On Thursday, the New York Jets announced Robert Saleh as their new head coach. Saleh was the defensive coordinator of the San Fransisco 49ers since 2017, where he inherited a defense that was historically bad, and turned it into one of the top units. His energy on the sidelines during games is noticeable and is something that the Jets need. Fans will be counting on him to turn the team around following one of the worst seasons in their history.
Jets fans have a lot to look forward to with the hiring of Robert Saleh. To begin with, he's a fresh start following the tenure of previous head coach Adam Gase, who set the franchise back during his last two seasons. On game days, he brings much-needed energy and passion to the sidelines, which has been demonstrated on numerous occasions when the 49ers would come up with a big stop. His motivational and player-friendly demeanor, was well appreciated by players on the defense such as Sherman and Warner. So far, he has already reached out to every Jets players and they seem to like him despite not having played a game under him yet. Even with his motivational tactics, Saleh also has a technical approach on Sundays. With the hiring of fellow offensive coordinator Mike LeFleur, the offense will likely be run-oriented with lots of receivers in motion and play action passes.
Robert Saleh is a protege of one of the league's top coaches, Pete Carroll. During Saleh's tenure with the 49ers, his first two years weren't the easiest and there were calls for him to be fired. In 2019 however, the defense was one of the best units. Running a cover three defense, he finally had the group of pass rushers to really make his system work in Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Erik Armstead, and Dee Ford. Fred Warner served as the perfect linebacker for that scheme, and Richard Sherman who he was with in Seattle, anchored the secondary. They were a big reason why San Fransisco made the number one seed and breezed through the playoffs en route to a Super Bowl. While they didn't win, it was still a successful turnaround for the defense. In 2020, many of the key players suffered injuries, but the defense still remained a productive unit. Saleh's last two years proved to be more than enough for the Jets to hire him.
Overall, this is a very good hire for the Jets. Saleh really knows how to bring a winning attitude. This is illustrated through his 10 lessons of coaching:
If there's someone who can really put all of the Jets' dreadful years behind them, Robert Saleh could be the answer. His energetic and technical approach on Sundays could be a critical factor to the team. It doesn't often happen that a team makes a hire that everyone seems to love, but the Jets have made it. Now the results must come next.
This NFL season was unique in many ways. Throughout the season, COVID-19 threatened to derail the season. Many teams suffered outbreaks causing games to be rescheduled. Nonetheless all 256 games were still able to happen. Another thing that made this season unique was the introduction of a new playoff format. After previously having a six team playoff format with two teams having a first round bye, the NFL expanded its format to seven teams with only one of them having a first round bye. This caused the final weeks of the regular season to be very crucial with a handful of teams playing for a playoff spot, better seeding, or a first round bye. Here are the fourteen teams that are left standing.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Following their Super Bowl title last February, the Chiefs have looked as good as they are last year if not better. With an offense that was healthier than last year, Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce once again put up ridiculous numbers. In addition, they also have an improved running game led by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The defense led by Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu has also continued to make life difficult for opponents dating back to the end of last season. For the cherry on top, the Chiefs have home field advantage locked up for the playoffs, making their chance to repeat more likely.
2. Buffalo Bills: After a surprise 10-6 season that put them in the playoffs as a Wild Card, the Bills have only gotten better. The defense, which was a big reason why they got in last year, didn't have the same kind of year, but were still a good unit. It was the offense however, that was their main strength. With career years from third year quarterback Josh Allen as well as the newly acquired Stefon Diggs, the offense was one of the best in football. Under Sean McDermott, he and his coaching staff are hungry for a playoff win after losing in their previous trips.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: There was a time where the Steelers were undefeated for the first 11 games of the season. Ben Rothlesberger was enjoying a resurgent year. His receivers of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson were wrecking havoc in secondary. The defense, led by sack leader T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick was dominating opponents. However, this team is sputtering into the playoffs with a 1-4 record. If there's any time for them to recapture their magic, now is the time.
4. Tennessee Titans: They are another team entering the playoffs riding a potent offense. While the passing game led by Ryan Tannehill along with A.J. Brown has been very effective, it's their running game that has really been stellar. Derrick Henry became the eighth running back in NFL history as well as the second Titan to top the historic mark of 2,000 rushing yards. Like last year, this team is primed for a deep playoff run.
