- Deciding to go out on top, Steelers head coach Bill Cowher retired to go into broadcasting. The Steelers would stay in house by promoting offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, much to the pleasure of Ben Roethlisberger, who had heavily lobbied for Arians after leading him to his best year yet of his career.
- On the other extreme, a 1-15 season finally saw the end of Matt Millen’s tenure as GM in Detroit. The Lions also fired head coach Rod Marinelli, replacing him with Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
- In a combination of the Steelers and Lions scenarios, Mike Holmgren’s planned last season in Seattle did not go well, as the Seahawks stumbled to 3-13. Nonetheless, the Seahawks’ succession place stayed in place by elevating quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn to replace Holmgren.
- 2009 once again saw both of the Jets’ coordinators find head coaching positions elsewhere. One was defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, who replaced his predecessor Romeo Crennel in Cleveland after Crennel was fired by the Browns.
- The other was offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels going to Kansas City. Longtime Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson had resigned, with many criticizing his decision to keep Herm Edwards as head coach for eight seasons. Jets VP of player personnel Scott Pioli was hired as GM to replace Peterson, and then fired Edwards and brought McDaniels with him to become the new head coach.
- In another coincidence, both of the sons of legendary defensive coach Buddy Ryan got head coaching jobs. The first was Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, hired as head coach of the Bills after firing Larry Coyer.
- The second was Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, hired by the Saints after they had let go Mike McCarthy.
- Lane Kiffin had an inglorious end to his tenure as Raiders head coach, after he was fired after only 4 games into the regular season due to frequent infighting with Al Davis. Tom Cable, first named interim head coach, was given the job on a permanent basis.
- Finally, a 6-10 season cost Marty Schottenheimer his job in San Diego. The Chargers turned back to former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, with the Ravens in the same capacity in 2008, to reunite with the offensive talent of Philip Rivers, Michael Turner & Antonio Gates that he had helped develop.
The first two quarterbacks went as expected in 2009: Georgia’s Matt Stafford 1st overall to the Lions, and USC’s Mark Sanchez 5th overall to the Saints. But the big move belonged to the Colts, who moved all the way up from #30 to #17 to take Kansas State’s Josh Freeman as an heir apparent to Kurt Warner, who said that 2009 would be his last year in the NFL.
There were other surprises here and there. The Raiders shocked plenty (but again, not to those who know how Al Davis obsesses over speed) when they took Darrius Heyward-Bey 3rd overall, when Michael Crabtree was expected to be the first receiver off the board (he went to the Cardinals at 6th overall). The Packers made a small tradeup from #31 to #27 after the Broncos had taken Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis at #26, and while many though the Packers were interested in USC linebacker Rey Maualuga, they instead took his less-heralded teammate in Clay Matthews III. (The Buccaneers took Maualuga at 30th overall.) And the Patriots prevented 2009 from being the first year with no running back selected in the first round, as Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno unexpectedly fell to them at #28 as an heir apparent to LaDainian Tomlinson.
- Patriots 34, Bengals 14
- 49ers 16, Cowboys 12
- Giants 28, Falcons 3
- Ravens 33, Jets 14
Blowouts were the norm on Wild Card weekend, but the ugliest game by far was the close 49ers/Cowboys game, in which neither Tom Brady nor Joe Flacco could find adequate receiving threats, something that had plagued both teams all year. But Frank Gore was able to carry the Niners to a slim victory on the ground.
- Packers 38, 49ers 6
- Colts 20, Ravens 3
- Patriots 34, Chargers 26
- Giants 37, Eagles 33
Rookie Clay Matthews had a monster day with three sacks and a forced fumble, and Charles Woodson tacked on an interception of Tom Brady at the end that caused Terrell Owens to storm off the field early, leaving many to wonder if the aging receiver had played his last down as a 49er. Despite a career year for both Philip Rivers and Michael Turner, they were outdone by Aaron Rodgers and the Patriots’ new two-headed rushing attack of LaDainian Tomlinson and Knowshon Moreno. And despite being swept by the Eagles in the regular season thanks to the rise of newly acquired Alex Smith taking over for an injured Donovan McNabb, the Giants had the last laugh in the playoffs with Eli Manning connecting twice on TDs to Hakeem Nicks in a breakout game for the rookie.
- Colts 31, Patriots 24
- Giants 23, Packers 20 (OT)
League MVP Kurt Warner put on another stellar performance with 4 touchdown passes as the Colts held off the Patriots for the AFC title. On the NFC side, an overtime game was decided when Brett Favre threw a perplexing interception in Giants territory to cornerback Corey Webster. A short Giants drive then set up an easy chip shot field goal victory over the Packers in Lambeau.
Super Bowl XLIV
- Giants 31, Colts 23
The Colts were favored in Vegas, and Kurt Warner was the sentimental favorite to finally earn a ring for his obvious Hall of Fame career, but it was Eli Manning who would spoil the party as Super Bowl MVP in a game where his 3 touchdowns were backed up by the usual steady defensive performance that kept the Giants in control the entire game.