2020 NFL season

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Template:Infobox NFL The 2020 NFL season will be the 101st season of the National Football League (NFL). Pending developments in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the season is scheduled to begin on September 10, with the NFL Kickoff Game, with the defending Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans in a rematch of the previous season’s AFC Divisional Round.[1] The season will conclude with Super Bowl LV, the league's championship game on February 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The league has built the season schedule such that a shortened season would be possible, should they subsequently decide that the ongoing pandemic warrants a delayed start.[2][3]

The Oakland Raiders became the Las Vegas Raiders on January 22, and are scheduled to relocate to the Las Vegas metropolitan area prior to the season, becoming the first NFL team based in the state of Nevada.[4]

New collective bargaining agreement[edit source | edit]

In March, the league and the players association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will run through the 2030 season.[5] The previous CBA that was signed after the 2011 NFL lockout would have expired after this 2020 season, and thus the league and the NFLPA wanted to conclude a new deal to avoid another labor dispute.[6]

Major changes in the new CBA include:[7]

  • expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams beginning this season.
  • allowing the league to expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games beginning in 2021 at the earliest, along with a corresponding reduction of the preseason from four games to three.
  • players receiving 48% of the league's overall revenue starting in 2021, up from 47%. This would increase to 48.8% if the regular season expands to 17 games.[8]
  • creation of new four-year player benefit: up to an additional $1.25M in salary excluded from the cap for up to two players.
  • team rosters increasing from 53 to 55 players. Practice squads will increase from 10 to 12 players in 2020 and to 14 players in 2022. The game day roster limit increased from 46 players to 48, with a minimum of eight players being offensive linemen.
  • players becoming eligible for pensions after three accrued seasons, down from four previously.[9]
  • fifth-year options for first round picks become fully guaranteed if picked up by the team. In addition, the fifth year option salary can rise based on the player's performance in his first three seasons. Previously, it was only tied to when the player was selected in the draft.[10]
  • shortening the drug testing window from four months to two weeks at the start of training camp, and eliminating automatic suspensions solely based on positive tests.
  • a "neutral decision-maker" will replace the NFL Commissioner on ruling most discipline cases.
  • the NFL will also improve teams' training facilities and establish a network of hospitals in team's home cities with free healthcare for current and former players.[11]

Player movement[edit source | edit]

The 2020 NFL League year and trading period began on March 18. On March 16, teams were allowed to exercise options for 2020 on players who have option clauses in their contracts submit qualifying offers to their pending restricted free agents and submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2019 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agent credit. Teams are required to be under the salary cap using the "top 51" definition (in which the 51 highest paid-players on the team's payroll must have a combined salary cap.). On March 16, clubs were allowed to contact and begin contract negotiations with the agents of players who were set to become unrestricted free agents.

Free agency[edit source | edit]

Free agency began on March 18. Notable players to change teams included:

Trades[edit source | edit]

The following notable trades were made during the 2020 league year:

  • March 18: Houston traded WR DeAndre Hopkins and their 2020 fourth-round selection to Arizona for RB David Johnson, their 2020 second-round pick, and their 2021 fourth-round pick.[12]
  • March 18: Jacksonville traded DE Calais Campbell to Baltimore for their 2020 fifth-round selection previously acquired from Atlanta.[13]
  • March 18: Minnesota traded WR Stefon Diggs and their 2020 seventh-round selection to Buffalo for their 2020 first, fifth and sixth round selection and their 2021 fourth-round selection.[14]
  • March 18: Tennessee traded DT Jurrell Casey to Denver for their 2020 seventh-round selection.[15]
  • March 18: San Francisco traded DT DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for their 2020 first-round selection.[16]
  • March 18: Jacksonville traded QB Nick Foles to Chicago for their 2020 fourth-round selection.[17]
  • March 18: Carolina traded G Trai Turner to the Los Angeles Chargers for T Russell Okung.[18]
  • March 18: Jacksonville traded CB AJ Bouye to Denver for a 2020 fourth-round selection.[19]
  • March 19: Detroit traded CB Darius Slay to Philadelphia for a 2020 third-round selection and 2020 a fifth-round selection.[20]
  • April 9: The Los Angeles Rams traded WR Brandin Cooks and their 2022 fourth-round selection to Houston for their 2020 second-round selection.[21]
  • April 21: New England traded TE Rob Gronkowski and a 2020 seventh-round selection to Tampa Bay in exchange for a fourth-round selection.[22]
  • April 25: Washington traded OT Trent Williams to San Francisco for a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick.

