The regular season is over. Some stats for you:
- LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 2,244 yards, breaking the record previously set by Houston Oilers running back Eric Dickerson in the 1984 season. Dickerson had 2,150. Jamal Lewis surpassed that mark as well, but just barely, rushing for 2,158 yards.
- Ty Law finished with 18 interceptions, besting Night Train Lane’s mark by four. Samari Rolle (Titans) and Aeneas Williams broke it as well, finishing with 15. Andre Woolfolk ended up with 14, tying the mark.
- Olindo Mare of the Dolphins made 46 field goals. Martin Gramatica made 45. Joe Nedney and Morten Anderson made 44. Billy Cundiff had 42 and Brett Conway had 41. All of these broke then then-record of 40. 1)The current record was set by David Akers in 2011 and is 44.
- Our boy Jeff Smoker finished with four passing touchdowns, being the only player in the entire NFL to hit that mark. On the other hand, our other boy Ricky Ray finished with 61 interceptions, breaking Blanda’s mark by 19. Ten other QBs threw 42 or more picks, including Smoker.
- Only five quarterbacks broke the 1,000-yard mark on the season. Kurt Warner led them all with 1,127 yards, which would have ranked 39th had it happened during the 2014-15 NFL season. The other four were Peyton Manning, Aaron Brooks, Smoker, and Tom Brady. Ricky Ray missed the cut with 935 yards.
- The highest completion percentage was 31%, which belonged to several QBs. The lowest mark on ESPN’s scale for the 2014-15 season was 55%, which ranked 33rd out of 33 qualifying players.
- On a team-wide scale, four teams (Broncos, Cardinals, Texans, Lions) finished with a points-per-game mark of less than 8.75, the record for fewest points scored per game in a 16-game season. 2)1992 Seahawks. The Broncos were worst of all with 8.1. Defensively, three teams finished with points-allowed-per-game totals of less than 10, which all break the current NFL record. The WPFT finished with 8.9, bested only by the Ravens with 8.4.
In all, the entire NFL threw 50 touchdowns to 1,568 interceptions. For a comparison, the 2014-15 NFL season had 807 passing touchdowns to 450 interceptions. Truly this is the Dark Era. But at least the Dark Era’s in the playoffs!
“We’re here with Jets quarterback Ricky Ray, who has just won his first career playoff game! Now, Ricky, it was a bad season for every quarterback, but you caught a lot of eyes with 61 interceptions. Still, though, you never gave up on yourself! You threw the second touchdown pass of your career when it mattered. You’re going to Kansas City next week! How in the world do you feel?”
“Well, uh, you know, a record is a record. I don’t think—at least I hope—anyone’s ever going to throw 61 interceptions in a season again. Then again, the league threw, what, fifteen hundred picks? I’m just a drop in the bucket, man. The playoffs is a whole new season. I’m just glad I could help my team win.”
“Ricky Ray, playoff winner! Now, you threw four picks this game …”
“But that touchdown pass gave the Jets a 10-point lead they never lost. The fans used to say ‘Nay to Ray’ and now they say ‘Yay for Ray.’ Congratulations, Ricky. Good luck next week.”
“Thank you. Thank you.”
Indeed, the Ricky Ray-led Jets won their playoff game against the Titans, 15-10. The Chargers beat the Bills 13-6, the Cowboys beat the Vikings 22-3, and the Seahawks beat the Bucs 20-3. 3)Seattle finished the season 7-9 but won their division and a home playoff game. That sets up Chargers/Ravens, Seahawks/WPFT, Jets/Chiefs, and Vikings/Panthers in the second playoffs weekend. Let’s see what happens.
- The Ravens shellacked the Chargers 26-0. It was a matchup between the two RBs who broke the season rushing record. But LT only managed 65 yards on 17 attempts. Jamal Lewis, my God, rushed for 275 yards on 45 attempts. That’s all you need to know here.
- The Seahawks won yet again, beating the WPFT 10-3. That touchdown margin of victory was provided by a TAINT in the 2nd 4)TAINT = Touchdown After INTerception, in other words, an INT returned for a TD.
