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What was hard to envision at the time has become almost acceptable by now. Brett Favre is with the Vikings and Jay Cutler is with the Bears and the unpredictable in the NFL has become predictable.
|It's hard to top the Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals.|
Hard to believe, right? Really, from the moment it kicked off, this whole football year was.
In its opening moments, Denver's Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Shanahan and Tampa Bay's Super Bowl-winning head coach Jon Gruden increased the nation's unemployment rate.
Panthers fans wished quarterback Jake Delhomme would have joined them -- but he got a $45 million contract extension that included $20 million guaranteed instead.
Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison turned in one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history ... only to be topped in the game's closing minutes by Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald ... only to be topped in the game's closing seconds by Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes in a classic matchup that included everything but a one-handed catch against the helmet.
Free-agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth created his own economic stimulus in Washington, signing a $100 million deal with the Redskins.
Jay Cutler wanted out of Denver, which initially was too much for Broncos fans to bear -- until he began playing for the Bears.
Wide receiver Terrell Owens took his reality show from Dallas to Buffalo, becoming more popular than its wings.
And then, of course, the focus shifted to Favre. It always does.
First the Jets jettisoned him, fueling speculation that Favre could wind up in Minnesota.
Favre's agent, Bus Cook, declined comment.
After bypassing running back Chris Johnson for Darren McFadden in the 2008 draft, the Raiders passed up wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the 2009 draft for Darrius Heyward-Bey, who through this season's first six games had more names than catches.
Former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who shot himself in the leg and foot with one bullet, got a two-year deal of a different variety -- with no voidables.
Dr. James Andrews, who saved Drew Brees' career with successful shoulder surgery, attempted to do the same with Favre's torn biceps tendon.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning one-upped his brother, Peyton, signing the most lucrative contract in NFL history.
Michael Vick went from jailbird to Philadelphia bird -- even more stunning than Titans owner Bud Adams flipping a double bird.
On a Sunday morning in August, former Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour awakened to find himself in the Black Hole.
Vikings coach Brad Childress went from recruiter to chauffeur, picking up Brett Favre at a Minneapolis airport and driving him to his new work home.
Bus Cook declined comment.
Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Buffalo set an offensive record before the season began -- they became the first three teams ever to fire their offensive coordinators so quickly.
New York's Steve Smith supplanted Carolina's Steve Smith as the league's top Steve Smith.
Miles Austin, DeSean Jackson and Sidney Rice rewarded both the NFL and fantasy teams that played them.
Braylon Edwards punched a man and his ticket out of Cleveland, all at once.
On the morning New York traded for Edwards, San Francisco landed its own top target, finally signing Crabtree and ending the holdout that threatened to run into 2010.
Washington bailed out Detroit again, with the Redskins allowing the Lions to snap their 19-game losing streak.
On the very same afternoon, Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre snapped San Francisco's spirit, throwing a game-winning, last-second laser to Vikings wide receiver Greg Lewis.
Bus Cook declined to describe it.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer lost his wife, Vikki, but not his spirit, helping lead Cincinnati to an upset over Baltimore three days after her death. Later, the Bengals lost wide receiver Chris Henry in what felt like the biggest loss of the year.
Philadelphia could identify with Cincinnati's feelings. It lost its venerable defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who left his mark on the Eagles, the city and the sport.
Titans owner Bud Adams demonstrated his football acumen, ordering Vince Young to start, and watched Tennessee take off as quickly as its star running back.
|The Colts stood idly by as perfection slipped through their fingers.|
As Chris Johnson ran wildly, Larry Johnson Twittered wildly, garnering headlines of a different kind.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith, Chargers defensive tackle Jamal Williams, Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, Jets running back Leon Washington, Colts safety Bob Sanders, Texans tight end Owen Daniels, Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, Packers cornerback Al Harris, Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce and Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers all were lost from their teams and for the season.
Buffalo fired Dick Jauron, Washington fired Vinny Cerrato and Oakland fired JaMarcus Russell -- once for Bruce Gradkowski, the next time for Charlie Frye.
Following head coach Mike Tomlin's bold prediction, the Steelers unleashed hell, losing in back-to-back-to-back weeks to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland.
Mike Holmgren didn't go green -- he went Brown.
Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall caught grief early in the season, then an NFL-record 21 receptions in Week 14 against the Colts.
Jerome Harrison -- Jerome Harrison! -- wiped Jim Brown's name out of Cleveland's record book.
Brett Favre got into a heated discussion with his chauffeur, Brad Childress, and severely risked not getting a ride back to the airport.
New Orleans marched on and threatened history.
Indianapolis marched on and threatened history.
New Orleans crashed well before it could reach Mercury Morris' neighborhood.
Indianapolis didn't care that it crashed before it could reach Mercury Morris' neighborhood; it preferred to ignore, and spit on, NFL history.
Plenty more awaits in 2010 -- Bus Cook just confirmed it.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider