2014 NFL season
|Duration||September 4 – December 28, 2014|
|Start date||January 3, 2015|
|AFC Champions||New England Patriots|
|NFC Champions||Seattle Seahawks|
|Super Bowl XLIX|
|Date||February 1, 2015|
|Site||University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona|
|Champions||New England Patriots|
|Date||January 25, 2015|
|Site||University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona|
|National Football League seasons
The 2014 NFL season was the 95th season in the history of the National Football League (NFL). The season 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 concluded with Super Bowl XLIX, the league's championship game, on Sunday, February 1, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, with the New England Patriots defeating the Seahawks 28–24.
- 1 Player movement
- 2 Preseason
- 3 Regular season
- 4 Standings
- 5 Postseason
- 6 Pro Bowl
- 7 Notable events
- 8 Rule changes
- 9 Records, milestones, and notable statistics
- 10 Head coach/front office personnel changes
- 11 Awards
- 12 Media
- 13 New referees
- 14 Stadium changes
- 15 Uniforms
- 16 References
- 17 External links
The 2014 league year began at 4 pm EST on March 11, which marked the start of the league's free agency period. The per-team salary cap was set at US$133 million, a $10 million increase from the previous year. The so-called "legal tampering" period 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.
A total of 471 players were eligible for some form of free agency at the beginning of the free agency period. 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 Branden Albert (from Chiefs to Dolphins); defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (from Cowboys to Redskins); wide receivers DeSean Jackson (Eagles to Redskins), Golden Tate (Seahawks to Lions), Steve Smith (Panthers to Ravens), and Eric Decker (from Broncos to Jets); and linebacker Karlos Dansby (from Cardinals to Browns).
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). 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.
One restricted free agent switched teams in 2014: wide receiver Andrew Hawkins of the Bengals was signed by the Browns. 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. Hawkins was tendered at the minimum level, which means the Bengals would not receive any draft compensation. The Browns signed him to a $13.6 million, four-year offer, which the Bengals declined to match. Saints safety Rafael Bush signed an offer from the Falcons, but the Saints retained Bush by matching the offer.
The 2014 NFL Draft was held May 8–10, 2014, in New York City. 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. The draft included a record number of 98 non-seniors. 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, which had 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.
There was discussion leading up to the draft as to the future of the event in New York City, where it had been held since 1965. Given the increased interest in the draft over the past decade, there was a belief that the event may have outgrown Radio City Music Hall, which was the venue for the past nine drafts. The possibility of extending the draft to four days was also being discussed. On October 2, 2014, Auditorium Theatre in Chicago was announced as the official site for the following year's draft.
Prior to the start of the regular season, each team played 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. 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. The 65-game preseason schedule wrapped up on Thursday, August 28, a week before the start of the regular season.
The 2014 regular season featured 256 games played out over a seventeen week schedule which began on the Thursday night following Labor Day. Each of the league's 32 teams played a 16-game schedule with one bye week for each team scheduled between weeks four and twelve. The slate featured seventeen games on Monday night including a doubleheader in the season's opening week. There were 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 included two games played on Saturday, December 20, in the season's sixteenth week. The regular season concluded with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, December 28, all of which, as it was since 2010, were intra-divisional matchups.
- 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 were as follows:
Highlights of the 2014 schedule include:
- NFL Kickoff Game: The 2014 season began on Thursday, September 4, 2014, with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks defeating the Green Bay Packers 36–16. This was the first regular season meeting between the teams since the Seahawks won 14–12 at home in 2012 on a controversial Hail Mary pass during the final play of the game under the replacement referees.
- International Series: Three games were played at Wembley Stadium in London, England in 2014. The Oakland Raiders lost to the Miami Dolphins 38–14 on September 28, the Atlanta Falcons lost to the Detroit Lions 22–21 on October 26, and the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Dallas Cowboys 31–17 on November 9, in the second of four consecutive appearances for the Jaguars in the International Series. CBS televised the Dolphins–Raiders game, while Fox televised the Cowboys–Jaguars and Lions–Falcons contests.
- Thanksgiving Day games: These games occurred on Thursday, November 27, 2014. The Detroit Lions hosted the Chicago Bears at 12:30 p.m. ET, and aired on CBS (who normally air afternoon road games of AFC teams), while the Dallas Cowboys hosted the Philadelphia Eagles at 4:30 p.m. ET (Dallas last hosted Philadelphia on Thanksgiving 25 years prior in what became known as the Bounty Bowl), and aired on Fox. The prime-time NBC game, featured the San Francisco 49ers hosting the Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of the previous year's NFC Championship Game, was featured at 8:30 p.m. ET. For the first time ever, no AFC teams appeared 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 and that the future of the series, which was otherwise scheduled to run through the 2017 season, was not yet certain. The series was formally terminated on December 3, 2014.
