Remembering 12 impactful people who left the NFL in 2019

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Twelve men who made their mark on football departed in 2019—some tragically, some dramatically, some in the normal course of football events. (Actually, there were many more than 12. This list could be three times that. Twelve who stood out to me:

Andrew Luck retires at 29. At 9:29 p.m. on Aug. 24, Adam Schefter tweeted that Luck would retire immediately. One of Luck’s closest football friends, Matt Hasselbeck, said, “I thought Adam got hacked.” That’s how much this retirement shocked the world. But should it have? For about 42 of the 47 months prior to his announcement, dating back to a shoulder injury in September 2015, football meant pain to Andrew Luck. “It’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and off-season . . . Taken the joy out of the game. And after 2016, when I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I will not go down that path again,” he said. Five days before the retirement, he walked into owner Jim Irsay’s office and didn’t say he was thinking of retiring. He said it was over; he was retiring. “My mind’s made up,” he said. Luck left a good $200 million in future earnings on the table, but he didn’t care. Still doesn’t apparently. I’m told he’s had very few thoughts of playing again, ever.

Rob Gronkowski retires at 30. Gronk’s career average catch: 15.1 yards. Tyreek Hill’s career average catch: 14.6 yards. One of the most amazing things about the 2019 season is the Patriots never replaced Gronk—the free-agent class was stripped bare by the time he retired March 24—and were an offensive shell of themselves, and went 12-4 this fall with a 42-year-old quarterback and a make-it-up-as-you-go-along receiving corps. As with Luck, there’s no indication that Gronk the Wildman will ever play football again.

Bart Starr (1934-2019) dies. He won the last nine playoff games he ever played, including three NFL championship games and the first two Super Bowls. Touchdown passes in those games: 14. Interceptions: 3. One of the classiest players in NFL history, he signed every autograph meticulously, as though he were trying to win a penmanship contest. I asked him about that late in life. “Why would you want to do it any other way?” he said. “That’s the only way I know.”

Ron Rivera is fired in Carolina. A 29-32 record with no playoff wins in his last four seasons doomed him, but he coached the Panthers to one of the best regular-seasons in recent years: 15-1 in 2015, with the highest-scoring offense and the league’s sixth-ranked defense. Rivera’s got a great human touch, and would be high on the list if you asked the 1,600 NFL players, “Who’s the coach you’d most like to play for?” He’ll be a strong candidate for teams seeking coaches this week.

Don Banks (1962-2019) dies. One of the most crushing blows of this, or any, year for me came when my friend Sam Farmer called me one day when I was on my training-camp trip in Indiana and said absolutely out of the blue, “Don is dead.” One day before that, Don, a veteran NFL scribe with the scruples of Job, had his first story for his new NFL gig at the Las Vegas Review Journal, and he said to me with excitement over the phone, “I’m back, baby!” He was calling from a hotel room in Canton, where he was for the Hall of Fame enshrinement. He went to bed that night and never woke up. Heart attack. Don’s 21-year-old son, Micah, a student at George Washington, said it best: “Remember the Boston Globe baseball writer who died last spring, Nick Cafardo? I was hanging out with my dad when that happened. Nick died on the job one day, covering the Red Sox. I remember my dad saying, ‘Well, that’s the way to go, doing what you love.’ That seems sort of fitting now—my dad, doing what he loved in Canton, Ohio.”

Julius Peppers retires. With the fourth-most sacks since it became a stat (18 more than Michael Strahan, 20 more than Jason Taylor), there’s little doubt that Peppers will wear a gold jacket one day. I love how consistent he was. He had 11 sacks in 2004, at age 24; 11 sacks in 2011, at age 31; and 11 sacks in 2017, at age 37.

Gino Marchetti (1926-2019) dies. He made one of the biggest, and most controversial, tackles in NFL history. In the 1958 NFL Championship Game at Yankee Stadium, with the Giants leading the Colts 17-14, New York was trying to run out the clock in one of the biggest games in football history to that point. Marchetti tackled Frank Gifford, and the ball was marked just short of a first down—the Giants screamed that the spot was awful, and they should have been awarded a first down. Meanwhile, Marchetti was on the field, in agony. He had a broken ankle. The Giants had to punt on fourth and inches with two minutes left. John Unitas drove the Colts to a tying field goal with seven seconds left, and the Colts won in overtime. Without Marchetti’s tackle, it’s very likely the Giants would have won that game. Interesting. Unitas and the Colts won the title again in 1959. That was his last ever. If Marchetti doesn’t make the tackle in ’58, do the Colts win in ’59? And does the NFL become the incredible spectator sport it became without that great theater in New York in 1958?

