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The Far Too Early in the Season Awards Show: Comeback Player of the Year

Continuing on with the series of awards that 49er players might be eligible for I come to the Comeback Player of the Year. According to Wikipedia: "The player named Comeback Player of the Year shows perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, a severe injury, or simply poor performance."

The award has an interesting history. The first award was given in 1962 to Frank Gifford who game back from a devastating hit delivered by Chuck Bednarik. I'm sure most of us have seen highlight reels of that hit which was truly incredible. In 1963 the AP gave the award. In 1972 the Professional Football Writers of America gave out the award every season.

Previous 49er winners have been Joe Montana in 1986 (he shared the award with Tommy Kramer of the Vikings), Bryant Young in 199, and Garrison Hearst in 2001. The last three winners have all been quarterbacks. Michael Vick, Tom Brady, and Chad Pennington (who has actually won the award twice).

There has been much talk over the past week or so about the possibility of Alex Smith winning the award. I'd argue that a better candidate might just be Frank Gore. Join me after the jump as I discuss both men as well as other possible candidates.

Alex Smith

The argument for Alex Smith goes something like this. "Jim Harbaugh came into town and turned Alex Smith from a mistake prone, interception throwing, non-clutch QB into one who has one of the highest QB ratings of the season, with only two interceptions and an extremely clutch performance in the win over the Detroit Lions." I can respect that argument as a long time Alex Smith supporter (those who have been members of NinersNation for awhile will recall some of the many arguments I've made over the years). However I'm not sure his play is good enough this year to qualify for Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Alex Smith was ranked 3rd in the NFL in QB rating prior to last week's game. He's now ranked 8th. He's managed to do that despite being sacked 16 times, which is more than any other QB in the top 10. The only person with a better TD to INT ratio is Aaron Rodgers who has 17 TDs and only 3 TDs with a QB rating of a whopping 122.4.

Frank Gore

I'll admit it gladly. I was wrong. Earlier I'd written a couple of posts about how Frank Gore may have been washed up due to his hip injury. His performance over the first three games was simply awful, but he's exploded over the last three games running for huge numbers against tough defenses. Including the first three games of the season he's averaging 90.2 yards a game. If he keeps that pace up for the rest of the season he'll end up at 1442 yards which would be his second highest total of his career.

He currently ranks 5th in the NFL in total rushing yards, only 69 yards behind Darren McFadden. He's 4th in the league in runs over 20 yards and tied for first with Matt Forte for runs over 40 yards. He does lead the top 10 rushers with 2 fumbles though, but over 6 games that's not too bad.

Over the last three games Gore has rushed for 127, 125, and 141 yards for an average of 131 yards a game. If he continues at that pace he could end up with 1800 yards on the ground. Coming off a season where he missed 5 games due to hip surgery that's simply amazing.

Carlos Rogers
(CB, 49ers)

If we're judging Comeback player based on improvement over poor play than Rogers is definitely a candidate. Throughout his career Rogers has never started a full season. His last season in Washington he missed the the last 4 games but he had a decent, if unspectacular season. This year he has 11 passes defended and 3 INTs, one of them returned for a touchdown. The 11 PD already equals his best season as a professional as does the 3 INTs. In fact the 11 PD is good enough to put him in first place in the league, tied with Jabari Greer, Chris Houston, and Aaron Ross

Other candidates:

Matt Hasselbeck

Include me among the group of people who thought Hasselbeck was washed up and done and who were surprised at the Titans signing him. All he's done is have the second highest QB rating of his career, while throwing for 1414 yards in only 5 games (a pace that could see him end up at 4500 yards on the season if he keeps it up). His completion percentage is higher than it's ever been, his yards per attempt are higher than they've ever been, and his TD to INT ratio is the second best of his career at this point.

George Wilson
(safety, Buffalo)

Last season Wilson only started 2 games, and his career has been one of mediocrity. This season he has 57 tackles through 6 games, 5 passes defended, 3 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble.

D'Qwell Jackson (MLB, Cleveland)

Jackson missed all of last season with a pectoral injury and has returned with a strong season thus far with 49 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF and 1 pass defended.