5. Baltimore Ravens: After a 14-2 season, many expected the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. But with five games left, they appeared to have no shot at even getting to the playoffs. After that, they finally started to show shades of last year winning out to get to the playoffs at 11-5. With Lamar Jackson looking like his MVP self, the offense has been very efficent. The defense with a well balanced mix of young players and veterans has had a knack for takeaways all season.
6. Cleveland Browns: After 18 painful years of missing the playoffs, it's only fitting that in 2020, the Browns were finally able to break through. With a strong running game led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt along with a defense led by Myles Garrett, they rode two stretches of four game winning streaks which was enough to earn them a playoff spot. However, there are questions surrounding the passing game with Baker Mayfield, and teams will be willing to led Mayfield beat them.
7. Indianapolis Colts: They are the first AFC team to benefit from the new playoff system. Riding a stingy defense with Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner, the Colts appeared to have a playoff spot locked in going into their game against the Steelers. But after blowing a 17 point lead, they needed luck to get in the playoffs with a Dolphins loss and a win. Both scenarios happened, allowing the Colts to return to the playoffs. With Philip Rivers likely nearing retirement, this will be a chance to send him into the sunset with a long-awaited championship.
1. Green Bay Packers: This year, Green Bay showed that last season's 13-3 record wasn't a fluke. If anything, they've looked better. Aaron Rodgers put up one of his best seasons yet throwing for an absurd 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Davante Adams had his own specular season with 118 receptions, over 1,300 yards, and 18 touchdowns. The run game and defense once again complemented their offense. With the no. 1 seed, the Packers will have their long time home Lambeau Field, as a bonus to their advantage.
2. New Orleans Saints: Just like last year, the resilience of this team was on full display. Despite a 1-2 start with age noticeably catching up to Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas missing nine games, the Saints were still able to rally with a 12-4 record. Sean Payton deserves a ton of credit for fielding an offense that finished fifth thanks to the skills of running back Alvin Kamara. The defense was also a well balanced unit finishing in the same ranking. With a healthy roster and a chip on their shoulder from previous heartbreaks, this team will be ready.
3. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have many reasons to feel confident going into the playoffs. They started off 5-0 due to the amazing play of Russell Wilson. Later on in the season, they did slump going 3-4 in their next seven games, but rallied to close out the season with four straight wins. The catalyst of this team is Russell Wilson without question. Whether it's perfectly placing a ball to D.K. Metcalf or completing a pass to Tyler Lockett scrambling out of the pocket, he has found ways to get it done and that must continue.
4. Washington Football Team: When Washington changed its name from the Redskins to the Football Team, it seemed like it was a sign of how laughable this team was going to be on the field. However, they weren't focused on all the off-field opinions. Rallying around coach Ron Rivera's defeat of cancer and Alex Smith's comeback from a brutal leg injury the Football Team finished 7-9 which was enough to make the playoffs.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady still has Buccanneers fans wondering how they got him, but here they are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. While the team did have a streaky season, they were more than good enough to make the playoffs. Brady enjoyed the luxury of having big-time weapons at his side once again and the defense make significant strides after a solid finish last year. Whether they can compete against the top teams still remains a question.
6. Los Angeles Rams: After a season in which they missed the playoffs following a Super Bowl appearance, expectations were low for the Rams entering this season. This time, they overachieved going 10-6. The offense enjoyed a resurgent year thanks to Jared Goff along with wide receivers Robert Woods and Cupper Kupp. With Aaron Donald dominating backfields and Jalen Ramsey locking up receivers the defense also enjoyed a bounce back year. The big question is how can the Rams compete against non NFC East teams in which they went 6-6 against in the regular season.
7. Chicago Bears: Out of all the playoff teams, this is probably the worst one. After a 5-1 start, they dropped six straight before reeling off 3 wins in their next four games while receiving help from the Arizona Cardinals losing their last two games. Led by pass rusher Khalil Mack, their defense is a tough unit to play against but questions remain about the offense. Despite having two solid skill players in David Montgomery and Allen Robinson.
