2014 NFL season

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This article is about the American football season in the United States. For the Gaelic football season in Ireland, see 2014 National Football League (Ireland).
2014 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 4 – December 28, 2014
Playoffs
Start date January 3, 2015
Super Bowl XLIX
Date February 1, 2015
Site University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Pro Bowl
Date January 25, 2015
Site University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
National Football League seasons
 < 2013  

The 2014 NFL season, the 95th season in the history of the National Football League (NFL), began on Thursday, September 4, 2014, with the annual kickoff game featuring the defending Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers, which resulted with the Seahawks winning 36–16. The season will conclude with Super Bowl XLIX, the league's championship game, on Sunday, February 1, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Player movement[edit]

The 2014 league year began at 4 pm EST on March 11,[1] which marked the start of the league's free agency period.[2] The per-team salary cap was set at US$133 million,[3] a $10 million increase from the previous year.[4] The so-called "legal tampering" period[5] during which time agents representing prospective unrestricted free agent players (though not the players themselves) were allowed to have contact with team representatives with the purpose of determining a player's market value and to begin contract negotiations, began at noon (EST) on March 8.[3]

Free agency[edit]

A total of 471 players were eligible for some form of free agency at the beginning of the free agency period.[2] In addition, a number of highly paid players were released after the start of the league year to allow their teams to regain space under the salary cap. Among the high profile players who changed teams via free agency were cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (left the Buccaneers, joined the Patriots), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (from Broncos to Giants), Aqib Talib (from Patriots to Broncos) and Alterraun Verner (from Titans to Buccaneers); safeties Jairus Byrd (from Bills to Saints) and T. J. Ward (from Browns to Broncos); defensive ends DeMarcus Ware (from Cowboys to Broncos), Lamarr Houston (from Raiders to Bears), Willie Young (from Lions to Bears) and Michael Johnson (from Bengals to Buccaneers); offensive tackles Jared Veldheer (from Raiders to Cardinals) and Brandon Albert (from Chiefs to Dolphins); defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (from Cowboys to Redskins); wide receivers DeSean Jackson (Eagles to Redskins), Steve Smith (Panthers to Ravens) and Eric Decker (from Broncos to Jets); and linebacker Karlos Dansby (from Cardinals to Browns).[6]

Four players were assigned the non-exclusive franchise tag by their teams, which ensured that the team would receive compensation were the player to sign a contract with another team. These players were defensive end Greg Hardy (Panthers), tight end Jimmy Graham (Saints), placekicker Nick Folk (Jets) and linebacker Brian Orakpo (Redskins).[7] Two other teams used the transition tag, which offers the player's current team a chance to match offers from other franchises and also guarantees draft pick compensation (at a lesser level than the franchise tag) if a tagged player signs elsewhere. Players given the transition tag were Jason Worilds (Steelers) and Alex Mack (Browns). Mack signed a five year, $42 million offer sheet with the Jacksonville Jaguars which included $26 million in guaranteed money and a player option to void the contract after two seasons. The Browns matched the offer and retained Mack who became the league's highest paid center.[8]

One restricted free agent switched teams in 2014: wide receiver Andrew Hawkins of the Bengals was signed by the Browns.[9] Restricted free agents are players with three or fewer seasons in the league whose contracts have expired. Teams may tender contract offers which allow them to match offers from other teams (i.e. the player's current team gets "right of first refusal") and may trigger draft pick compensation to be received from the signing team.[10] Hawkins was tendered at the minimum level, which means the Bengals would not receive any draft compensation.[11] The Browns signed him to a $13.6 million, four-year offer, which the Bengals declined to match.[12] Saints safety Rafael Bush signed an offer from the Falcons, but the Saints retained Bush by matching the offer.[9][13]

Draft[edit]

For more details on this topic, see 2014 NFL Draft.

The 2014 NFL Draft was held May 8–10, 2014, in New York City.[14] The draft process began with the NFL Scouting Combine, where draft-eligible players were evaluated by team personnel, which was held in Indianapolis on February 19–25.[1] This year's draft included a record number of 98 non-seniors.[15] The event was delayed roughly two weeks compared to its traditional position on the NFL calendar in late April due to a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall,[16] which has been the draft venue since 2006. In the draft the Houston Texans made University of South Carolina defensive end, now outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney the first overall selection.[17]

There was discussion leading up to the draft as to the future of the event in New York City, where it has been held since 1965. Given the increased interest in the draft over the past decade,[18] there is a belief that the event may have outgrown Radio City Music Hall, which has been the venue for the past nine drafts. The possibility of extending the draft to four days was also being discussed. The NFL will decide in late summer where and when next year's draft will take place.[19]

Preseason[edit]

Training camps for the 2014 season was held in late July through August. Teams may start training camp no earlier than 15 days before the team's first scheduled preseason game.[1]

Prior to the start of the regular season, each team will play at least four preseason exhibition games. The preseason schedule got underway with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday evening, August 3. The Hall of Fame game is a traditional part of the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend celebrating new Hall of Fame members. It was played at Fawcett Stadium which is located adjacent to the Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio. The game, which was televised in the U.S. on NBC, featured the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, with the Giants winning 17–13.[20] Continuing the recent trend of scheduling teams that are associated with former players being inducted into the Hall, the 2014 class included former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and former Bills wide receiver Andre Reed. The others who were inducted into the Hall of Fame are linebacker Derrick Brooks, punter Ray Guy, defensive end Claude Humphrey, offensive tackle Walter Jones, and defensive back Aeneas Williams.[21] The 65-game preseason schedule wrapped up on Thursday, August 28, a week before the start of the regular season.[22]

Regular season[edit]

