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2020 NFL season

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2020 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 10, 2020 (2020-09-10) – January 3, 2021 (2021-01-03)
Playoffs
Start dateJanuary 9, 2021
Super Bowl LV
DateFebruary 7, 2021[1]
SiteRaymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 31, 2021

The 2020 NFL season will be the 101st season of the National Football League (NFL). Pending developments in the ongoing 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, the season is scheduled to begin on September 10, 2020, with the NFL Kickoff Game, expected to be hosted by the defending Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs.[2] The season will conclude with Super Bowl LV, the league's championship game on February 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

The Oakland Raiders became the Las Vegas Raiders on January 22, 2020 and are scheduled to relocate to the Las Vegas metropolitan area prior to the season, becoming the first NFL team based in the state of Nevada.[3]

New collective bargaining agreement

In March 2020, the league and the players association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will run through the 2030 season.[4] The previous CBA that was signed after the 2011 NFL lockout would have expired after this 2020 season, and thus the league and the NFLPA wanted to conclude a new deal to avoid another labor dispute.[5]

Among the major changes in the new CBA include:[6]

  • expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams beginning this season.
  • expanding from a 16-game to a 17-game regular season in 2021 at the earliest, along with a corresponding reduction of the preseason from four games to three.
  • players receiving 48 percent of the league's overall revenue starting in 2021 (up from 47 percent under the previous 2011 CBA), which would increase to 48.8 percent when the regular season expands to 17 games.
  • Team rosters increasing from 53 to 55 players, while also allowing two additional active players on game days.
  • Shortening the drug testing window from four months to two weeks at the start of training camp, and eliminating automatic suspensions solely based on positive tests.
  • A "neutral decision-maker" will now replace the NFL Commissioner on ruling most discipline cases.

Officiating changes

Referee Walt Anderson was promoted to an NFL senior vice president in charge of the officiating training and development program, a newly created position that will work independently from the league's head of officiating Alberto Riveron.[7] The new position was created as part of the 2019 CBA between the league and the NFL Referees Association.[8]

Player movement

The 2020 NFL League year and trading period began on March 18. On March 16, teams were allowed to exercise options for 2020 on players who have option clauses in their contracts submit qualifying offers to their pending restricted free agents and submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2019 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agent credit. Teams are required to be under the salary cap using the "top 51" definition (in which the 51 highest paid-players on the team's payroll must have a combined salary cap.). On March 16, clubs were allowed to contact and begin contract negotiations with the agents of players who were set to become unrestricted free agents.

Free agency

Free agency began on March 18. Notable players to change teams included:

Notable players to change teams include:

Trades

The following notable trades were made during the 2020 league year:

  • March 18: Houston traded WR DeAndre Hopkins and their 2020 fourth-round selection to Arizona for RB David Johnson, their 2020 second-round pick, and their 2021 fourth-round pick.[9]
  • March 18: Jacksonville traded DE Calais Campbell to Baltimore for their 2020 fifth-round selection.[10]
  • March 18: Minnesota traded WR Stefon Diggs and their 2020 seventh-round selection to Buffalo for their 2020 first, fifth and sixth round selection and their 2021 fourth-round selection.[11]
  • March 18: Tennessee traded DT Jurrell Casey to Denver for their 2020 seventh-round selection.[12]
  • March 18: San Francisco traded DE DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for their 2020 first-round selection.[13]
  • March 18: Jacksonville traded QB Nick Foles to Chicago for their 2020 fourth-round selection.[14]
  • March 19: Detroit traded CB Darius Slay to Philadelphia for one of their 2020 third-round selections and their one of their 2020 fifth-round selections.[15]

Notable retirements

Other retirements

Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23–25, 2020 in Paradise, Nevada, coinciding with the Oakland Raiders relocation to Las Vegas.[32] The Cincinnati Bengals, by virtue of finishing last overall in 2019, will hold the first overall selection.

Due to the ongoing 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, the NFL announced on March 16 that it had cancelled the public festivities, and that the league will explore "innovative options for how the process will be conducted".[33] On March 26, 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the draft will go as planned.[34]

Rule changes

Rule changes for the 2020 season are scheduled to be voted on at the NFL owners' spring meeting in May 2020.