Bills over Colts
Steelers over Browns
Titans over Ravens
Chiefs over Titans
Bills over Steelers
Chiefs over Bills
Saints over Bears
Seahawks over Rams
Buccaneers over Football Team
Saints over Seahawks
Packers over Buccaneers
Packers over Saints
Chiefs over Packers
This year was filled with uncertainty that extended to the world of sports. It started during March, when all of sports shut down due to concerns over COVID-19. Then, social unrest began to erupt prompting many athletes to stand up not just for themselves, but in support of others. Sports eventually resumed but that didn't stop notable sports figures from meeting these challenges head on. Here are some notable people who made a big influence in the sports world.
1. LeBron James
On the court, LeBron James made his mark. After being derailed by injuries last year, he put up MVP numbers, led the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference, and won his fourth NBA championship as well as Finals MVP. When James retires, this will be remembered as one of his most impressive seasons. To maintain the same skills and still have a winning effect on his team in his mid 30s is really amazing. James has almost made as big an impact off the court as he has on the court. He spoke out on police brutality through social media and during press conferences in the bubble. This included a video in which he concludes, "This is why we can't just stick to sports. Do you understand now?" In addition, he launched a website More Than a Vote, which focuses on giving Black people access to voting. By the time of the election, James had successfully prevented many people from having their voices suppressed, Last month, James's efforts of social activism were rewarded with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, and the Time's Magazine Athlete of the Year.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Throughout his career, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar established himself as one of the most dominant big men in NBA history. His accolades include a record six MVP awards, the most career points at 38,387, and six championships. Along with his success, he is one of the first basketball players to speak out against social issues. Last July, he delivered a powerful message on the fight for social justice in an edition of the NBA on TNT. He reflected on the turning point toward using his voice when he, along with other athletes, supported Muhammed Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam. During the video, he stated "To witness Ali's unwavering integrity even as the government spent years trying to destroy him was a turning point for me. How could I do any less? How can any American do any less? How can any American athlete do any less?" That same month, Kareem also cited the importance of fighting against other forms of discrimination amid the Black Lives Matter movement such as anti-Semitism. Although his playing days are long passed, his voice is still as important as it was over 50 years ago.
3. Patrick Mahomes
Despite only having three full seasons under his belt, with two as a starter, Patrick Mahomes is already on top of the football world. He has already become the fastest quarterback to reach over 10,000 career passing yards, as well as over 100 touchdown passes which took him only 44 games to surpass that milestone. Earlier in February, Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years, in a game where he led what turned out to be the game winning drive. After the game, he was announced as the Super Bowl MVP, the youngest to ever win the award. When it has come to social justice, Mahomes has put his accolades to the side and has been an advocate. In June, he participated in a Black Lives Matter video with fellow athletes, pushing the NFL to publicly condemn racism. He was also one of the high-profile athletes to join James' More than a Vote campaign. A month later, Mahomes signed the richest contract extension of any athlete at over $500 million. With the Chiefs currently aiming toward another Super Bowl, Mahomes is slowly becoming an icon.
4. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
For his first six seasons, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was a regular starter for the Kansas City Chiefs. Like Mahomes, he won his first Super Bowl with the Chiefs in February. However, it was off the field where Duvernay-Tardif wanted to make an impact. During July, he became the first NFL player to opt out of the season because of COVID-19. Duvernay-Tardif wanted to join the front lines in the fight against the virus. He did this by working long term at a healthcare facility in his native hometown of Montreal. Weeks ago, Duvernay-Tardif's impact was recognized by Sports Illustrated who named him as one of their Sportspeople of the Year. In addition, he was awarded the Lou Marsh trophy, which is given to the top Canadian athlete every year. This is well deserved for Duvernay-Tardif, who decided to give up football for a year to help prevent COVID-19 off the field.
This was a year that presented different challenges beyond sports. From COVID-19, to the fight for social justice for Blacks, there has been a lot of uncertainty and unrest in the world. Everyone has taken on these challenges in their respective ways. These current and former athletes not only faced these problems, but have done so in a way that should continue to inspire people into the new year.