1. The dog died on July 20. Dan Snyder was humiliated by the NFL just hours after selling the Washington club to the Josh Harris group for an American sports-franchise record $6.05 billion. After a protracted NFL investigation into sexual harassment and financial issues during his tenure as team president, Snyder was fined $60 million.”The fine might make the NFL feel good because the league is all about money anyway,” I wrote at the time. It was, however, a nick on the neck of a guy who is solely responsible for turning a marquee NFL organization into a tarnished national embarrassment. Another thing: Snyder’s parting statement was the league’s most tone-deaf. ‘We are delighted to have developed the most diverse leadership group of any NFL team, with the highest representation of women, underrepresented groups, and the first full-time black female coach in league history,’ says the second statement. Except for your investment holdings, you’ve built nothing.”
Now, Josh Harris, make a deal to return the franchise to the District of Columbia, where it achieved its lone success. Make the correct decision. Bring it with you.2. Aaron Rodgers’ drama, September 11. Rodgers slumped to the dirt with a torn Achilles on the fourth snap of his post-Green Bay career, 19 minutes after leading his new team, the Jets, onto the field in New Jersey carrying a massive American flag. Rarely has there been such an audible gasp across the country over a sporting event as there was on this night. The Jets are hoping Rodgers can be his old self when he starts the season as a 40-year-old dud (now) with a terrible offensive line and a squad that is more reliant on a single player than any other team in football.
3. The Damar Hamlin case, January 8. Hamlin’s heart stopped beating on the field in Cincinnati on Jan. 2, and the Buffalo safety had to be revived with CPR. On January 5, Hamlin awoke in a Cincinnati hospital and reclaimed his position among the living. On January 8, some great karma occurred. New England won the coin toss and deferred in the Bills’ final regular-season game at Orchard Park. Buffalo would have the first kick. As he stood near the goal line, Bills return man Nyheim Hines thought to himself, “All right, Nyheim, let’s give ’em something to cheer about.”At the Buffalo 4, Hines took the ball. After the game, he informed me he felt he had Hamlin’s wings on his back. I’ve never seen a crowd go as wild as when Hines ran 96 yards untouched for a score at 1:03 p.m. In the stands, grown men are wiping away tears.In the third quarter, Hines returned another one for 101 yards. The atmosphere in that stadium was pure relief for Hamlin, who was healing in a hospital 425 miles away, and pure delight for a moment that no one in the crowd would ever forget.4. Tom Brady will retire on February 1st. There are a zillion things to remember about Tom Brady’s life and times, far beyond his seven Super Bowls and league-record throwing yards. This is most likely my favorite factoid: Brady played 258 football games and missed none due to injury in his last 14 seasons as a football player, from the age of 32 to the age of 45… whereas John Elway played 256 in his entire NFL career. Another interesting Brady-Elway comparison: Brady threw 15 more touchdown passes after the age of 36 than Elway did in his entire career.
5. The emergence of the Rust Belt. This is the 90th season in Detroit for the Lions and the 75th season in Cleveland for the Browns, and it is the first time both teams have won 11 games in the same year. For the first time since 1993, Detroit won the division title. Cleveland has made the playoffs three times this century. And this bit of Rust Belt legend is also very cool: The five rusting franchises extending from the coasts of Lake Erie (Buffalo and Cleveland) to the old steel hub of Pittsburgh, out west to Detroit, and north to Green Bay were all in the playoffs or in contention heading into week 17.Sixth, a Corn Dog The Super Bowl is on February 12th. Eagles 27, Kansas City 21, 13 minutes remaining in Super Bowl LVII. In Kansas City’s first game of the NFL season, Andy Reid called Duo Left 35Y Corn Dog. Then he didn’t call it for the following 1,241 plays, until the Super Bowl’s fourth quarter five months later. Then, in four plays, he called Corn Dog twice. Each resulted in a touchdown, the first to Kadarius Toney and the second, to Skyy Moore, to win the game. It’s a Reid oddity: a jet motion from the wide side of the field to the tackle, followed by a reverse at the same breakneck speed in the hopes that the defense can’t catch up. It worked twice, much to the chagrin of the Eagles defense.
