The Good, Bad and Ugly of the 2012 NFL Season
The topsy-turvy 2012 NFL regular season has come to an end, but not before providing us with some fantastic performances, hysterical situations and great drama.
The season proved to be a special one. There were single-season records broken, while others remained intact by the slightest of margins.
Some teams, like the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, withered away in the August heat before the season ever began. Meanwhile, other teams, like the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, rose up from last season’s ashes to earn playoff spots.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the 2012 NFL season.
The Outstanding: Adrian Peterson
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It was simply outstanding!
Just one year after having major surgery on his knee, Peterson came back from the torn ACL better than ever. But forget the Comeback Player of the Year award; Peterson should be the NFL MVP.
After rushing for 199 yards Sunday, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, nine shy of the single-season record set by Eric Dickerson.
Peterson added another 217 yards receiving and scored 13 total touchdowns. He was the major reason why the Vikings are in the playoffs.
The Good: Calvin Johnson
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Of all the major NFL single-season records that were nearly broken, only one went down. Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson smashed Jerry Rice’s record for most yards in a single season.
Johnson broke the record in Week 16 and finished the season with 1,964 yards. Although Johnson had five games in which he failed to post 100 yards receiving, his season included nine games of over 120 yards with two 200-plus yard games, including his 11-catch, 225-yard effort to pass Rice's mark.
He also led the league in receptions with 122, with just two games of under five catches.
The Bad: Jaguars Running Game
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I guess the Jacksonville Jaguars found out just how much they need running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
After Jones-Drew left the game against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7, the Jaguars running game never looked the same.
Prior to exiting for the season, Jones-Drew had gained 414 yards on 86 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per attempt. Even though he missed 10 games, Jones-Drew ended up as the team’s leading rusher.
The Jaguars were never the same on the ground and only managed to gain 82.3 yards per game after his departure, as their average for the year finally plummeted to 85.6 yards per game.
The Ugly: Cardinals Running Game
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The Cardinals were forced to deal with some injuries of their own at the running back position, with Ryan Williams' early season-ending injury. However, even when Beanie Wells returned, they could never get the offense on track.
The Cardinals were ranked dead last in the league in rushing. They averaged a meager 75.2 yards per game on the ground and only surpassed 100 yards rushing in two games.
LaRod Stephens-Howling led the team in rushing with just 357 yards, Wells finished the with 234 and William Powell gained 216.
The Good: Robert Griffin III
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There were plenty of promising rookies that had remarkable seasons. Although there are two other rookie quarterbacks starting in the playoffs, RG3 played an integral role in the Washington Redskins' success.
It started in Week 1 and continued throughout the rest of the year. During the Redskins Week 1 win over the New Orleans Saints, the rookie signal caller became the only player in NFL history to pass for 300-plus yards and 2 touchdowns without throwing an interception.
Griffin went on to become the first rookie since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to throw four or more touchdowns in multiple games in a season. Griffin also finished his first year with a rating of 102.4, breaking Ben Roethlisberger's record of 98.1, set back in 2004.
Griffin finished the season going 258-of-393 for 3,200 yards. He tossed 20 touchdowns, with a 4:1 TD-INT ratio. Griffin also rushed for 815 yards and scored another seven TDs on the ground.
The Bad: The Never-Ending “Bounty Scandal”
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The New Orleans Saints spent the entire season without head coach Sean Payton and the St. Louis Rams were punished for something they had no part in by losing their defensive coordinator before the season ever began.
Such was the story of the Saints Bounty Scandal.
Four players and three coaches were suspended. After the court system got involved, the players were reinstated only to be suspended again.
After that did not hold up, the NFL finally appointed former league commissioner Paul Tagliabue to deal with the situation. Tagliabue then vacated the punishments for the players and placed the blame on the Saints' coaches.
After all that, one might think the scandal might come to a close. However, Jonathan Vilma’s attorney came out and said that Vilma would proceed with an anti-defamation suit against current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
This was the story that never went away during the Saints' losing season and still lingers.
The Ugly: Tragic Murder-Suicide in Kansas City
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One of the saddest news items that came out of the NFL this season was the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher.
Early on the Saturday morning of December 1, that there was a shooting at the Chiefs facility at Arrowhead Stadium. It turned out the Belcher had shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins and drove to the facility.
After a brief encounter with Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and then head coach Romeo Crennel, Belcher fatally shot himself.
It was a story that turned the NFL world upside down. Then, as if the story could not get any more tragic, it took a turn for the worse, as we learned that Belcher and Perkins left behind a 3-month-old daughter.
The Good: Indianapolis Colts
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Did anyone expect the Indianapolis Colts to make the playoffs one year after finishing with a 2-14 record?
Well, at least nobody outside of Indianapolis did, anyway.
The Colts headed into the season with a rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and a rookie head coach in Chuck Pagano. Then just as the season began, Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia and lost for most of the season.
Despite everything stacked against them, the Colts managed to get 11 victories and march into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the AFC.
