- One of the worst seasons in recent Packers history cost Jon Gruden his job as head coach after 13 seasons. There was much debate as to whether GM Ted Thompson prepared the franchise properly in its first season without Brett Favre, or whether Gruden’s success was merely a product of Favre. Whatever the case, Gruden was ousted, and Thompson replaced him with former Saints head coach Mike McCarthy.
- Patience ran out for Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville, as he was replaced with former Bills head coach Mike Mularkey.
- But Del Rio would not be out of a job long, as he would end up as head coach of the Raiders. The death of Al Davis caused his son, Mark, to start completely over, by firing incumbent head coach Brian Schottenheimer and hiring away Reggie McKenzie (who then hired Del Rio) from the Packers’ front office, despite the bad season the Packers had endured in 2011.
Many expected quarterbacks to go 1-2-3 in 2012, and while the Packers and Colts played their expected roles by taking Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, the Browns went off script by instead taking Alabama’s Trent Richardson 3rd overall (and then later trading back into the first round to take Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, giving the Saints a 2013 2nd round pick and a 2014 first round pick). The Dolphins at #4 were delighted to take the 3rd highest rated QB in Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, while the Redskins at #5 were quite upset that they were unable to pry the 3rd overall pick away from the Browns, who were allegedly committed to coming away with Richardson and were not going to put that at risk by even trading down two spots.
- Ravens 9, Texans 7
- Rams 30, Eagles 20
- Seahawks 44, Panthers 14
- Bills 16, Bengals 12
Defense ruled the weekend on the AFC side, with the typically stout Baltimore and Buffalo sides moving their teams forward—a usual for the Ravens, but a rarity for the Bills, who finally seemed to get their legs underneath them under Rex Ryan. On the NFC side, the NFC West flexed its muscle with the rising Rams and Seahawks having no problem with big wins despite both teams getting forced on the road due to their unusually strong division.
- Seahawks 27, 49ers 24 (OT)
- Broncos 23, Ravens 17
- Jets 52, Bills 14
- Packers 20, Rams 13
The NFC games featured incredible upsets led by two rookie quarterbacks that took the league by storm in 2012. Few would have been surprised that the Packers’ Andrew Luck was one of them, but few would have guessed that the other would have been the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. On the AFC side, the 15-1 Broncos survived a late scare that came from Matt Ryan connecting with Torrey Smith on a long pass, with Ed Reed stopping Smith before he could reach the end zone. And despite efforts by Rex Ryan to fire his team up against the bully in the AFC East, the Jets had the last laugh in an embarrassing blowout win.
- Packers 34, Seahawks 28
- Broncos 33, Jets 23
The Luck/Wilson NFC Championship matchup was highly anticipated, and while neither quarterback disappointed, the defense helped set the tone, with Clay Matthews strip-sacking Wilson and Earl Thomas pick sixing Luck, indicating a likely bright future for both teams despite the Seahawks coming up short. Meanwhile, it was all about stalwart QBs on the AFC side, with both Peyton Manning and Tony Romo seeking a third ring. Romo’s side would emerge victorious in a season that was quickly looking like it could be a special one in the Mile High City.
Super Bowl XLVII
- Broncos 34, Packers 10
Andrew Luck finally got his first true “welcome to the NFL moment” as the Broncos’ defense was relentless on him. Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt added Super Bowl MVP to his trophy case with three sacks and a forced fumble on Luck, while Tony Romo was steady with the highest completion rate in Super Bowl history despite only one TD pass and moderate total yards.