- Ricky Ray’s fairytale run ended early. The Chiefs shut out the Jets 10-0. Damon Huard threw a 6-yard touchdown pass (and four interceptions). Ray threw three picks.
- My beloved Panthers lost a home playoff game thanks to several Jake Delhomme interceptions. Been there, done that. Vikings won 20-14.
So your AFC Championship is Chiefs/Ravens and your NFC Championship is Seahawks/Vikings. Here’s how they went:
- I tell you, the Ravens’ defense is loving this QB Dark Era. They shut out the Chiefs 23-0. They have yet to allow a single point this postseason. That’s got to be some sort of record. Todd Collins of the Chiefs threw 5 picks. Jamal Lewis rushed for 191 yards.
- The NFC Championship was just as much of a barn-burner. The Vikings won 6-3, qualifying for their first Super Bowl since the 1976 season. 5)They have not won a Super Bowl ever, and their last NFL Championship came in 1969.
For this Super Bowl, we’re going to listen to some commentary. Read: We’re watching a CPU-CPU game set to All-Madden with 15-minute quarters. I’ll keep you updated on whatever interesting stuff may happen.
13:30 – Gee, no offense to any of these guys, they’re all great, but whoever would have thought that Anthony Wright and Gus Frerotte would be your starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl? You think this season is going to have an asterisk next to it in the record books?
12:49 – WOW! A stellar diving interception by Vikings corner Antoine Winfield! I know INTs have been easy to come by this season, but that one sure wasn’t! Wow.
12:16 – The ball is tipped and … picked off! Chris McAlister with the interception for the Ravens! This is going to be a long game, isn’t it?
6:08 – Well, that was one of the first competent drives I’ve seen in a while. Frerotte almost looked like he knew what he was doing out there! But the Vikes will certainly take a field goal there, it’s the first points scored against the Ravens D this postseason …
6:01 – Fumble! Fumble on the kick return! And picked up by the Vikings! Tyrone Carter! He’s at the ten … touchdown! Wow! Suddenly, it’s 10 to nothing for the Vikings!
4:45 – Gary Baxter with the pick for the Ravens. It looks like Frerotte is trying to throw a shot put out there.
2:59 – Field goal is good for the Ravens. Both teams are appearing capable of marching the ball down the field. The Super Bowl is really bringing out the best in both sides.
2Q 8:47 – Zzz … Wha? Huh? Oh, I fell asleep. Everyone is yelling because Jamal Lewis just scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown. We have a tie game now. Guess I should, uh, pay attention …
4:22 – We are seeing some quality punting in this Super Bowl.
2:13 – On the verge of halftime and finally something exciting happens! I was about to fall asleep again. Peter Boulware picked up Frerotte’s pass and took it to the house! 17-10 Ravens, and that’s 17 unanswered.
2:04 – Ouch, another pick for Frerotte. This one goes to Will Demps and, luckily for the Vikes, he can’t take it all the way home. You’ve gotta think the Ravens are going to try to score before the half.
1:34 – And they do! A 53-yard field goal, probably the most impressive athletic play of the game so far. 20-10 Ravens.
1:24 – Oh God. Gus Frerotte is melting down before our very eyes. That’s his third straight pick in three passes. Peter Boulware has his second INT of the game. Can the Ravens score AGAIN?
0:51 – Another field goal. 23-10.
0:38 – Um, Frerotte just threw his fourth pick. In four passes. Will Demps gets his second. Frerotte has 6 INTs total. I don’t care if this is the Quarterback Dark Era, you have to do better than that in the Super Bowl.
0:06 – And another field goal. 26-10. It could be a lot worse … right?
3Q 11:16 – I’m sure some of the players down there are talking about the mercy rule. Of course, there isn’t one, even though we’d all like to go home early. Frerotte just threw his seventh pick, something no quarterback did in a game this season. It got returned for a touchdown as well. 33-10 Ravens.
10:25 – This is just … it’s just sad. Frerotte throws another pick, Peter Boulware takes it to the house. 40-10 Ravens. I can’t even get excited about anything anymore. NFL, do the right thing. Call this game.
5:42 – For what it’s worth, the Vikings had a productive drive nullified by a four-and-out from inside the Ravens’ five. Still 40-10. Someone should bring Gus Frerotte a whiskey.
