WALLER STILL BUILDING
Silver & Black Illustrated|March/April 2020
OC: ‘He’s at the ground floor, we see a real high ceiling’

By the true definition of the award, the Raiders’ Darren Waller should have been a shoo-in to win Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year honors. No player bounced back and played better than Waller, who overcame drug and alcohol addictions to become one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

Instead, the award went to Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill had a phenomenal season after replacing starter Marcus Mariota and led the NFL in passer rating while guiding the Titans to the AFC Championship game. A noteworthy achievement, for sure, and nothing to sneeze at. But Tannehill didn’t come back from anything other than a sullied reputation that had him labeled as a bust for most of his career.

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who finished second in the voting, seemed a better fit for the award than Tannehill. Garoppolo tore his ACL in the 2018 season then came back in 2019 and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

Waller’s success after battling his personal demons helped him receive eight votes compared to 16 for Tannehill and 15 for Garoppolo. In one sense, that’s not all too surprising considering Tannehill and Garoppolo were on playoff teams while Waller was the breakout star on an otherwise average team.

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