Last Hurrahs: Brett Favre and the Top 5 Finales of the NFL Season
2010 is coming to a close and things may never look the same in the NFL as we've known it. From the uncertainty of the new CBA, the 18 game schedule and further changes looming on the horizon, things are certain going to look different next year.
Still, this season has been a surprisingly good one, deep with story lines, standout performances and utter failures.
They say all good things must come to an end, and in the NFL some things can't end soon enough for some organizations. New Years is almost upon us and the annual speculations of coaches and players that have worn out their welcome is long and distinguished.
Some of these changes are fair, some are brutally unjust. But let's face it, we all know how cutthroat the business of the NFL is.
In a "What have you done for me lately?" league, where past achievements and glories are often lost on a week to week basis, change is just par for the course.
As we eagerly await the new calendar year and begin to make a list of resolutions we won't keep anyway, here is a look at the top five finales for Week 17.
Honorable Mention: Tony Sparano
The next two NFL head coaches, who have endured considerable criticism during their tenures, start our list in the honorable mention category. These two coaches have enjoyed success, but have given way to disappointment and failure of late.
Having said that, neither has been fired or confirmed to be out of a job, although it wouldn't surprise me if either were dismissed or replaced.
Tony Sparano has lost the support he enjoyed while Bill Parcells was an integral part of Dolphins upper
management, and has struggled to repeat the success he found in his rookie year.
It almost seems like a lifetime ago that the Wildcat and Dolphins shocked everyone to a 11-5 record and Sparano was a finalist for the Coach of the Year Award.
The Chad Henne experiment is over, or it should be, but Sparano looks to be the one that might take the fall for it.
Sparano is a good coach that looks like he fell in love with his new toy in Brandon Marshall and in turn
lost a bit of the team's real identity. A team that had brought aboard Mike Nolan to run the defense, and still boasted a good one-two punch in Williams and Brown, that was thought to have some promise this year.
A poor home record, some odd play-calling, ignoring the running game and a struggling offense has the Dolphins floundering at a 7-8 clip coming into Week 17.
While his record is still over .500 at 25-22 and rumors have surfaced that Stephen Ross will keep Sparano
moving forward, both camps have strong arguments.
Honorable Mention: Gary Kubiak
Where, oh where to begin with this Kubiak led Texan team?
How many people can honestly say they have a real read on this team? I've seen the Texan bandwagon roll around time after time, big win after big win, only to see the wheels fall off. Despite sporting one of the NFL's more talented offenses, they just can't string it together to make the playoffs.
These Texans can look like world beaters one week, and confused, dazed and lost the very next. They are the very definition of Fool's Gold in the NFL and fans look like they are fed up with the inconsistencies.
Kubiak supporters will point to fluke losses, injuries, porous defense and players that still love to play
for him. Kubiak detractors will point to a history of poor preparation and slow starts, especially for a
potent offense that averages just 8.1 points in the first half and 2.3 points in the first quarter.
Despite rumors linking Wade Phillips coming in to fix the horrendous defense of the Texans, does Bob McNair think that things are finally turning around, given it's Kubiak's fifth year?
After signing a contract extension in the offseason, Kubiak's time may be running out. But I think that
retaining Kubiak and bringing in Phillips could really be the turning point for this team.
Hear that bandwagon coming around for another pass?
John Fox: Carolina Says Goodbye
The very definition of "What have you done for me lately?", John Fox kicks off our list of last hurrahs, despite being one of the better coaches in the NFL. Who can forget the heartbreaking 2008 NFC Divisional barn burner against the Cardinals, and subsequent mistake of bringing back Delhomme afterwards?
This team had so much promise at one time, and yet this week we will witness John Fox's swan song as the Panther's winningest coach.
With a 73-70 record as a head coach going into his team's finale against the NFC leading Atlanta Falcons, John Fox won't take long to find new employment. Known as a defensive and attention oriented coach, Fox's main failure may very well lie in his mismanagement of quarterbacks.
Some odd decisions at the most vital position of his team may stem from his misplaced faith in Jake Delhomme, despite some serious warning flags.
On a fiscally challenged team that has lost several key components on defense and it's way on offense, Fox has been scooping water from a sinking ship for quite some time.
Wherever Fox lands at his next coaching stop should be and will be very happy to get him.
Jeff Fisher: All Good Things...
Stop me if you've heard this one before: star player and successful coach feud, player displays poor team conduct and spotty professionalism. Despite these traits, ownership takes the player's side and dismisses the coach, the player stays with team, the coach moves on and takes his winning ways elsewhere?
How about the star player walks out on the team, texts an apology to the coach and then is asked to leave the premises the following week?
A text? Really Vince? And Bud Adams wants you over Jeff Fisher?
Just what in the name of Chris Webber is going on here?
By now, the Vince Young/Jeff Fisher soap opera has pretty much run its course, with Bud Adams looking more and more like he will take Young over Fisher. Jeff Fisher has lasted a remarkable 16 seasons on the job, near unfathomable longevity in today's NFL. He has a 142-119 record coming into Week 17 and came within one yard of the 1999 Super Bowl.
