INDIANAPOLIS — Alex Smith accepted an award on Saturday night, but it was on behalf of his head coach, Jim Harbaugh.

Smith did not capture the comeback player of the year award after delivering a career year in San Francisco. Instead, Matthew Stafford came out of the woodwork to grab the award.

We spent the entire season tracking award progress, updating the nominees and our favorites week by week. Not once did Stafford’s name come up in those posts. Don’t get me wrong, Stafford’s 2011 season was phenomenal. The guy put up over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns less than a year after undergoing extensive surgery to repair the AC joint in his throwing shoulder.

Still, Stafford’s pretty young, and he hadn’t actually put up big numbers thus far in his short career. This was a comeback only in terms of battling back from injury. That’s a fine interpretation, but there are many other ways to interpret a comeback.

This isn’t exactly a big-time award, so it won’t have much bearing on anything. That said, I thought Smith, Marshawn Lynch, D’Qwell Jackson, Willis McGahee, Reggie Bush and Carlos Rogers might have been more deserving.

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