With their mantra of "Chuckstrong," the Colts found ways to pull off some improbable upsets.
The Bad: Dallas Cowboys
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Same-old, same-old in Dallas.
Although the Dallas Cowboys suffered plenty of injuries this season, they found themselves in position to win the division on the final week of play.
This time, it was in Washington D.C. instead of New Jersey, against the Redskins instead of the Giants. Unfortunately for Dallas, the result was the same.
The Cowboys finished with another uninspired performance and lost to the Redskins 28-18. Dallas finished with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
The Ugly: Three Weeks of Replacement Referees
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Although it seems like an eternity has passed since Week 3 of the NFL season, nobody is going to forget the replacement officials that refereed the first 48 games of the year.
With negotiations at a standstill between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association, the regular season opened with replacement officials. Replacements were on the field on opening day as the Dallas Cowboys visited the New York Giants to open the season.
They continued to oversee the games until the final game of Week 3. During that final game on Monday Night Football, the league saw its integrity come into question, as the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers with the "Fail Mary" play that will live on in infamy.
Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman was so disgusted with the outcome of the game, he posted the following tweet.
These games are a joke.— Troy Aikman (@TroyAikman) September 25, 2012
Soon after that game, the league reached an agreement with the NFLRA and the games returned to some degree of normalcy.
The Good: Peyton Manning
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One year after not playing a single game placed on IR, quarterback Peyton Manning has posted an incredible season with the Denver Broncos.
Manning started the season a little shaky, as he threw three interceptions in his second game of the season. However, he turned it around and got in sync with his receivers.
Manning threw for over 300 yards in nine games this season and finished with a passer rating of 105.8. He played in all 16 games and threw for 4,659 yards by completing 68.6 of his passes and 37 touchdowns.
After a 2-3 start, Manning got his team on track and the Broncos finished the season on an 11-game win-streak.
The Bad: Matt Cassel
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It appears as if the Matt Cassel experiment is over.
Just four years after coming to the Kansas City Chiefs and signing a deal worth $63 million, including $28 million guaranteed, Cassel was replaced as the Chiefs starting quarterback.
Cassel never lived up to the hype following his successful 2008 season in New England. After his lackluster performances this season, the Chiefs turned to Brady Quinn at quarterback.
How bad do you have to be for a team to turn to Quinn? Well, in 277 pass attempts, Cassel threw six touchdown passes to 12 interceptions.
The Ugly: Jets Trade for Tim Tebow
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After an early false start, the New York Jets finally got a trade with the Denver Broncos for quarterback Tim Tebow. It turns out the trade was good for no one in the Jets' organization.
Tebow never got a chance to shine in New York and the Jets were stuck with answering questions about how Tebow's management all season long.
Starting quarterback Mark Sanchez struggled all season long and, when the Jets finally pulled the plug on him, it was rookie Greg McElroy that got the start instead of Tebow. In the final game of the season, McElroy was sidelined with a concussion and the Jets went back to Sanchez instead of giving Tebow a shot.
It seems the Jets made a trade for a player they never intended on using, at least at the quarterback position. It may go down as one of the worst, most distracting trades in recent history.
The Good: J.J. Watt
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The Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt took rushing the passer to a whole new level. If Watt did not get to the quarterback, he made an art form out of swatting passes out of the air.
Not only did Watt register 20.5 sacks, just two shy of the single-season record, he recorded 16 passes defensed. That has become Watt’s signature move. The "Swatt!" When Watt did not get to the quarterback in time for a sack, he made it difficult for the quarterback to get the pass off.
He should be considered the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year.
The Bad: Seven Head Coaches and Six GMs Fired
The Monday after the NFL season ended truly truly turned out to be a “Black Monday.” Head coaches getting fired in the NFL is nothing new. But this year, there were also six general managers that were relieved of their duties.
Of the seven coaches fired, the Monday after the season ended, three of them already knew they were on their way out. The Philadelphia Eagles officially fired head coach Andy Reid after 14 NFL seasons.
The Arizona Cardinals fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves. The Cleveland Browns followed suit by releasing both head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert.
The San Diego Chargers did something many thought should have been done a couple years ago: firing both head coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith. The Kansas City Chiefs released head coach Crennel.
The biggest surprise was the Chicago Bears' firing of head coach Lovie Smith after a 10-win season.
With all of the coaching and GM turnaround, what will the NFL front office landscape look like next season?
The Ugly: New Orleans Saints Defense
Even with all of the hoopla surrounding the New Orleans Saints and the bounty scandal, nobody thought their defense would perform as bad as it did in 2012.
The Saints defense finished the year allowing just over 440 yards of total offense per game to its opponents. The Saints finished ranked dead last in total offense. They ranked 31 against the pass, 32 against the run and ranked 3t in points allowed per game giving up a staggering 28.4 points per game, while setting a record for yards allowed in one season.
The Saints defense improved slightly with the return of Jonathan Vilma, but they never got in a sync with defensive coordinator Spagnuolo.