Changes to flex scheduling
The NFL introduced two major changes to the flexible scheduling procedure. First, the league will be able to "cross-flex" games between CBS and Fox, 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, and all-AFC matchups for the first time ever). The league can "cross-flex" some of these games before the start of, or during, the season. The first game affected by this "cross-flexing" change was the Week One contest between the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, which aired on Fox instead of CBS; all four of the Bills' interconference games (including their Week 5 game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field) will air on Fox this year, and in week 6, an all-AFC matchup, again involving the Bills (this time a division rivalry game against the New England Patriots) was moved to Fox, exacerbating financial problems at Buffalo's CBS affiliate WIVB-TV. An all-NFC matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks was given to CBS. The aforementioned Detroit Lions-Chicago Bears Thanksgiving game was also given to CBS instead of Fox.
On April 23, 2014, the league announced a second major change to the flexible scheduling procedure: games may be flexed into the NBC 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.
In-season scheduling changes
The following games were moved by way of flexible scheduling, severe weather, or for other reasons:
- Week 6: The Patriots–Bills game was "cross-flexed" from CBS to Fox, while the Bears–Falcons game was moved from 1:00 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. ET (still on Fox).
- Week 8: The Seahawks–Panthers game was "cross-flexed" from Fox to CBS, while the Texans–Titans game was "cross-flexed" from CBS to Fox.
- Week 11: The Vikings–Bears game was "cross-flexed" from Fox to CBS, while the Eagles–Packers game was moved from 1:00 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. ET (still on Fox).
- Week 12: The Jets–Bills game was relocated from Sunday, November 23 at 1:00 p.m. ET to Ford Field in Detroit on Monday, November 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET due to the "Knife" lake-effect snowstorm that hit the Buffalo area the previous week. The game aired locally on WCBS-TV and WIVB-TV, respectively, while the previously-scheduled Monday Night Football game between the Ravens and Saints aired as scheduled.
- Week 15: The Bengals–Browns game was "cross-flexed" from CBS to Fox, while the Vikings–Lions game was moved from 1:00 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. ET (still on Fox).
- Week 16: On November 30, the league announced the final start times and networks for the two Saturday, December 20 games: the Eagles–Redskins game was played at 4:25 p.m. ET and aired on NFL Network, and the Chargers–49ers game was held at 8:25 p.m. ET and was broadcast on CBS.
- Week 17:
- The Bengals–Steelers game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on CBS, was selected as the final NBC Sunday Night Football game.
- The Jaguars–Texans game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on CBS, was "cross-flexed" to Fox (keeping the same kickoff time).
- The Panthers–Falcons game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Fox, was "cross-flexed" to 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS.
- The Lions–Packers game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Fox, was moved to 4:25 p.m. ET (still on Fox).
- Clinched the indicated playoff seed.
- a New England defeated Denver head-to-head (Week 9, 43–21).
- b Pittsburgh defeated Indianapolis head-to-head (Week 8, 51–34).
- c Kansas City is ranked ahead of San Diego based on head-to-head sweep (Week 7, 23–20; Week 17, 19–7). Houston is ranked ahead of Kansas City and Buffalo, and Kansas City is ranked ahead of Buffalo, based on conference record. San Diego is ranked ahead of Buffalo based on head-to-head victory (Week 3, 22–10).
- d Jacksonville is ranked ahead of Oakland based on record vs. common opponents (1–3 to 0–5).
- e Seattle, Green Bay and Dallas are ranked for NFC #1, #2 and #3 seeds based on conference record.
- f Arizona defeated Detroit head-to-head (Week 11, 14–6).
- g New Orleans defeated Minnesota head-to-head (Week 3, 20–9).
- h The New York Giants defeated both Atlanta and St. Louis head-to-head (Atlanta: Week 5, 30–20; St. Louis: Week 16, 37–27). Atlanta is ranked ahead of St. Louis based on conference record.
Wild card round
The wild card round of the playoffs featured 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 all have first-round byes. The games were played on January 3–4, 2015. Indianapolis cruised to a relatively easy 26–10 win over Cincinnati, handing Bengals' coach Marvin Lewis his sixth straight playoff loss with no wins. In the other AFC game, Baltimore executed a dominant defensive performance over Pittsburgh's high flying offense, winning 30–17. In the NFC, Carolina beat Arizona 27–16 while holding the Cardinals to 78 net offensive yards. Finally, in a much talked about game, Dallas defeated Detroit 24–20 after a fourth quarter comeback made easier after a controversial decision to nullify a called pass interference penalty against the Cowboys. 
The divisional round games were 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. In the AFC, New England won a wild game against Baltimore, overcoming 14 point deficits twice in the game to win 35–31. In Denver, the Broncos were completely outplayed by Indianapolis in a 24–13 upset. Denver coach John Fox resigned from the Broncos organization after the game. In the NFC, defending champion Seattle handily defeated Carolina 31–17 while Green Bay held on to defeat Dallas 26–21 after an Aaron Rodgers-engineered comeback drive. The Packer victory was struck by more officiating controversy when a fourth quarter Dallas reception attempt by Dez Bryant at the Green Bay 1 yard line was ruled "not a catch" after official review.
The conference championships were 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.