2020 deaths

Members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Chris Doleman
Doleman, a defensive end, spent ten years of his 15-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings, along with shorter stints near the end of his career with the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2012 and died January 28, age 58.
Bobby Mitchell
Mitchell, a halfback, entered the league as a Cleveland Brown and spent the majority of his 11-year NFL career as a member of the Washington Redskins; he was the first black player on the Redskins roster, ending Redskins owner George Preston Marshall's 30-year color barrier on the team. He served as an executive with the Redskins for decades after his playing career ended and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 1983. Mitchell died on April 5, age 84.
Willie Wood
Wood, a safety who spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers, was inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 1989. He died February 3, age 83.

Others

Preseason

Pending developments in the coronavirus pandemic,[35], training camps for the 2020 season are scheduled to be held in late July through August. Teams will start training camp no earlier than 15 days before the team's first scheduled preseason game.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game is scheduled for August 6 between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cowboys are represented in the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 by former coach Jimmy Johnson and safety Cliff Harris. The Steelers are represented by former coach Bill Cowher and strong safeties Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell.[36][37]

Regular season

Pending developments in the coronavirus pandemic,[35] the 2020 regular season's 256 games is originally planned to be played over a 17-week schedule beginning on Thursday, September 10, 2020. Each of the league's 32 teams will play a 16-game schedule, with one bye week for each team. The slate also includes games on Monday Nights. There will be games on Thursdays, including the National Football League Kickoff game in prime time on September 10 and games on Thanksgiving Day. The regular season will conclude with a full slate of 16 games on Sunday, January 3, 2021, all of which are expected to be intra-division matchups, as it had been since 2010.

The full schedule will be released by no later than May 9,[38] with the league fully expecting to start the season on time without any contingency plans should the coronavirus pandemic continue into the late summer.[39]

The NFL may look to arrange the 2020 schedule in a fashion similar to the 2011 season when a labor dispute threatened the planned start of the regular season. Division games may be held later in the season and all teams may be given equal amounts of home and away games through the season's early weeks.[40] In 2011 for example, every contest in Week 3 had teams which shared the same bye week later in the season, which would have allowed these games to be made up during the teams' original byes. Weeks 2 and 4 were set up so that there were no divisional rivalry games, and every team with a home game in Week 2 was away in Week 4 and vice versa. These scheduling changes, along with eliminating the bye week before the Super Bowl and moving the Super Bowl back a week, would have allowed the NFL to play a 14-game schedule beginning in mid-October while still having the Super Bowl in mid-February.[41]

The league also runs into broadcast scheduling conflicts with PGA tournaments and other events that have also been postponed to the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.[42]

Scheduling formula

Under the NFL's current scheduling formula, each team plays the other three teams in its own division twice. In addition, a team plays against all four teams in one other division from each conference. The final two games on a team's schedule are against the two remaining teams in the same conference that finished in the same position in their respective divisions the previous season (e.g., the team that finished fourth in its division will play all three other teams in the conference that also finished fourth). The division parings for 2020 will be as follows:

    Intra-conference
AFC East vs AFC West
AFC North vs AFC South
NFC East vs NFC West
NFC North vs NFC South

    Inter-conference
AFC East vs NFC West
AFC North vs NFC East
AFC South vs NFC North
AFC West vs NFC South

Highlights of the 2020 season will include (with specific teams, dates and times to be determined at a later date):

The league is monitoring the coronavirus pandemic, and may need to reassess the schedule at a later date,[35] especially the international games.[48]

Postseason

The 2020–21 NFL Playoffs are scheduled to begin on the weekend of January 9–10, 2021 with the Wild Card Playoff Round. With the passage of a new CBA in March 2020, the playoffs expanded to 14 teams. Unlike in previous postseasons (when there were two Wild Card teams in each conference, and the conference's top two seeds receive byes), there will be three Wild Card teams in each conference and only the conference's top seed receives a bye.[49] Despite initially speculation that the league may schedule a Wild Card game for the first time on Monday night January 11,[50] the league announced on March 31, 2020, that there will be three games each on both January 9 and January 10.[49]

The top seed in the conference will then play the lowest remaining seed, while the other two remaining teams play each other, in the Divisional Round games, scheduled for January 16–17. The winners of those games will advance to the Conference Championships scheduled for January 24. The 2021 Pro Bowl is scheduled for January 31 at a site to be announced. Super Bowl LV will be played on February 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Head coaching and front office personnel changes

Head coaches

Off-season

Team Departing coach Interim coach Incoming coach Reason for leaving Notes
Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera Perry Fewell Matt Rhule Fired Rivera was fired on December 3, 2019, after going 5–7 (.417) in the first 12 games of the season. In 8+ seasons as the Panthers head coach, they were 79–67–1 (.541), with four playoff appearances including three NFC South division titles and one Super Bowl appearance.

