LAS VEGAS — It’s been a whirlwind few months for Browns quarterback Joe Flacco.
He went from the couch to the playoffs to the NFL Honors stage, where he won AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year on Thursday night, surprisingly beating out Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who returned to the field after suffering a heart attack on it last season in a game against the Bengals.
Flacco, who told cleveland.com beforehand that he would’ve voted for Hamlin, beat him 151-140, earning 13 first place votes to Hamlin’s 21, but 26 second-place votes to Hamlin’s 7.
Other finalists for the award were former Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who led the Bucs to the playoffs, Rams quarterback Matt Stafford, and Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Flacco’s award marked a clean sweep for the Browns: Myles Garrett won Defensive Player of the Year, Kevin Stefanski won Coach of the Year and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz won Assistant coach of the Year — a huge year for a team that went 11-6 and clinched the third playoff berth since 1999 despite losing so many key players to injuries.
“Big thanks to the city of Cleveland, just everybody in Cleveland,” Flacco said in his acceptance speech. “I want to say thank you to my teammates just for welcoming me in that locker room at that point of the year. I want to say thank you to the organization for just giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do, and that’s play football. And I want to say thank you to the city just for making me and my family feel at home for a couple months. Truly special.
Flacco is the first Browns player to win the award, which began in 1988. He now has this to pair with his Super Bowl MVP award from the 2012 season.
Flacco signed with the Browns practice squad on Nov. 20 and led the Browns to a 4-1 record and only their third playoff berth since 1999. The Browns lost 45-14 in the wild card round to the Texans, a game in which Flacco threw a pair of pick sixes in the third quarter.
But the Browns probably wouldn’t have been there without Flacco in the first place. In a blistering finish to the season, he became the first Browns player to throw for 300 yards in four straight games. Playing from only Week 13 on, he led the Browns in passing yards per game with 323.2 and tied for second with 13 TD passes.
“Joe Flacco, from the couch into the starting lineup,” coach Kevin Stefanski said a statement provided by the Browns. “It was fun for me to watch and I had a pretty good view of it all. What he was able to do on the field and off the field was really remarkable and I’m so proud of Joe.”
Flacco, a 16-year NFL veteran, attended the awards ceremony with his wife, Dana, and they brought the Flacco Flock — all four school-age kids — to Vegas.
BetMGM Ohio BET $5, GET $158 BONUS BETS
21+ and present in Ohio. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-Gambler.
“Our organization, I’ll start with Joe Cool,” Browns GM Andrew Berry said in a statement provided by the team. “We’re so proud that he won the comeback player of the year award this year. From the couch to the playoffs, he was such a stabilizing force for our team this season. We’re so thankful that he decided to join us for the playoff push. I couldn’t be more proud.”
One of this offseason’s questions will be whether or not the Browns bring Flacco back for next season. He can become a free agent in March, but said on Barstool’s Pardon my Take podcast that he’s open to returning.
“I am definitely hoping to be back in Cleveland,” he said. “At the same point, like, I don’t want to rush any decision either. I mean you don’t you don’t I didn’t know what the market for QBs was looking to look like last spring and I don’t know what it’s gonna look like this spring. So I don’t know if I’m gonna have options or if I’m gonna have zero.”
Berry said after the season that he considers backup quarterback to be one of the top 30 positions on the team, and that he expects the Browns to carry three quarterbacks each season.
Will Flacco be one of them next season?
“Look, I should say this. I should start by saying this. We’d absolutely love to have Joe back,” Berry said at his season-ending press conference. “He’s a good quarterback, but I guess maybe a little bit similar to Jacoby (Brissett) last year. It depends, right? I want to bring all of our good players back, but there are constraints to that on really kind of both sides of the aisle, but would have no problem having Joe back.”
Here’s how the voting went:
Flacco 13-26-8 = 151, Hamlin 21-7-14 = 140, Baker Mayfield 10-10-13 = 93, Matthew Stafford 1-6-7 = 30, Tua Tagovailoa 4-0-1 = 21 Breece Hall 0-0-3 = 3 Brock Purdy 1-0-1 = 6 Calvin Ridley 0-1-0 = 3.
If you or a loved one has questions and needs to talk to a professional about gambling, call the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or the National Council on Program Gambling Helpline (NCPG) at 1-800-522-4700 or visit 1800gambler.net for more information. 21+ and present in Ohio. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-Gambler.