Tua Tagovailoa wins Sporting News' Comeback Player of the Year for 2023

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With a mere week left before the Super Bowl the NFL is announcing their in-season award winners. Tyreek Hill took home Offensive Player of the Year while Defensive Player of the Year went to Myles Garrett. Although Hill and Garrett had amazing seasons, neither of the two gets the sports shows talking like Tua Tagovailoa. 

Tua Tagovailoa took home the Comeback Player of the Year award for 2023. Tua becomes the sixth consecutive quarterback to win the award. Tua also becomes the first Miami Dolphin since Chad Pennington, in 2008, to win the award. 

Geno Smith, Joe Burrow, Ryan Tannehill, Alex Smith, and Andrew Luck are the previous 5 winners, all of whom are quarterbacks. Keenan Allen is the last non-quarterback to win the award.

Tua’s 2022 season was marred by two horrific concussion injuries that ultimately kept him out of the team’s playoff game last year.  Speculation swirled in the offseason about Tua’s ability to stay healthy. 

Famed neuropathologist, Bennet Omalu even called for Tua to retire following Tua’s concussion against the Cincinnati Bengals. In April of 2023 it was written that Tua himself considered retirement. 

Fast Forward to the 2023 football season and Tua had a comeback for the ages. Yes, Damar Hamlin and Joe Flacco were in the discussion but, was it ever really in doubt? 

Tua finished the season first in passer rating and first in passing yards. Tagovailoa started every game in the regular season and was never removed due to injury. 

In his 17 starts Tua threw for 4,624 yards, 29 TDs and 14 interceptions. Tua also had a career best 69.3% completion percentage with a 101.1 passer rating and a 60.8 QBR. 

Tua helped Miami’s offense be in the top 5 for every statistical offensive category. The Dolphins scored more than 500 points for the first time since 1984; that team lost to San Francisco in the Super Bowl.

Tua led Miami to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Miami finished second in the division with an 11-5 record although they stumbled down the stretch.

Tua was and is truly deserving of the Comeback Player of the Year award. His durability and statistics in 2023 speak for themselves. Now Tua must take the next step in his career and lead Miami to a Division title as well as a playoff win.

Could Tua be looking at MVP honors in 2024? Who the Dolphins surround him with and how they support him will have plenty to do with his success. For now, Dolphin fans should celebrate the comeback of their franchise quarterback.