Alex Smith has authored the injury comeback story of the season, nay the decade, nay the millennium, by returning to the playing field nearly two years after suffering a broken leg that nearly had to be amputated it was so bad. Some 17 surgeries, a scary septic infection, and countless hours of rehab since, Smith will start for the Washington Football Team today, marking his first start in 728 days.
The unexpected return to the field (Washington benched assumed starter Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen suffered a dislocated ankle last week) coupled with the extreme nature of Smith's injury and rehab has led many pundits to proclaim him the clear winner of NFL Comeback Player of the Year. While that makes sense considering all Smith has overcome, and while I know I'll get lambasted for writing this, there's another person making a return from a potentially career-ending injury who deserves that award more than Smith and it's Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger suffered an elbow injury last year that required surgery to reattach three torn flexor tendons in his right elbow. No previous quarterback had suffered an elbow injury like that before and even Roethlisberger didn't know if he would be able to play again following the surgery. However, this season he's been outstanding and is a big reason why the Steelers are undefeated right now.
In eight starts, Roethlisberger has thrown for 1,934 yards on 68.1% completions with 18 TDs and 4 INTs. The Steelers are the only undefeated team in the NFL and in first place in the AFC. Meanwhile, Smith has already thrown 3 INTs in only two appearances (no starts), has thrown only 1 TD and Washington is 2-6. While it's not exactly fair to compare teams or performances this year given the different circumstances both quarterbacks faced, Roethlisberger is blowing Smith out of the water in both categories and, simply put, is the better player right now.
That basically makes Smith's only argument for winning the award the fact that he suffered a worse injury that took longer to rehab than Roethlisberger. You can't argue that fact. If voters believe that matters more than performance, well, Smith will win the award easily.
From my perspective, however, performance is more important and the only true way to measure who's return has been more impactful. Couple Roethlisberger's insurmountable lead over Smith in that category with the fact that he too is returning from a potentially career-ending injury and Roethlisberger has my imaginary vote to win Comeback Player of the Year.