The Comeback Player of the Year Award goes to a player who endured significant adversity and responded with a spectacular season the following year. More often than not, this award is given to a player who suffered a serious injury. However, last year Geno Smith proved this wasn’t always the case.
After being drafted in 2013, Smith started two seasons for the New York Jets before his career would take a monumental downturn. Over the next six seasons, Smith bounced around the league as a back-up quarterback for four different teams.
After the departure of Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll put Smith at the helm in Seattle. From this point on, Smith put together a historic season and had everyone question why he had been on the bench for so long. Smith finished the season with over 4,000 passing yards while leading the league in competition percentage and fifth in quarterback rating.
Now let's shift the focus to Baker Mayfield.
While Mayfield has not been a backup quarterback for six seasons, he now shares the same opportunity as Smith last year for rejuvenation.
Like Smith, Mayfield has been written off to a certain extent. The once first overall pick had been basically ostracized and cast astray from the Cleveland Browns after a few underwhelming seasons. After four seasons in Cleveland, Mayfield moved on to play for both the Panthers and Rams last year. This year, Mayfield entered training camp in Tampa Bay with a competition for the starting role with Kyle Trask.
The former Heisman winner and No. 1 selection was battling it out with a QB who had only nine pass attempts in the NFL.
After winning the starting role, Mayfield has hit the ground running. Like Smith, Mayfield has taken the opportunity and begun to show resurgence, trying to prove he belongs as a starter in the league — and most importantly, that he can win games for his team.
The NFC South is wide open this season, and Tampa Bay currently sits in first place at 3-1. In the process, Mayfield has clearly looked like the best quarterback in that division through four weeks.
Mayfield has the seventh-best QBR in the league and is top 10 for both completion percentage and passing touchdowns.
The Buccaneers will face off against Detroit (3-1) this Sunday in Tampa Bay.