- The longest tenured head coach’s reign came to an ignominious end when the Titans fired Jeff Fisher midseason amid rumors that he was reluctant to start ownership favorite Vince Young over Kerry Collins. The team promoted longtime Titans assistant and former Oilers player Mike Munchak to replace Fisher.
- However, Fisher would not stay unemployed for long as he was quickly picked up by the Rams after they fired Scott Linehan. Some observers thought the hire of Fisher was quite appropriate amid rumors that Fisher wanted to select hometown hero Jay Cutler over Young for the Titans in 2006, and now he will get a chance to coach Cutler, who missed almost all of 2009 with a torn ACL.
- Although Jim Zorn led the Seahawks to a respectable record in 2009, he was unexpectedly fired in the wake of Pete Carroll resigning from his job at USC, who was then immediately targeted by the Seahawks.
- Four straight seasons of missing the playoffs was enough for the Vikings to part ways with Brad Childress, and they stayed in house with his replacement by promoting defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
At one point, as many as four quarterbacks were thought of as possible first round talents, but in the end only one went that high: the Vikings outbid the Redskins for the right to trade up to 4th overall with the Titans to get Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford in exchange for the Vikings’ 2011 first round pick. (The other three quarterbacks each went in a subsequently later round; the Panthers took Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen in the second round, the Browns took Texas’s Colt McCoy in the third, and Florida’s Tim Tebow lasted all the way to the top of the fourth round where he was taken by the Chiefs.)
In lIeu of quarterbacks, the top of the draft was defense heavy: the Lions kicked it off by taking Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska first overall, and that was followed by Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy going 2nd to the Rams. Offensive linemen were also in vogue: after the Bears traded up with the Cardinals to take Oklahoma’s Trent Williams (Arizona would later take Anthony Davis of Rutgers), the Redskins also moved up to get Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung. Idaho’s Mike Iupati also went at #14 to the 49ers; many thought they would take Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant (who went to the Cowboys at #22) with their second 1st round pick after letting Terrell Owens walk in free agency, but they instead settled on Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas at #26.
Tradeups from the late second into the early first were also common. The Lions traded with the Ravens so they could get California running back Jahvid Best; just three picks after taking Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty at #24, the Jets used a high 2nd round pick acquired from the Titans to swap with the Bengals to get Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski at #27; and the Rams got back into the first round in a deal with the Patriots to get Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold after rumors that the Colts were very interested in him as well.
- Rams 40, Buccaneers 35
- Patriots 20, Jaguars 6
- Ravens 27, Chiefs 7
- Bears 34, Eagles 26
After several seasons of mediocrity Jay Cutler had a breakout regular season in 2010, and it continued in the Wild Card round by outshooting the usually sharp Drew Brees in Tampa Bay. Backing into the AFC South title at 8-8, the Jaguars were no match for the perennially contending Patriots, nor were the Chiefs against the Ravens, who yielded only one score, a late touchdown from Matt Cassel to Eric Decker. And Kyle Orton also had a strong day in Chicago in defeating the Eagles.
- Steelers 38, Patriots 17
- Bears 20, Giants 10
- 49ers 35, Rams 24
- Jets 27, Ravens 24 (OT)
Ben Roethlisberger had all the looks of a quarterback on a mission cruising to a home victory against the Patriots. Defense and running ruled the day at the Meadowlands with Matt Forte having the better day leading the Bears to a takedown of the defending champion Giants. Jay Cutler threw for 3 TDs but was bested by Tom Brady’s 4 in a division rival rubber match going the 49ers’ way. And the Jets would avoid a third straight year of being upset by the Ravens in the playoffs thanks to a late TD by Rob Gronkowski to tie it in regulation, following by a Patrick Chung interception of Matt Ryan to set up Steven Gostkowski’s game winning field goal.
- 49ers 34, Bears 16
- Jets 41, Steelers 24
The stage was set for yet another Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Super Bowl when both quarterbacks excelled in the championship games. Brady tossed 3 TDs (two to rookie sensation Demaryius Thomas) in a victory over the Bears, while Manning had 4, with 3 of them targeting two other rookie breakouts in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Super Bowl XLV
- 49ers 27, Jets 23
However, the subtext in this edition of 49ers/Jets was Randy Moss, who chalked up multiple entries on the transaction reports in 2010. He was traded from the Jets to his original team, the Vikings, midseason for a 3rd round pick. Only four weeks later, he was cut, then claimed off waivers by the 49ers, who at the time had a better ranking in waivers over the division rival Rams, who had also put in a claim for Moss. While Moss had been mostly a non-factor in San Francisco’s playoff run, in the Super Bowl he made his old team pay: while much of the Jets’ defensive plan focused on shutting down Frank Gore and Demaryius Thomas, Moss was able to break one on one coverage several times to connect with Tom Brady on two touchdown passes. A Gore TD for the final lead change secured the 49ers’ third Super Bowl victory over the Jets, and the league leading eighth in franchise history. To add insult to injury to Bill Belichick and the Jets, Moss was named Super Bowl MVP.