Joe Horrigan retires. When Horrigan, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s historian, archivist and keeper-of-the-flame, surprisingly retired last spring, he left the Hall with a legacy of caring about one thing: that the deep roots of the game will never be forgotten. Horrigan honchoed the founding and formation of the Ralph C. Wilson Pro Football Research and Preservation Center, with more than 40 million pages of documents and contracts going back a century and including the minutes from the meeting in Canton that formed the NFL in 1920. “There is nobody more knowledgeable about the 100 years of pro football than Joe Horrigan,” John Madden told me last spring. “It’s is not even close. You can’t replace that brain.”

Pat Bowlen (1944-2019) dies. In the three decades he owned the Broncos (before stepping away due to Alzheimer’s disease in 2014), the franchise played in six Super Bowls and had five losing seasons . . . and the Elway/Manning Broncos, born when Bowlen was still in control in 2012, won the Super Bowl the year after Bowlen left. His deft handling of the team meant not overreacting to a bad season, and giving football people like Mike Shanahan the resources they need to win. Not to mention his influence in league activities. Bowlen was the driving force behind the league adding another prime-time window, Sunday night football, and giving the NBC show the great games it needed to dominate network TV.

Darren Sproles retires. “My body is telling me it’s time to step away from the game,” Sproles, 36, said in a statement 10 days ago. He was so good, so valuable, for so long. He was good enough in five San Diego seasons to be named to the Chargers’ all-time team. In New Orleans (for just three years; seemed like seven or eight), he set an NFL record for all-purposes yards in 2011 with 2,696, with 603 rushing yards at 6.9 yards per rush, 86 catches for 710 yards, 29 punt returns for a 10.1-yard average, 40 kick returns for a 27.2-yard average. His humility and his 21 touchdowns in his thirties as an Eagle made him beloved in that locker room too. There can’t be an NFL player in this era who got more out of his body, at 5-6 and 190, than Sproles did.

Forrest Gregg (1933-2019) dies. The Hall of Fame Packer tackle was famous, of course, for being the player Vince Lombardi called the best he ever coached. But in his second life, as a coach, he did something historic too: While 14 NFL teams flunked USC left tackle Anthony Munoz on his pre-draft physical because of a bad knee in 1980, Gregg, the Cincinnati head coach, went to Los Angeles to work out Munoz—for two hours—and came back to Cincinnati swearing by Munoz. The Bengals picked him third overall in 1980, and Munoz turned out to be one of the best tackles in NFL history. Lots of lessons he learned from Gregg too. “After I got selected to the Pro Bowl [in 1981], he called me into his office,” Munoz told me. “He put his arm around me. He said, ‘Congratulations. You’ve been selected to the Pro Bowl. Now you have to understand that every player you play in practice is going to measure himself against you because you’re a Pro Bowl player. Every player who plays you in a game is going to do the same thing. You’ve got to play every play like a Pro Bowler. You can’t relax.’ So I thought, okay, I’m going to hold myself accountable every play I ever play, for the rest of my career.” Just as his mentor did.

Sonny Jurgensen retires. Hard to imagine any single person who had a more varied and more influential run in a town than Sonny had in Washington. He watched football from the couch this year at 85 for the first time in forever. “It’s been a great 55 years in Washington,” he said when he retired last summer. Jurgensen played the final 11 years of a Hall of Famer career at quarterback for the team from 1964 to 1974, stayed close to the team till being named one of the club’s radio color men in 1981, advised owner Daniel Snyder more recently, and stayed a beloved radio partner till age 84, in 2018. I’ll always remember him with an unlit cigar, in the booth and in so many locker rooms post-game.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

How to watch Miami Dolphins vs LA Chargers: TV, live stream info for Sunday night’s game

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It’s the Miami Dolphins vs LA Chargers this Sunday night at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock with Football Night in America. See below for additional information on how to watch tonight’s game.

