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2014 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 4 – December 28, 2014
Playoffs
Start date January 3, 2015
AFC Champions
NFC Champions
Super Bowl XLIX
Date February 1, 2015
Site University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Champions
Pro Bowl
Date January 25, 2015
Site University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
National Football League seasons
 < 2013 2015 > 

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

Player movementEdit

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

Free agencyEdit

A total of 471 players were eligible for some form of free agency as of the start of the free agency period.[2] In addition, a number of highly paid players were released after the start of the league year to allow their teams to regain space under the salary cap. Among the high profile players who changed teams via free agency were cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (left the Buccaneers, joined the Patriots), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (from Broncos to Giants), Aqib Talib (from Patriots to Broncos) and Alterraun Verner (from Titans to Buccaneers); safeties Jairus Byrd (from Bills to Saints) and T. J. Ward (from Browns to Broncos); defensive ends DeMarcus Ware (from Cowboys to Broncos), Lamarr Houston (from Raiders to Bears), Willie Young (from Lions to Bears) and Michael Johnson (from Bengals to Buccaneers); offensive tackles Jared Veldheer (from Raiders to Cardinals) and Brandon Albert (from Chiefs to Dolphins); defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (from Cowboys to Redskins); wide receivers Steve Smith (Panthers to Ravens) and Eric Decker (from Broncos to Jets); and linebacker Karlos Dansby (from Cardinals to Browns).[5]

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).[6] Two other teams used the transition tag, which guarantees a lesser compensation if a tagged player signs elsewhere. Players given the transition tag were Alex Mack (Browns) and Jason Worilds (Steelers).

DraftEdit

The 2014 NFL Draft was held May 8–10, 2014, in New York City.[7] This year's draft included a record number of 98 non-seniors.[8] 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,[9] which has been the draft venue since 2006. Prior to the draft the NFL Scouting Combine, where draft-eligible players were evaluated by team personnel, was held in Indianapolis on February 19–25.[1] In the draft the Houston Texans made University of South Carolina defensive end 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 has been held since 1965. Given the increased interest in the draft over the past decade,[10] there is a belief that the event may have outgrown Radio City Music Hall, which has been the venue for the past nine drafts. The possibility of extending the draft to four days was also being discussed. The NFL will decide in late summer where and when next year's draft will take place.[11]

PreseasonEdit

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

Prior to the start of the regular season, each team will play at least four preseason exhibition games. The preseason schedule will get underway with the NFL 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 is played at Fawcett Stadium which is located adjacent to the Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio. The game, which will be televised in the U.S. on NBC, will feature the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills.[12] Continuing the recent trend of scheduling teams that are associated with former players being inducted into the Hall, the 2014 class includes former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and former Bills wide receiver Andre Reed. The others who will be 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.[13] The 65-game preseason schedule will wrap up on Thursday, August 28, a week before the start of the regular season.[14]

Regular seasonEdit

The 2014 regular season will feature 256 games to be played out over a seventeen week schedule which begins on the Thursday night following Labor Day. Each of the league's 32 teams will play a 16-game schedule with one bye week for each team scheduled between weeks four and twelve. The slate features seventeen games on Monday night including a doubleheader in the season's opening week. There will be seventeen games played on Thursday, including the National Football League Kickoff game in prime time on September 4 and three games on Thanksgiving Day. The schedule also includes two games played on Saturday, December 20, in the season's sixteenth week. The regular season concludes with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, December 28, all of which are intra-divisional matchups.[15]

Scheduling formula

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

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

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

Highlights of the 2014 schedule include:

On March 4, 2014, the Buffalo Bills' official radio flagship (WGR) confirmed that the Bills Toronto Series would not take place in 2014[20] and that the future of the series, which was otherwise scheduled to run through the 2017 season,[21] was not yet certain.

PostseasonEdit

Wild card round

As currently configured the wild card round of the playoffs will feature the two wild card playoff qualifiers from each conference being hosted by the two lowest seeded divisional winners. The top two seeds in each conference will all have first-round byes. The games will be played January 3–4, 2015.[15]

Divisional round

The divisional round games will be played on January 10–11, 2015 with the winner of each of the games in the wild card round visiting one of the top two seeded teams in each conference.[15]

Conference championships

The conference championships will be played on Sunday, January 18, 2015.[15]

Super Bowl XLIXEdit

Super Bowl XLIX, the 49th contesting of the Super Bowl, will decide the 2014 NFL champion on February 1, 2015. The game will take place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.[22] The Super Bowl will be televised in the U.S. by NBC with kickoff around 4:30 pm MST.[23]

Pro BowlEdit

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.[24]

Notable eventsEdit

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

William Clay Ford's deathEdit

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

William Clay Ford, Sr., the owner of the Detroit Lions, died March 9, two weeks shy of his 89th birthday.[25] Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 and had been the team's president since 1961;[26] at the time of his death, he was the second-longest tenured owner in the NFL, behind only Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson.[27] The team achieved only a single playoff win (in 1991) under Ford's ownership.[26]

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.[27]

Ralph Wilson's deathEdit

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.[28] Coincidentally, both Wilson and Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr. died at their respective homes in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, within two 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 does not intend to retain the team for the long term and has stated that the team will be put up for sale "at an appropriate time."[29]

As has been a custom in the event of previous NFL owner's deaths, the Bills will wear a patch bearing Wilson's initials on their jerseys throughout the 2014 season.[30]

Michael Sam becomes first openly gay player drafted by NFLEdit

File:Michael Sam final Mizzou home game.jpg

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.[31] Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 draft with the 249th overall selection.[32] 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."[33] However, Sam stated after the draft that he felt he "should have gone in the top three rounds easily"[34] and there was speculation that his announcement of his sexuality caused him to fall in the draft.[35] Sam was the first ever SEC Defensive Player of the Year to not be selected in the first round of the draft.[36] 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."[36]

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.[37]

Rule changes for 2014Edit

The following rule changes were passed for the 2014 NFL Season at the owner's meeting on March 26, 2014:[38]

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

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),[39] 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.

