The NFL set a record for points in the 2013 season.
Teams averaged 23.4 points a game, the most ever. Eleven teams scored 400 points or more, or at least 25 points a game. To put that in local perspective, the Bills have scored 400 or more points only six times in their history, the last time in 1998. Buffalo has averaged fewer than 23.4 points nine straight seasons.
For the second straight year, records were broken for league-wide passer rating (86.0) and touchdown passes (25.1 per team).
A record seven players had passer ratings of 100 or better. They were: the Eagles’ Nick Foles, Denver’s Peyton Manning, Chicago’s Josh McCown, San Diego’s Philip Rivers, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, the Saints’ Drew Brees and Seattle’s Russell Wilson.
Passing keeps incrementally increasing. This was the fourth year in a row the NFL set records for passing yards per game (235.6 per team) and completions per game (21.7 per team). The record for attempts also was set this year (35.4, per team per game).
How does that compare with the Bills’ first Super Bowl season, 1990? Each team on average is passing for 41 more yards a game than in 1990.
The 2013 season saw league-wide records for pass attempts (35.4 per team per game) and completions (21.7 per team per game).
People can complain about how hard-nosed defense has diminished in today’s game. But it’s hard to argue the passing is hurting the product.
There were 18 comeback victories by teams that had trailed by 14 or more points in 2013. That was tied for the most ever in a single season (with 2011).
’Skins roll dice
Washington’s hiring of Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is a roll-of-the-dice move and a big step down from Mike Shanahan.
In Shanahan, Washington had a proven winner. Some will say Shanahan hasn’t done much since John Elway won him two Super Bowl rings. But Shanahan went 11-5 with Brian Griese as his QB in 2000 and 13-3 with Jake Plummer in 2005. In retrospect, that’s pretty impressive.
Shanahan did a great job with Robert Griffin III as a rookie in 2012. It’s too bad for Washington fans that the coach’s relationship with owner Daniel Snyder soured to the point that he had to be fired. Media reports in Washington say Snyder gave Griffin a sense of entitlement, and Shanahan bristled at the undercutting of his coaching authority. The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins wrote this week that Snyder’s interference turned Griffin into “boy emperor.”
Enter the 46-year-old Gruden. Who knows about his leadership skill? That’s the most important role as a head coach, far more key than his play-calling ability. Does Gruden have the vision and communication skill to set the tone for the organization? Can he handle conflict when times get tough? Is he a great judge of talent? You never quite know when a coordinator steps into the head role for the first time. Gruden was a head coach in the Arena League and the United Football League, but that’s hardly as pressure-packed as running a major college program. It’s not worth a lot of credit from this perspective.
Meanwhile, Gruden is stepping into a less than ideal football operation.
Shanahan had full control of personnel decisions. Now the final say in personnel goes to incumbent General Manager Bruce Allen, whose power was minimal under Shanahan. Allen would look better as a team president. On one hand, it’s good that Allen has a history with Gruden. Allen was GM in Tampa while Gruden was Bucs offensive coordinator under his brother, Jon Gruden. The two should work well together. But the personnel results under Allen and Jon Gruden were mixed at best during that regime.
Nevertheless, Gruden may work out because he has one giant thing going for him: Griffin. Gruden needs RG3’s massive talent to overcome the history of dysfunction that has existed under Snyder’s ownership.
The power brokers
The NFL coaching-search season is in full swing, and that means the behind-the-scenes power brokers are pulling their strings. Big-time agents play a huge role in the hiring process.
Both Jay and Jon Gruden are represented by Bob LaMonte. He also represents NFL head coaches Andy Reid, John Fox and Mike McCoy. LaMonte, based in Reno, Nevada, is famous for getting his coaching clients fabulously prepared for their interviews and for getting young, up-and-coming candidates into head jobs.
One of LaMonte’s top young candidates is Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, a 36-year-old who has been in Green Bay the past eight seasons. McAdoo, who never has been a coordinator, interviewed with Cleveland for its head job this week. The Giants and Dolphins reportedly are interested in him as an offensive coordinator.
LaMonte’s biggest negotiating coup arguably came in 2005, when he convinced Notre Dame that first-year coach Charlie Weis was so hot the NFL might lure him back. Barely halfway through the first year of a six-year contract with the Irish, LaMonte got Weis a new 10-year deal through 2015 that reportedly was worth about $30 million and $40 million.
Another coaching super-agent is Jimmy Sexton, based in Memphis, Tenn. Sexton’s NFL coaching clients include Rex Ryan, Doug Marrone, Gus Bradley and Dennis Allen. He represents Alabama’s Nick Saban, as well as both coaches in last week’s national championship game, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. He also represents Bill Parcells.
All kinds of conflicts of interest are created in the representation of coaches. When Cleveland hired Pat Shurmur as head coach in 2011, LaMonte negotiated the deal with Browns president Mike Holmgren ... who also was represented by LaMonte.
Before hiring Jay Gruden, the Redskins last week interviewed another LaMonte client, Perry Fewell, the ex-Bills coach and current Giants defensive chief. Fewell probably knew, through LaMonte, that Gruden had the inside track. LaMonte owes Fewell one for sitting down with the ‘Skins.
Furthermore, Fewell’s resume arguably is better than Gruden’s. This season was the first time Gruden’s offense ranked higher than 20th. Fewell’s Giants defense was seventh in 2010 and eighth this year, and Fewell won a Super Bowl in 2011 by handcuffing Tom Brady.
Ex-Bills guard Andy Levitre did not get rave reviews in Nashville for his first season with the Tennessee Titans. He was hindered a bit by knee and hip injuries. He had knee surgery after last season. Levitre gave up 10 hits on the quarterback, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He gave up three in 2012.
“I know I haven’t been playing well this season,” Levitre told ESPN.com in early December. “I don’t want to say it was from my surgery after last season, I’ve had some other issues going on. I’ve been having a little struggle staying healthy this season. But I’m just trying to play the best I can, get an offseason program under my belt so I can get some of the strength back that I lost last offseason.”
Levitre toughed it out, however. He played every snap all year until the season finale, when he missed six plays. Those were the first snaps he missed since Week Two of 2010.
Meanwhile in Nashville, the Titans were pretty happy with “The Senator,” George Wilson, the ex-Bills mainstay. He played 40 percent of the snaps. His main role was in the nickel defense and in some three-safety packages.
Ex-Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick gave the Titans pretty much what he gave Buffalo last year. He went 3-6 in place of injured Jake Locker. Fitz had 14 TD passes and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 82.0. Fitz’s future in Nashville will depend on the opinion of the Titans’ new coach.
• Since the NFL moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, the No. 1 seeds in the NFC are 19-4, while the No. 1 seeds in the AFC are 13-10. Since 2005, the No. 1 seeds are only 7-9.
• The No. 1 seeds in each conference have advanced to the Super Bowl just once in the last 19 seasons. That was when New Orleans faced Indianapolis in the 2009 season. Before that, the last time two top seeds met was when Dallas beat Buffalo in the 1993 season, the Bills’ last trip to the Super Bowl.
• Favorites won 52 percent against the spread in the NFL in the regular season.