Notable retirements[edit source | edit]

Other retirements[edit source | edit]

Draft[edit source | edit]

The 2020 NFL Draft took place on April 23–25, 2020 via videoconferencing from various locations across the country; it was originally scheduled to take place in Paradise, Nevada, coinciding with the Oakland Raiders relocation to Las Vegas, but was later moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the television broadcast instead originated from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut.[42] The Cincinnati Bengals, by virtue of finishing last overall in 2019, held the first overall selection.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the NFL announced on March 16 that it had cancelled the public festivities, and that the league will explore "innovative options for how the process will be conducted".[43] On March 26, 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the draft will go as planned.[44] On April 5, the league further announced that the draft would be held virtually with team coaches and GMs conducting it via phone and internet from home due to team facilities also being closed.[45] Goodell unveiled the first-round picks from his home in Bronxville, New York.[46][47]

Officiating changes[edit source | edit]

Referee Walt Anderson was promoted to an NFL senior vice president in charge of the officiating training and development program, a newly created position that will work independently from the league's head of officiating Alberto Riveron.[48] The new position was created as part of the 2019 CBA between the league and the NFL Referees Association.[49] Land Clark was promoted to referee to replace Anderson. Clark was a referee in the Pac-12 Conference, and officiated bowl games such as the 2013 BCS National Championship Game and the 2018 Sugar Bowl, before joining the NFL in 2018 as a field judge.[50]

Longtime coach and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was also named as a league senior vice president of officiating administration. He will oversee the day-to-day operations of the officiating department, and be the primary contact who answers coaches and general managers' officiating questions, among other duties.[51][52]

Rule changes[edit source | edit]

The following rule changes for the 2020 season were approved at the NFL Owners' Meeting in May 2020:[53]

  • Extending defenseless player protection to a punt/kick returner who possesses the ball but has not had time to avoid or ward off impending contact with an opponent.
  • Make permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful try attempt.
  • Prevent teams from committing multiple dead-ball fouls in the fourth quarter or in overtime while the clock is running in an attempt to manipulate the game clock by starting the clock on the snap following a dead-ball foul. This has been referred to as the "Bill Belichick Rule"[54] for his use of this tactic.

2020 deaths[edit source | edit]

Members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame[edit source | edit]

Willie Davis
Davis, a defensive end, spent 12 years in the NFL—the first two with the Cleveland Browns in 1958 and 1959, and the rest with the Green Bay Packers from 1960–1969. He also served as a color commentator for NBC in the early 1970s following the end of his playing career and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, and also started All-Pro Broadcasting, which owns several stations in Los Angeles and Milwaukee. Davis died on April 15, age 85.
Chris Doleman
Doleman, a defensive end, spent ten years of his 15-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings, along with shorter stints near the end of his career with the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2012 and died January 28, age 58.
Bobby Mitchell
Mitchell, a halfback, entered the league as a Cleveland Brown and spent the majority of his 11-year NFL career as a member of the Washington Redskins; he was the first black player on the Redskins roster, ending Redskins owner George Preston Marshall's 30-year color barrier on the team. He served as an executive with the Redskins for decades after his playing career ended and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 1983. Mitchell died on April 5, age 84.
Don Shula
Shula was head coach of the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins for a combined 33 years; he holds the record for most wins by a head coach in NFL history, with 328, and was inducted into the Hall as a member of the Class of 1997. Shula died May 4, age 90.
Willie Wood
Wood, a safety who spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers, was inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 1989. He died February 3, age 83.

Others[edit source | edit]

Preseason[edit source | edit]

Pending developments in the coronavirus pandemic,[55] training camps for the 2020 season are scheduled to be held in late July through August. Teams will start training camp no earlier than 15 days before the team's first scheduled preseason game. By league order, all training camps will be held at the regular practice facilities of each team.[56]

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game was originally scheduled for August 6 between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, but on June 25 the league announced its cancellation due to the pandemic. The enshrinement of the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was also postponed to 2021.[57] The Cowboys were to be represented in the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 by former coach Jimmy Johnson and safety Cliff Harris, and the Steelers represented by former coach Bill Cowher and strong safeties Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell.[58][59]

Regular season[edit source | edit]

The NFL released its regular season schedule on May 7.[60] The season will be played over a 17-week schedule beginning on September 10. Each of the league's 32 teams will play a 16-game schedule, with one bye week for each team. The regular season will conclude with a full slate of 16 games on January 3, 2021, all of which are intra-division matchups, as it had been since 2010.

