Never Give Up: NFL Stars Who Were Written Off and Stormed Back

Darren - January 17, 2023

Never Give Up: NFL Stars Who Were Written Off and Stormed Back

Darren - January 17, 2023

L.A. Times

Jared Goff

Most people probably wouldn’t expect to find Goff on this list. But it’s amazing how he turned his career around after he moved to Detroit. Two Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl appearance reflected his talent. But he failed to convince Sean McVay that he was the answer to the Rams’ prayers (via FOX Sports).

They traded him to the Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford and several picks. He had an average first season in Motor City but performed well the following season in 2022. Dan Campbell and his coaching staff deserve immense credit because they were behind his revival. Goff stormed back and became one of the league’s most consistent quarterbacks.

Green Bay Packers

Jordy Nelson

Nelson is another player who went through the trauma of an ACL tear. The former Packers wideout was one of the best in his position in the league. His 2014 form earned him a Pro Bowl pick. But then he had a nightmare the following off-season because he suffered the injury (via Green Bay Packers).


This cost him a year of his career but fortunately, he stormed back in style. Nelson won the Comeback Player of the Year Award after his return from injury. It also marked his third 1,000-yard season as he tore up the league. Nelson spent two more years in the NFL including a season with the Raiders.

Sports Illustrated

John Matuszak

Matuszak is a Raiders franchise legend and an iconic defensive lineman. But many people wrote him off before he blossomed into an elite NFL star. He had a great college career in Tampa and this made him the first overall draft selection in 1973. The Houston Oilers selected him but things didn’t work out.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much talent a player has if they find themselves in the wrong situation. That was Matuszak’s experience because he had a terrible relationship with the front office and coaches. Then after failing in Kansas City, he moved to the Raiders, and the rest is history (via Pro Football History).

SF Gate

Tom Brady (2022)

2022 was a rough year for Brady after a difficult offseason. He returned to Tampa Bay with a shadow over his personal life after a public divorce. Then he endured the worst start to a season of his entire career. They went 3-5 before they finally began to establish some consistency. Some people wrote Brady off and said that the 45-year-old should retire.

CBS Sports

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to count Brady out. He refused to back down and led his team to the playoffs. It came down to the wire in their Week 17 game against the Panthers. They stormed back from two big deficits and Brady found Mike Evans for three passing touchdowns (via Audacy).

Sky Sports

Marshawn Lynch

Now it’s laughable to think of Lynch as anything but a success in the NFL. The marauding running back was a brilliant player for the Seahawks. Fans loved when he entered ‘Beast Mode’ and rampaged downfield. But it’s easy to forget that he had a difficult start to life in the NFL (via Bleacher Report).


Lynch played for the Buffalo Bills after they drafted him in the first round of 2008. But he failed to live up to his potential in upstate New York and most people wrote him off as a bust. Nonetheless, a change of scene greatly improved his fortunes. He became a Super Bowl winner with his new franchise.

Fox News

Saquon Barkley

Nobody can question Barkley’s talent or commitment. However, he endured horrible bad luck with injuries and wasted three of his prime years. This frustrated Giants fans because they knew that he was an elite player. But he never stayed on the field consistently enough for them to see it.


However, in 2022, Barkley entered the Comeback Player of the Year conversation. He stormed back and became one of the most effective running backs in the NFL. Barkley’s return to fitness coincided with a dramatic improvement in the Giants’ fortunes. Now he’s making up for the lost time (via


Josh Allen

Nobody may have had a career turnaround quite like Allen. He threw 18 interceptions in his first 16 games as a starter compared to only 13 touchdowns. People were writing him off as a bust already but Allen shifted gears. His next 16 games saw him throw 29 touchdown passes with only four interceptions.

L.A. Times

The Bills quarterback is one of the best in the league and his franchise adores him. But many fans didn’t want to give him a chance. Luckily, Allen had the mental fortitude to overcome the haters. He stormed back and showed that he is capable of orchestrating an elite offense (via Audacy).

Washington Post

Alex Smith

Smith developed into a decent quarterback after his nightmare in San Francisco. Kansas City saw him as a safe pair of hands before they drafted and started young gunslinger Patrick Mahomes. Then Smith moved to Washington but suffered a life-changing injury. He brutally broke his leg in a game against the Texans (via ESPN).

Detroit Free Press

Then infection seeped into his bone and threatened to kill him. Doctors considered amputation because the situation was so severe. It took him almost two years to return to full health but nobody expected him to play again. He stormed back and claimed the Comeback Player of the Year award before retiring gracefully in 2020.

CBS Sports

Aaron Rodgers (2022)

Fans wrote Rodgers off again in 2022 after the Packers had a bad start to the year. But some things are inevitable in football and Rodgers winning games is one of them. He spent a lot of the early year complaining about his young receiver corp. Unsurprisingly, he missed his former favorite target, Davante Adams.

Fox News

The Packers assembled a winning streak as they gained momentum for the first time that season. Many people thought that it was time for the franchise to hand the keys to Jordan Love. But Rodgers must have a grudge against the young man because isn’t going anywhere (via

New York Times

Adrian Peterson

In hindsight, it seems laughable that people wrote Peterson off in 2012. The wide receiver came off a career season before he tore his ACL and MCL. Many armchair critics shook their heads and said that was the end of the Vikings’ running back. But he proved them wrong as he stormed back from his recovery.

Sky Sports

Peterson won the NFL MVP award for his efforts in 2012. He also ludicrously played through a sports hernia for a chunk of the year as he showed his toughness. Some people think that he deserved the Comeback Player award instead of Peyton Manning too. But both men delivered in a unique year for the sport (via The Athletic).

Sporting News

Peyton Manning

Everybody thought that Manning’s career was over after he left the Colts. He returned from neck surgery but Indianapolis thought that it wasn’t worth the gamble. It helped that they tanked the season that he sat out and they replaced him with Andrew Luck. But Manning still had suitors and went to the Mile High City.


They became a contender in his second season and went to the Super Bowl. But he had a bad game and they suffered a shocking loss. People wrote him off again but Manning stormed back the following year. He captured an elusive second ring with Denver as well, even if he didn’t play very well (via

New York Post

Tom Brady (2016)

Brady always had doubters but they were especially loud in 2016. Max Kellerman infamously wrote the quarterback off and claimed that he was entering the twilight of his career. The Patriots icon mocked his statement because his number improved as he reached his forties.


Kellerman predicted that Brady would fall off a cliff but that’s not what happened. He won his sixth Super Bowl and he also claimed the game’s MVP award. Meanwhile, we all know what happened when he moved to Tampa Bay. Brady maintained a high level later than anyone expected (via

Pro Football History

Garrison Hearst

Hearst was lucky to keep his leg, never mind playing again in the NFL. The running back infamously broke it in a game against the Falcons. He fell awkwardly and caught his foot on the ground. But the worst part was the necrosis that caused the bone to degenerate. In short, his leg was dying (via Sports Illustrated).

Bleacher Report

It took Hearst 34 months of treatment and rehab before he returned for the 49ers. He wasn’t there to make up the numbers because he put up great numbers. It’s not a shock that he won the Comeback Player of the Year award after he stormed back from injury. His heart and indomitable spirit deserve a lot of credit because it was so inspiring.