As you may have heard, the Broncos, Patriots, Falcons, 49ers, Texans, Packers, Ravens, Redskins, Colts, Seahawks, Bengals and Vikings are all in the playoffs. Good for them.
We will learn all of their fates in the coming weeks. But what about the 20 teams that didn’t make the playoffs? What will become of them?
Like the epilogue at the end of a movie that tells you what happened to each character, here’s what became of the forgotten also-rans of the NFL’s 2012 season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars acquire Tim Tebow and instantly became one of Florida’s most popular attractions behind only Disney World, Universal Studios and anything that’s happening on the same day the Marlins, Rays, Dolphins or Buccaneers play.
The New York Jets are purchased by Barnum & Bailey. They show improvement in 2013 with The Bearded Lady at quarterback and Lobster Boy running the Wildcat.
With Brandon Weeden’s career window closing, the Cleveland Browns invest heavily into free agents and produce seasons of 7-9, 6-10 and 7-9 before Weeden retires. He is remembered as the quarterback of the “modern glory era of Cleveland Browns football.”
The Oakland Raiders draft USC quarterback Matt Barkley, continuing their important charitable mission of providing employment opportunities for failed USC quarterbacks.
The Pittsburgh Steelers return to their winning ways in 2013 thanks to the signing of versatile Ben Roethlisberger Jr., who, despite turning just 1 year old, becomes one of his father’s most sure-handed receivers and provides Pittsburgh with some much-needed youth on the defensive side of the ball.
The Tennessee Titans continue operations through 2016, Chris Johnson’s final contract year, solely to keep him available for fantasy football. The organization then closes down and donates its equipment and materials to the struggling University of Tennessee football program.
The Arizona Cardinals break important barriers by becoming the first NFL team to play a player with a prosthesis. The new quarterback, who is just John Skelton strapped to a Jugs machine, leads the Cardinals to the playoffs in 2013.
The Philadelphia Eagles fire coach Andy Reid, but his legacy lives on with the organization because, although the Eagles vow they have to do better, they never actually do.
The New York Giants continue to put up mediocre season after mediocre season, going 9-7 every year and beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl every fourth year.
The Kansas City Chiefs use the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft on the top-rated prospect: Utah’s Star Lotulelei. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle wins the starting quarterback job at Kansas City’s first minicamp.
Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz is fired. He throws a challenge flag at team owner William Clay Ford Sr. and is quickly escorted from the building.
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers tread water for several years and never get over the hump and into the playoffs. Newton eventually loses his job to this kid.
The New Orleans Saints welcome back coach Sean Payton in 2013 with a contract worth $8 million a season. Roger Goodell fines him $7.9 million “for taxes, service fees and convenience charges” on Payton’s 2012 fine.
The St. Louis Rams show improvement in 2013 but fall apart late in the season after an overexuberant Jeff Fisher fist-pump accidentally hits Sam Bradford and knocks him out for all of December.
The Miami Dolphins struggle in 2013 when even many of their players stop attending Dolphins games.
In an interesting twist, the Chicago Bears get off to an awful start to the 2013 season, then really come on down the stretch. They still miss the playoffs, however.
Owing to coach Greg Schiano’s never-say-die attitude, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just show up in the playoffs and start playing. After blowing out the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, they are eliminated in the NFC title game.
The San Diego Chargers fire coach Norv Turner. Yet there are those who say he still haunts Qualcomm Stadium and, in fact, the Chargers count his rumored ghostly apparition as a paying fan in hopes of avoiding blackouts.
The Buffalo Bills are taken by barge out into Lake Ontario, to the waters straddling the dividing line between U.S. and Canada, and sunk.
After the 2012 season, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones does some serious soul-searching and is honest with himself about his own and his team’s failings, finally swallows his ego, does the right thing and removes himself as the team’s general manager, paving the way to a new Cowboy dynasty. No, not really. Jones remains owner and general manager, and the Cowboys continued to miss the playoffs ever year in spectacular fashion.
Quote of the Week
Well, he has played really well in a lot of big games in his career. -- Jason Garrett, when asked in his postgame news conference why Tony Romo hasn’t performed well in win-or-go-home games.
Romo is 1-6 in his career as a starter in such games. Romo’s history of late-season and clutch situation failings is well known and extensively documented. But this is not the sad thing. The sad thing is that Garrett was -- and I’m not making this up -- a history major at Princeton. An Ivy League history major who thinks Tony Romo has played well in a lot of big games over the years.
The money spent on Garrett’s college education is a waste of money exceeded only by Garrett’s current salary … and Romo’s salary … and the Cowboys’ payroll … and Cowboys Stadium … and really everything having to do with the Cowboys since the middle of the Clinton administration.