Despite the concerns relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL intends to play its full season as scheduled, but Commissioner Goodell stated that the league was open to contingencies if needed.[61] Due to logistical issues associated with the pandemic, the NFL suspended its international games for the season; the league had previously announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars would host two games at Wembley Stadium in London, the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins would each host a game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, and the Arizona Cardinals would host a game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. These games were moved back to their home teams' stadiums.[62]

Using contingencies similar to those built into the 2011 schedule in the event that season's lockout lasted into September, the 2020 schedule was designed to allow for the possibility that the season could be delayed and shortened in the event of a second wave of the pandemic. Every game in Week 2 features teams which share the same bye week later in the season, which would allow these games to be made up on the teams' original byes. Weeks 3 and 4 were set up so that there were neither any divisional rivalry games nor teams on bye in those weeks, and every team with a home game in Week 3 will be on the road in Week 4 and vice versa. This would keep the season as fair as possible if some games have to be canceled. These scheduling changes, along with eliminating the week off before the Super Bowl and moving the Super Bowl back three weeks, would allow the NFL to play a 14-game schedule beginning October 29 while still having the Super Bowl in February.[2][3]

The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets will play each other in consecutive games in Weeks 10 and 12. Both teams have a bye in week 11.

Scheduling formula

Under the NFL's current scheduling formula, each team plays the other three teams in its own division twice. In addition, a team plays against all four teams in one other division from each conference. The final two games on a team's schedule are against the two remaining teams in the same conference that finished in the same position in their respective divisions the previous season (e.g., the team that finished fourth in its division will play all three other teams in the conference that also finished fourth). The division pairings for 2020 will be as follows:

AFC East vs AFC West
AFC North vs AFC South
NFC East vs NFC West
NFC North vs NFC South

AFC East vs NFC West
AFC North vs NFC East
AFC South vs NFC North
AFC West vs NFC South

Highlights of the 2020 season will include:

With the final round of the U.S. Open (whose broadcasting rights are held by Fox) rescheduled for September 20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the league only gave Fox one late game in Week 2, Washington at Arizona, with viewers in those two markets likely to see the final round of the U.S. Open on FS1.[65] Similarly with the final round of The Masters (whose rights are held by CBS) rescheduled for November 15, CBS was not given any early games in Week 10.[66]

Saturday flexible scheduling[edit source | edit]

When the entire season schedule was released on May 7, the league announced that in both Weeks 15 and 16, up to three of five designated games would be moved to Saturday. The final times of these games will be announced no later than four weeks prior to game day.

Week 15[67]
Week 16[68]

Postseason[edit source | edit]

The 2020–21 playoffs are scheduled to begin on the weekend of January 9–10, 2021 with the Wild Card Playoff Round. With the passage of a new CBA in March 2020, the playoffs will expand to 14 teams. Unlike in previous postseasons (when there were two Wild Card teams per conference, and the conference's top two seeds receive byes), there will be three Wild Card teams per conference and only the conference's top seed receives a bye.[69] Despite initial speculation that the league may schedule a Wild Card game on Monday night January 11,[70] the league announced that there will be three games each on both January 9 and January 10.[69]

The top seed in the conference will then play the lowest remaining seed, while the other two remaining teams play each other, in the Divisional Round games, scheduled for January 16–17. The winners of those games will advance to the Conference Championships scheduled for January 24. The 2021 Pro Bowl is scheduled for January 31 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. Super Bowl LV will be played the following week, on February 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Head coaching and front office personnel changes[edit source | edit]

Head coaches[edit source | edit]

Off-season[edit source | edit]

Team Departing coach Interim coach Incoming coach Reason for leaving Notes
Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera Perry Fewell Matt Rhule Fired Rivera was fired on December 3, 2019, after going 5–7 (.417) in the first 12 games of the season. In 8+ seasons as the Panthers head coach, they were 79–67–1 (.541), with four playoff appearances including three NFC South division titles and one Super Bowl appearance.

Fewell, the defensive backs coach, took over on an interim basis until the end of the season.[71] Fewell went 0–4 as interim head coach.

Rhule, who had spent the previous seven seasons as college football head coach of Temple and Baylor with a 47–43 (.522) record, was hired on January 7.[72][73]

Cleveland Browns Freddie Kitchens Kevin Stefanski Kitchens was fired on December 29, 2019, after going 6–10 (.375) in one season as head coach.[74]

Stefanski, who previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, was hired on January 13. He was on the Vikings staff for 14 years.[75] This is his first head coaching position at any level.