7. Lamar’s happily ever after, April 27. For months, the conversation about Lamar Jackson’s contract standoff with Baltimore was misinterpreted. Many of them chanted, “How can all these teams not pursue a young former MVP in a league desperate for franchise QBs?” And that was true—in retrospect, Washington and Atlanta should have tried to work something out with Jackson. However, Baltimore had the right of first refusal on Jackson and was likely to match all but the most massive offer to Jackson. And did a team want to provide a fully guaranteed contract to a player who had missed 34% of his offensive snaps the previous two seasons? It appeared silly.I’d want to applaud Jackson here. He’d been looking for a fully guaranteed contract for months. His union desired it. But because he’d missed so much time, Jackson wasn’t the proper person for the job. After months of lobbying, he knew it wasn’t going to happen, so he signed a contract that was 71% guaranteed for injury and 52% guaranteed ($135 million) the day he signed. It is equitable to both parties.Of course, Jackson has gone out and earned his $80 million in 2023 compensation ($72.5 million bonus, $7.5 million salary), guiding Baltimore to the top of the AFC and being a viable MVP candidate as the season nears its end. Jackson will almost certainly have at least one more big salary when he becomes a free agent at the age of 31.8. Russell Wilson’s fall from grace. Last Wednesday, Broncos coach Sean Payton informed the 35-year-old Denver quarterback that he will be benched for the last two games in favor of Jarrett Stidham. There are two points to be made here:
Wilson said that Broncos general manager George Paton urged or insisted that Wilson change the injury guarantee in his contract in midseason in order to postpone by a year important guarantees in his deal; if he did not, the quarterback would be benched. That is absurd. It’s the epitome of a bad-faith threat. The Broncos agreed to contract terms in 2022, and then, in the middle of the 2023 season, after defeating Super Bowl champ Kansas City, they asked Wilson to amend his contract to make it easier for Denver to dismiss him after the season. “It was a low blow,” Wilson described it. The most affordable. According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the NFLPA threatened legal action against the Broncos at the time, which violated the CBA. Naturally, it did. The Broncos backed down, but the NFL should punish the team for it.It’s difficult to ignore the feeling that Wilson’s play, while better than his terrible 2022 debut in Denver, wasn’t a good match for Payton’s scheme. At the time of the benching, Denver had averaged only 20 points a game while losing three of four games, and the Broncos were 30th in total yards for the season. When Payton yelled at Wilson on the bench in Detroit 16 days ago, it was evident the coach was furious about one or more cardinal offense rules Wilson had broken.
As a result, Denver will part ways with Wilson in 2024. Unless Stidham completely fails in the season finale in Vegas on Sunday, I believe Payton will be the Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2024. Wilson? It’s far too early to know, but the Raiders, Steelers, Falcons, and Patriots will all be interested.9. The world is ruled by motion violations. Orbital motion, jet motion, reversal motion (as shown in the Super Bowl by the Corn Dog)… With 11-4 records, the Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel and the Niners’ Kyle Shanahan were 1-2 in the league in pre-snap motion plays (79.9 percent for Miami and 79.3 percent for San Francisco, according to Next Gen Stats). The Rams finished third, 8-7 and on the verge of the playoffs. I adore the orbit movement. McDaniel is getting the hang of it, attempting to give Tyreek Hill and even his tight ends a running start when the ball is snapped, almost as in Canadian football. Miami leads the league in total yards, while San Francisco ranks second.10. Brock Purdy sticks it to us all, gently, on Oct. 8. Purdy went from the last pick in the draft to inheriting the Niners’ QB job, to leading the Niners to the NFC title game, to suffering a serious elbow injury, to recovering and beating out the third pick in the draft and forcing the trade of Trey Lance, to leading an offense averaging 33 points per game on a 5-0 team, to being considered for MVP. Purdy is unlikely to win the MVP award following his four-pick blunder on Christmas Eve, but his attitude to football will serve him well. “Every level that I’ve played at growing up, it’s like you get to that level and at first you may think it’s a big deal but then once I start playing it’s like, ‘Man, this is just football,'” he said after the Cowboys’ 42-10 defeat in week five. From youth to high school, from high school to college, and from college to the NFL. It’s just football. Yes, everyone improves at every level, but at the end of the day, you’re throwing a football to some players who are trying to get open and catch it. And that’s exactly how I see it. Keep things as simple as possible. This is a straightforward game.”