San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who rebounded from his first losing NFL season to guide the Chargers to the AFC playoffs, was selected as the 2013 Comeback Player of the Year, chosen in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Chicago wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who turned in a stellar second season after a rookie season marred by injuries, was selected as the 2013 Most Improved Player of the Year.
Rivers, with the help of head coach Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who won the PFWA’s 2013 Assistant Coach of the Year award, and position coach Frank Reich, improved his completion percentage to a career-high and NFL-leading 69.5 percent (378 of 544) for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. The 32 TDs was his second-highest total in a season, and the 4,478 passing yards was the third-highest of his career. He set a club record with 378 completions and tied the club record for passer rating with 105.5.
Behind Rivers, the Chargers won their last four regular-season games to finish 9-7 and qualified for the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2009 after a 7-9 record in 2012. Rivers threw for 400 yards three times, tossed three or more touchdown passes in six games and completed a career-high 36 passes in a victory at Philadelphia in Week Two.
During the Chargers’ season-closing four-game win streak, Rivers was 74 for 110 passing (67.3 completion percentage) for 845 yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a 142.6 passer rating.
Jeffery had injury issues in his rookie season of 2012, starting just six games after missing four for a fractured right hand and two more for arthroscopic surgery on his knee. After only 24 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, Jeffery had a breakout year in 2013 with 89 receptions for 1,421 yards (second in the NFC) and seven TDs.
Veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall took Jeffery under his wing and showed him how to train in the offseason and preached to him about the physical benefits that could be gained by using a nutritionist. Also, first-year wide receivers coach Mike Groh helped Jeffery refine his route-running ability and gave him the confidence to beat one-on-one coverage.
His work paid off as Jeffery set a club record with 249 receiving yards on a career-high 12 catches in Week 13 at Minnesota. He also had 218 yards on 10 receptions in Week 5 vs. New Orleans to become one of eight players in NFL history to have a pair of 200-yard receiving games in the same season. He also set a club record for wide receivers with 105 rushing yards.
PFWA COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: 1992 – QB Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia Eagles; 1993 – RB Marcus Allen, Kansas City Chiefs; 1994 – QB Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins; 1995 – QB Jim Harbaugh, Indianapolis Colts; 1996 – RB Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh Steelers; 1997 – WR Robert Brooks, Green Bay Packers; 1998 – QB Doug Flutie, Buffalo Bills; 1999 – DT Bryant Young, San Francisco 49ers; 2000 – DE Joe Johnson, New Orleans Saints; 2001 – RB Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers; 2002 – QB Tommy Maddox, Pittsburgh Steelers; 2003 – QB Jon Kitna, Cincinnati Bengals; 2004 – RB Willis McGahee, Buffalo Bills; 2005 – WR Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers; 2006 – QB Chad Pennington, New York Jets; 2007 – WR Randy Moss, New England Patriots; 2008 – QB Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins; 2009 – QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots; 2010 – QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles; 2011 – QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions; 2012 – RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings; 2013 – QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers.
PFWA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: 2000 – QB Jeff Garcia, San Francisco 49ers; 2001 – QB Kordell Stewart, Pittsburgh Steelers; 2002 – QB Chad Pennington, New York Jets; 2003 – QB Jon Kitna, Cincinnati Bengals; 2004 – QB Drew Brees, San Diego Chargers; 2005 – DE Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants; 2006 – RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers; 2007 – QB Derek Anderson, Cleveland Browns; 2008 – RB DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers; 2009 – WR Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys; 2010 – RB Arian Foster, Houston Texans; 2011 – WR Victor Cruz, New York Giants; 2012 – WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys; 2013 – WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears.
ABOUT THE PFWA: The Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams on a daily basis. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter, who covers the Atlanta Falcons, is the organization’s president for 2013-15, while ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, who covers the Denver Broncos, is the PFWA’s first vice-president and long-time national writer Dan Pompei is the organization’s second vice-president. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.