Peyton Manning was always going to be a hard act to follow, but Philip Rivers won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award following a stunning 2013 season. It was a year that saw the San Diego Chargers quarterback bounce back from a disappointing 2012 to reassert himself as a star.
On paper, there wasn't much of a reason to believe that Rivers could succeed in 2013. The team had injuries at wide receiver and a first-year head coach, and Rivers was coming off his worst season in five years. But on the field, things were different. When the dust settled, he'd thrown for the best season of his career and pushed the Chargers into an unlikely playoff spot.
Rivers' season was impressive because of how he managed without. Malcom Floyd went down early, setting San Diego up for disappointment. But the team's quarterback surged forward with a mixed bag of receivers and an unproven rookie in Keenan Allen, who had been overlooked before the draft. Rivers owes thanks to his rookie receiver, who not only asserted himself as one of the Chargers' best weapons but positioned himself as a possible Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Instead of shying away from the challenge, Rivers elevated his game. When the regular season had ended, his numbers were staggering. However, they seemed to be lost in the swirling adulation for Peyton Manning, who posted a record-breaking year in 2013 after being named the top comeback player in 2012. Rivers threw for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, all while completing a remarkable 69.5 percent of his passes and making the Pro Bowl.
Was it a true comeback? Maybe not, but his return to the NFL elite embodied what the award was made for.