The 2014 regular season will feature 256 games to be played out over a seventeen week schedule which begins on the Thursday night following Labor Day. Each of the league's 32 teams will play a 16-game schedule with one bye week for each team scheduled between weeks four and twelve. The slate features seventeen games on Monday night including a doubleheader in the season's opening week. There will be seventeen games played on Thursday, including the National Football League Kickoff game in prime time on September 4 and three games on Thanksgiving Day. The schedule also includes two games played on Saturday, December 20, in the season's sixteenth week. The regular season concludes with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, December 28, all of which, as it was since 2010, are intra-divisional matchups.[23]

Scheduling formula

Under the NFL's current scheduling formula, each team plays each of the other three teams in their own division twice. In addition, a team plays against all four teams in one other division from each conference. The final two games on a team's schedule are against the two teams in the team's own conference in the divisions the team was not set to play who finished the previous season in the same rank in their division (e.g. the team which finished first in its division the previous season would play each other team in their conference that also finished first in its respective division). The pre-set division pairings for 2014 are as follows:

   Intra-conference
AFC East vs. AFC West
AFC North vs. AFC South
NFC East vs. NFC West
NFC North vs. NFC South

   Inter-conference
AFC East vs. NFC North
AFC North vs. NFC South
AFC South vs. NFC East
AFC West vs. NFC West

Highlights of the 2014 schedule include:

  • Thanksgiving Day games: These games will occur on Thursday, November 27, 2014. The Detroit Lions will host the Chicago Bears at 12:30 p.m. ET, and will air on CBS (who normally air afternoon road games of AFC teams), while the Dallas Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles at 4:30 p.m. ET, and will air on Fox. The prime-time NBC game, featuring the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of the previous year's NFC Championship Game, will be featured at 8:30 p.m. ET. For the first time ever, no AFC teams will appear on Thanksgiving.

On March 4, 2014, the Buffalo Bills' official radio flagship (WGR) confirmed that the Bills Toronto Series would not take place in 2014[28] and that the future of the series, which was otherwise scheduled to run through the 2017 season,[29] was not yet certain.

Standings[edit]

Postseason[edit]

Wild card round

The wild card round of the playoffs will feature the two wild card playoff qualifiers from each conference being hosted by the two lowest seeded divisional winners. The top two seeds in each conference will all have first-round byes. The games will be played January 3–4, 2015.[23]

Divisional round

The divisional round games will be played on January 10–11, 2015 with the winner of each of the games in the wild card round visiting one of the top two seeded teams in each conference.[23]

Conference championships

The conference championships will be played on Sunday, January 18, 2015, with the NFC Championship Game at 3:00 pm Eastern Time on Fox and the AFC Championship Game following at 6:30 pm Eastern on CBS.[23]

Super Bowl XLIX[edit]

Super Bowl XLIX, the 49th contesting of the Super Bowl, will decide the 2014 NFL champion on February 1, 2015. The game will take place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.[30] The Super Bowl will be televised in the U.S. by NBC with kickoff around 4:30 pm MST.[31]

Pro Bowl[edit]

Main article: 2015 Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl is the league's all-star game. On April 9, 2014, the NFL announced that the 2015 Pro Bowl would be played the week prior to the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It will be broadcast in the U.S. by ESPN on Sunday, January 25, 2015. It was also announced that the unconferenced draft format that debuted in the 2014 Pro Bowl would be continued.[32]

Notable events[edit]

Some NFL-related events that made headlines throughout 2014 include:

Colts' owner Jim Irsay guilty of OWI; suspended 6 games[edit]

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested on March 16 near his home in Carmel, Indiana on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) after failing field sobriety tests. A search of Irsay's vehicle revealed "numerous prescription medication bottles containing pills" as well as almost $30,000 in cash. Preliminary charges of DUI and four counts of possession of a controlled substance were filed against Irsay, who was jailed overnight.[33] Irsay entered a rehabilitation facility shortly after his release from jail.[34] Irsay had undergone treatment for prescription drug addiction previously in the early 2000s.[35] Irsay returned to the Colts shortly before the draft in May.[36]

In late May, Irsay was charged with two misdemeanor counts in the incident: operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the body. Prosecutors allege Irsay was under the influence of oxycodone or hydrocodone, both of which are prescription opioid narcotic pain medications.[37]

Irsay pleaded guilty on September 2 to one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), which is a Class C misdemeanor in Indiana. He was sentenced to one year of probation during which he is forbidden from consuming or possessing alcohol and his driving privileges were revoked for a period of one year and 40 days. He will be subject to random drug testing as a condition of his probation. In addition, the judge stipulated that any subsequent OWI charge in a five year period will be treated as a felony. The NFL banned Irsay from any contact with his team for six games and also levied a fine of $500,000. He was also forbidden from doing any media interviews or making comments related to the team on social media during the suspension. It was expected that Irsay's daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, would assume control of the team during his absence.[38]

Michael Sam becomes first openly gay player drafted by NFL[edit]

Michael Sam, an All-America defensive lineman from Missouri who was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, announced in February that he is gay.[39] Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 draft with the 249th overall selection.[40] He became the first non-closeted homosexual to be selected in the NFL Draft and if he makes an NFL roster, he would become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Sam, the Rams and the NFL were publicly congratulated upon Sam's selection by U.S. president Barack Obama who called Sam's selection "an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey."[41] However, Sam stated after the draft that he felt he "should have gone in the top three rounds easily"[42] and there was speculation that his announcement of his sexuality caused him to fall in the draft.[43] Sam was the first ever SEC Defensive Player of the Year to not be selected in the first round of the draft.[44] On the other hand, Sam's performance at the NFL Scouting Combine was widely judged as "mediocre" and at least one draft analyst assessed his odds of making an NFL roster as only "slightly better than average."[44]

ESPN aired Sam's reaction to being drafted which included an embrace and celebratory kiss with his partner. Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted a negative reaction to the display, which caused the Dolphins to fine him and ban him from participation in off-season team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training.[45]

On August 30, Sam was cut by the Rams a few days before the regular season was to start. The league took action to sell other teams on Sam, hoping to avoid a “nightmare scenario” and make sure Sam stayed on a league roster, since Sam's presence in the NFL was something that “Roger Goodell and the NFL supports and they want their teams to support,” according to multiple sources.[46] On September 3, the Dallas Cowboys added Sam to their practice squad.

