Comeback Player of the Year: Jared Goff? – ESPN (blog)

The yearly awards handed out by the Associated Press will be unveiled during the NFL Honors show at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC. Several members of the Los Angeles Rams stand as legitimate candidates, perhaps even favorites. That’s what happens when you finish with an 11-5 record and a plus-149 point differential. This week, while waiting for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots to face off in Super Bowl LII, we’ll take a closer look at those Rams candidates. Next up is quarterback Jared Goff, who could be in the running for AP Comeback Player of the Year.

Numbers: From his first season to his second, Goff made significant improvements in completion percentage (54.6 to 62.1), yards per attempt (5.3 to 8.0), touchdown-to-interception ratio (0.71 to 4.00) and passer rating (63.6 to 100.5). Through the first 16 weeks — Goff sat out Week 17 — his 3,804 passing yards ranked eighth, his 28 touchdown passes were tied for fourth, and his 1.5 interception rate stood as the third-lowest.

Defining moment: It was Week 3 of the 2017 season, and there were still serious questions surrounding Goff. The scene shifted to Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers team he grew up rooting for. In front of a national television audience, not to mention dozens of family and friends in the stands, Goff put together the performance of his life, going 22-of-28 for 292 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was a surprisingly high-scoring game, but Goff kept answering and ultimately pulled out a win. It was the first time Goff truly showed he might actually be a franchise quarterback.

Why he should win: Among those with at least 200 passing attempts from 2006 to 2016, Goff’s 18.3 Total QBR as a rookie was tied with that of John Skelton in 2012 and Matt Flynn in 2013 for the second lowest. Only Jimmy Clausen (13.8 in 2010) was worse. Goff went from that in 2016 to the Pro Bowl in 2017. His passer rating improved by 36.9 points, accounting for easily the biggest jump from the prior season. The Rams became the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from last to first in scoring from one season to the next, and Goff was the quarterback for both those offenses. That’s as big a comeback as one can have.

Why he wouldn’t: For starters, Goff is coming off a poor performance and not a significant injury. Six of the past eight players who won this award did so by recovering from seasons plagued by injury. Another, Michael Vick in 2010, wasn’t far removed from a jail sentence. Several players returned from major injuries and starred in 2017. And even if you’re judging based on improved play, Goff faces stiff competition in his own offense with running back Todd Gurley, who was named Comeback Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus on Monday. But Gurley has his eyes set on the MVP.

Quotable: “No. I always knew what I could do.” — Goff, when asked if he surprised himself with how he bounced back from a trying rookie season.

(Previous: Cooper Kupp and AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.)

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