In the NFC Championship, the Seahawks, trailing 16–0 at halftime and then 19–7 with under three minutes left in the game, were led by Russell Wilson, who, despite throwing four interceptions, rallied the team to 15 unanswered points and won the game on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in overtime to become the first team to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances since the 2004 New England Patriots, and the first NFC team to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances since the 1997 Green Bay Packers. Their 16 point halftime comeback was the largest ever in an conference championship game, besting the 15 point halftime deficit by the Indianapolis Colts against the New England Patriots in 2006.
In the AFC Championship, New England blew out the Colts with a score of 45-7, massively outgaining them in total yards (397 to 209), first downs (28 to 17), and time of possession (37:49 to 22:11), while also forcing three turnovers and scoring touchdowns on their first four drives of the second half. This was the most lopsided AFC championship victory since the Buffalo Bills defeated the Los Angeles Raiders 51–3 in the 1990 season.
Super Bowl XLIX
Super Bowl XLIX, the 49th contesting of the Super Bowl, decided the 2014 NFL champion on February 1, 2015, with the New England Patriots defeating the defending Super Bowl XLVIII champions Seattle Seahawks, who were looking to repeat, by a score of 28–24. With a controversial play call by Seattle's head coach, Pete Carroll, they decided to try to pass the ball in for a touchdown at the 1 yard line, instead of running it in through Marshawn Lynch. Instead of possibly scoring the winning touchdown, the ball was intercepted by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler. Thus, New England sealed the win. The game took place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It was televised in the U.S. by NBC with kickoff around 4:30 p.m. MST.
|Jan. 4 – Lucas Oil Stadium||Jan. 11 – Sports Authority Field|
|4||Indianapolis||26||Jan. 18 – Gillette Stadium|
|Jan. 3 – Heinz Field||4||Indianapolis||7|
|Jan. 10 – Gillette Stadium|
|3||Pittsburgh||17||Feb. 1 – University of Phoenix Stadium|
|Wild Card Playoffs|
|Jan. 4 – AT&T Stadium||A1||New England||28|
|Jan. 11 – Lambeau Field|
|6||Detroit||20||Super Bowl XLIX|
|3||Dallas||24||Jan. 18 – CenturyLink Field|
|Jan. 3 – Bank of America Stadium||2||Green Bay||22|
|Jan. 10 – CenturyLink Field|
- * Indicates overtime victory
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 with two former players, Cris Carter and Michael Irvin drafting their players from a select list voted by the country. Cleveland Browns S Joe Haden was named a captain of one of the Pro Bowl rosters alongside RB DeMarco Murray of Dallas on January 15. DE J.J. Watt of Houston and WR Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh were named opposite roster captains.
|2014 NFL Season Review Infographic, Dish Network, retrieved February 12, 2015|
Some NFL-related events that made headlines throughout 2014 include:
- Michael Sam becomes first openly gay player drafted by NFL
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. Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 draft with the 249th overall selection. 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." However, Sam stated after the draft that he felt he "should have gone in the top three rounds easily" and there was speculation that his announcement of his sexuality caused him to fall in the draft. Sam was the first ever SEC Defensive Player of the Year to not be selected in the first round of the draft. 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."
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.
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. On September 3, the Dallas Cowboys added Sam to their practice squad; he was released from the practice squad on October 21.
- Lawsuits by NFL cheerleaders
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. 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. Most controversial was the Jills' "Jiggle Test" that became public knowledge. The Jills suspended operations indefinitely in response to the lawsuit. 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, though the Cleveland Browns are considering adding cheerleaders to the team.
- Washington Redskins name controversy
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. 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.
- Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen relinquishes control of team
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.
Discipline for off-field incidents
- Colts' owner Jim Irsay guilty of OWI; suspended 6 games
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. Irsay entered a rehabilitation facility shortly after his release from jail. Irsay had undergone treatment for prescription drug addiction previously in the early 2000s. Irsay returned to the Colts shortly before the draft in May.
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.
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.
- Ray Rice domestic violence suspension
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. The Ravens issued a statement following TMZ's release of the video, calling Rice's domestic violence arrest a "serious matter."
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. Rice and Palmer were married the day after his indictment. 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. 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.
Rice was suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season on July 25. 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 thereafter, Goodell announced that Rice had been suspended from the league indefinitely.
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.
In late November, Rice was reinstated. It's reported that there are four teams looking into picking up Rice for the 2015 season. Two of those teams have been identified as the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts.
- New policy on domestic violence instituted by league
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, 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.
- Reaction to the new domestic violence policy
According to an Associated Press article on ESPN, the player's union has questioned why the NFL's domestic violence training and education program "treats all players as perpetrators." In a memo sent to the NFL Players Association members on Thursday by Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and obtained Friday by the Associated Press, the union also said the plan, "doesn't build a positive consensus to warning signs." Smith and union special counsel Teri Patterson described two meetings this month with the league in which an NFLPA commission was briefed on the league's approach to educating players, coaches, executives, owners and NFL personnel about domestic violence. He wrote that a "good overview of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse" was presented. But "it did not address larger issues of violence in and outside of the home."