Dallas Cowboys Jason Garrett Mike McCarthy Contract expired On January 5, following several days of speculation, the Cowboys announced they would not renew Garrett's contract when it expires January 14. The Cowboys were 85–67 (.559) in 9​12 seasons under Garrett, making the playoffs 3 times but never advancing past the divisional round.[76]

McCarthy was hired as the Cowboys' new coach on January 6. He had spent the 2019 season out of football after 12+ seasons as the Green Bay Packers head coach with a record of 135–85–2 (.613) with nine playoff appearances and one Super Bowl championship.[77][78]

New York Giants Pat Shurmur Joe Judge Fired Shurmur was fired on December 30, 2019, after going 9–23 (.281) in two seasons as the Giants' head coach, with no playoff appearances.[79]

Judge was hired on January 8, after serving most recently as the special teams coordinator for the New England Patriots from 2015 to 2019, as well as the wide receivers coach in 2019. This is his first head coaching position at any level.[80][81]

Washington Redskins Jay Gruden Bill Callahan Ron Rivera After an 0–5 start, Gruden was fired on October 7, 2019. He had a 35–49–1 (.418) record for his 5+ season tenure with the Redskins, with one playoff appearance in 2015.[82]

Callahan, the team's assistant head coach/offensive line coach, was previously the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003, with a record of 15–17 (.469) and one Super Bowl appearance; he finished out the 2019 season with a 3–8 (.273) record.[83]

Rivera, who had spent most of the previous nine seasons as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, was hired on January 1, 2020.[84]

Front office personnel[edit source | edit]

Off-season[edit source | edit]

Team Position Departing office holder Incoming office holder Reason for leaving Notes
Cleveland Browns General manager John Dorsey Andrew Berry Mutual decision Dorsey and the Browns parted ways on December 31, 2019, after three seasons.[85]

Berry was hired on January 28, 2020 as the Browns' general manager and executive vice president of football operations. He served as the Philadelphia Eagles' vice president of football operations in 2019, and had worked for the Browns from 2016 to 2018 as vice president of player personnel. At age 32, he is the youngest general manager in NFL history.[86]

Houston Texans General manager by committee Bill O'Brien N/A O'Brien was named general manager in addition to his head coaching duties on January 28, 2020. O'Brien, along with executive vice president Jack Easterby, had served as a committee of de facto co-general managers in the 2019 season, with O'Brien having final say.[87]
Jacksonville Jaguars Executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin Position eliminated Fired Coughlin was fired on December 18, 2019, after three seasons with the Jaguars.[88] The team announced after the season that Coughlin's position will not be filled and that head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell will return in 2020.[89]
Washington Redskins President Bruce Allen

Kyle Smith

Allen was fired December 30, 2019, after ten years with the Redskins.[90]

Stadiums[edit source | edit]

Uniforms[edit source | edit]

Uniform changes[edit source | edit]

With a total of seven teams unveiling changes, ranging from minor tweaks to full rebrands, this was the most uniform changes in the Nike uniform era in any offseason.[97]

  • Atlanta Falcons: On April 8, the Falcons unveiled new uniforms, featuring a larger helmet logo, silver facemasks, new fonts for the numbers, and a prominent "ATL" placed above the numbers.[98]
  • Cleveland Browns: On April 15, the Browns revealed new uniforms that reverted back to the team's classic design used prior to 2015. Some elements of the 2015 style were retained, including the brighter shade of orange, the modernized version of block numbers, and brown facemasks.[99]
  • Indianapolis Colts: On April 13, the Colts announced that serifs will be added to their jerseys numbers similar to the design used in the 1950s and 1960s and revealed a new modernized wordmark and secondary logo that features the outline of Indiana carved out of a "C". They also introduced a new color, anvil black, which will be used on the Nike swoosh on white jerseys.[100]
  • Los Angeles Chargers: On March 24, the Chargers announced that they would eliminate navy blue from their official branding, reflecting their previous season's change of using powder blue as their primary jerseys. They also debuted a modified logo and a new wordmark to reflect this.[101] On April 21, the Chargers revealed new uniforms, which bear elements from other previous sets, including numbers on the helmets and the addition of a navy blue color rush set.[102]
  • Los Angeles Rams: On March 23, the Rams unveiled new logos and color scheme. The new colors are brighter shades of the royal blue and gold used on their 1999 throwback jerseys, dubbed "Rams Royal" and "Sol" by the team, respectively. The team's new logo features a stylized "LA" with a ram's horn spiraling out from the top of the "A".[103] The team unveiled new uniforms on May 13. Notable features include the addition of an off-white away jersey, which the official color for that uniform is called "Bone". Other features include team wordmark logo patches on the right side of the chest and a unique fabric for the numbers. The helmet also has a metallic "Rams Royal" colored shell and a new ram horn design to match the logos.
  • New England Patriots: The Patriots made some changes to their uniform. The all-blue "Color Rush" design became the primary home uniform set, complete with updated block letters and numbers, and blue/red/white socks. A corresponding white uniform was also unveiled and will also be paired with the blue pants. Both uniforms featured truncated shoulder striping as a nod to the "Pat Patriot" uniforms.[104]
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: On April 7, the Buccaneers unveiled new uniforms resembling the ones they wore from 1997 to 2013, including that design's block numbers, black masks, pewter pants, and all-white road set. Some elements of the previous 2014 design remain, including the enlarged flag-and-crossed-swords logo and the secondary ship logo on the sleeves. The team also unveiled an all-pewter Color Rush uniform.[105]