4:22 – Congratulations to the Vikings for getting a field goal. 40-13.
1:49 – Congratulations to the Vikings for getting an interception! Brian Russell! Just their second of the game.
1:05 – Mewelde Moore punches in a short rushing touchdown to cut it to 40-20. They can’t seriously come back from this, can they?
0:18 – Oh my! It’s certainly not over! Another interception by the Vikings, this one credited to E.J. Henderson.
0:12 – What the football gods giveth, they also taketh away. Frerotte breaks the NFL record for interceptions thrown in a game, and Peter Boulware gets his third. Comeback over.
4Q 11:58 – Just about the only exciting thing now is Boulware chasing the single-game INT record. He just got his fourth, Frerotte just threw his tenth. I might nap again.
10:54 – One more field goal for the Ravens. 43-20.
10:03 – One more interception for the Ravens. Ed Reed this time. This game, this season, it’s all going to have one big asterisk next to it.
5:46 – Jamal Lewis gets the handoff, jukes one man, TRUCKS ANOTHER, and he’s into the end zone! Thirty-yard touchdown run, and he’s well within his rights to do a little dance there. Score is soon to be 50-20, Ravens. The celebrations are already happening.
5:11 – Frerotte is sacked on fourth down here, and he trudges off the field. This is a day he will want to forget.
3:59 – Twelve picks now for Frerotte. Why the heck is he still in the game? Ray Lewis snags one.
3:28 – A sixth field goal for the Ravens and they’re up now, 53-20. Do you give Gus Frerotte the Super Bowl MVP for this game?
2:32 – Lucky thirteen interceptions! Chris McAlister gets another, takes it to the house, 60-20. Can this game end already?
2:22 – Can’t end soon enough for poor Gus. His pass is tipped, Baxter picks it off. That’s fourteen.
1:58 – Lewis hits the 150-yard rushing mark just as we hit the 2-minute warning. Gus Frerotte is sobbing on the sidelines.
1:17 – The kick is up … it’s good. 63-20 now. That’s a modern-era NFL record for points scored by one team in a game. And a record for field goals. And an embarrassment to the state of Minnesota.
0:35 – The Vikings punt it away … looks like their offense is done. More done than it has been. Ravens snap the ball, run it, clock winds down … the Baltimore Ravens are your Super Bowl XXXIX champs.
Ugh. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to set to All-Madden? A 12-overall QB against that defense on that difficulty … that was murder. Gus Frerotte, playing in the Super Bowl, finished 25 for 76 (!!!) for 293 yards, zero touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Anthony Wright finished a much more sensible 16 for 42 with 196 yards, zero touchdowns, and a mere 3 interceptions. Your Super Bowl MVP is in all likelihood Jamal Lewis, who rushed for 153 yards on—holy shit—65 attempts. My God.
This isn’t football anymore. It’s Hell.
Exiting the game informed me that the “Player of the Game” was Peter Boulware, he of the four interceptions. So he’s the actual Super Bowl MVP. But still, Jamal Lewis. God.
We’re entering the offseason now. Several players retire, including Aeneas Williams and a few others. But, uh …
“Breaking news out of the NFL after what was far and away the most bizarre season in the history of the league. Thirty-four quarterbacks have issued a joint statement declaring their retirement from professional football and lambasting the league for encouraging them to play through what obviously was a fool’s errand. Litigation appears to be in the future.
“All quarterbacks in the statement are 30 years old or older, and notable inclusions are Steve McNair, Kurt Warner, Mark Brunell, and Brett Favre. What the NFL plans to do to remedy this situation, if anything, we’ll have the latest for you when that happens …”
Yeah, 34 QBs retired. It makes sense. Here’s where things get interesting though: the NFL draft. Every QB in the draft is a massive upgrade over every team’s current situation. What’s going to happen?
Well, nine quarterbacks went in the first round. A tenth went in the second. One went in the fifth and another in the sixth. So, twelve new quarterbacks have infused the league with ability. The Monstars already came, so they’re same. They’re going to dominate the league. A thirteenth quarterback went undrafted, but at 42 overall, he’s surely going to get signed. Free agency reveals a number of quarterbacks who were released by their teams, including Aaron Brooks and Tom Brady.
