Best of The MMQB, 2016

A look back on some of our most popular and provocative long reads from an eventful 12 months of football
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For more from The MMQB in 2016, check out our archive and writers’ pages.

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What 45.7 Million NFL TV Viewers Don’t See at Home

The FOX crew allowed The MMQB inside its preparation and production of the Cardinals-Panthers NFC Championship Game to see how Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews and others get the job done. Spoiler alert: It involves cough drops, film study and text messages from—boom!—John Madden • By Emily Kaplan

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Timmy Smith: One Big Game, One Big Regret

A surprise start in the biggest game of a rookie’s life led to a blowout and a rushing record that stands to this day. But the Washington running back was out of the NFL two years later and eventually found himself on the wrong side of the law, watching the Super Bowl from behind bars • By Robert Klemko

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Interviewing to Become an NFL Head Coach

Before their introductory press conferences, NFL head coaches endure a grueling hiring process. Here’s what goes on behind closed doors • By Jenny Vrentas

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The Birth of a Dynasty and the Death of a Dome

Thirty-four years ago the Silverdome hosted Super Bowl XVI, and the 49ers began their decade of dominance. With the Detroit stadium now in ruins, a look back at how San Francisco began its run, and the fate of the venue where it all started • By Robert Mays

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Gronk’s Party Ship: ‘The Best Vacation of My Life’

Glow-in-the-dark Gronkowskis, lemon drop shots and way too much twerking: A guest aboard football’s most talked-about boat trip fights through his debilitating hangover to tell the story of a bro weekend to top all others

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How Super Bowl QBs View Cam’s Choice Not to Dive

Cam Newton has been under fire for not appearing to attempt to recover a fumble late in Super Bowl 50. Rather than pile on, we asked four men who took snaps on the NFL’s biggest stage to see what they’d have done • By Robert Klemko

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More Revelations in the Peyton Manning-Jamie Naughright Saga

A previously unheard-from former Vols player says he saw what went on that day in 1996; plus a mysterious voicemail and more on the controversy that has clouded Manning’s image as he contemplates retirement • By Robert Klemko

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The Fall of Johnny Football

The MMQB combed through Johnny Manziel’s past and spoke to more than a dozen people who are or were in the quarterback’s inner circle to find out: Just how did it go so wrong? Has Johnny Football played his last NFL game? And if so, does he even care? • By Emily Kaplan

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Behind Closed Doors at the NFL Combine

Teams are allowed to schedule formal interviews with 60 prospects, each lasting just 15 minutes. The MMQB sat in the room as the Dolphins grilled a quarterback and tried to determine the makeup of the man • By Jenny Vrentas

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How Peyton Manning Changed the Game

The Broncos and Colts legend achieved greatness through unparalleled intellectual commitment and complete command on the field, the model for every quarterback to come after him. And he leaves the game as, unquestionably, one of the all-time best • By Peter King

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Andrew Hawkins’ Ivy League Crash Course

Having followed a tortuous road to the NFL, the Browns wideout knows better than most to prepare for life after football—which is why he was cramming for a sports management degree at Columbia in the offseason • By Kalyn Kahler

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Me Versus Chris Harris

A one-time star tight end (well, in middle school) and current 29-year-old journalist, I challenged the Broncos’ All-Pro cornerback to an afternoon of one-on-ones. To my surprise, he accepted. My journey to a turf field in Tulsa, from the elation of a nine-yard reception to the pain and embarrassment of… pretty much everything else that happened that day • By Andy Benoit

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A Life in Journalism

From schoolboy sports at the Sac Bee to the national spotlight at Sports Illustrated, Paul Zimmerman bridged eras while always maintaining his distinctive style. Here, excerpted from his unpublished memoirs, is the story of his career in ... well, just don’t call it media • By Paul Zimmerman

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Donald Trump and the USFL: A ‘Beautiful’ Circus

Big names, big money, big vision—and an ego that encompassed it all. Donald Trump’s foray into pro football ownership with the upstart league in the ’80s was the kind of spectacle that now feels very familiar • By Tim Rohan

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The Goodell Decade

During his tenure as NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell has been the subject of unrelenting criticism while overseeing unprecedented growth. And, despite the public’s perception of him, he’s positioned to be the face of the NFL for years to come • By Jenny Vrentas

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Rob Gronkowski, Football Mastermind

He’s thought of as a good-old-bro who dominates based on size and athleticism, but the Pats’ All-Pro tight end is really one of the brainiest players at his position. Don’t just take our word for it—ask the coaches who game-plan for and against him • By Andy Benoit

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Drew Bledsoe and the Hit That Changed Everything

Fifteen years ago, a hard shot from a Jets linebacker knocked Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe out of commission. In stepped an untested second-year QB from Michigan, and the rest is history. Here, Bledsoe opens up about how his life and his legacy were changed that day • By Albert Breer

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Fans Explain the NFL’s Ratings Decline

Viewership is down on prime-time broadcasts, and the league’s consumers are tuned in to all of its problems

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Good Morning, Coach Warner

Predawn football practices? The players at Desert Mountain High don’t mind—not when the guy directing the offense is a Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP. But in this first coaching stint, Kurt Warner is a learner as much as he is a teacher • By Robert Klemko

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Matt Light Is Still Protecting the Blind Side

The retired Patriots tackle runs a summer camp for disadvantaged teens in rural Ohio. But that’s just where the real work begins • By Emily Kaplan

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The Legend and Life of Dennis Byrd

After suffering a paralyzing injury in 1992, the Jets defensive lineman rose to walk again, becoming an inspiration both within the game and beyond it. But his post-football life, cut short by a tragic ending, was complicated and challenging • By Jenny Vrentas

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Matt Patricia, Belichick’s Rocket Scientist

How an aeronautical engineering grad from noted football hotbed Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute became Bill Belichick’s right-hand man, entrusted to run the Patriots’ defense • By Tim Rohan

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Sam Wyche: A Thankful Heart

In September, the former NFL coach nearly died from heart failure. Now he says a prayer for a man he’s never met—the man whose heart now beats inside his chest • By Peter King

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Football in the Land of Bridges and Walls

In the border town of Brownsville, Texas, the high school game is on the front lines of the immigration debate. We followed a player who crosses every day from Mexico to pursue the American dream, and play the American sport • By Tim Rohan

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The Violence and The Game

In Chicago, football ‘can’t be the antidote.’ But a high school coach and a program try to hold on in a city ravaged by senseless crime • By Emily Kaplan

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How Reggie White Made Green Bay Cool

When the NFL’s first great free-agent shocked the football world by signing with the Packers, it suddenly turned pro sports’ smallest—and whitest—market into a destination for black players and set a fabled franchise on course for a Super Bowl title • By Robert Klemko

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The Packers, the Prisoners and the Priest Who Unites Them

Lambeau Field and Green Bay’s maximum-security prison are brick fortresses separated by three miles but worlds apart. From the bell tower of his home, Father Jim Baraniak can look down upon both of his flocks • By Kalyn Kahler

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‘Pure Hatred’: An Oral History of the Steelers-Ravens Rivalry

When these bitter foes face each other, every game counts—no matter the record—and every brutal hit registers • By Jenny Vrentas

What were your favorite MMQB stories of 2016? Let us know at