Lawsuits by NFL cheerleaders[edit]

During the offseason, a major headline was many current and former cheerleaders filing lawsuits against their respective NFL teams for unfair labor practices. Members of the Buffalo Jills, Cincinnati Ben–Gals, Jets Flight Crew, Oakland Raiderettes, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders all filed lawsuits against their respective teams (or, in the case of the Jills, the non-profit organization that runs the Jills) for violating their respective state laws for labor practices, stating that they were required to meet certain appearance standards in both weight and make-up (at the expense of the cheerleaders) and attend mandatory unpaid practices, while being paid very little for each game, and in some cases, only receiving a lump sum payment after the season.[47] One lawsuit by a Raiderette, who had a young child at home and was prompted by her husband to initiate the lawsuit, was ruled as a seasonal job in federal court and thus not subject to minimum wage laws, but still was pending in a California state court and that state's more stringent labor laws.[48] Most controversial was the Jills' "Jiggle Test" that became public knowledge.[49] The Jills suspended operations indefinitely in response to the lawsuit.[50] It has been speculated that all NFL teams might drop their cheerleading squads in response to the lawsuits instead of paying their squads accordingly despite having the financial means to do so,[51] though the Cleveland Browns are considering adding cheerleaders to the team.[52]

Washington Redskins name controversy[edit]

On June 18, 2014, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, in a 2–1 decision, invalidated some of the trademark protections of the Washington Redskins, stating that the use of the team name "Redskins" constituted an ethnic slur.[53] The Redskins are not required to change their name. However, if the decision is upheld on appeal (the team intends to appeal and has no intention of changing the team name), they will not be able to prevent counterfeiters from manufacturing certain knockoff Redskins' apparel.

With the Minnesota Vikings playing their first of two consecutive seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium (see below), the university has asked the Vikings to keep the Washington team's name from being used in printed materials or uttered by the game announcer at the stadium. The college has also requested that the Redskins wear their throwback jerseys without the team name and logo when they visit the Vikings on November 2. University officials said that the use of the Redskins name at their stadium violates the institution's affirmative action, diversity and equal opportunity policy. Lester Bagley, the Vikings' executive vice president of public affairs, said that the team is still deciding how it will handle the college's request.[54][55]

Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen relinquishes control of team[edit]

On July 23, Pat Bowlen, the Denver Broncos' owner since 1984, relinquished control of the team due to his battle with Alzheimer's disease. Bowlen has been privately battling the disease since 2009 after experiencing short-term memory loss, and has since taken a reduced role with the team, resulting in team president Joe Ellis and executive vice president/general manager John Elway making team decisions. Ellis and Elway will now assume full control of the team, though Bowlen's long-term plan is for one of his seven children to run the team in the future, preventing the Broncos from being put up for sale.[56][57]

Ray Rice domestic violence suspension[edit]

On February 15, 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancée Janay Palmer were both arrested for assault after a physical altercation that took place at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Celebrity news website TMZ posted a video of Rice dragging Palmer's body out of an elevator at the casino.[58] The Ravens issued a statement following TMZ's release of the video, calling Rice's domestic violence arrest a "serious matter."[59]

On March 27, 2014, a grand jury indicted Rice on charges of third-degree aggravated assault, which could carry a jail sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Charges against Palmer were dropped.[60] Rice and Palmer were married the day after his indictment.[61] Rice pleaded guilty to one count of third degree aggravated assault and was accepted into a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders on May 20.[62] Under the terms of the plea deal, the charges would be dropped and expunged from Rice's record if he meets the conditions imposed by the judge for the next 12 months.[63]

Rice was suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season on July 25.[64] On September 8, TMZ released footage from a camera inside the elevator in which the assault took place. The video appears to show Rice punching Palmer in the face causing Palmer to immediately fall to the ground, perhaps striking her head on the elevator's handrail on the way to the floor, and leaving her motionless. Within hours of the video's release, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice's contract. Shortly therefter, Goodell announced that Rice had been suspended from the league indefinitely.[65][66]

Rice, along with the players' union, appealed the indefinite suspension on the grounds that a player cannot be disciplined twice for the same incident. The union requested that Goodell recuse himself from hearing the appeal (as he normally would under the league's personal conduct policy) since he will be a witness in the proceedings.[67]

New league policy on domestic violence[edit]

As a result of widespread criticism of the two-game suspension handed down in the Ray Rice case, which was considered too lenient by many commentators,[68] the NFL announced a new policy on dealing with domestic violence on August 28. Under the new policy the first offense of domestic violence would be punishable by a minimum six-game suspension without pay; a second offense would result in a "lifetime" ban from the league. These rules will apply to all league personnel, including executives and owners, not just players. A person who receives a "lifetime" ban would be eligible to petition the league for reinstatement after one year. The penalty for the first offense could be increased by a number of factors including a previous incident prior to joining the league, the use of a weapon, an act committed against a pregnant woman and the presence of a child.[69]

Adrian Peterson arrest and benching[edit]

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted by a Houston grand jury on a felony charge of injury to a child on September 12. The charge stemmed from a beating with a tree branch, or switch, which Peterson allegedly administered to his 4 year old son as a disciplinary measure.[70] Peterson turned himself in for arrest following the indictment.