That undrafted quarterback, Joey Murphy, signed with the Bills. Brady remained unsigned. The preseason is here, and the best quarterback in the league by a long shot is James Culberson of the Denver Broncos, a whopping 81 overall. He was the third overall pick. Randall Fletcher of the Packers has a 78 overall. Several others are in the 60s and 50s. How big a difference is that going to make? Well, let’s see where we stand once the season is over.
There are 13 non-cursed QBs in the league. The Lions, for some reason, have two of them. So that’s 12 teams with functional quarterbacks. Coincidentally, there are 12 playoff spots in the NFL. My money is that those 12 teams make the playoffs. As an even better coincidence, six of these non-cursed teams are in the NFC and six are in the AFC. Perfect. Let’s simulate this whole season. Before we do, here are the blessed twelve:
- NFC: Panthers, Lions, Saints, WPFT, Vikings, Packers
- AFC: Dolphins, Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Titans, Bills
The twelve quarterbacks who got playing time generally finished in the top 12 in most passing statistics. They weren’t all great, of course, and one of them (WPFT man) even went down for the season. But none of them did as bad as Seneca Wallace’s 1 TD to 56 INTs. Now let’s look at the 12 playoff teams.
- NFC: Panthers, Cardinals, Saints, WPFT, Vikings, Packers
- ARC: Dolphins, Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Titans, Steelers
So two of the blessed twelve missed out. The Lions were the only team with two non-cursed QBs and somehow they missed out. That’s so Lions. They finished 8-8, three games behind the wild card and four behind the Packers in their division. The Bills also missed out, finishing 7-9. The Steelers finished 7-9 and won their division. Likewise, the Cardinals finished 8-8 and won their division. So close! No doubt they won’t last long in the playoffs.
They don’t. The Cards lose 19-7 and the Steelers get shut out. The upshot of this is that the eight teams left all have (sort of) legitimate NFL QBs. They might resemble actual games now. A few teams are nursing injuries to their prized QBs, like the WPFT, and they go down. The Packers squeak by with 12-overall Brad Banks but fall in the NFC Championship to the Panthers. It’s Panthers/Raiders in the Super Bowl and unfortunately I must experience heartbreak again as Super Bowl XL ends with the score of 13-8 in favor of the Raiders.
In the offseason, Peyton Manning retires. Some of the other QBs who were cursed stay in the league, trying to reclaim their former glory, trying to earn a paycheck, but with another glut of blessed college quarterbacks entering the league, it’s only a matter of time before there is no place for the last remnants of the NFL’s Dark Era.
“Peyton? It’s Tom.”
“Hey. Are you going to retire, too?”
“I can’t. Not yet. I have to figure out what happened to me. To us.”
“Tom, I gave up on that a long time ago. Leaving foot ball behind was the best decision of my life.”
“I know, and it will be for me, too, but I have to keep going. I can’t give up.”
“Sometimes giving up is the bravest thing you can do, Tom.”
“Then call me a coward, Peyton.”
SPACE JAM 3: NO TOM-ORROW COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU SUMMER 2019
So what have we learned? Well, not a lot we didn’t already know. Quarterbacks are important. Players in Madden get really laughably bad if you set all their attributes to zero. CPU-controlled teams are sometimes smart enough to know not to pass with a 12-overall quarterback. The Madden NFL 2005 soundtrack has only like two good songs on it. Even in a world where everyone is equally terrible, Gus Frerotte still manages to be worst of all.
I look forward to Space Jam 3, where Tom Brady travels into space to find the Monstars who stole his abilities all those years ago, and he challenges them to a soccer match because remember, we’re following the Air Bud pattern here. But he loses. Good night, Tom.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||The current record was set by David Akers in 2011 and is 44.|
|3.||↑||Seattle finished the season 7-9 but won their division and a home playoff game.|
|4.||↑||TAINT = Touchdown After INTerception, in other words, an INT returned for a TD.|
|5.||↑||They have not won a Super Bowl ever, and their last NFL Championship came in 1969.|