Fewell, the defensive backs coach, took over on an interim basis until the end of the season.[51] Fewell went 0–4 as interim head coach.

Rhule, who had spent the previous seven seasons as college football head coach of Temple and Baylor with a 47–43 (.522) record, was hired on January 7.[52][53]

Cleveland Browns Freddie Kitchens Kevin Stefanski Kitchens was fired on December 29, 2019, after going 6–10 (.375) in one season as head coach.[54]

Stefanski, who previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, was hired on January 13. He was on the Vikings staff for 14 years.[55] This is his first head coaching position at any level.

Dallas Cowboys Jason Garrett Mike McCarthy Contract expired On January 5, following several days of speculation, the Cowboys announced they would not renew Garrett's contract when it expires January 14. The Cowboys were 85–67 (.559) in 9​12 seasons under Garrett, making the playoffs 3 times but never advancing past the divisional round.[56]

McCarthy was hired as the Cowboys' new coach on January 6. He had spent the 2019 season out of football after 12+ seasons as the Green Bay Packers head coach with a record of 135–85–2 (.613) with nine playoff appearances and one Super Bowl championship.[57][58]

New York Giants Pat Shurmur Joe Judge Fired Shurmur was fired on December 30, 2019, after going 9–23 (.281) in two seasons as the Giants' head coach, with no playoff appearances.[59]

Judge was hired on January 8, after serving most recently as the special teams coordinator for the New England Patriots from 2015 to 2019, as well as the wide receivers coach in 2019. This is his first head coaching position at any level.[60][61]

Washington Redskins Jay Gruden Bill Callahan Ron Rivera After an 0–5 start, Gruden was fired on October 7, 2019. He had a 35–49–1 (.418) record for his 5+ season tenure with the Redskins, with one playoff appearance in 2015.[62]

Callahan, the team's assistant head coach/offensive line coach, was previously the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003, with a record of 15–17 (.469) and one Super Bowl appearance, finished out the 2019 season with a 3–8 (.273) record.[63]

Rivera, who had spent most of the previous nine seasons as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, was hired on January 1, 2020.[64]

Front office personnel

Off-season

Team Position Departing office holder Incoming office holder Reason for leaving Notes
Cleveland Browns General manager John Dorsey Andrew Berry Mutual decision Dorsey and the Browns parted ways on December 31, 2019, after three seasons.[65]

Berry was hired on January 28, 2020 as the Browns' general manager and executive vice president of football operations. He served as the Philadelphia Eagles' vice president of football operations in 2019, and had worked for the Browns from 2016 to 2018 as vice president of player personnel. At age 32, he is the youngest general manager in NFL history.[66]

Houston Texans General manager by committee Bill O'Brien N/A O'Brien was named general manager in addition to his head coaching duties on January 28, 2020. O'Brien, along with executive vice president Jack Easterby, had served as a committee of de facto co-general managers in the 2019 season, with O'Brien having final say.[67]
Jacksonville Jaguars Executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin Position eliminated Fired Coughlin was fired on December 18, 2019, after three seasons with the Jaguars. [68] The team announced after the season that Coughlin's position will not be filled and that head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell will return in 2020. [69]
Washington Redskins President Bruce Allen TBD Allen was fired December 30, 2019, after ten years with the Redskins.[70]

