A surprising, unprecedented NFL season to remember
By: Jordan Kendall, Senior Staff Writer
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
About five months ago, I was skeptical that the NFL would reach this point in the season. However, they managed to complete an entire season during a pandemic, unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. This column was written before the Super Bowl, but enough has happened for me to take a look back at what stood out to me about the 2020 NFL season.
The NFL did not go into a bubble and did not make any significant schedule changes before the season, unlike any other sporting event I can think of. While some games were rescheduled because of COVID-19 outbreaks and a few teams lost some key players, the NFL managed to play a 16-game season without canceling any games. I don’t feel it’s appropriate to congratulate the NFL for pulling this off because I thought they should have canceled a few games and shortened the season. However, I will give credit where credit is due. The teams bought in and the players and coaches sacrificed a lot in order to play football as safely as possible. Most teams limited the number of fans in attendance, while others played in front of cardboard cutouts.
There were definitely some challenging circumstances such as the Denver Broncos starting wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback when their other quarterbacks were ineligible to play because of COVID-19. There were a few instances where the pandemic likely affected the outcome of games based on who was or was not available but overall I think the season went pretty well given the circumstances. The NFL deserves credit for completing a full season, even if they made some questionable decisions along the way.
Arguably one of the most significant impacts the pandemic had on the NFL was on the rookies. Instead of getting a traditional rookie minicamp and the chance to work alongside their teammates and coaches in person as they adjust to the NFL, a lot of their offseason was spent virtually. I believe this was the hardest year for rookies to transition into the NFL of all-time because of the circumstances. However, many rookies were still able to produce immediately. Some of the most notable names include Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.
Jefferson set a rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards and made the Pro Bowl. Jefferson was drafted to replace now Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Entering the draft I didn’t know much about him, but he quickly showed his potential and I think he could be the next great receiver to come out of Minnesota.
Meanwhile, Herbert set almost every rookie passing record with 4,336 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, and 396 completions. I liked Herbert coming out of Oregon, more than some draft experts did but I could not have predicted this type of season. I thought he would be good, not dominant. The Chargers have their franchise quarterback for the next 15 years and better take advantage of it.
When sports came to an abrupt halt last March, it was definitely challenging for myself and many other sports fans to adjust to life without sports. Quarantine would have been the perfect time to watch games that I may not have had the chance to watch if I wasn’t stuck at home. But as sports such as the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) and Major League Baseball (MLB) returned I started to really appreciate what sports mean to me. I’m sure this is something that a lot of other fans can agree with. When it came time for football season and it seemed doubtful that most of the conferences would play, I was disappointed at the idea of having a fall without football. But as the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) started to return and the NFL kicked off its season, I realized how important this game is to me. I developed an appreciation for it that I hadn’t had before last year. I hope this is something that other fans can also take away from this season, appreciating the game and the meaning it has to each of us.