Before we get to the vicious, unpredictable amorality of what has yet to unfold, let’s look back for a moment on those who didn’t make it to the end of 2014 without cleaning out the ol’ office. Rex Ryan, specifically. I mean yes, Doug Marrone quit as the Buffalo Bills coach on New Year’s Eve because his contract specified he would get paid $4-million (U.S.) in 2015 no matter what he did. That’s . . . incredible. He managed to get this clause in his contract because when the Bills hired him he was also negotiating with . . . Cleveland? And he’d just finished four years at Syracuse where he went . . . 25-25? And he’d been an offensive co-ordinator in New Orleans . . . in 2008? Buffalo negotiates like I build a solid bookshelf.
This overshadowed the fact that two days earlier, Bills quarterback Kyle Orton walked into the locker room, picked up his wallet, told some people he was going to some meetings and would talk to them later, and left. Then he retired and didn’t come back. The only cooler way to retire would be to do what Orton did, but do it while riding a motorcycle.
Anyway, Chicago also fired Marc Trestman for failing to make Jay Cutler not Jay Cutler, and the Jets fired Ryan, and only Ryan is really the end of an era. No other coach in NFL history had reached two conference championship games with Mark Sanchez, gotten embroiled in a foot fetish video scandal, and got a tattoo of his wife on his shoulder wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey, and barefoot. “KINKY INKY” blared the New York Daily News headline at the time.
We’ve lost something important, people. I hope he coaches Atlanta and gets a quarterback and the New York Daily News opens a bureau there.
But Ryan was also the guy who wasn’t afraid of Bill Belichick, who said he wasn’t there to kiss Belichick’s rings, who said that guy in New England didn’t have all the answers. He beat a 14-2 Patriots team in Foxboro in the playoffs with Sanchez, which ranks second to the buttfumble in recently memorable Jets-Patriots history. He lost more than he won, but Rex wasn’t afraid. Rex was a boss.
Belichick, of course, outlasted him, and here we are. Sports Illustrated just had 10 writers and NFL staff predict the Super Bowl, and they chose: New England over Seattle, New England over Seattle, Seattle over New England, New England over Seattle, Seattle over New England, Green Bay over New England — whoooooa — Seattle over New England, Green Bay over New England, Green Bay over Pittsburgh — hey now! — and Dallas over New England.
So that’s nine New Englands, one Pittsburgh in the AFC, and six Seattles, three Green Bays, and a Dallas in the NFC. It’s also 15 No. 1 seeds, three No. 2s, and two No. 3s. For the record — and I am not picking on the fine folks at Sports Illustrated here, whose only crime is to provide a lot of perfectly reasonable predictions — the two top seeds have both reached the Super Bowl twice in the past 20 seasons, one of which was last year. We’ve seen first versus second seeds seven times in that span, and 1-3 matchups twice.
Otherwise, there’s been at least a fourth seed seven times, including in six of the last eight Super Bowls. Since New England last won a Super Bowl 10 years ago — 10 years ago! — top seeds have won twice, and sixth seeds have won twice. So basically, almost anyone can win. Football, like life, is not predictable. Next year, the NFL is probably going to expand the playoffs to 14 teams from 12, anyway, which will mean we’re gonna get some 8-8 champions in the future, and a lot more coaches will get to keep their jobs. Unless they sign sweet contracts with the Bills, in which case, why would they?
As always, all lines could change.