Stat of the Week
Adrian Peterson finished the season with 2,097 rushing yards, but perhaps more remarkable is that he had 1,019 rushing yards after contact. That means Peterson had more yards after contact than the leading rusher of 17 teams -- Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Raiders, Saints and Steelers -- had total rushing yards.
Perhaps the GMs of those teams should … wait for it … contact the agents of free-agent running backs.
Also feel free to contact me with your thoughts on how terrible that joke was.
Misleading Stat of the Week
Adrian Peterson fell just 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season NFL record for rushing yards. Many claim that means Dickerson was better. However, if you want numbers, here are numbers: Peterson has more than 400,000 Twitter followers, and Dickerson has fewer than 10,000. Using modern societal measures of greatness -- Twitter follower count -- Peterson is clearly and exponentially better than Dickerson. This is also how I know that Katy Perry is better than Beethoven. Facts are facts. Numbers don’t lie.
This Week’s Fantasy Players Who Will Be Drafted Way Too Early Next Year
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Raiders: 13-for-28, 150 yards, 2 TD, INT, 49 rushing yards, TD
Mike Tolbert, RB, Panthers: 47 total yards, 3 TD
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: 213 total yards, 2 TD
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals: 8 catches, 166 yards, TD
Rueben Randle, WR, Giants: 4 catches, 58 yards, 2 TD
Will Heller, TE, Lions: 2 catches, 29 yards, TD
Photos of the Week
News Conference Questions Someone Should Have Asked
Norv Turner: “You have won three of your past four. How excited are you about the momentum you take into next year?”
Rex Ryan: “Atebowhatersayswhat?”
Jason Garrett: “What would you say you do here?”
Reader Twitter Question of the Week
@djgalloespn Why hasn't Larry Fitzgerald threatened to retire, a la Carson Palmer?
— Parker Klyn (@ParkerKlyn420) Dec. 31, 2012
No doubt Fitzgerald has considered this. But he hasn’t done it for two reasons. (A) Fitzgerald isn’t the type of person to whine and complain and threaten retirement; and (B) he has seen what happened to Palmer. What if Fitzgerald threatened to retire, then got traded to … to … [shudders] … the Raiders? Where his quarterback would be … Carson Palmer? It’s too horrible to even think about. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. In fact, sometimes the grass is not only not greener but it’s growing in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
I think I’m going to be sick.
ELITE Quarterback of the Week
Is Christian Ponder ELITE?
Evidence for him: The No. 12 pick in the 2011 draft has made the playoffs in only his second year in the league at age 24 and clinched a postseason spot by throwing three touchdowns and beating reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Also, you can’t spell PREPONDERANT -- meaning dominant in influence, number or importance -- without PONDER.
Evidence against him: Ponder has an 81.2 passer rating; he has passed for only 2,935 yards this season; and his status as Minnesota’s starter is one of Adrian Peterson’s main MVP qualifications. Also, you can’t spell PONDEROSA -- an ornamental tree -- without PONDER.
Five Things To Think If You Thought To Think
1. No doubt the teams in the playoffs think they all deserve to be there, but how legitimate can the NFL playoffs be if none of the preseason Super Bowl champions -- the Eagles, Jets, Panthers or Cowboys -- are playing in them? Whoever wins the Super Bowl will not have had to go through any of those four teams. Not a legitimate champion.
2. I’m not sure I understand the MVP “debate.” Peyton Manning has done very well with the Broncos, a team that went 7-4 down the stretch last year with Tim Tebow at quarterback, then won a playoff game. Denver was a good team before Manning arrived. He has made the Broncos even better, no doubt. On the other hand, the Vikings are nothing but Adrian Peterson. They would be complete garbage without him. Adrian Peterson is the entire team. So there is no debate. The MVP is an individual award, not a team award. Peyton Manning is the MVP.
3. Mike Shanahan needed to be much clearer back when the Redskins were 3-6 and he said it was time to evaluate his players for next year. Shanahan meant the start of the 2013 season in September, but many of his players obviously thought he meant January of 2013. Good coaches are good communicators. Shanahan has a lot of work to do in that area.
4. Calvin Johnson has defeated the Madden jinx! Hooray! Unless … the Pro Bowl. Remember: Roger Goodell is insisting that the Pro Bowl be tougher this year. (Oddly, he apparently wants it to be the one NFL game with tackling.) Getting hurt in the Pro Bowl would be the cruelest Madden curse yet, outside of the year we were all cursed by having to purchase a video game with Peyton Hillis on the cover.
5. Hope you all got what you wanted for Christmas! I know a lot of young running backs and Adrian Peterson fans out there hoped for a torn ACL. Oh, the joy of waking up Christmas morning, jumping out of bed and crumpling to the floor in excruciating pain, knowing you’ll be better than ever in nine months. It’s every child’s dream.