NFL observations from an NFL observer

By Jordan Murray

Sports Editor

As the NFL season comes to a close, here are my top five stories from a very memorable year in pro­fessional football.

1. The Year of Tebow. Make no mis­take about it, this year will be re­membered for Tim Tebow’s exploits. The polarizing quarterback with the unconventional style helped turn around a 1-4 Denver Bronco squad, winning an AFC West champion­ship in the process. Despite com­pleting less than half of his passes, Tebow led one improbable come­back after another.

The icing on the cake was his 80 yard touchdown pass in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, a moment that shattered the Tweets-per-second record on Twitter. In today’s age, there may be no better way to memorialize a moment’s impact. Tebow’s playing style and staunch Christian beliefs will make him a polarizing athlete for years to come.

2. The Defense Debate. NFL ana­lysts spent plenty of time lamenting the lack of good defense in the league this season. How much does it real­ly matter? The Packers and Patriots won their respective leagues while finishing at the very bottom of the league in total defense. The Saints, Giants, and Lions also finished in the bottom ten teams in the league in defense, yet made the playoffs. Traditionalists can take comfort in knowing that the league’s top four defenses—the Steelers, Texans, Ra­vens, and 49ers— also made the playoffs.

3. Rewriting the Passing Record Book. At different points in the year Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady were all proclaimed to be having the greatest quarter­backing seasons of all time. Rodg­ers’ 122.5 quarterback rating broke Peyton Manning’s single-season record, while Dan Marino’s passing yardage record was obliterated by both Brees and Brady. It’s a shame Peyton Manning had to sit out such a historic season of airing it out, as a chronic neck injury sidelined him for the season.

4. Resurrection of the 49er Fran­chise. 49er fans hoped that new coach Jim Harbaugh would eventu­ally restore the franchise to its past glory. It’s doubtful that even the most optimistic of them thought he could turn it all around this quickly, though.

Alex Smith was transformed from a pariah to a competent quarterback, and then became a playoff hero for his efforts in their playoff win over the Saints. Linebackers Patrick Wil­lis and Navarro Bowman led a fear­some defense. San Francisco fans are hoping Harbaugh can bring the Lombardi Trophy back to 49er coun­try.

5. The Andrew Luck Debate. With Peyton Manning out, the Colts slogged to a 2-14 record, giving them the number one pick in the upcoming NFL draft. With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck available, Manning’s future in Indianapolis is uncertain.

Manning is a legend, and may go down as the greatest quarterback of all time, but Luck appears to be a once-in-a-generation talent that will want to see the field right away. Manning may retire, but I doubt it—he’s too competitive, and doesn’t want to end his career on a low note. The Colts could get a king’s ransom by trading either Manning or the draft pick; or they could keep both and pay half their team’s salary to two quarterbacks.

Personally, I think cutting ties with Manning makes the most busi­ness sense. One re-aggravation of that neck injury will end his career, and they could land multiple draft picks by moving him. It won’t be a popular move, but Ted Thompson showed that trading a legendary quarterback can pay huge dividends down the road.

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