U.S. television coverageEdit

This will be the first season under a nine-year television contract with CBS (all AFC afternoon away games), Fox (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).[40][41] Among the changes from the previous TV contracts, NBC will broadcast a Divisional playoff game. The contract also allows ESPN to televise a Wild Card playoff game (which, like other NFL games carried on cable, will be simulcast on an over-the-air station in each of the team's primary market).[40] In addition, ESPN will exclusively televise all Pro Bowls for the next eight seasons. Furthermore, the league will be able to move games between CBS and FOX by way of flexible scheduling, enabling CBS to televise NFC away games (for the first time since 1993), and Fox to broadcast AFC away games (for the first time ever), in the late Sunday afternoon doubleheader slot.[42]

On February 5, 2014, the league announced it had sold off the first eight weeks of the NFL Network's Thursday Night Football package to CBS, who outbid competitors ABC, Fox, NBC, and Turner Sports.[43][44] NFL Network will simulcast CBS' Thursday night games, will continue to carry the Thursday night games from Week 10 onward, and will also carry two Saturday games (Week 16 doubleheader) for the first time since 2011. All of these games (except for one Saturday night game) will be announced by CBS' lead commentating team of Jim Nantz (play-by-play) and Phil Simms (color analyst); in return, NFL Network's broadcast team will produce the studio pregame and halftime reports. The deal with CBS is only for the 2014 season, with the league having the option to extend it for an additional season.[45]

On April 23, 2014, the league announced further changes to the flexible scheduling procedure: NBC may begin flexing games into the Sunday night time slot as soon as week 5. NBC will be allowed to flex up to two games between weeks 5 and 10, while the same rules applies for the remainder of the season.[46]

StadiumsEdit

  • Levi's Stadium, the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, is scheduled to open prior to the 2014 season.[47] The stadium will be located in Santa Clara, California, and will be the host of Super Bowl L.[48] In November 2013, stadium and team officials initially requested the NFL to not schedule any weekday home games during the preseason or regular season — including Monday and Thursday Night Football — due to parking issues in the area.[49] 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.[50] However, in March 2014, Howard Katz, the NFL's senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations, stated that the NFL will not schedule any weeknight prime-time games at Levi's Stadium during the 2014 season until traffic flow within the area is figured out.[51] An exception was made for Thanksgiving, when the regular work traffic and parking would not be an issue.[52]
  • The Minnesota Vikings will play their first of two consecutive seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, as they await the construction of a new stadium at the site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.[53] Due to an agreement with the University of Minnesota, the Vikings are unable to host any Monday or Thursday night games at the stadium except for times when the university is in recess in order to minimize the disruption of on-campus operations, and must plan around the Gophers' home schedule and other UM events, including student move-in week and academic finals. Thus, the only times in which the Vikings would have been able to host a game that does not occur on a Sunday would have been Thanksgiving or during Week 16, the latter of which occurs after academic finals.[54]
  • The Oakland Raiders' lease on O.co Coliseum expired after the 2013 season. The Raiders will continue to play at the stadium for seven of their 2014 home games under a one-year emergency extension but its future after that remains unclear.[55] Prior to the season, the Raiders also signed a three-year deal to move one of their home games each year to London as part of the International Series.[56]

UniformsEdit

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers unveiled a new logo and helmet on February 20, 2014,[57] as well as a new uniform on March 3.[58]

Head coach/front office personnel changesEdit

Head coachEdit

Offseason
Team 2013 head coach
(at start of season)
2013 interim head coach Reason for leaving 2014 replacement Story/Accomplishments
Houston Texans Kubiak, GaryGary Kubiak Phillips, WadeWade Phillips Fired O'Brien, BillBill O'Brien[59] 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.[60] 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.[61] Chudzinki joined the Indianapolis Colts as a special assistant to the head coach.[62] Pettine was the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator last season.[63]
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.[64] 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.[65]
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.[66] 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.[67]
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schiano, GregGreg Schiano Smith, LovieLovie Smith[68] Schiano was fired on December 30, 2013 along with GM Mark Dominik. Schiano was 11–21 as head coach over two seasons.[69] 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.[70] 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.[71] Gruden, who had spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, had previously served as head coach of the Florida Tuskers of the UFL and Orlando Predators of the AFL.[72]

Front officeEdit

Offseason
Team Position 2013 office holder Reason for leaving 2014 replacement Story/Accomplishments
Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Dominik, MarkMark Dominik Fired Licht, JasonJason Licht[73] Dominik was fired on December 30, 2013.[69] 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.[73]
Cleveland Browns GM Lombardi, MikeMike Lombardi[74] Farmer, RayRay Farmer[75] Lombardi and Banner were fired by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam on February 11 after a lengthy coaching search revealed discord between the two executives.[74] Farmer was promoted from assistant GM to replace Lombardi[75] while no replacement for Banner as CEO was named.[76]
CEO Banner, JoeJoe Banner[74] not replaced
Miami Dolphins GM Ireland, JeffJeff Ireland[77] Mutual agreement Hickey, DennisDennis Hickey[78] 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.[77] He had been in the role since 2008.[77]

Dennis Hickey was hired to replace Ireland on January 27.[78] 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.

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