The Vikings announced following the arrest that Peterson would be deactivated and would not play in the team's game that weekend. The following Monday the team announced that Peterson would be allowed to rejoin the team. They reversed direction two days later and placed Peterson on the inactive list pending resolution of the charges.[71]

Noteworthy deaths[edit]

William Clay Ford[edit]

refer to caption
William Clay Ford, Sr. in 1961
refer to caption
Ralph Wilson in 1961
NFL team owners William Clay Ford, Sr. and Ralph Wilson both died in March

William Clay Ford, Sr., the owner of the Detroit Lions, died March 9, two weeks shy of his 89th birthday.[72] Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 and had been the team's president since 1961;[73] at the time of his death, he was the second-longest tenured owner in the NFL, behind only Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson.[74] The team achieved only a single playoff win (in 1991) under Ford's ownership.[73]

Ownership of the team passed to his widow, the former Martha Firestone. Ford's four children, including team vice-chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. are also involved in running the team.[74]

Ralph Wilson[edit]

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died at age 95 on March 25. He was the founding owner of the franchise, which began in 1960 in the American Football League (AFL). Wilson played a central role in the negotiations between the AFL and NFL which eventually led to the AFL–NFL merger in 1970. He was the last remaining NFL owner among the Foolish Club, as the original eight AFL owners were named. Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.[75] Coincidentally, both Wilson and Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr. died at their respective homes in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, within three weeks of each other.

Ownership of the Bills passed to a trust headed by Wilson's widow, the former Mary McLean, and controlled by her and three other team officials. The trust put the team up for sale shortly after Wilson's death.[76] The bidders for the team included payroll processing magnate Tom Golisano, natural gas tycoon Terrence Pegula, real estate mogul Donald Trump, a consortium including former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and bond manager Jeffrey Gundlach, and a consortium of Jon Bon Jovi and the principals of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.[77][78][79] Despite a poor economy and attendance declines, the team was not in immediate jeopardy of relocating, mainly because of an ironclad stadium lease signed during Wilson's lifetime that effectively prevents the team from leaving until after the 2019 season and because potential Los Angeles-based interests had been intimidated away from buying the team. The team was eventually sold to Pegula for an reported price of 1.4 billion dollars.

As has been a custom in the event of previous NFL owner's deaths, the Bills will wear a patch bearing Wilson's initials on their jerseys throughout the 2014 season.[80]

Malcolm Glazer[edit]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' owner Malcolm Glazer died at age 85 on May 28. Glazer had owned the Buccaneers since 1995, a period which covers basically half of the team's history. The $192 million price Glazer paid set a record at the time for the price of a sports franchise. The franchise was in disarray when Glazer bought it after the death of founding owner Hugh Culverhouse. The Bucs had made the playoffs just three times in their 19 years under Culverhouse, while in the 19 seasons since Glazer took over, they made the playoffs seven times, including winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002.[81]

Glazer's widow, Linda Glazer, and the Glazer's six children will continue to own and operate the team.[82]

Chuck Noll[edit]

The former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach died at age 82 on June 13. Noll was widely accredited with fixing the Steelers from the bottom to the fierce team they are today. He brought the team to four Super Bowl victories, most by a head coach. When he began work for the team in 1969, the Steelers had not won a single title in nearly 40 years. He coached multiple Hall of Fame players including: Terry Bradshaw, "Mean" Joe Greene, Mike Webster, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Franco Harris.[83]

Possible relocations[edit]

Buffalo Bills[edit]

In July 2014 it was reported that Jon Bon Jovi and the principals of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (a consortium between Bills Toronto Series lessee Edward Rogers III and Larry Tanenbaum) had joined forces as equal partners to bid on the Buffalo Bills, with Bon Jovi the proposed controlling owner.[84] It was also reported that the group had conducted a feasibility study in early 2013 on the construction of a NFL stadium in Toronto.[85] Following protests by Buffalo area fans against the Toronto group, including radio stations banning Bon Jovi's music,[86] Bon Jovi wrote a public letter to Bills fans saying that the group's objective was to "make the Bills successful in Buffalo" and committing to work with all levels of government "to identify the best possible site in the Buffalo area for a new stadium",[87] though it noticeably did not promise to keep the team in Buffalo.[88] The group claimed it had plans to meet with developers in the Buffalo region to discuss the construction of a new stadium.[89][90] However, there was widespread skepticism about the sincerity of the group's pledge to keep the team in Buffalo,[89] with a sports franchise relocation expert quoted as saying that if they did intend to move the club, "I would suggest never saying that publicly" due to the legal implications of selling the team to a group planning on relocating it.[91]

The Toronto group was one of four known to have submitted a preliminary bid for the franchise. The other groups, which intend to keep the club in Buffalo, were: eventual winner Terrence Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres; Donald Trump, who formerly owned the New Jersey Generals; and Tom Golisano, former owner of the Buffalo Sabres.[90][92] Trump described his chances of being the successful bidder as "very, very unlikely because I'm not going to do something totally stupid."[93] Other Canadians who explored purchasing the team include John Bitove, who was co-founder the Toronto Raptors, and the family of Francesco Aquilini, who owns the Vancouver Canucks, though it is unknown if they intended to move the team.[94][95] Though Tanenbaum and Rogers had significant wealth, it had been reported that the Toronto group's bid was limited by Bon Jovi's resources and his desire to be the controlling partner; NFL regulations require the controlling partner to have a 30% equity stake.[96] Los Angeles-based interests largely stayed away from the Bills, citing concerns over the stadium's lease and the fear that politicians will place intense scrutiny on any person who attempts to move the Bills out of Buffalo; multibillionaire Eli Broad declined to place a bid on the team for those reasons.[97]

The sale was completed on September 9, to Kim Pegula for a reported amount of 1.4 billion dollars which made the Bills purchase the most expensive in league history. The sale was done in time for Pegula to be approved at the NFL's owners meeting on October 6–8,[93] at which the approval of 24 of 32 NFL teams will be required. Pegula's husband and financier, Terry Pegula, owns the Buffalo Sabres and development projects in the Buffalo area. The Pegulas intend to keep the team in Western New York for the long term.