The NFL said of the "perpetrators" claim: "Nothing could be further from the truth. The presentation expressly recognizes that people in the NFL are often falsely portrayed and that the actions of a few damage the reputations of many." "What the program teaches is that everyone can and should be part of the solution," the league statement said. The union memo also said the "NFL's presentation doesn't focus on follow-ups and providing continuous resources at the clubs to address potentially violent situations as well as preventing them." The NFL's educational program was shown to the AP on Oct. 7, and it included information from a memo sent to the 32 clubs on Sept. 18 that pointed out local resources available to all team personnel and their families. That document indicated a plan was in place to provide those resources and follow-ups for those who need it. The union memo to the players also said the NFL presentation "doesn't include any psychological information about the type of behavior that could lead to acts of violence or warning signs of negative behavior, but instead seemed to focus almost entirely on what happens after a violent incident has been committed."
The league's plan calls for experts who work in the psychological space to offer a research perspective of societal issues, recognized that these are intimate crimes that impact people in many ways. The program calls for each club to have such experts available to the teams, or what NFL calls "the entire club family." That can include a clinician, human resource workers, player engagement executives, security personnel and a mental health professional who works with the club. The union added that although the league indicated that the trainers for this educational program will be experts, the NFL did not list any specific names, titles or relevant backgrounds of the people they intend to utilize for the training. Previously, the NFL announced an advisory group that includes authorities in the domestic violence area such as Tony Porter, Beth E. Richie, Rita Smith, Jane Randel and Lisa Friel. Another NFLPA observation was: "Too much reliance was placed on using former players to participate in the training. While one former players possess the right qualifications and experience to train personnel on these issues, the league's inability to articulate who these players are raises concerns that call into question the effectiveness of the training." Many of the player ambassadors, as the NFL calls them, have personal testimonies around these issues and might be helpful, but they would not deliver the education program. The union added: "The league stated that at each presentation, they will distribute information on suggested local (team city/state specific) resources for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention specialists, licensed club mental health clinicians, club human resource directors and director of Player Engagement.
The NFLPA commission members recommended that a broader net of resources be included, such as faith-based counselors and male-focused community organizations, etc. The NFL did not provide any explanation as to why one resource was chosen over another or how those resources would be specifically integrated into the workplace, if at all." In response to the union memo, the NFL said: "We were pleased to meet with the union and are working to incorporate their suggestions into the presentations is the start of a process of education that will continue in future years."
- Adrian Peterson child abuse arrest and benched
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. 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. The team reversed direction two days later and placed Peterson on the inactive list pending resolution of the charges.
- Greg Hardy found guilty of domestic violence; placed on leave
Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was arrested on charges of domestic violence after an altercation with his girlfriend which took place on May 13. In July, Hardy was found guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats and sentenced to 18 months of probation in a trial before a district judge. Hardy immediately requested a trial by jury which under North Carolina's legal system means that the terms of the sentencing are put on hold pending the jury trial.
Because the legal process had not yet played out, Hardy was not disciplined immediately by either the league or the Panthers and he was allowed to play in the team's first game. However, following the outcry surrounding the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson situations, Hardy was de-activated for the Panther's second game and was subsequently placed on the inactive list until the charges are adjudicated. Hardy will continue to get paid, but will not be allowed to have any contact with the Panthers organization.
- William Clay Ford
William Clay Ford, Sr., the owner of the Detroit Lions, died March 9, two weeks shy of his 89th birthday. Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 and had been the team's president since 1961; at the time of his death, he was the second-longest tenured owner in the NFL, behind only Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson. The team achieved only a single playoff win (in 1991) under Ford's ownership.
- Ralph Wilson
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. 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. 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. 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.
In honor of Wilson, the Bills wore a patch bearing his initials on their jerseys throughout the 2014 season.
- Malcolm Glazer
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.
Glazer's widow, Linda Glazer, and the Glazers' six children will continue to own and operate the team.
- Chuck Noll
Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll died at age 82 on June 13. Noll was widely credited with building the Steelers' dynasty of the 1970s. He coached the team to four Super Bowl victories. When he was hired 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. Noll was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Earl Morrall
Earl Morrall died on April 25 at the age of 79. He had a 21-year NFL career and was a notable member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins team that is the only NFL squad to ever complete a perfect season. Morrall was the second player selected in the 1956 NFL Draft and went on to play for six different NFL teams. He was named the league MVP in 1968 when he led the Baltimore Colts to a 13–1 record and the Super Bowl after replacing an injured Johnny Unitas. After joining the Dolphins in 1972 Morrall again proved to be a valuable back-up, replacing Bob Griese who suffered a broken ankle in the fifth game of the Dolphins immaculate season. Morrall started the final nine regular season games, before giving way to a healed Griese during the 1972–73 NFL playoffs. Morrall was named the Comeback Player of the Year by Pro Football Weekly for his contribution in 1972.
