefs and a return to a starting quarterback role after last season's emergence of Colin Kaepernick forced Smith to carry a clipboard in San Francisco.
Statistically speaking, Smith didn't play much better than he did under Jim Harbaugh. He lost his job as 49ers starting quarterback because of the unique ability of Kaepernick. It wasn't because of poor play which were the reasons Smith lost jobs earlier in his career. Undoubtedly, Smith has had a resurgent career in the past three seasons, but nothing he did this season is deserving of that title. Of course Smith played a large part in improving the Chiefs to the tune of nine extra from the previous season, but that's a irrelevant in Smith's performance over the course of those two seasons.
CBS Sports' voting body (your guess who comprises it is as good as mine) ranked Smith over Darrelle Revis, Knowshon Moreno, Brent Grimes, Philip Rivers, and more. The Pro Football Writers of America awarded Rivers the honor of Comeback Player of the Year.
Rivers and Smith offer an interesting comparison, most notably because they're both quarterbacks. In 2013, Rivers threw for more than 800 more yards than the season before, completed a career high in passes, increased his touchdown percentage by a whole percentage point, and decreased his interception percentage by nearly a full percentage point. The improvement from the 2012 season to 2013, Rivers improved in every statistical category. This season, Rivers revitalized his career and the thought of the Chargers moving on at quarterback in the near future seems crazy. A year ago, it didn't seem that crazy.
Comeback Player of the Year is a minor category, but the flawed logic in how this award his handed out exists in other categories as well. The Chiefs in particular have a good chance to win multiple awards due to the improvement from last season. Smith, general manager John Dorsey, and head coach Andy Reid are all frontrunners in various categories. Dorsey has already been named PFWA's executive of the year even though only one of the key difference makers on the team he's responsible for (Smith).
Ultimately, these awards won't mean much. People care about MVP, but not so much about the lesser categories. Smith had a great 2013 season, and, overall, has had a pretty good three year stretch. He went from franchise savior to bust to competent above-average quarterback. But that doesn't mean he should be rewarded with Comeback Player of the Year.