Any possible relocation had one of the other bidders won (or if Pegula resells the team to anyone in the future) could not happen under the terms of the Bills' current lease on Ralph Wilson Stadium until the end of the 2019 season and would have, at least on paper, required league endorsement (whether the league could, in and of itself, stop a relocation is unclear; Al Davis moved the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982 against the league's wishes). And a relocation fee, which had been speculated to be $100–$200 million, could be charged by the NFL,[98][99][100][101][102][103] though this could be offset by an increase in franchise value in a larger market.[102][104] Goodell has said the two votes would be held separately.[105] Of the owners who made their position known, Jerry Jones was believed to have been in favor of the Bills moving to Toronto, while John Mara, Robert Wood Johnson IV, the Green Bay Packers Board of Directors, and Shahid Khan indicated they would have most likely opposed moving the team.[106]

Oakland Raiders[edit]

On July 29, 2014, reports surfaced that the Oakland Raiders may consider relocating to San Antonio in 2015 after owner Mark Davis met with San Antonio civic leaders the week before at the encouragement of former Raider Cliff Branch, which Davis was in town to visit for a local ceremony for Branch. The Raiders themselves had acknowledged Davis being in San Antonio for the event for Branch before news broke about a possible relocation, but wouldn't confirm nor deny that Davis also mentioned being there discussing moving his team east.[107] Among the two existing NFL teams in Texas, Houston Texans' owner Bob McNair and Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones — the latter of which has San Antonio as part of his territorial rights and previously voiced support of an NFL team moving there when the New Orleans Saints temporarily played in San Antonio in 2005 due to damages to the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina — both favor an NFL team playing in San Antonio.[108]

Though San Antonio is a smaller market than the San Francisco Bay Area, the Raiders wouldn't be sharing the market with another NFL team, and would only compete with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs among major sports teams. Additionally, the Raiders would use the Alamodome as a temporary home until an NFL-specific stadium could be constructed.[107] The team's lease at the O.co Coliseum expires after the 2014 season.[109]

On September 3, 2014, the Raiders and the city of Oakland reached a tentative deal to build a new football stadium in Oakland, which would result in the Coliseum being demolished.[110]

St. Louis Rams[edit]

The Rams and the St. Louis CVC began negotiating deals to get the Rams home stadium, the Edward Jones Dome into the top 25 percent of stadiums in the league (i.e., top eight teams of the thirty two NFL teams in reference to luxury boxes, amenities and overall fan experience). Under the terms of the lease agreement, the St. Louis CVC was required to make modifications to the Edward Jones Dome in 2005. However, then-owner, Georgia Frontiere, waived the provision in exchange for cash that served as a penalty for the city's noncompliance. The City of St. Louis, in subsequent years, made changes to the score board and increased the natural lighting by replacing panels with windows, although the overall feel remains dark. The minor renovations which totaled about $70 million did not bring the stadium within the specifications required under the lease agreement. On February 1, 2013, an Arbitrator (3 panel) selected to preside over the arbitration process found that the Edward Jones Dome was not in the top 25% of all NFL venues as required under the terms of the lease agreement between the Rams and the CVC. The Arbitrator (3 panel) further found that the estimated $700 million in proposed renovations by the Rams was not unreasonable given the terms of the lease agreement. Finally, the City of St. Louis was Ordered to pay the Rams attorneys' fees which totaled a reported $2 million.

Publicly, city, county and state officials have expressed no interest in providing further funding to the Edward Jones Dome in light of those entities, as well as taxpayers, continuing to owe approximately $300 million more on that facility. As such, if a resolution is not reached by the end of the 2014-2015 NFL season and the City of St. Louis remains non-compliant in its obligations under the lease agreement, the Rams would be free to nullify their lease and relocate.

On January 31, 2014, both the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California. It would be, by the most conservative estimates, sufficient land on which a NFL-proper stadium may be constructed. The purchase price was rumored to have been between US$90–100 million. Commissioner Roger Goodell represented that Mr. Kroenke informed the league of the purchase. As an NFL owner, any purchase of land in which a potential stadium could be built must be disclosed to the league. This development has further fueled rumors that the Rams intend to return its management and football operations to Southern California. The land was initially targeted for a Walmart Supercenter but Walmart could not get the necessary permits to build the center. Kroenke is married to Ann Walton Kroenke who is a member of the Walton family and many of Kroenke's real estate deals have involved Walmart properties.[111][112]

Rule changes[edit]

The following rule changes were passed for the 2014 NFL season at the owner's meeting on March 26, 2014:[113]