- Other 2014 deaths
In addition to those mentioned above, the following people associated with the NFL (or AFL) died in 2014: former coaches Harry Gamble, Hal Hunter, Sr., Steve Little, Jim Myers, Anthero "Nick" Nicolau and Pete Rodriguez; former official Jack Parker Vaughn; and former players Joe Abbey, Mack Alston, Ocie Austin, Chris Banks, Paul Barry, Dave Behrman, Art Best, Dennis Biodrowski, Rob Bironas, Bill Boedeker, Jim Boeke, Don Bracken, John Bramlett, Carl Brettschneider, Boyd Brown, Jr., Les Bruckner, Frank Budd, Jim "Cannonball" Butler, Jess Castete, Ronnie Caveness, Ernie Cheatham, Don Chuy, Dan Colchico, Mo Collins, Ted Connolly, Jim Cox, Hilton Crawford, Dave Daniels, Tony DiMidio, Ray DiPierro, Harley Dow, Elbert Drungo, Chris Dyko, Charley Ellzey, Fred Enke, Bobby Epps, Ledio Fanucchi, Ken Farragut, Jack Finlay, Charlie Flowers, Bill Frank, Goose Gonsoulin, Hal Herring, Donnie Humphrey, Allen Jacobs, Jim Johnson (defensive back), Aki Jones, Joe Katchik, Edward Kelley, Bob Kelly, Larry Kelm, Jim "Blackie" Kincaid, Don King, John Kompara, John Kreamcheck, Pete Ladygo, Hank Lauricella, Jeff Leiding, Dave Lloyd, Don Manoukian, Toddrick McIntosh, Leon McLaughlin, Bob McNamara, Eddie Meyer, Tom Mikula, Bob Mischak, Sam Morley, Dennit Morris, John Morton (linebacker), Perry Moss, Andy Natowich, Robert Newhouse, Reed Nilsen, Tommy O'Connell, Rupert Pate, Don Paul, Charley Powell, Mike Reed, Tom Regner, Scott Ross, Tim Rudnick, Ken Russell, Tom Saidock, Jimmy Saxton, Wayne Siegert, Roy Simmons, Bob Soleau, Gordy Soltau, Ed Sprinkle, Rebel Steiner, Jim Stinnette, Dave Strickland, Jim Swink, Deral Teteak, Orlando Thomas, Rodney Thomas, Bobby Lee Thompson, Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston, Hal Turner, T.J. Turner, Al Vandeweghe, Sam Venuto, Ed Vereb, John Weaver, Todd Williams, Dennis Wirgowski, Abe Woodson, Wilbur Young, and Walt Yowarsky.
Possible franchise relocations
- Buffalo Bills
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. It was also reported that the group had conducted a feasibility study in early 2013 on the construction of a NFL stadium in Toronto. Following protests by Buffalo area fans against the Toronto group, including radio stations banning Bon Jovi's music, 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", though it noticeably did not promise to keep the team in Buffalo. The group claimed it had plans to meet with developers in the Buffalo region to discuss the construction of a new stadium. However, there was widespread skepticism about the sincerity of the group's pledge to keep the team in Buffalo, 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.
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. Trump described his chances of being the successful bidder as "very, very unlikely because I'm not going to do something totally stupid." 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. 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. 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.
The sale was completed on September 9, to the Pegulas 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 the Pegulas to be unanimously approved at the NFL's owners meeting on October 6–8. 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, though this could be offset by an increase in franchise value in a larger market. Goodell has said the two votes would be held separately. 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.
- Oakland Raiders
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. 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.
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. The team's lease at the O.co Coliseum expires after the 2014 season.
On September 3, 2014, the city of Oakland reached a tentative deal to build a new football stadium in Oakland, which would result in the Coliseum being demolished; Davis did not respond to the proposal, which would also force the Oakland Athletics to build a new stadium of their own (which they have yet to agree to do), while Alameda County (co-owners of the current stadium) indicated they would probably not support the plan. Davis has, in the meantime, continued to negotiate with San Antonio officials and had team officials scout the Alamodome to determine if it would be suitable for the NFL.
- St. Louis Rams
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.
The following rule changes were passed for the 2014 NFL season at the owner's meeting on March 26, 2014:
- 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 from 30 feet to 35 feet. The uprights had been 30 feet high 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 downing by contact in the 2013–14 NFL playoffs. The ball was 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.
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), 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.
New sideline technologies
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.
The seven 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 association football. With this technology, the officials will not have to move around the field to talk to each other, saving time.
Practice squads expanded
The league and the player's union agreed in August to some changes to the practice squad rules. Under the new rules, each team will be able to carry up to 10 players on their practice squad, up from eight. Practice squad eligibility was also expanded by increasing the number of games in a season a player must be on the squad in order for that season to count as one of the player's three seasons of eligibility from three games to six games. Finally, each practice squad may include two players who have accrued too much playing time to be eligible for the squad under the previous rules, though these players may have no more than two accrued seasons in the league. The new rules cover the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and will lapse in 2016 absent their extension.
New drug policy including HGH testing
A new drug policy that had been long delayed was agreed to by the league and the player's union in September. The revised policy includes testing for Human growth hormone (HGH) for the first time. Other significant changes include a higher limit for a positive test for marijuana as well as the reclassification of failed tests for amphetamines during the off-season as falling under the substance-abuse policy rather than the performance enhancing drug (PED) policy. The changes were applied retroactively for suspensions handed out during the 2014 league year which meant that some players, including Wes Welker and Orlando Scandrick, who had failed tests due to amphetamine usage during the off-season were immediately reinstated despite being previously sentenced to four game bans.