Stadiums

  • Prior to the 2020 season, the Buffalo Bills have a buyout window in their lease with New Era Field, allowing them to cancel it for a $29 million fee. If the Bills choose not to opt out, the team cannot exit the lease until it expires at the end of the 2022 season and would be liable for a $400 million penalty if they overturned the clause in court.[72] The Bills are not expected to opt out of the lease, since plans for a second New Era Field are still in the earliest preliminary discussions as of 2019[73] and conditions in the lease also prohibited founding owner Ralph Wilson and his estate from selling the franchise to anyone who would relocate the team out of Buffalo, which current owners Kim and Terry Pegula have no plans to do.[72] Commissioner Goodell gave an ultimatum during the state of the league address giving the team "the next several months, if not sooner" before they "(have) to settle" the matter.[74] On January 31, 2020, the team formally stated they would not exercise the buyout option.[75]

Uniforms

Uniform changes

  • Atlanta Falcons: On April 8, the Falcons unveiled new jerseys, featuring a larger helmet logo, silver facemasks, new fonts for the numbers, and a prominent "ATL" placed above the numbers.[76]
  • Los Angeles Chargers: On March 24, the Chargers announced that they will replace the navy blue outline on their helmet logo with powder blue, reflecting their previous season's change of using powder blue as their primary jerseys. They also debuted a new wordmark on the jersey chest that will feature a lightning bolt shooting from the "A" in "Chargers".[77]
  • Los Angeles Rams: On March 23, the Rams unveiled a new logo and color scheme. The new colors are brighter shades of the royal blue and gold used on their 1999 throwback jerseys, dubbed "Rams Royal" and "Sol" by the team, respectively. The team's new logo features a stylized "LA" with a ram's horn spiraling out from the top of the "A".[78]
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: On April 7, the Buccaneers unveiled new jerseys resembling the ones they wore from 1997 to 2013, including that design's block numbers, black masks, pewter pants, and all-white road set. Some elements of the previous 2014 design are retained, including the enlarged flag-and-crossed-swords logo and the secondary ship logo on the sleeves. The team also unveiled an all-pewter Color Rush uniform.[79]

Other teams that will make changes, ranging from minor tweaks to full-on rebrands, include the Cleveland Browns,[80] Indianapolis Colts, and New England Patriots. With a total of seven teams, this would make the most uniform changes in the Nike uniform era in any offseason.[81]

Media

This will be the seventh year under the current broadcast contracts with ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC. This includes "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season (regardless of the conference of the visiting team). NBC will continue to air Sunday Night Football, the annual Kickoff Game, and the primetime Thanksgiving game. ESPN will continue to air Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl with the latter being simulcasted on ABC. This will be the third year that Fox will air Thursday Night Football alongside the NFL Network. Although ESPN's current Monday Night Football deal expires in 2021, and the contracts with CBS, Fox and NBC end in 2022, the league may begin negotiations on new broadcast deals in 2020.[82] Prior to the 2020 season, the league has the option to cancel DirecTV's exclusive contract to air NFL Sunday Ticket, the league's out-of-market sports package. DirecTV has held exclusive rights since the package was introduced in 1994.[83]

Rights to the two new wild card games were acquired by CBS and NBC, with each network paying around $70 million for the additional game. CBS is also planning to air an alternate broadcast for the extra game on sister network Nickelodeon oriented towards a youth audience.[84]

CBS will televise Super Bowl LV. Under the current rotation, NBC was originally planned to broadcast the game. However, NBC traded the game to CBS in exchange for Super Bowl LVI, which will fall during the 2022 Winter Olympics as the first to be scheduled during an ongoing Olympic Games (NBC also holds the U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics).[85]

The Hall of Fame Game is typically aired by NBC, but moved to a different network (most recently ESPN) during Summer Olympics years due to NBC's coverage of the Games. However, the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed to 2021 due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic; it has not been announced if the game will air on NBC.

The digital co-streaming rights for Thursday Night Football also expire prior to the 2020 season. Amazon held the rights from 2017 through 2019. Amazon's gaming-streamer service Twitch also carried the games in 2018 and 2019 as a request from the league that the streams be made available for free.[86] Amazon then renewed their rights to stream TNF. The new contract will last for the remainder of the current NFL television contract.

Personnel notes

Tony Romo, CBS's lead color commentator, renewed his contract with CBS in a long-term, $17 million per year deal, the most lucrative contract for a sports commentator in NFL history. Romo's contract was set to expire during the preseason, but CBS included a right of first refusal clause in his previous contract allowing them to match other networks' offers.[87]

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