  • Eliminating the Referee's time out after a sack (previously the clock did not stop for a sack only after the two-minute warning).
  • Simplify spot of enforcement on defensive fouls committed behind the line of scrimmage to enforce from the previous spot instead of the end of the run or the spot of the foul.
  • Raise the height of the goal post to 35 feet from its current height of 30 feet, where it has been since the 1974 NFL Season.
  • Extend the restriction on roll-up blocks to include such blocks from the side as well as from the back.
  • "Dunking" the football through the goal post/crossbar (or any other means of using the goal post/crossbar as a prop in touchdown celebrations) is now considered unsportsmanlike conduct (15 yards). This rule was in response to New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's tendency to dunk the football after scores. One of Graham's dunks during the Saints' Week 12 game against the Atlanta Falcons bent the goal posts so much that the game was delayed several minutes in order for the stadium crew to make repairs. In addition, the aforementioned rule change to extend the goal posts will add extra weight, increasing the chances that it could collapse. This celebration was previously "grandfathered" as legal much like the Lambeau Leap.
  • Expand replays to cover recovery of loose balls even if the play is blown dead. This was in response to San Francisco 49ers defensive player NaVorro Bowman's clear recovery of a loose ball and downed by contact in the 2013-14 NFL playoffs but the ball was still given to the Seattle Seahawks after Seahawks running back Michael Robinson took it away from Bowman after Bowman was forced to let go of the ball due to a severe knee injury. Despite the indisputable video evidence of the recovery by Bowman, the play was not reviewable.
  • Connecting the officiating command center to the field-to-booth communication relay, allowing the Referee to communicate with the command center during replay reviews. This was in response to some controversial replay reviews during the 2013 season, as well as league officials observing the NHL's command center. Unlike the NHL's replay system however, NFL referees will still make the final decisions instead of the command center.
  • Make on-field taunting and use of racial/sexual slurs subject to unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (15 yards).

The league has also instructed game officials to strictly enforce offensive pass interference, defensive holding, and illegal contact.[114]

A proposal to move the line of scrimmage on the extra point try from the 2-yard line to the 25-yard line to increase their difficulty (a 43-yard try as opposed to the more easily makable 20 yards) was tabled (as was a counterproposal from the Cincinnati Bengals to move it up to the 1-yard line, to encourage more two-point conversions),[115] but the owners approved an experiment of kicking extra points snapping from the 20-yard line (a 38-yard try) for the first two weeks of the preseason. 94.3% of PATs were made during the two week experiment, as opposed to a 99.6% success rate all of last season.[116]

New sideline technologies[edit]

As part of the league's deal with Microsoft, coaches will be equipped with Surface tablets to transmit images of plays taken from the top of the stadium to the sideline, eliminating the traditional practice of using printed photos and notebooks.[117]

NFL game officials will wear radio headsets to communicate with each other during games, similar to the systems used by referees at the FIFA World Cup and other higher levels of soccer.[118]

Records and milestones[edit]

Week 1
  • With the Broncos' win over the Colts, Peyton Manning has now earned a victory over all 32 current NFL teams. He joins Brett Favre as the only two quarterbacks to have achieved that feat.[119]
  • Undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, Jaguars, is the first player in NFL history to have two TDs receiving in the first quarter in his NFL debut.[120]
  • In week 1 quarterbacks completed 64.3 percent of their passes, an NFL record.[121]
Week 2

40th Anniversary of Super Bowl IX[edit]

The Pittsburgh Steelers will honor the 40th anniversary of their first Super Bowl winning team, Super Bowl IX, during their Week 13 game against the New Orleans Saints at Heinz Field on Sunday, November 30. (The Steelers played the Super Bowl at Tulane Stadium that year.) The team will wear a special patch and honor the players at halftime. As it will also serve as the team's annual alumni weekend,[123] the team will wear their standard home uniforms for the game, opting instead to wear their alternate 1934 "Bumblebee" throwbacks against the Colts on October 26.[124]

Although related to the 40th anniversary celebration but instead occurring four weeks earlier against the archrival Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers announced on July 30, 2014 that they will officially retire longtime Steeler "Mean Joe" Greene's number 75 during the Ravens game 33 years after the number was removed from circulation following Greene's retirement as a player.[125] Greene, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who also served as an assistant coach and scout with the Steelers and one of only four people outside the Rooney family to have a Super Bowl ring from all six Super Bowl winning teams,[126] joins fellow Hall of Famer Ernie Stautner as the only Steelers to have their jersey numbers officially retired.[125]

90th Anniversary of the New York Giants[edit]

The New York Giants will wear a patch which the players will wear throughout the year on their uniforms. The Giants organization was founded in 1925 and is the fourth-oldest franchise in the NFL behind the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers. [1]

Head coach/front office personnel changes[edit]

Head coach[edit]

