Photo via The Sports Rush
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the season, the NFL completed the entirety of their 269-game schedule without a single cancellation. While there were many postponements with games being moved to Monday afternoon, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, the NFL season reached its climax with little difficulty. This past Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in their own stadium 31-9 to win their second Super Bowl championship in their franchise history. With this season in the books, here are my thoughts on the 2020-21 NFL season.
- “Offensive line wins championships.” This should be the new mantra in the NFL after the Bucs’ defense dominated the Chiefs in Super Bowl 55, holding them to without a touchdown. The Bucs faced Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs and their pass rush won the game as both quarterbacks were without their All-Pro left tackles. As a result, the Bucs’ defense teed off on both QBs, disrupting their offenses. With the league becoming so pass heavy and rhythm-based, it is becoming more and more clear that to win the championship, teams must have the offensive line to protect their QB and neutralize opponents’ pass rush. If the Chiefs are going to get back to the top of the mountain, they need to get their tackles healthy again and provide better depth behind them in case of further injuries.
- With a seventh Super Bowl championship, Tom Brady has removed any sliver of doubt that he is the greatest QB of all time. He has joined the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Lewis Hamilton, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and other legends among the greatest winners of all time in sports. His leadership and drive may never be topped in the NFL and taking a team to a championship in first season that hadn’t made the playoffs the previous 13 seasons with a new conference and coaching system, Brady showed he IS the system. What is scary is with the NFC weakening, the Bucs may be back in the Super Bowl next year.
- Bill Belichick may be the greatest coach of all time but as this season proved, Belichick the general manager is incredibly flawed and it may be time for a new GM to rebuild the New England Patriots’ roster. They need a new QB to build around along with a major revamp of the wide-receiving corp and front seven. The Patriots are an average team at best, but with Belichick still the GM, a rebuild may not be possible since he will still try to compete. However, they should focus on rebuilding since the Buffalo Bills are reigning supreme over the AFC East along with the rising Miami Dolphins posing a threat as well. This offseason, I would trade cornerback Stephon Gilmore for draft position and draft a QB in the first round. Then, I would spend free agency and the rest of the draft focusing on building the trenches and the receiving corp. The Patriots need to move on from the Brady era and establish a new identity if they are going to be contenders once again moving forward.
- Kudos to the NFL for making it through the season. While there were some hiccups such as the Denver Broncos facing off against the New Orleans Saints without a QB and the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers having to play on a Wednesday afternoon, they worked around the schedule to make the regular season flow well. I found multiple mid-week games to be entertaining and as I wrote in one of my “A Candid Opinion” pieces, I think Monday night doubleheaders are better than Thursday Night Football going forward.
- Aside from Alex Smith’s return, the feel-good story of the season has to be the job Kevin Stefanski did with the Cleveland Browns in year one of his tenure with the team. Stefanski took a talented team that was a hot mess last season and instantly turned a franchise that has been laughed at for 25 years into a legit AFC Playoff contender. He built a culture in Cleveland immediately, making the Browns a cohesive and disciplined unit. Baker Mayfield proved he is the unquestioned leader of the franchise going forward and with the talent on the roster already, expect the Browns’ playoff win at Pittsburgh last month to be the start of something special in Cleveland.
- I started watching the NFL in the mid-2000s and at that time, nearly all the best QBs were pure pocket passers such as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Kurt Warner. They were the rule while mobile QBs such as Michael Vick were the exception. Now, the NFL is vastly different as every great QB in the NFL, aside from Brady, are mobile QBs who excel at throwing on the run. With Rivers having already retired and Brees will in the coming weeks, it shows that once Brady finally hangs up his cleats, pure pocket passers will become extinct. Yet, Brady was the one that won this year’s Super Bowl MVP, further displaying how his greatness transcends the sport.
With the NFL season wrapped up, it is time to focus on preparing for (hopefully) March Madness and the knockout round in the UEFA Champions League. Starting next week, I will provide round-by-round coverage of the UCL knockout round.