Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who rebounded from a shoulder injury that sidelined him during the 2017 season to throw for 4,593 yards and finish second in the NFL with 39 touchdown passes in 2018, was selected as the 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, chosen in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle, who set an NFL record for most single-season receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377, was selected as the 2018 NFL Most Improved Player of the Year.
Luck had surgery to his right shoulder in January 2017 to fix an injury that dated back to September 2015, and the rehab from the surgery caused him to miss the entire 2017 season. He returned to the field in 2018 and started all 16 games to lead the Colts to their first AFC playoff berth since 2014. He completed 430 of 639 passes (67.3 percent) for 4,593 yards (fifth in the NFL) with 39 touchdowns (second in the NFL), 15 interceptions and a 98.7 passer rating. His completions and attempts were both second in the league. He threw three or more touchdown passes in eight consecutive games from Weeks 4-12, which was the longest streak in the NFL this season and tied for the second-longest in league history. Luck helped the Colts become the third team in NFL history to start a season 1-5 and make the playoffs. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November, and he also earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 11.
Luck is the second member of the Colts franchise to receive Comeback Player of the Year honors since the award was instituted in 1992, joining quarterback Jim Harbaugh (1995).
As a rookie in 2017 after being selected in the fifth round by the 49ers, Kittle caught 43 passes for 515 yards (second among NFL rookie tight ends), two touchdowns and a 12.0 per-catch average. This season, Kittle led the 49ers with 88 receptions for 1,377 yards (eighth in the NFL), five touchdowns and a 15.6 yards-per-catch average. He was one of four tight ends to lead their team in receiving yards in 2018. Kittle had six receptions of 40 or more yards (led all NFL TEs and was tied for second overall in the league), and he led all tight ends with 20 catches for 20 yards or more. He had four 100-yard receiving games, including a seven-reception, 210-yard game against Denver in Week 14, the third-most yards by a tight end in the NFL since 1960.
Kittle is the second member of the 49ers franchise to receive NFL Most Improved Player of the Year honors since the award was instituted in 2000, joining quarterback Jeff Garcia (2000).
2018 COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
2018 MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: TE George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
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; 2014 – TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots; 2015 – S Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs; 2016 – WR Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers; 2017 – WR Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers; 2018 – QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts.
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; 2014 – RB Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers; 2015 – (tie) QB Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins and CB Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers; 2016 – LB Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons; 2017 – QB Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams; 2018 – TE George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers.
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 daily. Bob Glauber, the national football columnist for Newsday, is the organization’s president for the 2018 season, while Bleacher Report national columnist Dan Pompei is the PFWA’s first vice-president. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.