One Song to Describe Every NFL Team's 2011-12 Season
With the dying notes of Madonna's Super Bowl halftime show still ringing in our ears, it's time to hold art's mirror up to life in the NFL. Every song tells a story, and every NFL team's 2011 story can be told with a song.
Much like Madonna's...er, eclectic blend of pop, rock, hip-hop and gospel, we delved far and wide into many eras and genres of music, using every color in our musical palette to paint the picture of each NFL team's 2011 campaign.
We hope our artistry touches you at least as deeply the moving "WORLD PEACE" sign displayed at the end of Madonna's stirring performance.
St. Louis Rams: "I Love L.A." by Randy Newman
From having the pieces in place for a decade of awesomeness in the Gateway City, to firing the coach and selling the team to a guy on the NFL's committee to move a team to Los Angeles. St. Louis fans may not "love it," but the Rams could be headed back to L.A.
Indianapolis Colts: "Breck Ya Neck," by Busta Rhymes
Having lost Peyton Manning to a neck injury, the Colts' performance in 2011 certainly did not inspire owner Jim Irsay to bob his head.
Minnesota Vikings: "Sister Christian," by Night Ranger
Though Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson and quarterback Joe Webb were "motorin'," fans in Minnesota expected more through the air from rookie signal-caller Christian Ponder. What IS his price for flight?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: "What Happened," by Sublime
The tale of a young man who wakes up without any memory of what must have been a mind-blowing party, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into 2011 riding high off a 10-win season built around a very young corps of budding superstars.
Clearly, "that awful smell" is their 4-12 record.
Cleveland Browns: "Harvester of Sorrow," by Metallica
Though Browns fans were hoping new coach Pat Shurmur and tailback Peyton Hillis could be the "distributors of pain," in fact, it was the Dawg Pound whose "love turned to hate, trapped far beyond [their] fate."
Washington Redskins: "Through the Fire and Flames," by Dragonforce
The motto of the Rex Grossman F*** It I'm Goin' Deep Fan Club is You Gotta Unleash the Dragon, and as a result, Redskins fans had to "carry on" through more fire and flames than almost anyone this season. They must be wondering why "day after day, this misery must go on."
Jacksonville Jaguars: "Big Shot," by Billy Joel
"Big shot" Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver certainly "kept 'em entertained" with "tales of his latest success," but in the middle of the season, he abruptly announced he'd sold the team to Shahid Kahn. We're not sure what Weaver did that forced him to sell, and we're not sure we want to know.
Miami Dolphins: "Unanswered Prayers," by Garth Brooks
The protagonist of this song looks back on his younger years and how he prayed God would let him be with the girl of his then-dreams, who can't compare with the woman he eventually married.
After Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered countless millions to Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher, but couldn't woo either, he settled for Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. If Philbin can do for the Dolphins what he helped Mike McCarthy do in Green Bay, it'll be Ross and Dolphins fans who "thank God for unanswered prayers."
Carolina Panthers: "Rescue Me," by Fontella Bass
After letting longtime head coach John Fox go, the Panthers had no direction, no identity and very little talent. Enter AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, who rescued the franchise and all of its fans with a Pro Bowl debut campaign.
Buffalo Bills: "Total Eclipse of the Heart,' by Bonnie Tyler
Though it looked like the Buffalo Bills were "falling in love" at 4-1, it turns out they were "falling apart." There's "nothing I can say" about quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, whom I will probably call "Bright eyes" from now on.
Seattle Seahawks: "Ms. Jackson," by OutKast
"I apologize a trillion times" to Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, but he is not "for real," though I'm sure he "never meant to make" Seattle fans cry.
Kansas City Chiefs: "Turn! Turn! Turn!," by the Byrds
This song is about how "for everything there is a season," a natural rhythm to seasons, years and lives.
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley took up the family business: He joined the New York Jets as a scouting assistant while his father worked as the Director of Player Personnel. Haley was promoted to wide receivers coach under then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Haley also got to know the Jets' director of pro personnel at the time, Scott Pioli.
Haley's career continued building, and he eventually was hired by former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to coordinate Whisenhunt's new offense in Arizona. After the two led Arizona to the Super Bowl, Pioli—now the Chiefs GM—hired Haley to coach the Chiefs.
It didn't work out on or off the field. Haley ironically struggled to keep a staff together—despite, at one point, bringing on his old boss, Weis, as offensive coordinator. Haley didn't make it through the 2011 season and was replaced by another former Pioli man, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Haley found a "place under heaven," though: the gig of Steelers offensive coordinator, originally held by Haley's old boss Ken Whisenhunt. Turn, turn, turn.
San Diego Chargers: "A Little Less Conversation," by Elvis Presley
With all the offensive talent you could ask for, the San Diego Chargers were much-talked-about coming into the season. As far as Chargers fans are concerned, needed to be a "little less conversation" about quarterback Philip Rivers, and "a lot more action."
Philadelphia Eagles: "Who Let the Dogs Out," by Baha Men
This song is about cocky young men and their irresponsible behavior, much like the brash Eagles "Dream Team" and their underwhelming play.
