2014 Holiday Cards for Every NFL Team

By on December 17, 2014

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B/R Illustration

Let's be honest: It has been a tough year for the NFL. Well, attendance has been good and viewership is at an all-time high, but all the off-the-field stuff has really put a damper on...on...something. It's put a damper on something.

So how about some NFL-themed holiday cheer.

Each year we tirelessly scour the country for every NFL team's holiday card. These are without a doubt 100,000 percent real cards and not Photoshop creations I spent the better part of a week making. Real. Totally, good-tidingly real. 

(For a gander at last year's cards, go here. Oh, and here are 2012's. Ho, ho, ho.)

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Alabama. Oregon. Florida State. Ohio State. It's a final four any college football fan would dream of in the inaugural four-team playoff system. The College Football Playoff selection committee got it right, or they at least didn't get it wrong, and that decision between selecting Florida State, Ohio State, TCU and/or Baylor has made for some lively debate all across the country.

Four teams are better than two, sure, but is four better than…more?

The question the College Football Playoff committee is answering in the wake of its first football final four announcement is why they decided to include Ohio State over Big 12 competitors Baylor and TCU. The question they really should be answering today is: When do we get to eight, so we no longer have to have that debate and can, instead, see that decided on the field?

Four is good. Eight would be better. And look, I admit the system worked this season. The first year of the playoff system has given us the opportunity to see Nick Saban and Alabama go up against Urban Meyer and Ohio State in a game that will move the winner into a matchup against either Marcus Mariota and Oregon or Jameis Winston and Florida State.

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Landon Donovan is taking his ball, and his trophy, and going home. Forever.

In the 111th minute of a sloppy, grind-it-out MLS Cup final, MLS MVP Robbie Keane slotted home the cup-winning goal for the LA Galaxy, who defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 in extra time, earning the Los Angeles franchise its record fifth league title.

A jubilant home crowd unfurled its banners and tributes, celebrating another title with the class franchise in MLS, with the class player of a generation.

"Party at Donovan's," one banner read. I have a feeling the Galaxy will bring the cups.

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USA Today

Since Sunday, a silent gesture has said more than any words possibly could, and no matter the intent from five players of the St. Louis Rams, the reaction—and subsequent national debate—is deafening.

There are people, otherwise reasonable Americans, who find what Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt did on Sunday to be deplorable.

There are people who find what those five young men did to be offensive to the police, in direct support of those who chose to riot in the wake of the grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Missouri, in late November. We had a caller on our Bleacher Report Radio show this morning on SiriusXM suggest that members of the Rams simply, and silently, raising their hands in the air was akin to high-fiving a thug carrying a Molotov cocktail.

Hands up. It was a gesture, not a protest. It was a show of support for the community—their community—and not a directed knock at the hardworking police who have been assigned to protect the team, the stadium and that very community. For anyone to suggest otherwise is either missing the point of the display or purposefully changing the conversation to meet their own political agendas.

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Ray Rice was not a victim of NFL double jeopardy. Ray Rice committed a heinous, criminal act and has paid the price for it. Literally. Rice lost his job. He lost any chance at a paycheck for the foreseeable future. He lost any respect he had in the community. He lost a lot. And deservedly so. But he is not—repeat, not—a victim of double jeopardy.

He's a victim of triple jeopardy.

Having previously suspended him for two games, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely on September 8, the same day the Baltimore Ravens cut him, despite team owner Steve Bisciotti going on record several times after the first video surfaced saying he would stand by the embattled running back.

Eight days after Rice was ousted from the NFL, the NFL Players Association filed a formal request for appeal on his behalf, suggesting that the league suspended the running back twice for the same offense. (Therein lies the double jeopardy claim.)

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As Ray Rice began his formal appeal process in front of former federal judge Barbara S. Jones on Wednesday, the proceedings—and ultimately the resolution in this critical case—hinge on one key truth: what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell knew, and when he knew it.

One of the most important decisions in the history of NFL—a crisis that has already changed the league's policies at their very core—comes down to who we (and Jones) believe between Rice and Goodell, based on the recollection of a conversation the two had in June with multiple witnesses, including Rice's wife, in the room at the time.

This appeal isn't about what Ray Rice did in that Atlantic City casino elevator in February. This arbitration hearing is 1,000 percent about what he said this past June and how, in any way, that was negligently ambiguous in the mind of the Commissioner.

To review the details of the case: Rice was arrested on February 15 for striking his then-fiancee, Janay, at the Revel Casino in New Jersey. The first video of Rice pulling her out of the elevator surfaced four days later.

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Dynasty vs. Destiny. That's how Major League Baseball billed Game 7 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals. Sadly for Royals fans, who have waited nearly three decades since the team's last championship, the 2014 World Series did not manifest in destiny.

But what about the Giants "dynasty?" Is winning three titles in five years a modern-day dynasty?

In most sportswriting circles, it is. There is no word better than "dynasty" to describe something as simple as "a really good team that wins a lot."

The San Francisco Giants are surely that—a really good team that wins a lot. But are Bruce Bochy's bunch more than that? Are the Giants a bona fide sports dynasty?

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Teenage pitching phenom Mo'ne Davis was back on the national stage during the World Series—sorry, Major League Baseball's iteration of the World Series, not the Little League version that made her famous in the first place—in an ad for Chevrolet titled "Throw Like A Girl."

Directed by Spike Lee, the 60-second television spot, which is part of a 16-minute film Chevrolet produced about the young star, features Davis reading the words of what sounds like a letter to the American public.

"Dear United States of America," the commercial begins, "I am 13 years old. This summer was the best summer of my young life."

Thirteen. That's an important thing to remember when we talk about the composure Davis has shown since being thrust into the national—frankly, international—spotlight this summer, all for having the ability to throw a baseball better than almost anyone else her age, boy or girl.

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Every four years, but for a brief fortnight, a handful of world-class athletes convene from all reaches of the globe to capture our hearts, enrich our lives and inspire us with wondrous feats of strength and speed.

We call these men and women heroes in the most literal, historic sense. They are an inspiration, not just for the success they achieve, but for all they sacrifice to do so. They are Olympians: a better breed of human being…or so we often hope to believe.

Sometimes the pedestal we place our champions on is warranted, and other times the truth of a person's character lies deep within, behind the layers upon layers of accolades, hard-plated in gold—sometimes silver or bronze, but mostly gold—and protected from ever reaching the surface.

It's easy to compare Oscar Pistorius and Michael Phelps in so many ways, but almost all of them tend to come tethered to each star's athletic prowess.

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Jurgen Klinsmann is managing U.S. Soccer like a second-term president. Now past one World Cup cycle that saw him receive a contract extension through the 2018 tournament before his team even landed in Brazil this summer, the American soccer governing body handed over as much power as it possibly could to its current head of state.

It seems—and frankly, who can blame him—the power has gone to his head. There is no person in international sports with more job security than Klinsmann, and his recent comments illustrate just how much he cares about his legacy in the annals of U.S. Soccer above anything else, including his current constituents.

It's not even that Klinsmann is wrong with his recent comments; it's more the sheer audacity of their timing.

[Update: Klinsmann's comments about the MLS harming certain U.S. players' progress inspired a heated response from MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who said in a conference call Wednesday, "For him to publicly state issues that he has with Major League Soccer, in my view, is not something that is going to allow him to effectively serve the role of not just coach, but as technical director.")