Peyton Manning Declares Early: 2003 Season

Coaching/Management Changes

  • Only one head coach was fired, and it was the team with the worst record in the NFL; the Bengals sent Dick LeBeau packing, and replaced him with Seahawks offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.

NFL Draft

For the first time in NFL Draft history, the first four picks were quarterbacks.  It all got started when, as expected, the Bengals drafted Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer from USC.  Two days before the draft, the Redskins traded with the Lions for the second overall pick, using it on Rex Grossman, reuniting him with his former college coach at Florida, Steve Spurrier.  Once the Redskins’ pick was confirmed, the Ravens also made a trade up with the Chicago Bears at third overall, so that the quarterback starved team could secure Marshall’s Byron Leftwich.  And finally, the equally quarterback starved Oakland Raiders selected Kyle Boller fourth overall.  A product of the University of California, Boller wouldn’t even need to cross the Bay Bridge for his new line of work.

After the quarterbacks, the top ten became heavy on defensive linemen—but the one expected to go as high as the top five fell all the way to #20, where the Cowboys ended the unexpected slide of Kentucky’s Dewayne Robertson.  Emotions ran high in Madison Square Garden as Robertson, who attended the draft, had an arduous wait in the green room.  Also waiting longer than expected was Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs, who got a reprieve from his hometown team in the Cardinals, trading up to #14 to select him.

With lots of trades up, one team continually traded down: the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were a rumored destination for a quarterback such as Leftwich or Boller.  Instead, they dropped all the way from #6 to #26 in a set of three trades, ultimately surprising the draft crowd by taking small school cornerback Rashean Mathis of Bethune-Cookman.  In one of those trade downs, the Jaguars also obtained an additional 1st round pick from the Saints, who they used on Iowa’s Eric Steinbach.

Regular Season

3 Jets 11 5 1 Eagles 13 3
Dolphins 8 8 6 Cowboys 11 5
Patriots 6 10 Redskins 4 12
Bills 6 10 Giants 3 13
4 Ravens 8 8 3 Packers 11 5
Bengals 6 10 Bears 7 9
Browns 6 10 Vikings 6 10
Steelers 4 12 Lions 4 12
2 Titans 13 3 4 Panthers 10 6
6 Colts 11 5 Saints 8 8
Texans 5 11 Buccaneers 8 8
Jaguars 5 11 Falcons 6 10
1 Broncos 14 2 2 49ers 12 4
5 Chiefs 11 5 5 Seahawks 11 5
Chargers 6 10 Rams 10 6
Raiders 4 12 Cardinals 8 8


Wild Card

  • Ravens 19, Chiefs 0
  • Packers 31, Cowboys 14
  • Seahawks 29, Panthers 23 (OT)
  • Colts 30, Jets 23

Scintillating seasons by Doug Flutie and Priest Holmes weren’t enough to stop they and the Chiefs from being dismantled by the typically stout Ravens defense. Brett Favre had his choice of receiving targets all night, as the Packers continued their Cowboy-killing ways.  Seahawks rookie Marcus Trufant ended Jake Delhomme’s feel-good season on a pick six in overtime, while Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick were outgunned for the second time this year by Kurt Warner and Mike Martz.


  • Seahawks 24, Eagles 20
  • Broncos 22, Colts 21
  • Titans 20, Ravens 17
  • 49ers 34, Packers 23

Boastful Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell said he’d deliver a victory like “FredEx”, but instead he dropped a critical 4th down pass in the end zone as the Seahawks would upset the #1 seed in the NFC.  Drops were endemic on the NFC side, as the normally sure-handed Jerry Rice had four of his own as his old team cruised over Green Bay, starting conversations as to whether this would be the end of his Hall of Fame career.

On the AFC side, Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan endured criticism for keeping rookie Tony Romo starting at quarterback, who had filled in for an injured Jake Plummer for much of the season but who was also now believed to be healthy after the bye.  The criticisms were muted when Romo played conservative but very well behind the revitalized running game from Clinton Portis and Mike Anderson in a narrow win over the Colts.  The difference maker turned out to be Romo running in a two point conversion despite botching an extra point snap as the holder.

Conference Championships

  • Titans 28, Broncos 14
  • Seahawks 22, 49ers 19

NFL MVP Steve McNair proved why he earned that honor, as threw for 3 TDs backed up by a 150 yard day by Eddie George in defeating the Broncos to earn the Titans their first AFC title.  The Seahawks were able to earn their first NFC title by riding behind Shaun Alexander’s own 150+ yard day and picking off Tom Brady twice as they took down their newest rival in the 49ers.  Despite a total record of 13-5 in the regular season and the playoffs, three of the 49ers’ losses were to Seattle.

Super Bowl XXXVIII

  • Seahawks 20, Titans 17

In one of the more run-heavy and defense oriented Super Bowls in recent memory, Shaun Alexander would ultimately outlast Eddie George to bring home the Lombardi Trophy to the Northwest for the first time, and to give head coach Mike Holmgren his second Super Bowl ring.