I am unaware of any other potential thematic connection between this song and this team.
Oakland Raiders: "Black Hole Sun," by Soundgarden
The "Black Hole" (a nickname for the Raiders' O.co Coliseum) imagery is obvious. But the passing of the man who WAS the Raiders, Al Davis, provides an opportunity to "wash away the rain," and bring the renewal the Raiders franchise has needed for years.
New York Jets: "Master Exploder," Tenacious D
This boastful track from a bombastic film about two guys who briefly ascend from legends-in-their-own-mind to actual legends (then revert) could easily have been sung by Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
Denver Broncos: "Spirit in the Sky," by Norman Greenbaum
Though this track is usually reserved for montages in 60s period movies, its hard-nosed guitar work and self-assured lyrics about having a "friend in Jesus" perfectly set the tone for the Broncos' season.
After a surprising playoff berth and a shocking playoff upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Broncos fans are sure that sooner or later, they'll "go to the place that's the best."
Dallas Cowboys: "Gold Guns Girls," by Metric
This song about how limitless excesses of gold, guns and girls is "never gonna be enough" for the narcissist it's being sung to.
Likewise, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can't seem to get the satisfaction of playoff success either, despite surrounding himself with expensive players, hordes of cheerleaders and the gaudiest stadium human hands have yet built.
Chicago Bears: "My Life Would Suck Without You," by Kelly Clarkson
Bears fans thought they were set to make another trip to the playoffs, and possibly another run at the Super Bowl—until they lost quarterback Jay Cutler and found out how badly their team plays without him.
Arizona Cardinals: "Wild Wild West," by the Escape Club
The Arizona Cardinals spent millions on quarterback Kevin Kolb and spent all season pretending that money wasn't wasted. However, in the NFC West, even terrible directionless teams can go 8-8.
If the Cards can't get better performance out of their quarterback (and head coach), they'll be "headed for the Nineties."
Tennesee Titans: "Back in Time," by Huey Lewis and the News
The firing of longtime head coach Jeff Fisher and the retirement of quarterback Kerry Collins was supposed to end an era in Tennessee. Instead, they signed Matt Hasselbeck, and both the aging signal-caller and the team played like they went "back in time" 10 years.
Cincinnati Bengals: "Overjoyed," by Stevie Wonder
With the departures of Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocino, Bengals fans thought owner Mike Brown had "thrown their castle away." But rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and his favorite target, fellow rookie A.J. Green, made Bengals fans "dreams come true" with a stunning playoff berth.
"Though the odds say improbable, what do they know?"
Houston Texans: "Fade to Black," Metallica
Though it seems an odd choice for the year, the Texans finally had a winning season and made the playoffs. "Fade to Black" perfectly describes the Texans death spiral from a 10-3 juggernaut to losing four of their last five games and starting a fifth-round rookie at quarterback.
Detroit Lions: "Conquest," the White Stripes
After an offseason filled with hype and expectations, the Lions "won the prize." Desperately needing their end their losing ways with first winning season since before Matt Millen became GM, the "roles were reversed," and Detroit's hunters (like Chicago, Minnesota and Dallas) "became the prey."
Atlanta Falcons: "Not Enough" by Van Halen
As Van Halen explored whether or not just loving someone is "enough," Atlanta Fans probably have a maudlin string section behind them as they muse of whether another yet good season is "enough," given the perennial Super Bowl hype around their team.
Pittsburgh Steelers: "Dead Man's Curve" by Jan and Dean
New Orleans Saints: "Rocket Man," by Elton John
Drew Brees' stratospheric offensive numbers had New Orleans Saints fans "high as a kite." But it's "lonely out in space," and if the Saints are going to get back to the Super Bowl, they'll need a defense to keep Brees company.
San Francisco 49ers: "Back in Black," by AC/DC
The 49ers are a legendary dynasty and were synonymous with success throughout the 80s and 90s. The incredible work of rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh had the team within three points of the Super Bowl, and there's no reason to think the 49ers aren't "baa-aa-aa-aa-ack."
Baltimore Ravens: "One More Last Chance," by Vince Gill
The protagonist of this song is asking his wife for "one more last chance before you say we're through."
Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff might be saying the same to his employers today. Cundiff missed a game-ending 22-yard field goal in the AFC Championship game, sending the Patriots to the Super Bowl and ending the Ravens' season.
That wasn't Cundiff's first high-profile choke, though: He was cut by the Cowboys in 2005 after missing two field goals on Thanksgiving.
Green Bay Packers: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," by Beyoncé
Everybody liked the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Though their 15-1 regular season was an amazing accomplishment, there's no doubt that they "should have put a ring on it."
New England Patriots: "Oops! ...I Did It Again"
Oops! For the second time in five years, the New England Patriots "played with" the heart of their fans. But they "got lost in the game," and Tom Brady and company were definitely not "sent from above."
New York Giants: ""We Are the Champions," by Queen
There was only one choice for this one. Say what you want about the New York Giants, but they "are the champions of the world."