Offseason
Team 2013 head coach
(at start of season)
2013 interim head coach Reason for leaving 2014 replacement Story/Accomplishments
Houston Texans Kubiak, GaryGary Kubiak Phillips, WadeWade Phillips Fired O'Brien, BillBill O'Brien[127] Kubiak was fired on December 6, 2013, after accumulating a 61–63 record in just under eight seasons as the Texans' head coach. Wade Phillips was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the 2013 season.[128] Kubiak joined the Baltimore Ravens as offensive coordinator. O'Brien spent the past two seasons as the Penn State head coach and previously as a New England Patriots assistant.
Cleveland Browns Chudzinski, RobRob Chudzinski Pettine, MikeMike Pettine Chudzinski was fired on December 29, 2013, after going 4–12 in his only season as Browns head coach.[129] Chudzinki joined the Indianapolis Colts as a special assistant to the head coach.[130] Pettine was the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator last season.[131]
Detroit Lions Schwartz, JimJim Schwartz Caldwell, JimJim Caldwell Schwartz was fired on December 30, 2013 after a 1–6 stumble to end the 2013 season despite having led the NFC North earlier in the season. He finished with a 29–51 record over five seasons.[132] Schwartz joined the Buffalo Bills as defensive coordinator. Caldwell was hired as head coach on January 14. He previously was head coach for the Indianapolis Colts from 2009–2011 and finished with a 26–22 record. For the last year and a half, he was the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.[133]
Minnesota Vikings Frazier, LeslieLeslie Frazier Zimmer, MikeMike Zimmer Frazier was fired on December 30, 2013 after more than three seasons as Vikings head coach, ending 2013 with a 5–10–1 record, and his tenure with Minnesota at 21–32–1.[134] Frazier joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as defensive coordinator. Zimmer was hired on January 15 and this is his first head-coaching position. He had been the defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals since 2008. He was also the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 and the Dallas Cowboys from 2000 to 2006.[135]
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schiano, GregGreg Schiano Smith, LovieLovie Smith[136] Schiano was fired on December 30, 2013 along with GM Mark Dominik. Schiano was 11–21 as head coach over two seasons.[137] Smith, a former Buccaneers assistant, served as the head coach of the Chicago Bears from 2004–2012.
Tennessee Titans Munchak, MikeMike Munchak Whisenhunt, KenKen Whisenhunt Munchak was fired on January 4, 2014 after three seasons as Titans head coach, ending his 32-season tenure with the team. He was 22–26 as head coach.[138] Munchak joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as offensive line coach. Whisenhunt was previously the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from 2007 to 2012, compiling a record of 45–51, and served as the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers in 2013.
Washington Redskins Shanahan, MikeMike Shanahan Gruden, JayJay Gruden Shanahan and his staff (except for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett) were fired on December 30, 2013 after a 3–13 record in 2013 and a 24–40 career regular season record with the Redskins.[139] Gruden, who had spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, had previously served as head coach of the Florida Tuskers of the UFL and Orlando Predators of the AFL.[140]

Front office[edit]

Offseason
Team Position 2013 office holder Reason for leaving 2014 replacement Story/Accomplishments
Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Dominik, MarkMark Dominik Fired Licht, JasonJason Licht[141] Dominik was fired on December 30, 2013.[137] He was replaced by Licht who had been the vice president of player personnel of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. Prior to that Licht had served as the Cardinals director of player personnel and had also worked in the front offices of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. He got his start in the NFL as a scout with the Patriots, Panthers and Dolphins.[141]
Cleveland Browns GM Lombardi, MikeMike Lombardi[142] Farmer, RayRay Farmer[143] Lombardi and Banner were fired by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam on February 11 after a lengthy coaching search revealed discord between the two executives.[142] Farmer was promoted from assistant GM to replace Lombardi[143] while no replacement for Banner as CEO was named.[144]
CEO Banner, JoeJoe Banner[142] not replaced
Miami Dolphins GM Ireland, JeffJeff Ireland[145] Mutual agreement Hickey, DennisDennis Hickey[146] Ireland and the Dolphins announced on January 7 that he was leaving the team in the "mutual best interest" of both parties, although it was reported that Ireland was to have been stripped of powers had he remained with the team.[145] He had been in the role since 2008.[145]

Dennis Hickey was hired to replace Ireland on January 27.[146] He had been the director of player personnel of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 2011. Prior to that he had been the Bucs' director of college scouting after starting with the team as a scout.

Denver Broncos CEO Bowlen, PatPat Bowlen Resigned Ellis, JoeJoe Ellis Bowlen resigned his post as CEO and relinquished control of his team on July 23, 2014. Since 2010, he had previously moved most of his duties to team president Joe Ellis and executive vice president/general manager John Elway, following a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.[56]

Awards[edit]

Players of the week/month[edit]

The following were named the top performers during the 2014 season:

Week/
Month
Offensive
Player of the Week/Month
Defensive
Player of the Week/Month
Special Teams
Player of the Week/Month
AFC NFC AFC NFC AFC NFC
1 Julius Thomas[147]
(Broncos)
Matt Ryan[148]
(Falcons)
Cameron Wake[147]
(Dolphins)
DeAndre Levy[148]
(Lions)
Dan Carpenter[147]
(Bills)
Matt Bryant[148]
(Falcons)
2 Antonio Gates[149]
(Chargers)
Darren Sproles[150]
(Eagles)
Chandler Jones[149]
(Patriots)
Kyle Fuller[150]
(Bears)
C.J. Spiller[149]
(Bills)
Ted Ginn, Jr.[150]
(Cardinals)
Week FedEx Air
Player of the Week[151]
(Quarterbacks)
FedEx Ground
Player of the Week[151]
(Running Backs)
Pepsi Next
Rookie of the Week[152]
1 Matt Ryan (Falcons) Knowshon Moreno (Dolphins) Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers)

Media[edit]

This will be the first season under a nine-year television contract with CBS (almost all AFC afternoon away games), Fox (almost all NFC afternoon away games), NBC (Sunday Night Football games, Thanksgiving night game, and the Kickoff game); and an eight-year contract with ESPN (Monday Night Football games).[153][154] Among the changes from the previous TV contracts, NBC will broadcast a Divisional playoff game, and their Spanish language sister network Telemundo will begin to simulcast Sunday Night Football with Spanish language graphics and play-by-play. The contract also allows ESPN to televise a Wild Card playoff game (which, like other NFL games carried on cable, will be simulcast on an over-the-air station in each of the team's primary market).[153] In addition, ESPN will exclusively televise all Pro Bowls for the next eight seasons. Furthermore, the league will be able to move games between CBS and Fox by way of flexible scheduling, enabling CBS to televise NFC away games (for the first time since 1993), and Fox to broadcast AFC away games (for the first time since 2011),[155] in the late Sunday afternoon doubleheader slot.[156]

On February 5, 2014, the league announced it had sold off the first eight weeks of the NFL Network's Thursday Night Football package to CBS, who outbid competitors ABC, Fox, NBC, and Turner Sports.[157][158] NFL Network will simulcast CBS' Thursday night games, will continue to carry the Thursday night games from Week 10 onward, and will also carry two Saturday games (Week 16 doubleheader) for the first time since 2011. All of these games (except for one Saturday night game) will be announced by CBS' lead commentating team of Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Phil Simms (color analyst); in return, the NFL Network's broadcast team will produce the studio pregame and halftime reports. The deal with CBS is only for the 2014 season, with the league having the option to extend it for an additional season.[159] The first game affected by the change was the Week One contest between the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, which aired on Fox instead of CBS;[160] all four of the Bills' interconference opponents (including their Week 5 game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field) will air on Fox this year.

