|Start date January 3, 2015|
NFC Champions Seattle Seahawks
Dates 4 Sep 2014 – 1 Feb 2015
|AFC Champions New England Patriots|
Champions New England Patriots
|Duration September 4 – December 28, 2014|
Site University of Phoenix Stadium
Champion Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots
Similar 2015 NFL season, 2013 NFL season, 2016 NFL season, 2012 NFL season, National Football League p
Panthers vs seahawks divisional round 2014 nfl season highlights
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 Seattle Seahawks 28–24.
- Panthers vs seahawks divisional round 2014 nfl season highlights
- Player movement
- Free agency
- Regular season
- Changes to flex scheduling
- In season scheduling changes
- Wild card round
- Divisional round
- Conference championships
- Super Bowl XLIX
- Pro Bowl
- Notable events
- Discipline for off field incidents
- William Clay Ford
- Ralph Wilson
- Malcolm Glazer
- Chuck Noll
- Earl Morrall
- Possible franchise relocations
- Rule changes
- New sideline technologies
- Practice squads expanded
- New drug policy including HGH testing
- Records milestones and notable statistics
- Head coach
- Front office
- All Pro team
- Players of the weekmonth
- Most watched regular season games
- New referees
- Stadium changes
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.
Training camps for the 2014 season were held in late July through August. Teams may start training camp no earlier than 15 days before the team's first scheduled preseason game.
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.
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:
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:
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 a 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, 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.* 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 was broadcast in the U.S. by ESPN on Sunday, January 25, 2015. The unconferenced draft format that debuted in the 2014 Pro Bowl continued with two former players, Cris Carter and Michael Irvin, drafting their players from a select list voted by the country. Cleveland Browns CB 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.
Some NFL-related events that made headlines throughout 2014 include:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 continued to get paid, but was not 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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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
The following players were named first team All-Pro by the Associated Press:
Players of the week/month
The following were named the top performers during the 2014 season:
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.
Most watched regular season games
*Note — Late DH matchups listed in table are the matchups that were shown to the largest percentage of the market.
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.