A Wild Ride: A Reflection on the Unprecedented NFL Season

March 11th, 2020. It has almost been a year since this infamous day that impacted not only sports, but the entire world as a whole. This was the day that the National Basketball Association shut down indefinitely because of the dangers surrounding COVID-19 and star Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert who tested positive. Soon, the rest of the world would slowly begin shutting down as well with the closures of Disney World, HISD, and plenty of other places occurring within the next week. 

As we all remember, this was undoubtedly a dark and scary time for our country. We had no idea when life would return back to normal nor did we know much about the virus itself. There were thousands of questions to be asked at the time, many of these coming from dedicated fans of each respective sport. Will the NBA come back? What is going to happen with the MLB season? Is there going to be an NFL season? All of these were questions being raised by not just fans, but also players, coaches, politicians, and more. The future for American sports was anything but certain. 

Fast forward nearly 11 months later and we find many of our questions answered. The NBA season did in fact come back, with the unique “Bubble” in Orlando where we saw games played without fans and the 35-year-old superstar LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th Championship over the Miami Heat. The MLB season also ended with another Los Angeles team taking the trophy home as the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays to secure the franchise’s seventh championship ring. Finally, the NFL season is nearing its end as the Superbowl is scheduled for February 7th, featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lead by 43-year-old Tom Brady and the defending champions of the Kansas City Chiefs lead by 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes. Although the season will have a conclusion, it has undeniably been a long journey and an unprecedented season. 

Even taking COVID out of the equation, this season was destined to be a bit different because of some of the rule changes the NFL was undergoing. Now, 14 total teams would make the playoffs instead of the previous 12. This meant there would also be 2 extra playoff games in order to bring in more revenue. The biggest differences regarding this season though would involve COVID-related issues. For starters, there would be no pre-season games, which some fans think is the reason for the high number of injuries players suffered near the start of the season. Another major change this year was the lack of fans as stadiums were either entirely empty (excluding family members and other important staff members), or way under the maximum capacity. As expected, this had a severe effect on both the players and the fans who could not come to the games to support their favorite teams. Greenbay’s Superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers described it as “One of the strangest experiences I’ve had in the NFL to be in a stadium like this…”

Regardless of all of the changes, the season would still kick-off. The opening game had our hometown Houston Texans facing off against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, September 10, 2020. This game would serve as a rematch of the playoff game between these teams last year when the Texans jumped out to an early 24-0 lead before the Chiefs would come back and win the game 51 to 31. Unfortunately for Texans fans, the team would fall to the Chiefs once again losing by a score of 34 to 20.  Still, the game was a success. There was actually an NFL game despite all of the issues and uncertainties surrounding the potential season and no matter what team you were rooting for, it was definitely an accomplishment for the game to have worked. Even for the Texans fans, it was an accomplishment because surely one loss won’t matter when they make the playoffs again, right?

No. Sadly for Texans fans, this season would be extremely disappointing. The head coach would be fired, the loss of one of their best players (DeAndre Hopkins) severely hurt the team, and they would only go on to win 4 out of their 16 games, a significant dropoff from last season’s 11 wins. On top of this, their promising young star quarterback (Deshaun Watson) wants out of Houston and to take his talents elsewhere. This came right around the time where former Rockets star James Harden and former Astros star George Springer also parted ways with their teams. With this, it is pretty fair to say that the end of 2020 and the start of 2021 was not a good time to be a Texans fan or a Houston sports fan in general. 

To transition from the Texans and their frustrating season, we can talk about a few other aspects of this unusual season. The changes began even months before the season actually started with the NFL Draft going fully digital for the first time and drawing in a record number of viewers with almost 16 million people tuning in to watch the first day. Not only was this considered a success, but to some, it was a sign that a league without fans coming to games could work. Maybe COVID would not cause as many problems for the season as some may have initially thought. However, they were wrong. Although the season was able to finish, it is important to realize just how much COVID affected the players. There were some infamous moments regarding COVID in the NFL this season including the following situations: the Denver Broncos playing against the Saints without a quarterback, the week 4 outbreak in Tennessee when 23 players and staff members tested positive for the virus, the outbreak on the Baltimore Ravens that lead to 25 players and staff members testing positive (including star quarterback Lamar Jackson), and many games being postponed and rescheduled. There were plenty more instances as practically every team was affected in some way, but all of this just proved how different this season was and how quickly COVID can spread. In fact, the only team to not have a single positive case was the Seattle Seahawks and as their coach, Pete Carrol said, “we did something right here”. 

Even if COVID hadn’t been a big deal this year, which may seem hard to imagine, there were still several big stories and highlights that didn’t involve the virus. Ex-Patriots star, and debatably the face of the league, Tom Brady, switched teams and now plays for Tampa Bay after spending 20 years in New England. Former MVP Cam Newton changed teams as well, and as it turns out he would attempt to fill in Tom Brady’s shoes in New England.

Las Vegas got an NFL team in the form of the Raiders. Aaron Rodgers would have one of the greatest individual seasons of all time in a hunt for his third MVP award. Another story that cannot be forgotten about in the NFL this season was the support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Many players, coaches, and even the commissioner Roger Goodell went on record to say “We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without Black players, there would be no National Football League.” Messages like, “We must end racism.” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER” were displayed in stadiums and television broadcasts as well. Although this did create controversy and even made the league lose some viewers, it is still very important to the players as it continued what Colin Kaepernick started on the field in 2016. 

Photo from Fox Business


The season has undoubtedly been one of the strangest ones, if not the strangest one in history, and it is almost shocking that it is actually able to come to an end. The Super Bowl will be played on Sunday and it is the first time that the city hosting the Super Bowl is also playing in it as the game will happen in Tampa Bay’s stadium. This year’s Halftime Show will feature Canadian singer The Weeknd as its headliner and he will possibly bring in another star to perform along with him. Even if he doesn’t, it is rumored that the artist put up $7 million dollars of his own money for the performance, and should be an exciting show to watch. 

Whether you are a fan of the game or if you do not care at all, nearly everyone can relate to some of the struggles of players, coaches, and others in the league this season. We have almost all known someone who got the virus and had to quarantine, we have all seen outbreaks happen near home, we have all lost out on many of the experiences we normally would have, some of us have even got the virus ourselves. The success of the NFL season along with other things occurring now, like the distribution of the vaccine, should at the very least give us students and teachers hope that life can return back to normal soon. In the meanwhile, if you are free Sunday watch Super Bowl LV, The Weeknd’s Halftime Show, or even the Puppy Bowl! (If the Super Bowl has passed by the time you have read this hopefully, you tuned in!)

Photo from US News