CBS will make several personnel changes following the retirements of Don Criqui, Marv Albert, and Dan Dierdorf from the NFL broadcast booth. Brian Anderson and Tom McCarthy will join as play-by-play announcers, while Chris Simms (Phil Simms' son) and Trent Green will join as color commentators, both of whom come over from Fox Sports. CBS will also use a three-man announcing crew of Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein and Steve Tasker on select regional NFL games, a departure from the typical practice of reserving three-man crews for national and high-profile contests.[161] Mike Carey will join the broadcast team as the network's in-house rules expert.[162] There will also be changes to The NFL Today, as Shannon Sharpe and Dan Marino will both leave the panel while Bart Scott and Tony Gonzalez will join the panel.[163]

On Fox, the most notable personnel change was the demotion of Pam Oliver, the network's top sideline reporter for nearly 20 years, to the second broadcast team as Erin Andrews takes over the spot on the first broadcast team. 2014 will be Oliver's last year covering NFL games for Fox.[164] Other personnel changes include the additions of Donovan McNabb, David Diehl, Kirk Morrison and Brendan Ayanbadejo to Fox's stable of color commentators, replacing outgoing commentators Tom McCarthy, Brian Billick and Tim Ryan.[165] (Should Brady Quinn not make the Miami Dolphins' roster, he will also join the Fox stable.)

On April 23, 2014, the league announced further changes to the flexible scheduling procedure: NBC may begin flexing games into the Sunday night time slot as soon as week 5. NBC will be allowed to flex up to two games between weeks 5 and 10, while the same rules applies for the remainder of the season.[166]

New referees[edit]

Referees Scott Green and Ron Winter retired after the 2013 season. Ron Torbert, who spent the past four seasons as a side judge, and Craig Wrolstad, who spent the past 11 seasons as a field judge, were promoted to referee to replace Green and Winter. On June 25, 2014, the NFL announced Mike Carey's retirement as a referee. Like former director of officiating Mike Pereira for Fox, Carey will become the rules/refereeing analyst for CBS's NFL coverage on the network's Thursday night and Sunday afternoon games. He was replaced by Brad Allen, who spent the past nine seasons as an ACC referee. He is the first rookie NFL referee since 1966 (NFL officials normally spend at least their first season in another position than head referee). In addition to hiring Allen, Torbert, and Wrolstad, ten new officials were hired, including Shawn Hochuli, son of referee Ed Hochuli.[167]

Stadium changes[edit]

  • Levi's Stadium, the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, opened in July 2014.[168] The stadium is located in Santa Clara, California directly west of the 49ers long-existing team offices and practice facility, and will host Super Bowl 50 in early 2016.[169] In November 2013, stadium and team officials requested that the NFL not schedule any weekday home games during the preseason or regular season — including Monday and Thursday Night Football — due to parking issues within the area. The plan was to borrow parking facilities from nearby businesses and a community college, but the concern was that those entities would have the parking needs on weekdays.[170] Two months later (January 2014), the Santa Clara City Council approved a two-year deal with the Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club that would have opened up 10,000 additional parking spaces within walking distance of Levi's Stadium, as well as reimbursed the club $250,000 for each year, which also would have enabled the 49ers to host Monday and Thursday night games for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.[171] However, the NFL decided not to schedule the 49ers for any weeknight prime-time games at Levi's Stadium during the 2014 season until traffic flow within the area is figured out.[172] An exception was made for Thanksgiving, when the regular work traffic and parking would not be an issue.[173]
  • The Minnesota Vikings will play their first of two consecutive seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, as they await the construction of a new stadium at the site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.[175] Due to an agreement with the University of Minnesota, the Vikings will not host any Monday or Thursday night games at the stadium. The only exceptions would have been during Thanksgiving (in which the Vikings were not scheduled), Week 16 (which occurs after the university's academic finals), or times when the university is in recess in order to minimize the disruption of on-campus operations, and the Vikings also would have had to plan around the Gophers' home schedule and other UM events, including student move-in week and academic finals.[176]
  • The Oakland Raiders' lease on O.co Coliseum expired after the 2013 season. The Raiders will continue to play at the stadium for seven of their 2014 home games under a one-year emergency extension but its future after that remains unclear.[177] Prior to the season, the Raiders had announced their eighth home game was to be played at Wembley Stadium as part of the International Series.[178] On September 3, 2014, the Raiders and the city of Oakland reached a tentative deal to build a new football stadium in Oakland, which would result in the Coliseum being demolished.[179]

Uniforms[edit]

  • The Philadelphia Eagles will wear their alternate black jerseys for the early portion of the 2014 season in lieu of their standard "midnight green" jerseys, as a result of the team upgrading their uniforms to take advantage of a new "Elite 51" technology from Nike. The team stated that the midnight green jerseys will not be available until "later" in the season, because midnight green is considered a custom color and takes longer to produce. The Eagles wore their black jerseys during a preseason game against the New England Patriots.[182][183]

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