Fisher supporters will back the man's apparelled respect around the league and his ability to consistently win, despite losing many key pieces on offense and defense. Fisher detractors will point to recent performances, including the rebound from the horrible 0-6 start that Vince Young sparked upon insertion into the starting lineup.
Jeff Fisher, like John Fox, will have little problem securing a job elsewhere. Might the Dallas Cowboys come calling?
I wouldn't put it past Jerry Jones, who still has Jason Garrett under contract.
Alex Smith: It's About Time
49ers interim head coach John Tomsula has selected Alex Smith to start Week 17, bringing about a fitting end to both Smith's checkered 49ers career and the nightmare season. In what was supposed to be his breakout year, citing continuity, developing talent and stability, it's instead been more smoke and mirrors from the sixth year pro.
Instead of the team looking to other options via draft or free agency, it chose to stay with Alex Smith.
Say what you will about the QB, he has handled everything with class, despite coaching blunders, mismanagement and poor offensive design. This organization has failed to support and surround the first round draft pick with the help he needs since Norv Turner left for the San Diego Chargers' coaching job.
Owner of a career 71.5 career passer rating with a dubious 49-53 TD to INT ratio, Smith hasn't been able to overcome his coaching and develop into what he was supposed to.
He has failed to prove that he is a consistent, NFL quality starting quarterback. While he's provided fans with glimpses, the failures following those teasers are all the more maddening.
Given that, recently dismissed head coach Mike Singletary and ex-coach Mike Nolan both mismanaged and did their best job to undermine his standing and ability as a NFL QB.
From outright questioning his toughness in front of the team, to trying to squeeze a spread offense QB-square peg into a ball control-round hole, this marriage is coming to a end for the best of both sides.
Donovan Mcnabb: Can't Get Any Respect
Donovan McNabb continues to inexplicably be denied the benefit of the doubt and continues
to be one of the most under-appreciated quarterbacks in the NFL.
Let's just get this out of the way: Donovan Mcnabb has not been able to carry his team on his back to the promised land.
He fell short in the Super Bowl, he's failed in NFC conference games and just hasn't been able to close the deal.
Never mind the fact that his defense has failed him at times, or that he never had a real receiver outside of TO for most of his career or that his team never ran the ball with any kind of continuity. The quarterback is the focal point of the team and will take the brunt of the criticism or credit, deserved or not.
Fact is, he's been a very successful quarterback in his NFL career and has done it with a largely unheralded supporting cast. After TO, the drop off in receivers is drastic, even with the brief time with the current cast of young stars the Eagles boast. Freddie Mitchell? Outside of one third and 24 conversion, he hasn't had much to really crow about. Greg Lewis? Todd Pinkston?
If he's not being thrown under the bus by teammates, criticized by the media or benched by his coaches, he's yanked for Rex Grossman and said to "lack the cardiovascular conditioning" to run the two minute drill. Promptly after his benching this year against the Lions, the Redskins committed the biggest apology in NFL history by signing him to a five year, 78.5 million dollar contract.
That is, until experts found that the Redskins could part ways with Mcnabb with only a 3.75 million dollar hit, which then led to his odd third string demotion, which then has Mcnabb facing a very familiar and disrespectful situation.
He will end the season with a 77.1 QB rating, the lowest of his career since his rookie year. He has struggled this year under a new system and was not given the benefit of the doubt, despite the high price tag Washington paid.
He's bound to find work elsewhere and for his sake, hopefully it's a team that appreciates him.
Brett Favre: Is It Over??
Love him or hate him, Favre will go down as one of the very best who ever played his position.
20 years since the Atlanta Falcons drafted him, he's thrown over 10,000 pass attempts,
started 297 consecutive games, thrown for 71,838 yards and is the only QB to ever throw for
500 touchdown passes in a career.
What more is there to say about the NFL's biggest attention monger that hasn't been said? If Vikings fans have ever heard the saying "Be careful what you wish for," it's a complete microcosm of their season.
The Vikings basically mortgaged their team chemistry and futures on the arm of the aging quarterback when they embarked on plane trip after plane trip to try and convince Brett to return to the team.
For a man who looked so magical and unstoppable just a year ago with virtually the same cast, it's hard to fathom how far he has really fallen.
Where to start with their season? The timing of Rice's surgery? The Randy Moss saga? Brad Childress being fired? The Metrodome collapsing? The sexting sandal with Jenn Sterger?
All Love Boat jokes aside, the Vikings' season simply cannot end fast enough, as they have endured enough controversy, disappointment and shocking failures in just one NFL season to last a career.
And even now, instead of the focus being on the team, Leslie Frazier and who will be the QB moving forward, it's yet again another will-he-or-won't-he topic of debate concerning Brett Favre.
The man's final bell has rung, and while Week 17 will provide a myriad of surprises, big wins and story lines, in the media's eyes, none will be bigger than Favre's last game
He wouldn't want it any other way.