Records, milestones, and notable statistics
- 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.
- 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.
- In Week 1, quarterbacks completed 64.3 percent of their passes, an NFL record.
- Week 2
- With a victory against the Minnesota Vikings, Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick became the sixth coach in NFL history to reach 200 regular-season victories.
- With a second consecutive comeback victory, the Philadelphia Eagles became the first team in NFL history to start the season 2–0 after trailing by at least 14 points at halftime of their first two games.
- Week 3
- With a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Buccaneers, Falcons' return specialist Devin Hester set an NFL record with 20 total returns for touchdowns. Hester was tied with former Falcon Deion Sanders, and set the record against his former coach Lovie Smith.
- With a third consecutive comeback victory, the Eagles are the first NFL team to start a season 3–0 after trailing by 10-plus points in each game.
- Peyton Manning threw his 100th touchdown pass in his 35th game as a Bronco, becoming the fastest quarterback in NFL history to achieve that feat with a single team, shattering Dan Marino's previous record of 44 games.
- The Cleveland Browns were the only team in the NFL not to have a turnover in the first three games of the season this year.
- Week 4
- The Green Bay Packers became the second NFL franchise to record their 700th regular-season victory with their win over the Chicago Bears. They join the Bears as the only teams to reach this milestone.
- There were zero punts in the Packers–Bears game making it the second regular-season game in NFL history to record no punts. The other regular-season game without a punt happened on September 13, 1992 as the Buffalo Bills played the San Francisco 49ers. There has been one playoff game with no recorded punts and that occurred January 11, 2004 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts.
- Colts quarterback Andrew Luck became the first player in NFL history to throw for over 370 yards, 4 touchdowns, and have a completion percentage above 70 percent or above in consecutive games.
- Week 5
- The Cleveland Browns overcame a 28–3 deficit in their 29–28 win at Tennessee which was the largest comeback victory by a road team in NFL history.
- Peyton Manning threw four touchdowns against the Cardinals becoming the second quarterback in NFL history to amass 500 touchdown passes. He joins Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to reach 500 TD passes.
- Jason Witten became the third tight-end in NFL history to amass 10,000 career receiving yards joining Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez.
- Tom Brady became the sixth quarterback in NFL history to amass 50,000 career passing yards joining Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Drew Brees and John Elway.
- Russell Wilson set the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback on Monday Night Football with 122 yards against the Washington Redskins.
- Wes Welker became the NFL's all-time leader in career pass receptions amongst undrafted wide receivers.
- No team managed to start the season 4–0. This is only the third time that this has happened in the modern era; the others were 1970 and 2010.
- Week 6
- The Chicago Bears became the first NFL franchise to reach 750 total wins with their win against the Atlanta Falcons.
- DeMarco Murray became the second player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his team's first six games to start a season, joining Hall of Famer Jim Brown.
- Julius Thomas, with his nine touchdown catches through his team's first five games of the season, tied the NFL record that was set by Calvin Johnson in 2011.
- With a passer rating above 120 for the fifth straight game, Philip Rivers has set an NFL record for most consecutive games above this mark. He broke the record of four that was set by Johnny Unitas in 1965 and Kurt Warner in 2009.
- Joe Flacco tied a league record set by Tommy Kramer in 1986 by recording 4 touchdown passes in the first quarter of a game.
- The 700th game was played in the history of Monday Night Football as the San Francisco 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams 31–17.
- The Carolina Panthers had their first tie game in franchise history. They then became the second team in the modern era to win their division, and host and win a playoff game, with a losing record (7-8-1.)
- Week 7
- Peyton Manning became the NFL all-time leader in touchdown passes when he hooked up with Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers. His 509th career touchdown pass broke the record held by Brett Favre.
- DeMarco Murray rushed for over 100 yards again and became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his team’s first seven games to start a season, breaking the record he held with Jim Brown. Murray would go on to extend his record to 8 games.
- Reggie Wayne became the ninth player in NFL history to amass 14,000 receiving yards.
- Jamaal Charles became the Kansas City Chiefs franchise leader in career rushing yards with 6,113 career yards. He broke the team record of 6,070 that was held by Priest Holmes.
- Russell Wilson became the first player in NFL history to have passed for over 300 yards and rush for over 100 yards in the same game.
- Week 8
- Ben Roethlisberger became the first player in NFL history to have two 500-yard passing games. Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards (which is tied for the fourth-most ever) against the Indianapolis Colts. He threw for 503 yards against the Green Bay Packers on December 20, 2009.
- Week 9
- Ben Roethlisberger became the first player in NFL history to record at least six touchdown passes in consecutive games. Roethlisberger threw for six scores against the Colts last week and six this week against the Baltimore Ravens.
- The Denver Broncos scored 21 points during the week and it was their 29th consecutive regular-season game scoring at least 20 points. This broke the record that was set by the St. Louis Rams during the 1999–2000 seasons.
- Week 10
- Michael Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to amass 6,000 rushing yards in a career after rushing for 32 yards against the Steelers.