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Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins (8-4) currently hold one of the AFC’s Wild Card spots after a tough 33-17 loss against the 49ers last Sunday afternoon that ended Miami’s 5-game win streak. Tagovailoa finished 18-of-33 for 295 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble). He did not return for the game’s final play after injuring his ankle on a strip sack late in the 4th quarter but is expected to start this Sunday. Despite last Sunday’s performance, which was Tagovailoa’s worst of the season, the Dolphins QB has exceeded expectations in year 3. In the 10 games he’s played this season, Tagovailoa has already surpassed his career highs in touchdown passes (21) and passing yards (2,859). He also leads the NFL in passer rating (112.0) and yds/attempt (9.02).

RELATED: Tua Tagovailoa feels “as good as I can be after a game”

LA Chargers

Justin Herbert and the LA Chargers (6-6)  fell 27-20 to the Raiders last Thursday night picking up their 3rd loss in the last 4 games. The team, which is seeking its first playoff appearance since 2018, currently sits one game behind the NY Jets and outside of playoff position. Herbert finished 28-of-47 for 335 passing yards–his most in a game since Week 4–and one touchdown. WR Keenan Allen had 6 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown while RB Austin Ekeler had 5 receptions for 57 receiving yards and picked up 35 yards on the ground. The 6th-year RB leads the Chargers’ offense with 85 receptions this season and is second on the team with 564 receiving yards.

How many times have Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert gone head-to-head?

Third-year QBs Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert went 5th and 6th overall, respectively in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, Sunday night’s matchup will be just the second meeting between two players who have quickly become some of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Tagovailoa and Herbert met in Week 10 of their rookie season when the Dolphins defeated the Chargers 29-21. Tagovailoa threw for 169 yds and 2 touchdowns in the win, while Herbert passed for 187 yds, 2 touchdowns, and an interception in the Chargers loss.

Both quarterbacks are looking to make their first career playoff appearance this season.


How to watch the Miami Dolphins vs LA Chargers:

  • Where: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California
  • When: Sunday, December 11
  • Start Time: 8:20 p.m. ET; live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night In America
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch live on Peacock or with the NBC Sports App

What time is kickoff for the Miami Dolphins vs LA Chargers game?

Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

For all your tailgating needs for the 2022 Fall season, click here!

Football Night in America will feature a weekly segment hosted by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms and sports betting and fantasy pioneer Matthew Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

RELATED: When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs start: dates, schedule, playoff format, overtime rules, and more


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs start: dates, schedule, playoff format, overtime rules, and more

The 2022 NFL playoffs begin on January 14! Here is everything you need to know before then!
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The 2022 NFL playoffs are quickly approaching and this year’s format will once again include a total of 14 teams –seven from each conference with the top seeds automatically getting a first-round bye. Six games will take place on Wild Card Weekend under the following format for each conference:

2022 NFL Wild Card Weekend Format :

  • No. 2 Seed (host) vs No. 7 Seed
  • No. 3 Seed (host) vs No. 6 Seed
  • No. 4 Seed (host) vs No. 5 Seed

The Wild Card winners will advance to the Divisional round where they will face the top seeds in each conference. See below to find out the 2022 NFL playoff format and schedule.

When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs Start?

The 2022 NFL playoffs begin on Saturday, January 14, 2023.

2022 NFL Playoff Schedule

Be sure to check back for times and teams but until then follow all the NFL action on ProFootballTalk!

Wild Card Weekend Schedule:

  • Saturday, January 14
  • Sunday, January 15
  • Monday, January 16

Divisional Weekend:

  • Saturday, January 21
  • Sunday, January 22

Conference Championships:

  • Sunday, January 29

When is the Super Bowl?

This year’s Super Bowl will take place at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox. The last time the Super Bowl was contested in Arizona was in 2015, Super Bowl XLIX when the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks.

How will overtime work in the 2022 NFL playoffs?

After Kansas City’s exciting 42-36 overtime victory over the Bills in last year’s divisional round, when Kansas City scored a touchdown on the first possession of OT denying the Bills a chance to touch the ball, the league has made a change to its postseason rules. Each team will now have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime. See below for the NFL’s official postseason OT rules:

2022 NFL Playoffs Overtime Rules:

  • If the score is still tied at the end of an overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another overtime period. Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined.
  • There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. There will not be a halftime intermission after the second period.
  • The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
  • Each team will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime.
  • Each team gets three timeouts during a half.
  • The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
  • If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.

RELATED: NFL overtime rules and procedures


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!