This NFL season was a good one, teaching us what to expect from players and coaches. From coaching tantrums to players quitting on their teams the night before a game, this season had it all. Here are the top 10 things:
1. A team’s record in the prior season has almost no bearing on how it will perform during the following year. The two best examples of this are the New England Patriots and the Chicago Bears. The Pats (11-5), who posted a 5-11 record in 2000, earned a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Bears (13-3), who were also 5-11 in 2000, proved even the most dismal teams can make only a few personnel changes and still win.
2. This is something that I’ve really come to enjoy: the Jim Mora post-game press conference. These are especially good when the Colts are struggling like they are now. One can count on Mora making some kind of emotional display that is always worth a good laugh. Just wait until the press conference after he is fired and replaced by former Bucs coach Tony Dungy in the off-season; that should be a good one!
3. On that note, No. 3 is something I’ve suspected for a few seasons, but was convinced of this year; Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil is a crier. The man wears his emotions on his sleeve and will shed tears over a dropped third down pass. It’s actually fun to watch because you can see it coming on, and once the tears start to flow, he can’t slow them down.
4. A huge lesson learned this season is that no coaching job is safe. NFL owners have apparently become extremely impatient for Lombardi trophies. It’s as if they caught the American syndrome: the “me now” attitude and the desire for instant gratification in all things.
This trend is best displayed in the firing of Vikings head coach Dennis Green, Dungy and Redskins head coach Mary Schottenheimer.
All three men have proven they are worthy and knowledgeable coaches, but the moment their team slipped, they’re out the door. I don’t think it’s fair to the coaches or the players, and may hurt a team rather than help it.
5. This should come as no surprise to anyone, but it is more evident this year than before. The league is full of cocky, arrogant primadonnas who only care about themselves, rather than the team.
One only has to look at the antics of such players as Terry Glenn (New England), Keyshawn Johnson (Tampa Bay) and Terrell Owens (San Francisco). These players went above and beyond alienating fans; their behavior disgusted even their coaches and teammates.
6. The NFL rewards inexcusable behavior. After it was discovered George O’Leary lied on his resume, he resigned from his new position at Notre Dame. I remember my thoughts exactly: “This guy’s coaching career is over. Who would hire him?” Well, O’Leary was rewarded for his behavior when the Vikings recently hired him onto their staff. So what is the NFL saying to future coaching applicants? Embellish your resume; it won’t hurt you.
7. After the Ravens won the Super Bowl last year, it became evident that defense does win championships (believe me, Trent Dilfer didn’t lead Baltimore to the big game).
This season is an even better example of this trend. The Dolphins, Patriots, Steelers, 49ers, Bears and Eagles all have two things in common: stingy defenses and playoff berths. Not a coincidence.
8. “Money ain’t a thing.” This Jermaine Dupri banger could have been the Patriots’ anthem this season. In the off-season, the Pats made QB Drew Bledsoe the highest paid player in NFL history. After he returned from his rib injury, Bledsoe found himself riding the bench behind former fourth-string quarterback Tom Brady.
The Pats obviously could justify benching Bledsoe because Brady was winning games. The funniest thing about it was that Bledsoe pulled an Al Gore; he grew a thick beard and put on some pounds during his stint on the pine.
9. We have also learned that NFL refs have more to fear than a blasting by a head coach or player on the field. After the bottle incident in Cleveland, it’s obvious that a bad call can cost a ref more than just a few boos directed at him. But how much damage can plastic bottles really do?
10. Finally, I also learned that playing a season of Madden 2002 on Sony Playstation 2 is almost as enjoyable as watching one unfold in reality. The only difference is that I can only be mad at myself instead of the coach for calling a boneheaded play.