- Julius Thomas became the first tight end in NFL history to achieve back-to-back 12-touchdown seasons; tied an NFL record for the most touchdown catches through nine games, with 12, and the first to do so since Randy Moss in 2007.
- Aaron Rodgers tied the NFL record with six touchdowns in a single half that was set by Daryle Lamonica in 1969.
- Week 11
- The Oakland Raiders were officially eliminated from the playoffs, being the earliest team to be eliminated since the 2004 Dolphins.
- Adam Vinatieri became the first player in NFL history to score more than 100+ points in 17 different seasons, breaking the record that he held with Jason Elam.
- J. J. Watt became the only player in league history (since sacks became an official statistic) to register a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown reception in the same game.
- Week 12
- The Atlanta Falcons became the first team in NFL history to lead a division while being three games below .500.
- Week 15
- The Denver Broncos won their 12th consecutive divisional road game, tying an NFL record that the San Francisco 49ers set from 1987–90; John Fox became only the second head coach in NFL history to win four division titles in the first four seasons with a team, joining Chuck Knox.
- The AFC North division went 11 straight weeks with all teams having winning records, and 12 of 16 weeks above .500, best in the league since 2008.
- The New England Patriots set a record of 14 consecutive seasons of winning at least one game against all of their divisional opponents. The previous record of 13 seasons had been set by the 1971–83 Dallas Cowboys.
- Week 17
- Antonio Gates became the fourth tight end in league history to amass at least 10,000 career receiving yards. He joins Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Shannon Sharpe.
- Lamar Miller became the fourth man in NFL history to have run the ball for more than 96 yards from the line of scrimmage and score a touchdown.
- J.J. Watt became the first player in league history to have two separate seasons with 20 or more sacks.
- Matt Forte set the league season record for receptions by a running back, finishing with 102.
- The Seattle Seahawks became the first team since the 1969–1971 Minnesota Vikings to lead the NFL in fewest points allowed in three consecutive seasons.
- Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees became the first in league history to tie for the overall season lead in passing yards – each had 4,952.
- Drew Brees tied hall-of-famers Sonny Jurgensen and Dan Marino for the league record for most seasons leading the league in passing yards, with five.
- The Cleveland Browns' Joe Thomas became the first offensive lineman in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 8 seasons.
40th Anniversary of Super Bowl IX
The Pittsburgh Steelers honored 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 wore a special patch and honored the players at halftime. As it also served as the team's annual alumni weekend, the team wore their standard home uniforms for the game, opting instead to wear their alternate 1934 "Bumblebee" throwbacks against the Colts on October 26.
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 would 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. 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, joined fellow Hall of Famer Ernie Stautner as the only Steelers to have their jersey numbers officially retired.
90th Anniversary of the New York Giants
The New York Giants players wore a patch throughout the year on their uniforms commemorating their 90th anniversary. The Giants organization was founded in 1925 and was the fourth-oldest franchise in the NFL behind the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers. 
20th Anniversary of the Panthers and Jaguars
Head coach/front office personnel changes
|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||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. 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. Chudzinki joined the Indianapolis Colts as a special assistant to the head coach. Pettine was the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator last season.|
|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. 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.|
|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. 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.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Schiano, GregGreg Schiano||Smith, LovieLovie Smith||Schiano was fired on December 30, 2013 along with GM Mark Dominik. Schiano was 11–21 as head coach over two seasons. 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. 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. Gruden, who had spent the past three 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.|
|Team||2014 head coach||Reason for leaving||Interim head coach||Story/Accomplishments|
|Oakland Raiders||Allen, DennisDennis Allen||Fired||Tony Sparano||Allen was fired on September 29 after an 8–28 record as Raiders head coach, and an 0–4 start to the season. Sparano was named interim head coach on September 30. Sparano previously served as the Miami Dolphins' head coach from 2008–11, amassing a record of 29–32.|
|Team||Position||2013 office holder||Reason for leaving||2014 replacement||Story/Accomplishments|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||GM||Dominik, MarkMark Dominik||Fired||Licht, JasonJason Licht||Dominik was fired on December 30, 2013. 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.|
|Cleveland Browns||GM||Lombardi, MikeMike Lombardi||Farmer, RayRay Farmer||Lombardi and Banner were fired by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam on February 11 after a lengthy coaching search revealed discord between the two executives. Farmer was promoted from assistant GM to replace Lombardi while no replacement for Banner as CEO was named.|
|CEO||Banner, JoeJoe Banner||not replaced|
|Miami Dolphins||GM||Ireland, JeffJeff Ireland||Mutual agreement||Hickey, DennisDennis Hickey||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. He had been in the role since 2008.
