By: Jordan Kendall, Sports Editor
The 100th season of the NFL has come and gone, it was filled with a lot of stories both good and bad. From the Green Bay Packers winning game one over the Chicago Bears to the Kansas City Chiefs coming back to win Super Bowl LIV, there are many memories that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. As the NFL turns to the second century of pro football, here are my takeaways from the 2019 season.
The importance of a backup quarterback
Some of the top quarterbacks went down this season with injuries including Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Big Ben only played two games, and Brees missed five in 2019. Both teams had backup quarterbacks who stepped in and provided a sense of hope for their fans. The Steelers used quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges and despite losing Roethlisberger nearly made the playoffs. Neither had a great game statistically, but Pittsburgh went 8-6 with their two backups.
New Orleans, however, capitalized from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater stepping up in a big way. Bridgewater went 5-0 as the starter, including 314 yards and four touchdowns vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In three of his five starts, he completed over 70% of his passes including consecutive weeks completing over 76%. Bridgewater proved that he can still be a starting quarterback in the NFL after spending the past few seasons as a backup and battling injuries. He wasn’t the only notable quarterback to have a comeback season, but Bridgewater’s year was one to remember.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill won Comeback Player of the Year after turning his career around in Tennessee. In his first six years with the Miami Dolphins, Tanehill never proved to be the franchise quarterback they hoped for when they drafted him in 2012. He battled through both injuries and inconsistent play and helped the Titans reach the AFC Championship in 2019. His 22 touchdowns and six interceptions proved he can be a starter, and as long as running back Derrick Henry is behind him he should still be an effective quarterback.
Rushing is still important
The top four rushing teams in the regular season all advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs. This had not happened since 1992, and as passing has become more frequent in recent years this goes to show the importance of running the ball. The Baltimore Ravens led the NFL with 3,296 yards, over 900 more yards than the San Francisco 49ers who finished second. Baltimore took advantage of MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson’s 1,206 rushing yards, while the 49ers went with a committee approach. Running backs Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida were all key factors in leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl.
The NFL’s leading rusher, running back Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans carried his team to the AFC Championship. His 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns along with his two dominant performances in the playoffs won’t be forgotten anytime soon. The Seattle Seahawks were led by running back Chris Carson with over 1,200 yards, and despite losing their entire backfield to injuries late in the season were still able to advance to the divisional round. This season proved that you can win by running the ball and controlling the clock. With the amount of passing in today’s game, it almost feels nostalgic to still see teams dominate on the ground.
The NFL is in great hands going forward
As the NFL enters season No. 101, some legends of the game have walked away. A few of the notable players to retire in the past few weeks include quarterback Eli Manning, safety Eric Weddle, and tight end Vernon Davis. With some legendary players across multiple positions getting older, it’s refreshing to see the potential and future of the league’s younger stars. Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Jackson, and Deshaun Watson are arguably the top three quarterbacks in football and are all under 25-years-old. Each of them should be able to play for at least 10-15 more years and will be great ambassadors of the league going forward.
Quarterbacks get the most attention, but young players at other positions also look to carry the torch into the next decade. Running backs Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Michael Thomas, and tight end George Kittle should all be frequent Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. As we lose players over the next few years, such as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson, and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the league has plenty of names to carry on their legacy and impact.
On defense, linebacker, T.J. Watt, defensive end Nick Bosa, and safety Jamal Adams are just a few of the promising young defenders. Even looking at this year’s draft, there are prospects who could become some of the best players in a few years. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah are both expected to become great professionals. The talent in the NFL shouldn’t go away anytime soon, and as I fan that excites me going forward.
101 reasons to be excited about the future
The NFL has had a rich and historic 100 seasons, and it doesn’t appear that it will change in their second century. Football has come so far in the past 10 years, let alone 100. The game in 2010 was very different from 2019, and I look forward to seeing how it evolves by 2030. The 100th season was a time to reflect on the history of the game while also looking forward to the future, and I believe football has a very bright one ahead.