- The Buccaneers finally lost patience with Marvin Lewis, as the team was unable to escape mediocrity in recent seasons. They decided to go into their past to hire former Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who was linebackers coach in Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy.
- But Lewis would find employment soon, as he replaced Rob Ryan in New Orleans, with the Saints hoping that their division rival had made a mistake in letting go a consistently winning head coach.
- The Saints weren’t the only NFC South rival to try to get Lewis, however, as the Falcons had also run out of patience with Jim Mora. Failing to get Lewis, they ultimately replaced Mora with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
- The curiosity of the Buccaneers firing Lewis would continue, as both his coordinators got head coaching jobs elsewhere. The first was Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, brother of former Packers head coach Jon Gruden, going to the Redskins after Dan Snyder once again clashed with a high-profile hire in the recently fired Sean Payton.
- Meanwhile, Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer became head coach of the Vikings after they had fired Leslie Frazier.
- The Mike Munchak experiment did not go over well in Tennessee, as the Titans fired him and replaced him with former Bills and Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey.
While the quarterback market wasn’t considered as bad as 2013, most draft observers felt that 2014 was still weak. Instead, four quarterbacks went in the top ten. But while many expected the Redskins to take a quarterback first overall, they instead were too devoted into taking Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina, who many saw as the best player regardless of position.
Some also thought the Saints, with the 2nd overall pick acquired from the Browns in the ill-fated Brandon Weeden trade, would take a quarterback despite giving Mark Sanchez a cheap two year extension, but they instead traded two spots with the Vikings so they could get Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, afraid that the Falcons would grab him at #3. (The Saints would end the first round with three picks, and none of them quarterbacks: Buffalo’s Khalil Mack at #4, Notre Dame’s Aaron Donald at #15, and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks at #25.)
Missing out on Bridgewater, the Falcons instead took Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles third overall, a move that deeply disappointed the Jaguars, settling for Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins at #6, with rumors that they’d try to trade back up in the first round later for a quarterback to groom behind Chad Henne after Blaine Gabbert had busted. But they, and others, would be shocked by moves by the Browns and Bears, who respectively took Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Derek Carr of Fresno State at #8 and #10. Drafting Carr also allowed the Bears to trade longtime starter Kyle Orton to the Redskins.
The Jets also raised eyebrows when they took Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, as many had assumed that Ryan Mallett was going to be the heir apparent to Peyton Manning. Instead, Mallett got shipped off to the Cowboys later on the draft for a late selection.
- Saints 19, Eagles 14
- Broncos 34, Bills 0
- Jets 34, Texans 7
- Cowboys 24, Lions 20
Despite losing Adrian Peterson for the season due to child abuse charges, the Saints still persevered to win a weak NFC South, and then were able to shock the Eagles in the Wild Card round due to an insurgent defense that few expected at the beginning of the season. The typically stout Bills defense had no answer for Julius Thomas, in a contract year, as he ran wild for two TDs in a Broncos shutout. A varying season of performance for the Jets hit a high as they nearly pulled their own shutout on the road against the Texans. The two headed rushing attack of Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley each scored a rushing TD and a receiving TD from Peyton Manning.
- Patriots 24, Broncos 23
- Seahawks 31, Saints 6
- Packers 26, Cowboys 21
- Jets 23, Steelers 21
A revitalized passing offense thanks to free agent acquisition Golden Tate allowed Aaron Rodgers to put the Broncos down quickly in Foxborough, and a late rally by Denver wasn’t enough to make up the difference. Tate’s former team, the Seahawks, brought the Saints’ magic to an end abruptly, with Mark Sanchez, despite having a steady regular season, forced into multiple turnovers. Like the Broncos, the Jets fell into a quick 21-0 hole in Pittsburgh, but unlike the Broncos 23 points were enough to rally behind, with the game clincher being a Peyton Manning touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski.
- Packers 19, Seahawks 14
- Jets 27, Patriots 20
Luck/Wilson III in the playoffs was once again dominated by defense, and while the Packers jumped out to a 16-0 lead they were able to fend off a late Seahawks rally to go to their second Super Bowl in three years. On the AFC side, the game was heated thanks to the longtime rivalry between the Patriots and Jets. Dictated largely by dueling running games between Knowshon Moreno and Stevan Ridley, the game was decided with a pick six of Rodgers by Patrick Chung with only a few seconds left in the game.
Super Bowl XLIX
- Jets 27, Packers 16
It took 15 seasons and numerous disappointing and bitter playoff losses, but finally Peyton Manning was a Super Bowl champion again. Throwing for two touchdowns earned him another Super Bowl MVP honor, while Andrew Luck struggled again with opposing defensive backs in the biggest game, this time against Darrelle Revis who picked him off once and kept blanketing every Packers receiver he was on.