Temporary changes due to COVID-19 pandemic[edit source | edit]

The NFL is considering playing with helmets with installed filters.[106]

Media[edit source | edit]

This will be the seventh year under the current broadcast contracts with ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC. This includes "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season (regardless of the conference of the visiting team). NBC will continue to air Sunday Night Football, the annual Kickoff Game, and the primetime Thanksgiving game. ESPN will continue to air Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl with the latter being simulcast on ABC. This will be the third year that Fox will air Thursday Night Football alongside NFL Network.[107] CBS will televise Super Bowl LV. Under the current rotation, NBC was originally planned to broadcast the game. However, NBC traded the game to CBS in exchange for Super Bowl LVI, which will fall during the 2022 Winter Olympics as the first to be scheduled during an ongoing Olympic Games (NBC also holds the U.S. broadcast rights to the Olympics).[108]

Although ESPN's current MNF deal expires in 2021, and the contracts with CBS, Fox and NBC end in 2022, the league may begin negotiations on new broadcast deals in 2020.[109] Prior to the 2020 season, the league has the option to cancel DirecTV's exclusive contract to air NFL Sunday Ticket, the league's out-of-market sports package. DirecTV has held exclusive rights since the package was introduced in 1994.[110]

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of Monday Night Football, ESPN will simulcast the Las Vegas Raiders' September 21 home opener against the New Orleans Saints on ABC, marking the first regular season contest aired on ABC since 2005.[111]

Rights to the two new wild card games were acquired by CBS and NBC, with each network paying around $70 million for the additional game. CBS is also planning to air an alternate broadcast for the new game on sister network Nickelodeon, oriented towards a youth audience.[112]

On April 29, 2020, Amazon renewed its digital rights to TNF through the 2022 season, maintaining the existing arrangement to simulcast the 11 games aired by Fox on Prime Video and Twitch, but also adding exclusive worldwide rights to one late-season game per-season (which will be produced by CBS and simulcast on over-the-air stations in the markets of the participating teams).[107]

The NFL is further-adjusting its blackout rules for the 2020 season: as of the 2019 season, local stations in markets with NFL teams are allowed on a limited basis to air another NFL game opposite the game involving that city's home team. The initial version of the rule limited this to two games per-season; for 2020, this is being expanded to four per-season.[113]

Personnel notes[edit source | edit]

Tony Romo, CBS' lead color commentator, renewed his contract with CBS in a long-term, $17 million per-year deal, the most lucrative contract for a sports commentator in NFL history. Romo's contract was set to expire during the preseason, but CBS included a right of first refusal clause in his previous contract allowing them to match other networks' offers.[114]

CBS reportedly also parted ways with their former #2 commentator Dan Fouts, and will replace him with Fox’s #2 commentator Charles Davis,[115] leaving Fox with a void at their #2 broadcast team.

ESPN will replace its Monday Night Football commentator team, moving Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland to other positions on the network. Tessitore and McFarland lasted two years on the network's Monday night broadcast team and received poor response throughout their tenure.[116] ESPN is expected to move one of its existing college football teams.[116]

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on production[edit source | edit]

Fox lead commentator Joe Buck stated that the network had not ruled out the possibility of using artificial crowd noise on its telecasts to make up for the possibility of limited or no attendance at games, and that Fox was also exploring the possibility of masking empty stands with CGI crowds.[117][118]

References[edit source | edit]

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