A new year brings the NFL closer to its emotional peak in the run-up to the Super Bowl, but it is also time to look farther down the road at what 2016 has in store for the league and the characters that make its day-to-day minutiae a national spectacle.
In this week’s roundtable, our writers and editors draw up a few New Year’s resolutions for players coaches and personalities who would be best served by turning over a new leaf in 2016.
Don Banks (as Rex Ryan): I, Rex Ryan, do solemnly resolve to never again waste generous amounts of hot air making promises I obviously can’t keep. No more brash playoff guarantees before I’ve even held the first practice of a season. No more claims to field the greatest defense in the history of defense with nothing to back up that boast but my résumé. No more gratuitously dropping Buffalo Bills history into my every day conversation, or wearing that vintage Thurman Thomas jersey to the NFL scouting combine just to show I was the right guy for this job. And certainly no more opining that this is the last coaching job I’ll ever need or want, because why go there unnecessarily when my first year in this new gig didn’t exactly spell long-term relationship?
I’m still going to be that optimistic, smiling Rex of old. I’ve got nice white teeth, and you’re going to see ’em plenty. But I resolve not to go over the top every day, all the time. I’ll try to be realistic for a change. I mean, they haven’t made the playoffs around here since 1999, and you can’t contribute that solely to the curse Doug Flutie put on the franchise after that Rob Johnson signing. Who did I think I was walking in the door and ignoring 15 years of mediocrity, acting like I’d break through it easier than a high school team running through a banner at homecoming?
And I’ll stop obsessing about Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Until we beat them more than one time in a row, I’ll steal a page from Pedro Martinez’s book—but not that new one he published—and just tip my cap and call Bill my daddy. I can talk endlessly about how badly I want to chase the Patriots down, but it doesn’t seem to get me any closer to doing it. The Hoodie has my number, and I don’t even think he has to cheat to do it.
Fully resolute, I’m ready to turn the page on 2015 now. It’s been a weird year here in Buffalo anyway. It has barely snowed since I got here. Then again, maybe it’s all my hot air.
Andrew Perloff: This won’t be easy for Andrew Luck to hear, but in 2016 the Colts’ quarterback should vow to change his style of play. The 6'4", 240-pound quarterback is fearless ... and that’s a bad thing. Coach Chuck Pagano said Luck needed to stop playing like a linebacker after he suffered a lacerated kidney. We praise him for trying to tackle guys after an interception, but the truth is he hurts the franchise with this mentality. Luck is assumed to be a future Hall of Famer ... but he needs to be on the field to deliver on that promise.
Luck should probably watch film of his predecessor in Indy, Peyton Manning, who was so good at getting rid of the ball quickly (yes, that serious neck injury has dominated his recent years, but he has played a lot of games). Luck’s competitiveness is admirable ... now he has to be smarter to make sure it results in wins.
Chris Burke: My resolution wish is for Mike Carey to just go enjoy his retirement. Carey, now in his 60s, was a very well-respected NFL referee and officiated a Super Bowl, but his foray into becoming a “TV rules expert” has been a poor fit. Viewers now anticipate Carey being wrong when CBS calls on him. Heck, Jim Nantz even openly disagreed with him on a replay call earlier this season ... and Nantz was right, forcing Carey to backtrack.
The other so-called rules experts, like FOX's Mike Pereira and ESPN's Gerry Austin, certainly don’t bat 1.000. They do seem to have more success, and they’re also not afraid to disagree with the calls made—Carey has a habit of justifying each decision, even if he thought it should have gone the other way. The situation doesn’t add anything to CBS’s broadcasts. It’s unfortunate to see Carey lampooned the way he is now, after such a long and distinguished career.
Eric Single: To the franchise or franchises that lose out on the NFL’s Los Angeles relocation sweepstakes: Resolve to make things right in the coming year with the home city you’ve spent the last few years tormenting. We could know the identity of those teams as early as this month, as owners are set to have another vote on the process on Jan. 12–13.
Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis have shared some painful visuals of late as the rumors have swirled, but those cities have something else in common: At some point in the last two decades, each of their teams enjoyed a run as the class of the entire league on the field, and the cities and fan bases that hosted them didn’t disappoint in the spotlight. There’s no easy way to rebuild bridges with a place you’ve been covertly or overtly trying to leave for years, but all three ownership groups should start their brainstorms now, just in case.