Another year has passed and in that year there has been no shortage of NFL story lines. Starting with a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl Championship run and ending with Tim Tebow and “Tebow-mania” the NFL has been full of surprises in 2011. We thought it may have been a dream for the Philadelphia Eagles but instead the Detroit Lions could be the “Dream Team.” These are the stories that shook us, took us and brought us on a journey for the year of 2011 in the NFL.
10. Al Davis
Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders had his moments, but when all is said and done, he is still a man who will be missed in the National Football League. Raider Nation lost their leader this season when Al Davis passed away at age 82. The long-time owner of the Raiders helped reshape professional football and allowed it to become the juggernaut that it is today.
Davis showed diversity as a coach, general manager and owner of the Oakland Raiders. He briefly left in 1966 to become the commissioner of the AFL to battle the NFL and would spur a championship game between the two, which later became the Super Bowl.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles used the shortened off-season to bring in a ton of new faces to make a run at the Super Bowl. One may have thought Dan Synder took over the team, but instead it was completely opposite from what the Eagles usually have done over their stellar years with Andy Reid at the helm. Front office members stated the team was “all-in” and many predicted a fast start leading to the playoffs. Vince Young, a back up quarterback for the Eagles, is credited with the creation of the “Dream Team” name, but this team is anything but. They didn’t even make the playoffs?
Let’s also not forget about the commotion wide receiver Desean Jackson caused by missing meetings and showing his anger at the front office for lack of a contract, Michael Vick’s injury that kept him out of a number of games, and even fans turning on long-time coach Andy Reid chanting “fire Andy!” Yes, the Eagles were nothing but a complete mess in 2011, but made for a number of great stories.
8. Free Agent Frenzy
Due to the NFL lockout the Free Agency period was pushed into a two-week circus that had some huge names trading places. Every time you checked the news someone else had signed, yes usually with the Eagles. A few names stood out and contributed to their team’s success. Johnathan Joseph made a huge impact in a new Wade Phillips defense for the Houston Texans, Darren Sproles re-sparked the New Orleans Saints offense, Willis McGahee sparked the Denver Broncos rushing attack. Maybe the NFL should look into condensing the free agency period to two weeks?
7. Cam Newton
The Carolina Panthers selected Cam Newton number one in the 2011 NFL draft and although we knew the choice many of us believed it was because they felt they “had” to choose him. His college stories and father who wouldn’t stay out of things led to an interesting final collegiate year for the Heisman trophy winner. None the less he took his talents to Carolina and instantly made a difference. In his first week Cam set a NFL rookie passing record and when all was said and done he broke a number of Panther’s records, NFL rookie records and NFL records.
Cam broke the NFL rookie record for passing yards and now owns the record for most rushing touchdowns in one season by a quarterback. Despite his lack of accuracy Newton has taken a dismal Carolina offense and made them legit. He has even resurrected the career of Steve Smith who is having a stellar year thanks to Newton. The future is now bright for Carolina and Cam Newton.
6. Detroit Lions
Most of us saw this one coming, but only about 10% of us actually believed it was going to happen. For the first time since 1999 the Detroit Lions have made the playoffs. According to AP News, Head coach Jim Schwartz stated “There’s going to be a time that we don’t celebrate getting to the playoffs, but it’s not going to be tonight. It’s been a long time coming.”
They started the 2011 season on a tear winning their first five games with key victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. Matt Stafford was finally healthy and the result was a prolific passing attack featuring Calvin Johnson. The Lions were fourth in passing averaging 288 yards per-game and would propel them to a 10 win season.
5. Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts
As the weeks went on we thought we might get to see the improbable. The defending Super Bowl champions were on a quest to become the first team to finish the regular season 16-0 and win the Super Bowl while the Peyton Manning-less Colts were just trying to win one game. In one swift week the dreams of many would come trampling down as the Colts won and the Packers lost.
The Packers’ 19-game winning streak, second longest in NFL history, was snapped with a 19-14 loss at Kansas City, a team that was routed by 27 points last weekend, then fired its coach.
On the same day the Colts’ losing streak was stopped at 14 as they would beat the Tennessee Titans to avoid moving closer to an 0-16 record.
That Sunday was the third time in NFL history that a team without a loss was beaten and a team without a win was victorious on the same day at least 11 games into a season.
4. Packers win Superbowl
The Green Bay Packers never trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV and became the second sixth seed to ever win the Super Bowl.
Led by MVP Aaron Rodgers, who completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, the Packers converted three costly Pittsburgh turnovers into touchdowns before one of the largest crowds in NFL history at Cowboys Stadium.
3. Peyton Manning
It started a few weeks before opening kickoff of the 2011 NFL season and will continue at least until the 2012 NFL draft. What in the world is going on with Peyton Manning? Speculation started when an injury to his neck would cause him to have a third surgery in 19 months. Manning would miss the 2011 NFL season and the Colts would plummet to a two win season.
Colt’s owner Jim Irsay needs to kick a Twitter habit as his tweets have become a laughing matter as the Colts went back and forth on taking future number one pick, Andrew Luck.
Will they, won’t they…what will happen to Peyton? Will the Colts trade Peyton Manning and move towards the future by selecting Luck or will they trade the pick and build around Peyton who could still have a few years left?
The answer lies in the health of Manning. Something we aren’t sure of just yet.
2. NFL Lockout
You bastards! Shame on you for making us miss two preseason games and even worse threatening to cancel the 2011 NFL season. Owners and players left the most popular sport in jeopardy as they were unable how to divide nine billion dollars a year and broke off labor negotiations hours before their collective bargaining agreement expired. The union decertified and 10 players, including MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, sued the owners in federal court in Minneapolis. At midnight, the owners responded by locking out the players which created the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987 and putting the 2011 season in limbo.
After four and a half months, the NFL lockout came to an end, with the player representatives and NFLPA executive committee agreeing to a settlement of a new collective bargaining deal, the terms of which the 32 owners had approved.
1. Tim Tebow
How can Tim Tebow not be the number one story of 2011? Not only is just Tim Tebow a story but it has branched off into different directions. “Tebow Time” has been made up for his incredible comeback performances against the Dolphins, Jets, and Bears. “Tebowing” is where you take one knee in a random place like Tim Tebow does when he prays after a game. Even Saturday Night Live and Tosh.O have made skits designed to make fun of Tim Tebow. Yes, the world is Tim Tebow crazy in 2011.
Turn on the radio, television, or read news on the internet. Odds are you will find a Tim Tebow story. His religion, accuracy, lack of passing, how he makes a great running back, full back, tight end, or how he is changing the game of football. Everything in 2011 has been about Tim Tebow and it is just beginning.