Dennis Hickey was hired to replace Ireland on January 27. 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.|
Individual season awards
|AP Most Valuable Player||Aaron Rodgers||Quarterback||Green Bay Packers|
|AP Offensive Player of the Year||DeMarco Murray||Running back||Dallas Cowboys|
|AP Defensive Player of the Year||J. J. Watt||Defensive end||Houston Texans|
|AP Coach of the Year||Bruce Arians||Head coach||Arizona Cardinals|
|AP Offensive Rookie of the Year||Odell Beckham Jr.||Wide receiver||New York Giants|
|AP Defensive Rookie of the Year||Aaron Donald||Defensive tackle||St. Louis Rams|
|AP Comeback Player of the Year||Rob Gronkowski||Tight end||New England Patriots|
|Pepsi Rookie of the Year||Teddy Bridgewater||Quarterback||Minnesota Vikings|
|Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year||Thomas Davis||Linebacker||Carolina Panthers|
|PFWA NFL Executive of the Year||Jerry Jones||Owner/President/General Manager||Dallas Cowboys|
|Super Bowl Most Valuable Player||Tom Brady||Quarterback||New England Patriots|
|Kicker||Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis|
|Punter||Pat McAfee, Indianapolis|
|Kick returner||Adam Jones, Cincinnati|
Players of the week/month
The following were named the top performers during the 2014 season:
Player of the Week/Month
Player of the Week/Month
Player of the Week/Month
|C. J. Spiller
|Ted Ginn, Jr.
|J. J. Watt
|J. J. Watt
|J. J. Watt
|17||C. J. Anderson
|J. J. Watt
2014 was 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). Among the changes from the previous TV contracts, NBC broadcast a Divisional playoff game, and their Spanish language sister network Mun2 simulcasted select NBC games, with Spanish language graphics and play-by-play during the Thanksgiving game; Mun2 will change their branding to the more sports-centric NBC Universo with their Spanish simulcast of Super Bowl XLIX. The contract also allows ESPN to televise a Wild Card playoff game (which, like other NFL games carried on cable, was simulcast on an over-the-air station in each of the team's primary market). In addition, ESPN will exclusively televise all Pro Bowls for the next eight seasons.
Under a new, one-year contract, CBS also took over the production of Thursday Night Football and aired the first eight games of the package, plus half of a Week 16 Saturday doubleheader, in simulcast with NFL Network. The arrangement was meant to bring more prominence and higher production values to TNF, which had historically hosted the league's least-watched primetime games. As part of the arrangement, CBS affiliates were given the right of first refusal to air the required local simulcasts of TNF games solely broadcast elsewhere by NFL Network. The agreement was renewed for the 2015 season.
CBS made several personnel changes following the retirements of Don Criqui, Marv Albert, and Dan Dierdorf from the NFL broadcast booth. Brian Anderson and Tom McCarthy joined as play-by-play announcers, while Chris Simms (Phil Simms' son) and Trent Green joined as color commentators, both of whom come over from Fox Sports. CBS used 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. Mike Carey joined the broadcast team as the network's in-house rules expert. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms handled play-by-play for the Thursday Night Football games. There were also changes to The NFL Today, as Shannon Sharpe and Dan Marino both left the panel, replaced by Bart Scott and Tony Gonzalez.
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 took over the spot on the first broadcast team. 2014 was Oliver's last year covering NFL games for Fox. 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. Brady Quinn also joined the Fox stable. Also briefly joining Fox's play-by-play stable was UFC announcer Mike Goldberg; Goldberg's time doing NFL telecasts was cut short after one game, and he was replaced by Tim Brando, who came over from CBS.
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 Sports, 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 was 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.
- Levi's Stadium, the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, opened in July 2014. 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. 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. 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. 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. An exception was made for Thanksgiving, when the regular work traffic and parking would not be an issue.
- Reliant Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans, was renamed NRG Stadium. Reliant Energy, which held the naming rights to the Texans' home field since their inaugural 2002 season, was previously purchased in 2009 by its parent company NRG Energy.
- The Minnesota Vikings played their first of two consecutive seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, as they awaited the construction of a new stadium at the site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Due to an agreement with the University of Minnesota, the Vikings did 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.
- The Oakland Raiders' lease on O.co Coliseum expired after the 2013 season. The Raiders played at the stadium for seven of their 2014 home games under a one-year emergency extension but its future after that remained unclear. 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.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers unveiled a new logo and helmet on February 20, 2014, as well as a new uniform on March 3.
- The Philadelphia Eagles wore their alternate black jerseys during a preseason game against the New England Patriots as well as for their Week 6 game vs. the New York Giants, the latter of which marked the first time in franchise history that the team wore all black. This was the result of the team upgrading their uniforms to take advantage of a new "Elite 51" technology from Nike. The team's standard "midnight green" jerseys did not become available until their Week 10 game vs. the Carolina Panthers, because midnight green was considered a custom color and took longer to produce.
- The Detroit Lions wore patches with the initials of late owner William Clay Ford, Sr. who died on March 9 at the age of 88.
- The Tennessee Titans wore their white jerseys for every game during the 2014 season, for the exception of their Week 8 game vs. the Houston Texans, in which the Titans wore their alternate navy blue jerseys. The team did wear their standard light "Titans blue" jerseys for both of their preseason home games. Tommy Smith, who was named the new Titans' president and CEO following the death of longtime owner Bud Adams in 2013, indicated that the light "Titans Blue" jerseys, which had been the team's primary colored jersey since 2008, were being phased out. The navy blue jerseys, which were the Titans' primary colored jerseys from 1999–2007, returned as the team's primary home jersey beginning in 2015.
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