Peyton Manning Declares Early: 2001 Season

Coaching/Management Changes

  • After failing to make the playoffs, the Buccaneers decided to fire head coach Tony Dungy. The vacancy in Tampa Bay was filled by Marvin Lewis, defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion Ravens.
  • Dungy did not stay unemployed for long, however, as he was quickly retained as the head coach of the Patriots after Pete Carroll resigned late in the regular season to take the head coaching job at USC, opened up by the firing of Paul Hackett.
  • Hackett, too, found a new job quickly, as Al Davis named him the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders, after firing Art Shell for the second time.
  • Despite going a league worst 3-13, the Cardinals would retain Dave McGinnis as head coach, taking over midseason for the fired Vince Tobin.
  • The Bengals, too, would retain their interim head coach in Dick LeBeau, ascending to the position after Bruce Coslet resigned midseason in 2000.
  • The Browns fired Chris Palmer after two dismal seasons, and replaced him with University of Miami head coach Butch Davis.
  • The Bills fired head coach Wade Phillips, and replaced him with Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
  • The Chiefs fired head coach Gunther Cunningham, and replaced him with Buccaneers defensive backs coach Herman Edwards.
  • The Lions fired longtime general manager Chuck Schmidt, and replaced him with former Raiders linebacker and current broadcaster Matt Millen. Millen, in turn, replaced head coach Bobby Ross with 49ers offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
  • New Redskins owner Dan Snyder fired longtime head coach Norv Turner midseason in 2000, and after the season was over, he pursued former Browns and Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer for the same job in Washington.

NFL Draft

The extremely intriguing talent of Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick led the way in the draft, and there was little doubt that the Arizona Cardinals were going to take him first overall.  The doubt practically vanished when days before the draft, the Cardinals traded their incumbent starter, Jake Plummer, to Denver in order to move into the 1st round a second time so they could get a hometown hero, Arizona State tight end Todd Heap. (The Broncos would select Mississippi cornerback Ken Lucas at the top of the 2nd round.)  Another trade involving a quarterback occurred when the Buccaneers moved up into the late first round to take Purdue’s Drew Brees.  Other notable selections included Texas’s Leonard Davis going 4th overall to the Falcons, TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson to the Patriots at 6th overall, Santana Moss fulfilling Al Davis’s penchant for speed at 13th overall to the Raiders, and the Ravens concluding the first round by selecting North Carolina’s Alge Crumpler.

Regular Season

2 Jets 12 4 3 Eagles 12 4
5 Dolphins 10 6 6 Cowboys 10 6
6 Colts 10 6 Cardinals 9 7
Patriots 7 9 Redskins 6 10
Bills 2 14 Giants 6 10
1 Steelers 13 3 2 Packers 12 4
4 Ravens 10 6 5 Bears 10 6
Browns 7 9 Buccaneers 9 7
Titans 7 9 Vikings 6 10
Jaguars 6 10 Lions 1 15
Bengals 6 10
3 Chiefs 9 7 1 49ers 13 3
Broncos 9 7 4 Rams 13 3
Seahawks 9 7 Saints 7 9
Chargers 6 10 Falcons 7 9
Raiders 4 12 Panthers 1 15


Wild Card

  • Colts 41, Chiefs 34
  • Eagles 31, Cowboys 10
  • Rams 42, Bears 14
  • Ravens 20, Dolphins 3

The most entertaining game of this weekend was the first game, featuring two feel-good stories at quarterback: Doug Flutie finding refuge in Kansas City after enduring a frustrating quarterback controversy in Buffalo, and the previously unknown Kurt Warner traveling with Mike Martz from St. Louis to Indianapolis to reenact The Greatest Show on Turf in at the RCA Dome.  Flutie threw for 3 TDs, all to Tony Gonzalez, but would be outdone by Warner’s 4 TDs, two each to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.


  • Packers 29, Eagles 23 (OT)
  • Jets 17, Ravens 13
  • Steelers 27, Colts 26
  • 49ers 38, Rams 35

All four games on Divisional weekend were compelling. But the most thrilling play of this weekend also came in the first game.  On the first play from scrimmage in overtime, Brett Favre threw a pass that bounced off the hands of Antonio Freeman, only to be caught on the deflection by Jerry Rice, who was now behind the defense and scampered 80 yards for the Packers’ game winning touchdown.  This would set up Rice to play for the first time in his career against his original team in the NFC Championship game.

Conference Championships

  • Jets 27, Steelers 17
  • 49ers 29, Packers 15

Super Bowl XXXVI

  • 49ers 23, Jets 20

This Super Bowl was proceeded with bad blood, as these teams had previously played each other in Week 3 of the regular season.  Early in the game, a blowout Jets win, linebacker Mo Lewis tackled 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia low, knocking Garcia out for the season with a torn ACL.  Multiple 49ers called Lewis’s hit dirty, who were infuriated further by Jets head coach Bill Belichick saying it was “a football play”.  Fortunately for the 49ers, losing Garcia didn’t sink their season, as backup quarterback Tom Brady, who had barely beaten out Tim Rattay for the job in training camp, stepped up nicely to lead the 49ers to the NFC’s #1 seed.  In a game that was close in its entirety, it was decided when Jets kicker John Hall missed a 48-yarder that would have set up the first overtime in Super Bowl history.  Instead of Belichick and Peyton Manning winning their third Super Bowl in four years, the 49ers secured a league-leading six Lombardi Trophies.